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Final Fantasy II is a great entry into the series. It has all the traditional elements of a JRPG. Unfortunately, it comes with the downsides too. I’m basing this review on the version that Square released onto the PSP back in 2007. This comes with graphical and soundtrack improvements. And as a bonus, it also includes extra quests. So, this is the definitive version.
Final Fantasy II The Original JRPG
The story starts with you and a few of your friends attempting to escape imperials who are invading. You get caught by four horsemen. Who beat you to submission? Your party is then rescued. Priests resurrect your character from the dead. One member of your party is missing. You then set out for revenge. The story is cliche. A simple revenge plot that is refreshing. The characters are one dimensional.
You spend your time exploring the overworld. Going into settlements to buy items and progress the story. Then there are the dungeons. So, this is all standard fare. The combat is standard turn-based JRPG-style. You queue up your attacks. Then depending on each combatant’s agility, will determine the order they attack.
Level Up System
The level-up system is very like the Elder Scrolls system. Instead of having one level, your characters improve their stats by using them. For example, to increase the strength of a fire skill, you need to use it. This in turn increases your magic and MP Pool. It’s a great system. The only issue I have with it is that it is difficult to tell if you are strong enough to take on the next area.
There are no skills in this title. The only abilities that you can get are magic ones. You can buy spells from spell vendors in each settlement. Once you buy a spell tome you can then “Use” it on a party member and they will learn the spell, but it will destroy the tome. You must buy a tome per person, I would teach everyone cure and then have one character master all spells.
On top of the level up system, there is also a lot of character turnover. At the start of the game, you go through two party members who switch out for each other. Which loses any connection you have with them. Also when they leave they take the equipment they have equipped with them with no warning. As such I don’t have a connection with the party at all.
This title is from the 80s so there are certain aspects of the game that were common throughout that period. The main storyline involves you travelling to locations collecting items or key phrases. There is a fast travel system but you can only fast travel from specific towns.
Another issue that arises due to travelling, is the random battle encounters. When you are trying to level up your skills it can be a blessing. But when you want to travel to a location the number of encounters is ridiculous. You can’t skip the battles with no encounters item. If you forget to save and run out of potions and other items it becomes frustrating.
Another issue, which again is a result of the era, is you do not have a menu item that shows what you need to do next. This is fine if you play it but take some time away and you’ll have no idea what you need to do next. Oh, and there is no map, but there are plenty online.
The PSP version is very pretty. Everything is very clear and bright. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up with the recent Pixel remasters that have been released. The audio is standard, and some familiar songs are included. But I played it with audio off as after the 10th battle the music gets very repetitive.
There are some early signs of the CGI scenes that are common with the series. The developers have played it safe by not going over the top with them. But they are enjoyable, nonetheless. The presentation is brilliant and for a handheld title, it didn’t need 3D graphics.
Best Way To Play
Cheat! To start with I did play using no cheats. But getting lost and fighting non-stop random encounters started to take their toll on me. So, using a cheat system, I turned off random encounters when travelling to and from locations. Once I was in a dungeon, I would then switch on random encounters so I could raise my levels. Which is needed for the mandatory battles.
There were other cheats available such as max stats but that would take away the enjoyment of the title. Oh, and save. Always save. There is always a chance of you being killed by even the smallest monsters if you haven’t been prepared. Keep an eye on your health and MP. If they get too low, make your way back to the nearest town ASAP.
So I enjoyed playing this title. They could have added a few features that were present in other remakes. Such as no encounters and faster combat. This would have made Final Fantasy II more enjoyable. And the only improvement this title would need for it to be a must-play.
It’s interesting to see where the series started from to where it is now. I’m hoping to play more of the retro titles in the series and enjoy them.
Final Rating Final Fantasy II gets 3 stars.