Final Fantasy Countdown: Final Fantasy II
Almost everyone goes through this phase … you want to set yourself apart from everyone else, try something, do your own thing and hardly care about who you are stepping on. With teenagers this phase is called puberty, with Square it is called Final Fantasy II. Yes, Final Fantasy II is still seen as the weakest part of the series. As a black sheep, as a failed experiment whose new ideas were immediately locked away in the poison cabinet. But it’s not that simple after all …
No doubt, Final Fantasy II is a comparatively poor episode in the series. But Final Fantasy II is also reminiscent of a time when Square was brave and adventurous. Aside from Final Fantasy VIII many years later, no other Final Fantasy would so boldly overturn all established design conventions.
If the first Final Fantasy clearly bears the signature of series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his enthusiasm for Dungeons & Dragons, the sequel is the creation of a man named Akitoshi Kawazu. Kawazu, who still works at Square Enix today and is currently producing the upcoming Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, is as famous as notorious among fans for his SaGa series. He is an innovator, a merciless innovator who gets lost in interesting, but ultimately not very fun-promoting ideas. But Kawazu is always a guarantee for unorthodox role-playing experiences.
If a square game is particularly complex and unorthodox, then Akitoshi Kawazu usually has a hand in the game.
He laid the foundation for this reputation with Final Fantasy II. Graphically a little prettier, musically a little more dramatic and a lot more complex in terms of content than its predecessor, Final Fantasy II radically changes character development. The idea behind it is simple: If a character prefers to attack with melee weapons, then he will also become stronger. If, on the other hand, she throws fireballs around, her affinity for magic increases. So instead of forming a party from different classes before the game starts, Final Fantasy II gives you four defined characters, the development of which is entirely up to you.
As sensible as this reads, the system has its shortcomings in practice: It can be mercilessly misused. A typical grinding session then does not consist of slaughtering monsters and collecting experience points, instead the troops simply hit each other on the head and scorch each other in order to drive the corresponding values up, while the monster crowd is amazed at each other scratches.
Also typically Kawazu: Final Fantasy II offers great freedom at first glance and is far less linear than earlier parts. In practice, however, you will be guided through the adventure quite directly: If you turn the wrong way on the world map and wander in ignorance into areas that you should travel to later according to the story, the overpowering monsters usually briefly and painfully wipe the floor with you in … a not very friendly way to you ?? not yet! ?? accept.
But Final Fantasy II also has its good points. The story is far more exciting than in Part 1 and the defined characters and sometimes changing party members were far more interesting than the four generic Warriors of Light. And for the first time you will meet a nagging older man named Cid who owns an airship! The extended plot also seems to have motivated composer Nobuo Uematsu to new top performances: Even in the squeaky NES sound, the soundtrack offers a few wonderful catchy tunes.
Even if the look is not for everyone, in terms of play, Final Fantasy II is the PSP Anniversary Edition the best.
Still, Square quickly realized that Final Fantasy II offered some interesting approaches, but the bottom line was that it wasn’t exactly the yellow of the egg. In part three, people went back to the basics of the first release and Akitoshi Kawazu got his own series in which he was allowed to let off steam: Makaitoshi SaGa for the GameBoy (in the USA, funny enough, Final Fantasy Legend) had eight successors and various remakes . The last one was recently released in Japan for the Nintendo DS.
If you want to re-enact the boiling years of Final Fantasy today, your options are more or less the same as in the first part: There are implementations for PSone, GameBoy Advance and the PSP. The PSone version is most playfully based on the original, the Advance version has been simplified again, the PSP version has been reworked so that the unorthodox skill system runs more smoothly and does not have to be exploited as extensively as in the original ?? Interestingly, the PSP implementation is the best and most rounded version of Final Fantasy II.
In Japan, Final Fantasy II has also appeared on Virtual Console. A West release is unlikely here, as the NES original of the game never appeared in the West. What hit stores in the west as Final Fantasy II was the first 16-bit adventure, Final Fantasy IV. A shame, especially since the game was rumored to have already been localized.
For the role-playing historian, Final Fantasy II is a veritable treasure trove of playful and content-related artifacts that have influenced not only future Final Fantasy episodes, but above all the SaGa series mentioned above .