Today, we continue our trek through the mainline games of the Final Fantasy series! Now, we’re playing Final Fantasy 2!
The actual FF2, not the American FF2, which was actually FF4. Do I need to clarify that in 2021?
The Emperor of Palamecia has started a mass invasion to take over the world. Our four heroes, Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon, are driven out of their hometown of Fynn and cut down by Imperial soldiers. Luckily, they’re rescued by Princess Hilda, leader of the Wild Rose rebellion. However, Leon has gone missing. Now, our three remaining heroes must fight for the rebellion, find their missing friend, and defeat the empire!
This story is the series’ first attempt at a dramatic fantasy plot. It has twists, turns, and emotional moments. Considering that’s what the series would eventually become known for, it’s kind of charming to go back to where it all started! Kind of like reading The Hobbit after reading The Lord of the Rings.
Only that The Hobbit is good. FF2 is not.
The characters in this game are lacking in depth. Granted, I can’t be too mean on this point, given that it’s essentially a port of an NES game. But trying to compare the one-note characters of this game to what we’d get later on is like comparing a sandcastle to the Empire State. Guy speaks like a caveman, Maria is just girl, and I don’t even remember anyone else.
It also introduces some important Final Fantasy staples. Ever wonder which game the Chocobos came from? That’s this one! FF2 established many things, from creatures to characters, that would return in practically every game going forward!
As the series’ first attempt at an actual story, this one is pretty bad. It’s not offensively bad or anything. It’s just that you can tell the devs were limited by the technology of the time and they didn’t quite know how to write a story using a video game yet. It’s not good, but it is kinda charming.
Unlike the gameplay. Which makes me want to die.
At a glance, this game plays practically the same way as FF1. It’s a turn-based RPG. As you progress and level up, you get items and go through dungeons and fight monsters and all that, right? Well, not quite.
First off, this game doesn’t have a traditional level up system. Rather, each character has a list of skills related to each ability or item in the game. In order to raise your stats, you need to use the things. This includes everything, from weapons to magic to even your HP.
Let me repeat that: in order to raise your HP, you need to use it. Which means that you need to take damage. To clarify: if you take damage and heal before the battle ends, you don’t get any EXP towards your HP. Meaning that you need to take a hit and just keep the damage until the fight ends. Which is a huge problem early on, because enemies will either do 0 damage or will instantly kill you. Either way, you don’t get any EXP.
There is no class system in this game. Any character can use any item or any spell, regardless of their stats. Now, you could try to vary up your party and give everyone a role. Except that it’s much more efficient to just have everyone do the exact same thing. Variety in your party doesn’t make it more fun, only more challenging. It’d be easier just to take have everyone fight with their bare hands and power grind your fists and HP early on to sweep the rest of the game.
This system discourages exploration in gameplay. Why bother trying out new weapons or putting on new gear when the stat for that one is so much lower than the one you already have? Just stick to what you’ve got until the game ends, which makes it become stale and boring far more quickly. The satisfying feeling of growth you had in FF1 is a thing of the past.
Your party is the only thing that changes. Throughout the game, the fourth member of your team will frequently be replaced by new characters. I’d be fine with that, if the fourth member you get weren’t always so much fucking stronger than the ones you already have!
Worse yet are the dungeons. These are like they were in FF1, only with more loading screens. Enter a room? That’s a load screen. And guess what? 90% of the rooms you’ll explore are completely empty! And you’ll be spawned right in the middle of them! So you’ve got to walk straight to the exit!
Why is that a problem? Two words: random encounters.
The rate enemies appear in this game is worse than the Zubats in Mount Coronet! I swear to god, I’d be lucky to step more than five paces without running into a group of eight enemies in any given dungeon! This makes combat become tedious and annoying so much faster than it did in FF1!
Final Fantasy 2 is not a very fun game to play. It’s an important entry in the series that adds so much to the identity of Final Fantasy! But actually going back to play the damn thing feels like punishing yourself. You’d be better of skipping straight to another game.
Speaking of: am I allowed to play Final Fantasy 3 now? Please? I need a pallet cleanser.