Final Fantasy II (Import)Alright, so Square got a hit on their hands. Excellent. What's the next step, you may ask? Cash in on it! Remember, the first Final Fantasy game was Square's last ditch attempt, and it managed to get them back into the game, so why not capitalise on it? Well, as admirable as that may sound, Square fixed a lot of that wasn't broken, and upgraded what would be considered broken later in the future... you'll see what I mean as the review goes on, but for now, let's start with what this is all about!
Story: Four orphans escape from their hometown, which was invaded by some evil empire, but these four get attacked by dark knights. Thankfully, some princess from a rebel faction just so happens to be nearby as she finds and brings them to their headquarters. These rebels want their kingdom back, and these four orphans have to help them. There's more to it, but all that needs to be said is that you have to stop the evil empire. What amazed me throughout the game was that there are a fair few plot twists towards the end, which took me by surprise – remember, this is an NES game, and plot twists aren't exactly commonplace. Yeah, the first game had a few, but these were written better, and were a bit more surprising, too. There's also a decent amount of character development (probably because our characters actually *bleep*ing talk), which helps in moving the story along a bit more smoothly. In essence, this is a pretty good storyline, certainly better than the first game's.
Gameplay: As much as I'd love to say that it's largely unchanged, Final Fantasy 2 actually operates fairly differently from the first game. I mean, yeah, you have to wander around the world, talk to various townsfolk, go through the occasional dungeon for loot and justice, and participate in turn based battles, but that's where the similarities end.
The class system is gone. Instead, your four lovable orphans are given balanced stats (well, your warrior-looking orphan has a bit more strength than everyone else), and it's up to you to work on their stats as you see fit. That's not a bad concept, because you can mould them in ways that you see fit. I like the idea, but then you learn how that works...
At first, it's actually not terrible – as you do certain things, you'll increase statistics at the end of random battles (as in, at the end of any battle), depending on what it is you do. Whacking at an enemy with a sword? You're on your way to increasing your strength. Casting fireballs on enemies? Congrats – you'll be increasing your magic when the game feels like letting you do so, plus if you use heaps of magic, you'll gain more MP! Getting hit a lot? Excellent, you'll be getting a little more HP.
This might've been considered excellent and innovative back when it was released, but nowadays? With innovations in technology and procedures, this system just gets incredibly tiresome due to the fact that you'll be missing every hit so you can “get better with your weapon”, and really, spending at least 80% of your time grinding your stats so that you can actually forge some decent fighters. After a while, it just gets *bleep*ing boring, and unlike Final Fantasy 1, which was just standard shit as far as the genre was concerned, Final Fantasy 2 prefers that you consistently use your weapons and spells 82 gazillion times so that you can level them up... when they level up is up to the game, and like any really old school RPG, that can take a goddamn age! At this point, I had practically lost my patience when I read, for the fiftieth time, “ineffective”, because my orphan fighters can't swing a *bleep*ing sword or cast a *bleep*ing spell... oh, and realism in that case is not a valid excuse to cover up tedium, especially for a game that was released at about the same time as Super Mario Brothers 3, where the only things that are even remotely realistic are the physics and the gravity. Suck my balls, Square. Thank god you fixed this up in later installments, or I would've cut your balls off so you wouldn't be able to contaminate the gene pool.
I'm not done bitching – there's one more thing that got *bleep*ed up in translation. Remember when I described how you level up? What is to say that you'll be keeping that particular stat high? Who's to say that you stats can't be lowered? Basically, your stats can be lowered if you attack the wrong way. For instance, if your designated mage decides to whack a goblin right upside the head with his/her staff, then you expect a drop in intelligence, and an increase in strength. Man, they really wanted to make sure that, if you dare to use physical AND magical attacks, you will have to compensate by having mediocre yet balanced stats. That pretty much means you can't jump ship and do something else.. this is not so bad for your designated swordsmen, but your mages have to blow MP in order to use magic attacks, lest they lower that what makes their magic attacks strong, and it'll really make this game last longer because you're putting all that hard work to waste. Not to mention, you pretty much have to attack, as the menu doesn't allow you to just defend – either you attack physically, magically, with an item, or just run... So not only is this system dated to the point where it wrecks the game in the long run, but it's also *bleep*ing broken!
Graphics: In terms of graphics... You know, I could be lazy and just copy and paste what I said for the first game's graphics, because it looks eerily similar... I mean, yeah, it's on the NES, and the first game was pretty good considering the technology, and to be fair, there were a fair amount of models, so I suppose it's inevitable that the sequel would rehash a bunch of them, and add some little details to differentiate them... I suppose if there are any real differences, they'd be the absence of those silly little blocks in the battle screen, you actually get to see the insides of the shops and inns instead of some blank screen with your character sprites, and in the main menu, you get to see portraits of your characters. They're actually impressive little details that make a bit of difference in the long run. The only thing that sucks is the animation, or lack thereof. Once again, animation is limited to like two frames, and battles are mostly static.
Audio: The soundtrack manages to fit the dark nature of the story really well... the overworld tune sounds pretty depressing – in fact, a lot of the tunes are not exactly what I'd call upbeat. They manage to emphasise emotions that are fitted into the storyline, which is damn well worth admiring, considering what else was done for this genre beforehand. Now, most people seem to hate the battle music – I like it. Yes, you'll hear it a lot, so it's expected that it'd rock your world, and although it doesn't really sound as good as the first game's, it's still a pretty good track. Then again, this is done by the ever so famous for being an awesome composer, Nobuo Uematsu.
Replay Value: There isn't really anything to come back to after playing through to the end. The first game had many class combinations you could mix and match, but this one doesn't even have that. With such a hackneyed and dated levelling up system, in conjunction with all the grinding you'll be doing, there's – like I said – nothing to come back to that's worth coming back to. I'm not even sure if most of you would be patient enough to see it through to the end...
Overall: Well, they tried, but Final Fantasy 2 is unplayable garbage. Sure, the graphics were good and the soundtrack kicked ass, but the levelling system turned an otherwise solid RPG into giant grindfests and boring shit that you'd have to be dead in order to enjoy or consider good. *bleep* this game.