By borgmaster 1 Comments
I jumped into Final Fantasy II a couple of days after finishing I. From what I read, the iOS ports of both of these games are from the GBA combo-port of I and II called, unsurprisingly enough, Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. From playing both games I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the subtitle is completely meaningless.
But I digress, the most immediate thing to stand out as different from the first game is that this one has a story. Actually, plot is a better word to use there seeing as how the characters and narrative arc are rudimentary, and it doesn't really provide a reason for you to give much of a shit about what's going on. Even with that said, it's a huge improvement over the plot of the first one (fill four crystals, fight boss, along the way chill with an elf prince and fight pirates) and might be indicative of the kind of silly melodrama I'm going to find in future entries in the series.
Seeing as how this one didn't make it to places not called Japan when it was originally released, a short plot summary might be in order. The main characters Firion, Maria, and Guy are orphans (no mention is ever made about their parents or how they already know each other) that barely escape death at the hands of a world-conquering evil empire, who meet the last of the anti-imperial rebels, and end up single-handedly saving the world from said evil empire. This would be a happy ending if it weren't for the fact that half of the towns in the world get blown-the-fuck-up along the way. That was actually the most interesting thing to happen in the whole game. There being not one, but two events in the game which altered the state of the world is a surprisingly sophisticated thing to do considering the original game came out in the late 80's for the NES. It also makes the story surprisingly dark.
The second event that I referred to involves half of the towns in the game being supposedly destroyed and everyone in them killed. This claim gets backed-up by the fact that you can't enter those towns from the overworld afterwards. Once the evil emperor is killed and his evil empire toppled there isn't much of anyone left to celebrate. Entire civilizations are extinct, there's only one actual government and army left in the world and they only exist in one city. The world's economy has to be completely and utterly fucked by that point, seeing as how it was propped up during the war solely by four random adventurers coming into towns and dropping tens of thousands of gil on random shit. Years worth of resources and man-hours have been wasted on the emperor's crazy death machines, which in the end got blown up by those very same adventurers. There has to be an unmanageably large number of ex-imperial soldiers that are stuck far from their homes with their supply lines and central command having disappeared overnight. How many of them will say "fuck it" and become bandits? What about the insane number of refugees that have to exist? Are there even enough farms left in the world to support the remaining population? It would have to take centuries for the world to recover back to the point it was at before the war. The more I think about the state of the world at the end of this game, the more depressed I get about it. I suppose the fact that I'm even able to do that says all kinds of good things about the game. Or it says all kinds of not-that-great things about me. I'm not really sure which one it is yet.
The story isn't even the craziest thing in here. That distinction goes to the leveling system. This is by far the weirdest leveling system I've ever seen, it involves improving every aspect of the characters individually. That means the HP, MP, all of the attributes, spell levels, and weapon skills are leveled up individually for each character. The idea seemed to be that if a player wanted to roll around with a certain combination of warriors and mages, they could do so and organically alter the class on each character according to the play style. In practice, this was not the case. It took too long to level up the aspects of a character that were needed to turn that character from one class to another for it to be particularly useful. This resulted with me determining that Maria was gonna be a white/black mage, Guy was the tank, and Firion was a fighter/white mage hybrid. I rotated the weapons out for each character, not because of changes in the quality of the weapons but because the characters would reach an arbitrary cap for the weapon skills until a certain part of the game. Also, the fourth character slot that has about a half-dozen characters rotating in and out throughout the game was almost always filled by someone who was drastically under-leveled. Lastly, it was incredibly simple to grind the game in cheap ways and make all the characters overpowered; about a third of the 35 hours I put into this game was spent doing just that. Overall, the whole system was a complete and unmitigated mess, but in the most interesting way possible. At least this unique idea was eventually developed in a far better fashion in the Elder Scrolls games.
It needs to be mentioned that I liked the art style in this game much better than in the first, it just seemed more unique and detailed. My one complaint with it, though, is that the design for Firion is stupid and kinda disturbing on some primal level, I mean, the fuck?
As far as the music goes, I also generally prefer this one to the first. I think that the Chocobo Theme is gonna end up being my favorite track in the whole series, though I may be proven wrong.
In the end, I found Final Fantasy II to be more interesting and engaging than it had any right to be. If it did anything, it strengthened my resolve going into III, and boy, did I need it. More on that later.
P.S. How could you not play the game that goes with this poster?
Favorite Song (that isn't Chocobo related): Tower of the Magi