Final Fantasy II

(This trailer is for the PSone and PSP version of the game and doesn’t feature in the original 1988 version of the game…but you probably knew that)

Developer: Square Enix
Platform(s): NES, PS1 (as part of Final Fantasy Origins), GBA (as part of Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls), PSP
Release Date(s): Dec 1988 (NES, Japan only), Apr 2003 (PS1), Nov 2004 (GBA), Jun 2008 (PSP)

If you are a Final Fantasy fan, and weren’t happy about the score I gave the original, you’re going to be really unhappy with the score I give this one!
I have serious issues with this particular Final Fantasy. I love the stories in the games more than anything else, and this was a bit of a tease because the story was quite good for the most part. However, in order to hear the whole story, you have to play through what is a very annoying game.

The Set Up:
The game opens with our four main characters, Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon, being attacked in their hometown by Palamecian soldiers. Palamecia is depicted as the evil empire, the likes you’d see in Star Wars, and is led by the evil and nameless Emperor. With Leon missing shortly afterwards, the remaining three join a rebel alliance (more Star Wars) in an effort to find their friend and, ultimately, bring down the Empire.

As I’ve mentioned, the story of this game is quite good, an improvement even on the original. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the director of both games, decided to put particular emphasis on the character development and plot rather than gameplay in this installment. Personally, I always believed that plot was the most important factor in games such as these, but it turns out I was very wrong.

For the most part, the gameplay is very similar to the original. You still wander around the overworld, questing about on your day-to-day business. Slay dragon, steal rubies, discreetly sell merchandise. The problem, and it is a major problem, is the battle system. Being one of main sources of enjoyment in the original, it would have made sense to simply re-hash the whole thing. But no, the game developers clearly seemed happy with the philosophy “If it ain’t broke, crap all over it”.

Perhaps it appears that I am being to harsh, but allow me to rationalise my frustration. The levelling up system of this game is tweaked in an utterly negative way. Rather than in the previous installment, in which experience is acquired in order for you to level up all of your stats at once, experience is now acquired in isolation, for each individual stat. Confused? You should be. Let me explain further.

Every time your character attacks physically, he gains strength points. This means, the more you attack, the stronger you get. This probably sounds fine, but it is the same with every stat. Think about it. In order to level up your defence, you have to get hit. In order to level up your evasion, you have to allow someone to hit you and hope they miss. In order to level up your magic, which for the most part is only useful for boss battles, you have to use largely worthless magic spells continuously in what should be standard battles, for HOURS!

As is probably apparent, I did not appreciate this re-haul on the level up system one bit. And the improved story makes the game even more frustrating because you will genuinely want to know what happens next rather than give up. It is one of the few occasions I can think of a quality being simultaneously a pro and a con!

Overall:
This is a difficult game to sum up as it is infuriating how much you will probably want to complete it. The story is good, not necessarily on the grand scale of Final Fantasy IV or VI, but still a great improvement on the original. The characters are developed much better than in the previous installment, although Guy is painfully insignificant at times. However, as good as the story may be, it can’t distract from the woefully bad battle system. The exploration is still quite good, above average at least, but the battle system is the highlight of many of the early Final Fantasy games, and it’s such a shame it is handled so badly here. Optimistically, things only ever get better from here on. For die-hard Final Fantasy fans only.

Awful Rating: 4/10

“You have braved the depths of Hell to reach me. But the hand of man, which deals in false justice and forsaken love, can never hope to defeat the lord master of Hell!” – Dark Emperor

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • It is no secret at this stage that this is clearly my least favourite Final Fantasy. If there are any fans reading this, bear with me, when I get to Final Fantasy IV and further, things begin to pick up considerably.
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