If, for some strange reason, you're here to read
a genuine review--the sort that tells you the strong points and
weak points of a title, how it compares to similar games, and so
on--I shall give it to you in one line: Stay away from this game.
That said, I shall now continue with my usual rambly digressive
blather that passes for a review here on the Hub.
The game that I originally knew as Final Fantasy II
was a Christmas
gift, along with Final Fight
and a Super Nintendo (with pack-in
Super Mario World
, of course!), the same year it was released
here in the States. Google is informing me that that was 1991, which
sounds about right--I remember going over strategies for FFII
(really Final Fantasy IV
) in middle school.
A couple of years later, after the advent of the Internet, I
discovered--along with a couple million other RPG-hungry
kids--that the game we received as Final Fantasy II
actually a much later game in the series. Two games were released
for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, never brought to
our shores, and promptly abandoned once the 16-bit era started.
I was distraught. It was a time in my life where things seemed
to revolve around me; such self-importance is common in young
people, but I had only recently become aware of it directly,
as opposed to just acting like a normal kid. That didn't keep
me from thinking that I should get everything I wanted, mind you,
and the thought of two whole Final Fantasies
never get to see was sacrilege. They should have brought those
games over just for me
At some point I dove into the then-tiny world of emulation, and
of course I came across the ROMs for the two Lost NES Final
, along with the Lost SNES Final Fantasy
(Final Fantasy V
). I tried to play them, but my grasp
of Japanese (none whatsoever) limited the play experience. In
the days of 300MB hard drives, I'm sure I deleted those games,
replacing them with ones I /could/ understand; I vaguely
remember playing Final Fantasy Legend III
enough, another renamed-for-the-States game--in Virtual Game
Boy for DOS, feeling a little naughty and a little excited as
my poor computer chugged away at emulating a Z80 processor.
Fast forward a bit more, and I discover the world of fan translations.
People with a grasp of Japanese translate the text from a game,
other folks who know how to program 6502 assembly hack it into
the ROM, and the end result is a playable version of a game
never released here in the States. Some of the first fan
translation projects were the NES Final Fantasies
no doubt for the same reason that I wanted to play them--they
loomed on the gaming world as missed opportunities, experiences
have had. Like most volunteer Internet projects,
it took many starts, stops, independent efforts, and half-done
releases before Neo Demiforce provided us with a 100% complete
[Good ol' Google. I forgot who did the translation, and it
pointed me to a Wikipedia article. That article had a note
which said that Square made an English prototype of FFII
but never finished the work; sure enough, some poking in
my NES ROM collection gave me the prototype. The translation
starts out bad and gets worse, and I stopped after about five
minutes. Still, it shows that we really should
had the game.]
Over the years between when I found out about the real Final
and when I began playing it in earnest, I
had heard a large number of things about the game, most
of them bad. There are no levels; to gain health you have
to attack your party; the game is impossible without
cheating; you will want to poke your eyes out before
you beat it. I took those statements with a grain of salt--how
could infidels understand the beauty that is a Square game?
They can do no wrong!
Lo, was I mistaken.
Final Fantasy II
is an exercise in tedium. There are
no 'levels' in the traditional RPG sense; you gain statistics
such as strength and MP by utilizing skills which "flex"
those stats. If you want to boost your strength, you should
attack lots; if you want to boost your HP, you need to lose
a lot of health.
Read that last sentence again. Therein the problem lies.
At the beginning of the game, you have to walk a dangerous
line between taking enough damage to gain a HP boost and
simply dying; this is alleviated as the game progresses,
but then the problem becomes gaining any health at all, as
enemies either do no damage to you or kill you with one
The game has a number of bugs and easy exploits, of which
many are considered "the only sane way" to beat the
game. One of them is to beat up on your own characters
during a fight with easy enemies; you can control how
much damage you do, and stop when you've done enough to
semi-guarantee a health boost. Another is to attack or
cast a spell, cancel the action, and do it again; the
game gives you the experience upon entering the action
instead of doing it, and you can gain spell and weapon
levels easily by exploiting this.
The purist gamer in me refused to use such tactics, of
course, which made the experience harrowing. I played
for a good ten or fifteen hours, got almost nowhere,
and accidentally deleted my save state. Ah, well
I'm sure I thought; I didn't want to play that
Of course, I should have known better. My completist
nature told me "You must beat Final Fantasy II
before you can play the rest of your Final Fantasies
The later PSX releases and Final Fantasy X
for a couple of hours, then put down, since I felt "dirty"
playing them out of sequence. Inwardly, I sighed. I
knew that playing and beating FFII
was going to
be one hell of a task.
At some point, I started on it. I got close to the end
of the game--invested probably forty or fifty hours of
time into it; the game is from an era before RPGs
clocked the hours you put into them like a badge of
honor--and then stopped playing. I could never pick
it back up, because I knew what was waiting for me.
Even more pointless battling? My favourite!
Inwardly, I sighed, and didn't play any Final Fantasies
Then Final Fantasy Origins
came along. A single
disc with a rerelease of both Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy II
, the latter making its first
official US appearance? Oh, joy! I bought it, of course,
and quickly tore through the first title. It was easier,
due to a slightly tweaked battle system, but still far
from trivial; the game's short length kept the repetitive
battling from getting on my nerves, and so a few weeks
later I beat Final Fantasy
for the second time
And there was Final Fantasy II
staring at me.
A couple of months ago I started on the PSX rerelease
in earnest; Square made a couple of tweaks to the game
to make it a little easier, and the pace was picked up
enough to make the battles merely intolerable. I still
refused to cheat, but I did manage to slog my way to
Mysidia early enough in the game to pick up the Change
spell; the return walk was the longest sequence of
"reset the console" I've ever done, as I managed to
survive three battles out of eighty or so in a deperate
run for safety. Once I levelled the Change spell enough,
the game became trivial; my main characters had 3000
hit points at a point where they should be at half
that, and most of my time was spent getting the supporting
characters up to a usable level.
This past Friday night, I tore through the last four
dungeons of the game, bypassing my old emulated rut and
finally beating the game, half-asleep, at 0300 Saturday
The game dutifully unlocked 'Normal Mode,' which adds back
the difficulty removed in the rerelease.
I dutifully turned the game off.
So, yeah. I beat Final Fantasy II
. It was neat to
see how one could take the core of something like the original
and change it a lot, getting rid of much
of the underlying logic, while simultaneously managing to
keep that consistent "feel" that all Final Fantasies
Would I do it again?
I'd almost say "Hell no," but I know just how much of a freak
I am. When the GBA version is released, I may find myself
slowly but surely slogging through the game Just. One. More.
I just don't count on enjoying it.
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