Final Fantasy II - Review  

The Emperor Strikes Back
by Elliot Guisinger

20-30 hours
Rating definitions 

   Four youths from the kingdom of Fynn found themselves fleeing from the imperial forces that attacked their homeland and massacred their families. Their quest for vengeance and peace will lead them all over the world; through pain and happiness, through success and failure. Though Final Fantasy II has had two previous incarnations, this is only the second one to show up on North American shores. The differences between this game and its predecessor, Final Fantasy, can be seen almost immediately after starting a new game, being that there's a story to speak of and the characters talk. However, the presence of a story doesn't necessarily constitute a better game.

   Having a stronger emphasis on story than its predecessor, Final Fantasy II begins a little differently. Similar to Final Fantasy, the player is given four characters at the beginning of the game; however, this time around the characters have names, though the player has the option of changing them. Then, the player is thrust into the story and the conflict surrounding these four people. There are are no jobs for the characters in battle; however, each character starts off with a blank slate and can become more proficient in a certain aspect of battle the more that particular aspect is used. For example, if one character is equipped with swords and is used only for melee attacks, then as time progresses, they will be better at dealing melee damage with swords than the other characters of the group.

   In another departure from the first game, experience points are no longer a factor in the game. Characters strengthen different attributes based on how they use them in battles. For example, a character who takes a lot of damage in one battle is likely to receive an increase in their maximum life capacity and in defense points, and a character who uses magic heavily will gain an increase in maximum magic capacity and magic ability. Essentially, the player shapes and molds his or her characters as he or she sees fit, which is less exciting than it sounds. The battles themselves play out identically to those in the previous game, yet the frustrating character-strengthening system makes fighting annoying at best.

Home, sweet home Home, sweet home

   Probably the biggest improvements most gamers will notice are the graphical and musical upgrades. The graphics have left behind the original NES look for the more advanced look on the GameBoy Advance. Cutscenes have also been interspliced throughout the game. The music has been completely overhauled, as well. From the original beeps and clicks of the NES, the music now has a high-quality midi sound to it with distinguishable instruments and sounds. Don't expect it to deviate from the music in Final Fantasy Origins though, as it seems to be a direct port. Though, the core of the songs are still recognizable from the original game, they include new arrangements over the original music along with additional new songs composed just for the remake. It's clear that the music has been arranged to fit the advanced new look of the game; it's difficult to tell which songs are arrangements and which ones are brand new without having played the original game. None of the music seems out of place.

   Around 25 hours are required to complete the story of the game from beginning to end. It wouldn't take nearly as long if not for the tedious battle system and statistical method of character-strengthening. This unbalanced difficulty of the game only amplifies the flaw of the battle system and makes more time required for completion. Even after staying put in one area and fighting wave after wave of enemies to strengthen the characters enough so that the next area is survivable, the game is still a struggle. It's the encounter rate and the difficulty of the regular monsters that tend to provide the most challenge; the boss monsters are usually a breeze after surviving an overly difficult journey through a dungeon.

Must be getting pretty warm Must be getting pretty warm

   The premise of Final Fantasy II's story involves an Emporer from the Kingdom of Palamecia who raises an army for the purpose of world domination. Among the many cities attacked by the Emporer's minions is the Kingdom of Fynn where a rebellion is forming. Unfortunately, Fynn becomes occupied by the Empire and the rebellion is forced to retreat and make a new home in the town of Altair. Among the citizens of Fynn who escaped to Altair are four youths whose parents were killed in the invasion. When compared with Final Fantasy, the story of Final Fantasy II is much more involved and developed. The characters have recognizable personalities and a reason for fighting; they have emotions and feelings that the player can sense as he or she takes them through their quest for justice and peace. Though the story of the game is more attention-grabbing, the flaws of the battle system and gameplay mechanics almost make the story not worth the trouble.

   Overall, Final Fantasy II is an interesting adventure with a unique, albeit frustrating, battle system. The memorable story and characters do save the game from being a total waste of time, however. Though not entirely unenjoyable, the tedious leveling system and poor mechanics outweigh however good the story might be. Even still, those who can get passed Final Fantasy II's flaws will find a gem of a story and an unforgetable experience.

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