Final Fantasy II

By: Fs_Metal (Valereth)
Game title: Final Fantasy II
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Squaresoft
Release date: April 8, 2003
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Final Fantasy II has something of a storied history that, sadly, leaves it easy to forget. The game was not released in the United States when it was originally released for the Nintendo Famicom in Japan in 1988. In fact, the U.S. did not get this game in any form until 2003, when it was released on the Playstation with Final Fantasy I under the name Final Fantasy Origins. It took 14 years for this game to come out in the States, and, when it did, it was high quality 16 bit era graphics for a system that was, by then, out of date due to the release of it's bigger brother, the Playstation 2. For this reason, the game has been easy to overlook in the United States. It was skipped over by many Final Fantasy fans and is, in a way, the black sheep of the series (or a black sheep of the series, depending on who you ask). The game is not, however, bad. It shouldn't be too expensive now days and is, atleast, worth a look.

Gameplay - 8.5

Final Fantasy II is a departure from the typical Final Fantasy game where you fight in random battles to gain levels. The random battles have not gone away, but it goes with a more traditional Dungeons and Dragons approach to leveling. This means that every time you use a certain skill, you gain experience in that skill. Once you use it enough, your stat in that certain skill will go up one point. As an example, lets say that you have fire as one of your magic skills. You enter a battle, go to your magic skills and select fire. Your character will begin chanting and eventually cast the fire spell. You will gain a couple of percentage points to the next level of fire skill. Once the percentage points for the fire skill reack 100, you gain a level. Your basic fire spell has now become fire 2. The system works well enough, and if you level up like this is an old school RPG, then you should have no trouble getting through it. You have to make sure you cast these spells, however, or you will never gain any experience. They will not level on their own. The one down side is that you can, occasionally, lose a point to one of your stats as well. This is done by gaining a certain number of points in one state. The opposite of that stat will decrease. Gaining INT, for example, might cause STR to go down.

All of the characters in the game are basically blank slates. Unlike the first game in the series, there are no set classes here. All of your characters are yours to develope how you choose. The developement system allows for this. If you want to train one character specifically as a white mage, you can do that. Give him or her healing spells and cast them all the time, regardless of whether your characters need healing or not. Level near a town so that you can stay at the in when your character runs out of MP. The system is completely flexible, and it allows you to develope each of the games characters exaxcctly how you choose to do so.

This game has one other feature that is unique to it. This game features a key word system where characters in the game will mention key words that you will need to memorize. You repeate these key words back to various characters throughout the game and they will say new things to you that, more often than not, are used to progress the story along. It is kind of a cool little system that allows you to get bits more of information on various plot devices in the game. That is kind of cool. This is something the game could have lived without, though. It isn't a bad thing, but it didn't feel necessary either.

Aside from this, Final Fantasy II is your standard Final Fantasy fair. You will hop from one town to another and talk to the games cast of characters. Those characters will send you on quests or give you more information on your current quest. You will, then, find the correct dungeon, explore it, fight a boss and retrieve whatever item or accomplish whatever goal you came there to accomplish. You have all played these games before. This game doesn't deviate from this formula at all.

Graphics - 6/10

This is tough to grade.The game was 14 years old when it finally got released in the United States. The game was a 2D NES game. It might have looked good on the NES, but it wasn't released until toward the end of the Playstation's life span. The only way that they could have made this game look good by those standards would have been to do a full 3D remake of it. That isn't what Square did. They did, however, touch up quite a bit from the original version of the game. The sprites were redone to a high end 16 bit style, and the animation was updated to that level as well. In this sense, it does look good. The touch up is, certainly, appreciated.

This is not the only addition to this game, however. The game was also given a video that plays before the game begins. It features the main characters running from the empire and fighting some of the empire guards. This is, far and away, the best looking FMV sequences that Squaresoft did for hte Playstation. The scene is gorgeous to look at. The animation is excellent for it's time, and it has aged well. It is still beautiful two game generations later. This FMV sequence is worth watching atleast once, and the music for it is gorgeous.

Sound - 8

The sound in this game consists of the standard fair of Final Fantasy noises. You have heard it all before. There are noises for sword swining, axe swinging, the twong of the bow string, flipping switches, opening chests and pretty much every other actuon you do in the game. There is nothing special about it at all. IT is the same array of noises that you have heard in all of the other 2D games in this series.There is no voice acting to speak of. There is nothing outstanding about this games sound. That isn't what matters in these Final Fantasies. Anyone that has played them will tell you that. What matters is the soundtrack.

Just like almost every other game in the series, the music in this game was composed by Nobuo Uematsu. That never a bad though. His music is and has always been good, and it has gotten it so that the Final Fantasy series is known for having good music. A Final Fantasy game with a bland soundtrack is always disappointing, and it is all thanks to Uematsu. That being said, this is one of Uematsu's earlier works, and it shows. That isn't to say that the music is bad. That couldn't be further from the truth. The music in this game is, actually, quite good. It isn't one of his most refined efforts, however. IT also features more reused music than most of the other Final Fantasy games. It reuses a number of tunes from the first game. They are reworked, but it is still the same song over again. Again, this isn't a bad thing. The music in this game is good. IT is just more simple than stuff from the 16 bit era and onward. It is not as memorable as well. It is, however, highly enjoyable

Story - 7.5

The emperor of Palamecia has begun his bid for world conquest. He has raised an army of both man and beast and has sent them forth to bring the world under his control. When the soldiers attack the town of Fynn, four teens (Firion, Maria, her brother Leon and Gus) are chased from their homes. The make a run for it, but are eventually run down by the empire's soldiers. The soldiers attack them and leave them for dead. Frion wakes up in the top room of a rebel army hide out in the town of Altair. He goes down stairs to find out that he was rescued after being attacked and brought there by Princess Hilda. Mindu, the white mage for the rebels, healed him. He find that Gus and Maria are with him, but the princess tells him that only the three of them were found at the site of the battle. Leon is missing. Maria, Frion and Gus decide to go out looking for their lost party member and to aid the rebel army in any way they can in their fight against the Emperor and his seemingly unstoppable army.

Thus begins the tale of Final Fantasy 2, one of the most important RPG stories in history, more for it's innovation than the story itself. The story does not hold up well. The characters are underdeveloped by today's standards. The dialog is brief. The big plot twists are predictable, but you have to remember that this game is 20 years old. When this game was released, there was nothing else out there that was complex in any way, shape or form. There weren't games that attempted character developement. There weren't games that had more than one major plot twist, if they even had one. Most stories ammounted to something as simple as "save the princess." Final Fantasy II was a huge step up from that. for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, this is the first game in the Final Fantasy series where you could not select your party at the start of the game. You had 3 characters that were in your party throughout the entire game. There was a rotating fourth character throughout most of the game as well, but the three that you start off with were set in stone,. You had them from the moment you start playing right down to the very end of the game. Every character had his or her own lines of dialog as the story progressed. They all had their own ideas and thoughts. It is shallow by today's standards, but this is the begining of trying to develope personalities for the characters. That is extremely important and highly influencial.That is what this game did for story telling.

The game also had a more complex tale than the first Final Fantasy did. The first Final Fantasy really only had one major plot twist at the end of the game. This game, however, throws some major plot twists at you as you progress through the game as a whole. Things will happen that, while predictable by today's standards, are not so straight forward. The game will throw curve balls at you. You can see most, if not all of them coming if you have been playing RPGs for a while, but it would have been unpredictable and exciting when it was brand new. It is tough to score this games story too high or too low. It is predictable, but it is also very significantly important to the history and developement of role playing games as a whole. The plot is, at least, worth playing through for that fact alone.

Replay value - 7.0

Final Fantasy II is a fairly length game, especially for it's time. When most games could be beaten in a single sitting, Final Fantasy came along and threw 20 to 30 hours of gameplay at you. This game is longer than the first game in the series. IT will take most people 30 to 40 hours to complete this game, and that is a lengthy game. It will keep you playing for long enough. There is also a bestiary that you can completely fill out. IT gives you the enemies look in battle and their stats. It lists all of the standard stuff, such as how much HP they have, how much MP they have and what elements they are strong and weak against. It is easy to miss a few creatures here and there. The true completionist might go back and play through it a second time to get that completely filled out. On top of that, there is a collection of Uematsu's artwork for the game that you earn as you play through it. That gives you a little extra incentive to go back and play through it again, as well. For many people, this will be one and done, but it does last a long time for that one play through. That is never a bad thing.

Final thoughts -

Final Fantasy II is a very historically important role playing game. IT was the first, or among the first, to attempt to give the characters character developement. That, alone, is a huge building block for RPGs to come. IT was also one of the earliest games to attempt any form of complexity in it's story telling. IT is because of games like this back in the early days that video games began to become a more serious form of story telling in the first place, and it has earned it's place in history as such. This game recieves a lot of bad rep because of it's leveling system being so very different from the rest of the game. I do not think it deserves that, however. The game is good and worth a play through, especially if you are a Final Fantasy or old school RPG fan. It won't blow you away, but sit back, relax and enjoy this classic game for what it is instead of wishing it was something it's not.

Gameplay - 8.5
A leveling system more akin to RPG tradition (Think Dungeons and Dragons) makes for an interesting take on Final Fantasy

Graphics - 6
How do you grade a game like this? It is vastly improved over the original but pales in comparison to other PS1 titles

Sound - 8
Uematsu does the soundtrack, and that is never a bad thing

Story - 7.5
In it's day, it was as in depth as it got.

Replay Value - 7
It takes a while to beat and was the longest game, by far, in it's day. There is plenty here to keep you busy