Final Fantasy II: Dawn of Souls - Staff Retroview  

Two is Better the Second Time
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

15-30 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Final Fantasy II: Dawn of Souls is the second half of the Game Boy Advance remake double pack. This is the second time that this game has been available in the US, the first being with the Playstation collection Final Fantasy Origins. That release was just a graphical update of the original Famicom release, but FFII: Dawn of Souls offers more with an extra side quest available at the end of the game and slightly faster gameplay. This Final Fantasy title has been regarded as one of the most annoying, but deeper exploration is not as bad as some believe.

   The story of Final Fantasy II is less than stellar. The game begins with a group of four youths, Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon, attempting to escape from their hometown which is being seized. During their escape, they are trapped and almost killed, but somehow three of the adventurers, minus Leon, survive and find themselves in the hideout of a rebel army. This army is opposing the empire that laid waste to the youths' hometown. The plot stays fairly linear, as the group of heroes must prove themselves and attempt to stop the empire. Plot twists throughout Final Fantasy II are minor and predictable, and main character development is minimal. Extra characters are added to the party at certain points, but most of them develop very little as well.

   A feature unique to FFII: Dawn of Souls is the Soul of Rebirth quest which comes after completion of the main story. Playing as four non-main characters from the initial quest, these characters venture through their own brief adventure which acts as an alternate view of the ending of the game. Taking time to explore every area and sufficiently develop these characters can last five or more hours. This new perspective is a fun diversion that is well worth the investment after the main quest is completed.

Massive Deaths This will be you.

   One of Final Fantasy II's most controversial points is its battle system. Unlike many other RPGs, FFII does not have experience points. In order for characters to improvement themselves, their skills, and magic, they must meet certain requirements. To increase a character's HP, that character must lose HP during combat. If that character loses enough HP in combat, they will receive an increase in HP at the end of the battle. The same goes for MP. For a character to increase in strength, that character must deal damage to a foe. The stronger the enemy is, the greater the chance of an increase. This prevents players from increasing their stats on weak enemies. Defense, agility, weapons skills, and magic levels all increase in a similar manner. The more the character takes advantage of a specific area in combat, the better the chance of them becoming more efficient in it.

   This unique change in character customization can be easily exploited. Characters can engage minor enemies and then proceed to attack each other in an attempt to increase stats. Using this method, gamers can create a powerful party as early as they desire, making the game almost too easy. Players that enjoy this kind of freedom might also enjoy the fact that Final Fantasy II allows for all characters to equip any magic and any equipment. Guy, the gentle giant of few words, could easily be made into a magical powerhouse, a top notch healer, a non-magic using fighter, or a mix. Specializing characters tends to be a better strategy though, making sure that characters develop certain areas enough to be useful, but any combination is doable.

What? I never saw this, but it would have been cool.

   Thankfully, the game's menus are easy to navigate. Purchasing items, equipping weapons, armor, and magic, and creating game saves couldn't be easier. Instead of just having a quick save feature, Final Fantasy II allows for saving anywhere. This also helps to lower the overall difficulty, since players can save right before a difficult boss and try as many times as needed to defeat the boss without having to fight their way through a long dungeon again. However, this game can be quite difficult if gamers are not properly prepared, so this does help to stem frustration.

   The graphics in Final Fantasy II: Dawn of Souls are dated, though an improvement from the original games. Much like its counterpart, Final Fantasy I: Dawn of Souls, the addition of cut scenes throughout the game do little to add to the experience. Music and sound, though improved, are still nothing that stands out as exciting. Nobuo Uematsu's second Final Fantasy soundtrack is a sufficient offering, but is by no means one of his most memorable works.

   Overall, Final Fantasy II: DoS brings a unique experience to the table. With a battle system unlike anything offered in traditional RPGs, it could easily be a game that people either love or hate. This game is one that could easily be given up on early due to its drastic differences. However, if gamers give this title a chance, maybe even a second playthrough, they will discover that despite its flaws, it can be an enjoyable game. The story may not be epic, but the flexible character customization system can make FFII fun.

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