Review by AnalyticalGamer
Ah, Final Fantasy II. The game was released in 1988, one year after the original Final Fantasy. However, due the error in numbering systems in the United States because of Final Fantasy II and III not being released, Final Fantasy II in the US is known as Final Fantasy IV, a far more beloved game. Final Fantasy II was eventually released in the US years afterwards. Final Fantasy II is widely considered the underdog of the series because its predecessors legacy. Today, I am here to tell you why this is one of my favourites in the series and analyze why I think it is much better than people give it credit for.
Story: Final Fantasy II has a much grander story than Final Fantasy I has, in my opinion. 4 children living in the town of Fynn who are enemies of the Palamecian Empire are attacked in the woods by soldiers. They wake up and join a resistance in order to topple the empire and gain freedom. This is a great story, and is unique in the first five Final Fantasies, as it does not feature crystals as a main plot line. While this seems like a simple plot, remember that this is 1988, where stories are either lazy or nonexistent in the realm of video game making. Also, Sakaguchi attempted to do something special here that no JRPG did before it: character development. Final Fantasy II was the first game that attempted to develop characters, and each character is slightly unique. While the development is weak by modern standards, it was still extremely ambitious for its time and is notable. At the time, this was extremely fresh. Regardless, the story is still a bit weak and is a little worn by the test of time. 8.5/10
Gameplay: Here is where most people criticize the game and mock it. I say to those people that they should look deeper. Final Fantasy II was extremely ambitious in the gameplay department. The game boasts a Word Memory system, where you remember a word and can ask characters about it, revealing more info in the story. This allows the player to become more involved in the dialogue and story. A better mode of transportation has been added to the game, the chocobo, allowing quick and easy access along the map without random encounters. This is a complete improvement from the first game, where travel was slow until you got the airship. The battle system is turn based, like Final Fantasy I. However, the game uses a leveling up system that is unique from all other Final Fantasy games, but it is not a traditional leveling system that is contained in most JRPGs. For example, in the game, when you use a sword, you get better with a sword. When you use Magic, your intelligence and skill in casting that particular magic goes up. There is no Firaga, your fire spell just gets better. HP and MP are raised by having them depleted. This is an ingenious system that allows you to customize your characters quite a bit. However, this also leads to numerous exploits such as attacking your own character to get better HP. However, this is not what the developers intended. There are plenty of enemies that will attack you, and you are supposed to play through normally. The common complaint of hitting your characters is not a problem because it is not needed to complete the game. Personally, since I am not the best at RPGs, I exploited it. Regardless, I still had fun. Overall, Final Fantasy II has gameplay that works, was revolutionary and fresh, but is slightly dated and exploitable. 7/10
Graphics: Final Fantasy II looks much better than its predecessor, with battle screens not segmented into portions, but all in one screen. The overworld is more detailed, and some areas attempt to add 3D depth, which words and looks nice. The sprites all look beautiful, and the NES flickering issues that plague other games simply are not here. Every magic spell has its own little animation, and everything looks amazing. Speaking of animations, the animations in the game look smooth and detailed. These are simply some of the best graphics on the NES, with the possible exception of FFIII (which is far more detailed, but it came later). You can tell the graphics team put a lot of imagination into turning the drawings into sprites. 10/10
Sound/Music: The sound, per usual, is absolutely stunning. Nobuo Uematsus second FF game has an EVEN better soundtrack than the first, with a wider variety of tracks that all sound great. Tracks like Castle Pandemonium and Rebel Army are particularly good, and stand out as some of the best tracks in the whole Final Fantasy series, point blank. Final Fantasy II stands out from Final Fantasy I due to its more epic and strong sounding soundtrack, fitting to the theme of rebels attempting to overthrow an evil and power abusing empire. The sound effects are all charming, a great improvement over Final Fantasy I which had bad sounding sound effects plague its sound. Overall, another masterpiece of a soundtrack from Nobuo Uematsu. 10/10
Replay Value: Final Fantasy II may not allow you to upgrade classes like FFI, but it still has immense replay value. You can strategize on how to build your team any way you want. Firion can be a white mage, a black mage, a fighter, black belt, or everything if you desire. Sure, it takes lots of grinding, but the grinding in this game is fun. Theres an endless amount of ways that you can customize your team with the leveling system in this game, and you can potentially get at least 200 hours out of this game. This easily stands out as some of the absolute best replay value on the whole Nintendo Entertainment System, period. 10/10
Overall: Final Fantasy II is the black sheep of the franchise, an unloved black sheep; beautiful in its own unique way. While its so different, it also created many series staples such as Cid, Chocobos, and temporary playable characters like Minwu and Joseph. It is unique in its battle system of experience equals better usage rather than using stats, which is a fresh change. It is the first game in the series, and one of the first RPGs to have character development. It took a step up in the graphics department, and also has a slightly more experienced Uematsu working on the sound. However, not all of these changes have been welcomed by fans.
Many fans shun the game to this day, causing others not to want to play it which is evidenced by being one of the lowest selling games in the series. However, I tell you differently. Final Fantasy II is an amazing game, and while it has certainly aged a bit, it stands the test of time. It is a fresh entry in the series, and if you are tired of some of the other Final Fantasies, drop by and give II a try. I promise that youll enjoy it if you learn how to balance your grinding to your own personal likings. Final Fantasy II proves to be a great game, and one of the most ambitious JRPGs to date.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Final Fantasy II (JP, 12/17/88)
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