Final Fantasy 2 (NSW)

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Final Fantasy 2 (NSW)

Postby Jonasbrother » April 12th, 2024, 2:16 am

My grade: C+

This Final Fantasy Sequel has a reputation among RPG fans as being the odd game out of the original Final Fantasy Trilogy, and taken at first glance, it’s not hard to understand why. Final Fantasy II lacks the degree of customization its predecessor offered. Its battle mechanics are tweaked, for better, or for worse. While I don’t necessarily disagree with these criticisms, I have to say that Final Fantasy II inevitably won me over, and that much is beyond debate.

Final Fantasy II takes a chance, strikes out its own path and tells its own narrative. These aren’t generic heroes on a generic quest anymore. These are new characters with their own motives, backstories, and appearances. Its story revolves around a massive war, between our heroes the rebels, an oppressive evil emperor, and his milita of baddies. Let me tell you, these guys don’t screw around! There are more deaths in this game than there are in a Shakespeare play, so try not to get too attached to any characters in particular.

Addressing the elephant in the room; Final fantasy II’s combat system is flawed in ways that its precursor isn’t. In an effort to create balance, magic has been nerfed to hell and back, most notably area effect spells. Once you’re fully levelled it’s not a problem, but you’ll spent a *lot* of time getting there. These severe nerfs reduce the fun of maging and makes the game less satisfying to play in its early stages. Power is now based on usage totals rather than base stats– the more you use a given spell, or weapon, the more powerful it becomes, instead of these values being determined by the base stats your levels bring. This is an interesting choice but comes with the inherent drawback of encouraging repetitive play. Do you really want to have to cast haste 50 times to get the good version? It doesn’t even make good sense for spells that have rarer use case scenarios. Even melee feels just slightly off what it should be; there’s so many whiffs and enemy types that are impervious to brute force combat. The ability to dual wield swords and the addition of bows are welcomed, albeit tacked on features that don’t rectify these issues. Finally, the introduction of battle formations rarely comes into play as a significant factor for most, if not all encounters the game has to offer. You could completely ignore it and probably fare just fine.

Being shot in the foot by a combat system that feels less user friendly, and a series of initial encounters that playing through can be a slog, you may even be tempted to give up on the game entirely. Do not do this. Final Fantasy II is a slow burn type of experience that takes its time to get going. It doesn’t help that the entire first half of the narrative is just loss after loss after loss, no matter what you do. But over time, your magic will become less weak; you’ll learn how to maximize the potential of the new combat system, and start to appreciate the increased level of detail found in dungeons, environments, and monsters along the way. Then you’ll start to fight back.

Final Fantasy II is a unique example of a game that finishes much stronger than it starts. While its first few battle sequences are boring and tiresome, by the end of the game, you’ll be in a cold sweat, eyes locked deep into your screen, heart racing, rushing to the finish line. Its final dungeons are incredibly intricate, unique, challenging, and well designed. There’s a section that borrows from M.C Esther paintings, complete with reverse staircases leading to nowhere and marble up the wazoo. This is one of those games that ramps up perfectly towards its finish – its dungeons throw just enough at you to push you to your brink and encourage smart play rather than being brutal for the sake of it. The final dungeon is an imaginative labyrinth designed with a level of passionate creativity I haven’t remembered experiencing since middle school. Its final boss is a nail biting, half-hour bout that will leave you constantly roped and exhaust just about every resource you have at your disposal. Hopefully you didn’t neglect levelling those spells up, because you’re going to need them!

In conclusion, Final Fantasy II uses the time it borrows mostly sticking to its formula to flesh out details that the original Final Fantasy simply could not, raising its visual and narrative presentation to a higher standard. While I largely prefer the original, and I think most would agree, I feel that die-hard Final Fantasy/RPG fans could probably bump this game up to a B+. Its final few chapters begin to go beyond what the first Final Fantasy was ever capable of, taking the challenge and dungeons of its predecessor to newfound heights. Whereas the first Final Fantasy stays even-keel as a solidly cheerful experience the whole way through, Final Fantasy II begins in mediocracy and goes out with a bang.

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