Platform: Famicon
Date: 1988

Not to be confused with Final Fantasy IV (SNES 1991) which was known in America as Final Fantasy II.

The Empire is using monsters to take over the world. Four warriors from Phin are killed by the Empire. Three of them wake up in the care of a white mage. The mage joins them as they travel, in search of a rumoured mithril that they can use to defeat the Empire.

They meet Cid, who is willing to take them in his airship for a fee, but they decide they need to the XP instead. They reach a mithril mine, worked by prisoners. They free the prisoners and take the mithril to a smith so they can get new weapons.

They then try to take a Battleship (airship) from the Empire, but the Dark Knight finds them before they get to it. They fight, the Dark Knight runs and takes the Battleship and destroys a peaceful city. Cid tells them where to find the Battleship's power source, a mystical Sun Flame. They do a mystical ritual, it doesn't stop the Battleship from capturing Cid's airship. They break in when it lands, fight a lot, and blow the Battleship up.

Afterwards, they go to the last flying dragon, cure it of poison only for it to die. They take the dragon's egg and place it in the Pool of Life.

They get themselves swallowed by Leviathan, inside of which they find a village of everyone else who had been swallowed. They find the last Dragoon, who joins them. (Keep in mind that the fourth person changes all the time) They escape Leviathan.

Their white mage friend gets distentigrated so they can get Ultima. A little flying dragon (from the egg) meets their Dragoon. The Emperor has summoned a whirlwind, but the Dragoon/dragon combo has no problem entering it to kill the Emperor.

Good news, it seems, until the Dark Knight claims the throne. They then realize that the Dark Knight was their friend who had been killed in the very first battle. They go to confront their friend, but the ex-Emperor comes back from the grave to fry the castle and kill them all. The Dragoon sacrifices himself so they can all escape on the flying dragon. The Dark Knight agrees to join them to defeat the undead Emperor.

They kill the Emperor, the Dark Knight leaves. The end.

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BEWARE, SPOILERS ABOVE (you've probably already read it anyway)

Note: The following is about Final Fantasy II for the Famicom. That is, the Japanese Final Fantasy II, which was never officially released elsewhere.

The blackest black sheep of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy VI (J) is basically a better rehash of this game. It strays in many ways from all the Final Fantasy standards, but since it was only the second of its kind it was not persecuted for that reason. It is either the hardest of the series or the easiest, as the Daggerfall-esque experience system is very easy to abuse. The game is linear like its sequels, but in a different way. In the rest of the series there is only one possible way to go; everywhere else is out of bounds. In Final Fantasy II, you can go pretty much anywhere, but if you stray from the invisible path you'll be utterly destroyed by enemies way more powerful than your party.

Notables:


some_guy: whatever, there is no such "gentleman's agreement". The name of the American SNES game is Final Fantasy II. Therefore, I will call it "Final Fantasy II". The name of the Japanese Famicom game is Final Fantasy II. Therefore, I will call it "Final Fantasy II" as well. Anyway, I believe my preamble was sufficient.

The second game in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy II was released in Japan in 1988, but unreleased outside of Japan until 2003, when various remakes of the game have been released on different platforms. Previous to that, it was only available to English-speaking gamers as a poorly translated ROM.

There are two things apparent upon playing Final Fantasy II (in whatever version), although one of them might not seem like much of a realization to modern gamers. The first is that Final Fantasy II has a plot and characters. The first Final Fantasy had a plot, but it was a hodge-podge of dreamlike sidequests. In Final Fantasy II, we have something like a realistic setting. We also have characters, with both playable characters and NPCs showing personality and a little bit of character development. Compared to later installments in the saga, with five minute full motion videos where the characters discuss existentialism, the plot is fairly basic: Evil Empire tries to dominate/destroy the world, but a surprising amount of mileage was gotten out of it here. In some ways, Final Fantasy II is the real first Final Fantasy, with many games after it reiterating its plots and themes.

The second thing a gamer will notice when playing Final Fantasy II is that the experience point system, used in almost every RPG, is absent. You don't gain experience points. You don't "Level Up", at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, the characters get individual levels for different skills, depending on how much they use them. Every spell the character learns levels up when the character uses it. Weapons level up when a character hits with them. When a character has their hit points or magic points depleted in battle, those statistics go up. It was an interesting take on the system, but it does have some problems: for example, one of the best ways to level up HP is to attack your own characters in battle. Also, some spells are incredibly weak and leveling them up would be an improbable task. Casting "Sleep" 300 times to no effect before it is useful is not a very fun way to play a game. But I actually found the leveling system good, and in fact was against grinding: because a risky battle where the character got hurt was actually more likely to give a character a boost than 100 battles against low-level enemies.

And other than that, Final Fantasy II is the first place we see Cid. The first time we see a Chocobo. There are proto-Moogles. And this is the first time we see our characters interact with each other, with unresolved romantic tension, expressed in all its 8-bit glory.

Speaking of 8-bit, the original games graphics are exactly what you would expect from a Final Fantasy game from 1988. Quite good at the time, cutely cartoonish today. The music, however, like the music from any other Final Fantasy I can think of, holds up very well today, even in its 8-bit version.

Final Fantasy II is a melancholy and difficult game that well probably not appeal to everyone, and probably will not even appeal to most RPG players. However, for the player who gets into it, the game is of interest for both its historical interest and challenging gameplay.

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