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Friday, October 2, 2015

Final Fantasy II (ファイナルファンタジーII)

I naturally started Final Fantasy II right after beating the first one and of course, stopped playing it not long after.There's only so much final fantasying I can do before I need to take a break. Anyway, I came back to it after I got tired of how SLOW DQ2 was with the awful changes they made from DQ1 (review pending). I guess there's only so much dragon questing I can do before I need to take a break from that too.

Not that there's anything wrong with FF2. In fact, it's far better than FF1 as sequels should be (but sadly often isn't *cough* DQ2 *cough*). I didn't like it much at first because it was just so different from most RPGs I've played (I don't want to brag but I've played a few). But thankfully, I was able to keep an open mind and the game eventually grew on me. It probably helps that the PSP version I think has a re-balanced leveling system (ie easy mode for retro hipster wannabes like me).

My first impression of FF2 was WTF? I was wandering around the world map at the start of the game and then just DIED. You see, this game is linear OLD SCHOOL. At least DQ1 warned you that crossing a bridge would result in stronger enemies. Here, the only hint that you're not supposed to go somewhere is not mountains or a fancy 3d tunnel (*cough* FFX *cough*), but rather monsters that just DESTROY YOU. Game over. No retry option. Go back to title screen. Thanks for playing!

Looking for INSTANT DEATH? Just cross the eastern bridge and go north.
Not only does FF2 feature the linear world map of death, you also can't fight for shit in the beginning. Basically, the leveling system has been micromanaged to hell and you need to level every single possible thing separately. That means because your weapon levels start at zero, you are constantly missing until you level up at least one type of weapon for each character. So yeah, FF2 can make quite a negative impression in the beginning. It's like some kind of weird hybrid between more complicated PC RPGs and the stripped down console RPGs of the time.

However, once I got used to this weird hybrid, I actually enjoyed the mechanics quite a bit. For example, in one part of the game, Gai, despite having like double the HP of everybody else, was constantly getting wailed on. So I put a shield on him and even though his DEF stayed the same, after he leveled up his shield skills, he didn't get hit quite so hard anymore. The girl of course, per RPG sexist rules, went in the back row. LOL

Before my ascension to Jhipster, I was big into PC RPGs. In fact, my first RPG was Curse of the Azure Bonds on the C64 (with code wheel copy protection and the works). So having a console RPG with a tint of PCness was actually kind of refreshing.

My first RPG. That's magic armor in case any SJWs were wondering. You would know this if you read the book. DUH!
The dialogue mechanic is another example of this approach. While there are no complicated branching dialogue options, you can memorize words that are highlighted in red. You can then ask characters questions based on the list of words you memorized. Still very simple but just a tad more PC-like than any other FF game. Of course, people must've hated this approach because all of FF2's game mechanics were scrapped, never to be introduced again in any other FF title EVAR.

It's no Fallout but hey at least they tried.
The story in FF2 feel like the beginnings of what makes FF stand out as a series instead of the standard RPG clones FF1 felt like. While the story is still basic and the villain one-dimensional, there are hints of the character development and touching moments we'll see much better fleshed out in later games. So not a great story but it's a decent start to an evolving series.

Is it just me or is it getting HOT in here?
I have to give FF2 credit for trying some new things that actually worked pretty well (at least in the PSP version) despite some flaws. It also introduced Chocobos and Cid, two things that would continue on for well over a decade. The PSP remake also has a great CG opening intro that actually relates to the game (unlike the PSP remake of FF1) and several really neat non-CG cut scenes. It also has a great OST especially as you near the end of the game.

Game has way better songs but this is still pretty darn good for listening to like 1000+ times

FF2 has a lot going for it and I liked it quite a bit. However, at the end of the day, it's still very much a multitask game. I actually played this game for a bit with my full attention and it was a tedious cycle of random encounters and holding down circle. Yes, I had to use magic on certain monsters (red, black, and yellow blobs in classic FF fashion) so it was maybe 10% less of holding down circle compared to FF1 but there were tons of buff/debuff spells and whatnot that I never felt the need to even try. Fight, cure, fire, ice, and thunder is really all you need for the entire game.

Ok ok, that's a slight exaggeration. The last dungeon had a large difficulty spike so I had to use flare and holy but it was such a pain to level up the spells, that I just grinded a few hours to completion. I never even grinded a spell past level 9. I can't even imagine how long it must take to grind to 16 levels. And by the end, the economy was so broken, I could just elixir my way to the end of the game with totally weak spells. Of course, this meant that I may have missed out on some cool spell animations but ah well, I simply didn't have the patience. Especially since Ultima requires leveling OTHER spells to be effective. Speaking of Ultima, there's some interesting FF lore about why it was so weak in the original version with some harsh life lessons for the poor unwary kids back in the day.

In conclusion, while not a bad game, FF2 wasn't quite innovative enough to warrant my full attention.

Score: 2.5 wish this game had a level for auto-battle/encounter rates, it has a level for freakin' everything else out of 5 (25 hours to beat)

As a bonus, after playing FF1, I felt like a retro-gamer expert when I jumped into LAVA with no hesitation. YOU WON'T SCARE ME THIS TIME WITH 1,000 DEGREES LIQUID OF DEATH!!

"Your entire body is covered in lava!!!"
"Hmph! It's just a flesh wound"
The PSP version also has some weird random caves scattered throughout the land and a new game plus "Soul of Rebirth" bonus quest that I have not delved into. Soul of Rebirth seems cool cause it makes it worth grinding the constantly switching weak ass 4th party member. Of course, I had no clue about that while playing the game so I'm probably screwed but we'll see. Maybe I will revisit after I finish FF4's bonus quest.

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

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