FF2 Review (#1)
Final Fantasy II was never released in the United States. The second installment of the series, it introduces many of the classic things we have come to expect in a Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy II has the first appearances of the chocobos, Dragoons, female characters, and proto-moogles (called beavers.) It contains staple things such as airships, guys named Cid, and Ultima magic.
FF II has a more robust story than Final Fantasy I. To really get a feel for all the pieces of the story, one must travel back and forth talking to everyone every time something new happens. FF II has the only appearance of a word mechanic. when someone uses a key word you can opt to learn it. Then when talking to an important NPC you can use select to use a key word, which may reveal vital information, or teach you a new word. Though linear, there are numerous places where going to the wrong town next can give you hints on what will come to be. While exploring after getting the canoe, I found I could travel to a city that I wouldn't go to until far later in the game (it was Mysidia, a town full of mages, sound familiar?) On the whole it's a classic Final Fantasy story, a group of young people must stop a conqueror bent on world domination.
It's hard to critique the graphics to an 8 bit game. I actually feel that the graphics to Final Fantasy I were superior. this is mostly due to the monsters of Final Fantasy II. The monsters tended to be more monochromatic and boring than all other Final Fantasies. There some really nice ones, but on the whole they are subaverage. There were a few attempts at improvement that would be mastered in later games, for example the world map (still found via "tceles hsup B") is in the form of a globe. A lot of the sprites from the first game got a coloring upgrade from the first game. Lastly, Final Fantasy II introduces portraits in the menu screen, a welcome addition for sure!
This is the part that makes Final Fantasy stand out, for good....and bad. Like all Final Fantasy games the system for skills/spells/classes/jobs/equipment is unique to the game. Final Fantasy II uses the most unique format to date. There are no experience points and no levels. Huh? that's right. You get bigger and better with what you have by using it. For example, if you buy the Ice spell it comes as level one. After using it 100 times it becomes Ice2, and now uses 2 MPs. Weapons work similarly. Ability scores are raised by using a relevant ability. Want to increase your power? Then attack a lot. Hit points are raised by taking damage. The more damage you take, the more hit points you gain. This game also introduces the idea of front and back rows, so you may want to put people up front if you want them to gain hit points. This system is really innovative, but falls short in the end....
Final Fantasy II is a game I'd recommend only to die hards. The gaming system is really a pain at times. I spent hours walking around the first town just attacking my own characters to get their hit points up. I also spent hours using the repetition trick. You don't need to execute an attack to get the credit for your weapon proficiency, just enter it. So every time you get in a fight, give the first guy the fight command, then cancel and reenter it. After 100 times his skill with the weapon will increase. Do this 16 times, and you'll max out his skill. The same goes for spells as well. I tried to complete the game without cheezing, but it was far too difficult. Without spending some serious "leveling up" time, you'll find yourself trapped, and needing to start over. My second time through the game, I spent hours maxing out my spells and weapons. Then the game became much easier, and I could focus on exploration and story. After paying my dues and leveling up the game became almost too easy. Finding a balance between too easy and too hard is difficult without level markers. If you are hardcore, and you must be to still be reading this, it's worth playing, otherwise I'd move on. If you are interested in playing a Final Fantasy that didn't make it to the US, I'd recommend FF III. If you want the ability to say, "yeah, I've beaten all nine in the regular series." then you ought to do it.
Be sure to check out our complete list of other Final Fantasy Reviews.
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