Final Fantasy II, the sequel to the NES/Famicom game, Final Fantasy, is a great game. Released on December 17, 1988, just one year after its predecessor, the second Final Fantasy game is surprisingly fun. The worst thing about it is that it was never released in the US.
While the fact that no plot elements are the same as in the previous game may come as no surprise, the fact the gameplay is completely revamped will. Gone are classes and levels. What we have now are four base characters, each with a background story and the ability to be a mage, fighter, or both. Needless to say, this does wonders for the gameplay value of the game. Other than the four main characters, there are many other characters who join your group, such as a dragoon and a pirate.
Characters do not gain levels. Instead, their statistics are determined by their performance in battle. For example, if a character is near death at the end of a battle, they will gain defense and hit points. If they are magically wasted, they gain wisdom and magic points, and so on. Also, any character can equip any weapon at any time and learn any spell. Characters build weapon/spell levels to increase the effectiveness of their attacks. A level 9 sword attack could do nine hits, a level 16 fire attack could
kill an ice dragon in one shot. It takes time to build these levels (although a cheap loophole exists). Even with this trick, many gamers will find the game to be a challenge. No save points and small item space lead frustration and misery at times.
Other egregious features about this game include: the first appearance of a Chocobo, the first appearance of Cid, the first Mithril equipment, the first Leviathan, the first Dragoon, the first portraits of characters in the status window, the first appearance of Ultima, and the first Hiryuu.
The story of this game is decent. The Empire of Paramekia has summoned demons into the world and harnessed the dark powers of Hell. The people of Phin formed a resistance group in hopes of thwarting the Empire, but Phin was soon captured and trashed. You play the role of Frionel, Guy, Maria, and Lionheart, four orphans from Phin. While the story may seem shallow, it is very good at heart, with many plot twists.
The music in Final Fantasy II is great. The bosses now have a separate theme, unlike the first game. The world map music is dark, fitting to the setting of the game. This game also pioneered the famous Chocobo theme which has now become a staple in Final Fantasy games.
Graphics are, of course, terrible by today’s standards, but for the most part, reasonable. Graphic detail is not much better than it was in Final Fantasy, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, considering Final Fantasy had good graphics for its time. The only real problem related to graphics is the globe. Rather than stick with the flat map feature, Square integrated a globe into FFII. This globe was far ahead of its time, leading to major slowdowns and frustration. Although realistic, it is out of place.
Overall, this is a very good game and was pivotal to the shaping of the RPG world as it is today.