This game would've been better if they bug tested the combat.
Every gamer knows of Squaresoft’s (now Square Enix) famous series, Final Fantasy. It was made as a going out gift, but ironically, it was so much of a success that it allowed Square to avoid falling from the gaming world. As
with all successful video games, a follow up was started soon after. However, as does happen with many sequels, it just didn’t live up to the hype and expectations set forth by the original.
First off, before anyone who hasn’t played the original fears that I will spoil the main plot details of the original, you’ve no reason to worry, as this was, as is the case with most Final Fantasy games, in no way related to
the previous Final Fantasy. You take the role of three characters throughout the game, with several characters filling the fourth slot every now and then. It doesn’t really matter how much you train them because all but the final one leave at one point or another and never return. Speaking of training, this is the game’s biggest folly. The combat system no longer revolves around leveling, instead favoring a system where your actions influence your statistics, eliminating the class system of the previous game. For example, using a sword a lot will improve that character’s proficiency with swords and their overall strength at the cost of magical power due to lowered use of said character’s magical abilities.
While this may sound good, the game’s system bases these statistics off of input of certain actions rather than actual executions of said actions. What this means is, with enough patience and time, one can make ridiculous strides in character status at a time in the game when the player shouldn’t have such absurd strength. And to top it off, the character need not perform the action for all of this to register. Instead, it truly is based off input instead of
execution. This would be fine if the game was playable without this major glitch, but it’s not. The player would have to fight a ridiculous amount of battles to prepare one’s self for the subsequent dungeon. The level-up sessions aren’t even that fun in this game; instead, it’s a grueling and aggravating exercise in “am I strong enough yet?”. Now I know that this is one of the major traits of many RPG’s, but in other games, the leveling system will give you a rough idea of how strong you must be to be able to survive the next trial. The absence of such a system completely does away with any incentive to prepare for the next dungeon that awaits the player when you take into consideration that most of the good weapons you will equip your characters with are mainly found in the dungeons that you prepare yourself for.
The game also features a password system (not as a save feature, but rather a gameplay feature), which again sounds good on paper. The premise of it was that you could learn certain phrases and words from people and say them later to affect the outcome of the story. However, the passwords are often times likened to the status of key items, where their only role in the game is to advance the storyline further. Inns also got this kind of treatment. The prices of the inns are affected by the amount of HP and MP your characters have left. But unfortunately, the prices increase when your HP and MP decrease, forcing you to raise gil by fighting the very monsters you were trying to avoid until the inn healed you enough so that you could return to the overworld map to fight them confidentially.
Other moves are just plain idiotic, like the lack of a shared pool of items for the whole party, which forces each character to hold two items during battle It just seems a bit backwards and dated compared to other RPG’s in which characters drew from a shared collection of items. The Change spell, which is supposed to (and does) swap stats with whomever you target, really seems to serve no purpose. The old battle system’s flaw of the dead hitting, where a character will try to hit a monster even if it already died, also remains annoyingly intact. Plus when one uses curative spells from the menu, they will get double the experience for it, yet will receive the same amount of experience for casting a spell on one person as for the entire brigade.
The only positive thing that I can really say about this game is that the battles move faster than its predecessor, Final Fantasy. While things moved at a trickle in the last game, fights here progress pretty quickly. I could also say that the game lasts long at an amazing 40 hours, but that can also be said for almost every RPG of the time, and those of this day and age. I could also give this game’s dungeon exploration thumbs up, but it’s been done before and after, better I may add. I might also throw in that the pacing of the game is even and realistic, but this is in part due to dreaded leveling sessions that one might imagine would’ve been eliminated with the absence of such a system.
The graphics just make this game worse. In no way do they improve upon the last game’s rather archaic look. In fact, it pretty much recycles a lot of sprites and textures from the previous game, much like the older Mega Man games on the NES. Not only that, but there is minimal animation for anything; every action consists of about 2 sprites, save the spells which involve 4-6 sprites at best and at worst are just a random flash of the color that would naturally correspond to that spell. However, there is a bit of positive. For example, the “Push B-Select” map has been replaced with a globe, which for it’s time was rather advanced. But the slow movement will show you why not many NES games attempted to fit this feature into their game. The weird field-separating boxes that were
present in the previous game have been done away with in this, giving the game a much more realistic feel. Obviously, with quasi-medieval lands and horse sized birds, this game isn’t really aiming for that realistic feel, but it’s a nice touch of realism that makes it feel like more than the table-top pen and paper RPG that you’d play with aside your friends in your basement. Another nice little element is the occasional airship will fly around from time to time, which I just found as a nice example of a world that wasn’t so static, something that hasn’t been attempted in many RPG’s of its time, up until the dawn of 3D gaming.
The story is greatly improved over the previous game, a stark difference from the generally bad and broken quality of the rest of the game. For example, there are multiple characters with set names and personalities, and they actually talk (including the protagonists, something pretty innovative back when it was made). Without spoiling much, the basic structure of the story is that four youths (three after the first mock battle) are trying to rebel against an evil empire that is unleashing demons in an attempt to dominate the world. I know, it sounds a bit like the plot to Star Wars, but it’s still a much better story than the paper thin one of Final Fantasy. But some of the plot relies on readings from the instruction manual. However, since most people playing this game won’t have the instruction manual, some important details will be left out (like the whole “unleashing demons from Hell” part).
The music, too, is one of the great points of this game. Nobuo Uematsu has done a great job with all of the series’ music, and this game is no exception. Its soundtrack really fits the rebellious feel of the story and is pretty well for an NES game. It can get a bit repetitive at times but can’t that be said for just about any piece of music? However, one blemish that does remain unique to this game is the lack of boss music, like in other Final Fantasy’s. How can one truly feel that they have reached the enemy that will test their skill and dexterity if the same music that is used whilst fighting the game’s first enemies is the very same medley that loops on within the background of the battle between you and the Ice Gigas? The only battle theme that could be considered boss music is reserved for biblical monsters (AKA Behemoth, the mini-super bosses of the final dungeon and the Dragons) and the Emperor (but not the epic first time you face off against him).
But pointing out the good points in this game is like trying to point out the positives of a horribly obnoxious friend. In short, while most of the ideas were pretty good and did at least try to bring some realism to the genre, it was
never properly executed, thus watering down what could’ve been a great game had Squaresoft taken their time with this game during its debug phase of development.