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 Final Fantasy II

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PostSubject: Final Fantasy II   Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:13 am

The original game ended up being a huge hit and Square managed to survive.  Even though the game is completely outdated in every possible way by later games, I can't deny what the game did for the RPG genre.  Since they made a game that was a huge success, it was a give that a follow up would be made.  But because we're talking about games on the NES, that can only mean one thing.  The second game would be completely different from the first game.  So lets get this show on the road.  

First off, lets talk about the plot.  There is an empire ruled by a guy named Mateus, and he wants to take over the world.  So Mateus starts a bloody campaign to accomplish this task.  During his movement, he attacks a village where four people named Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon live.  The four attempt to escape but they are ambushed and defeated easily.  Before they are killed off, a group of people come in and rescue them.  Despite their efforts, they couldn't save Leon and he's considered dead.  Later, the three awaken to find that they are in a secret base of an underground resistance that was formed to stop Mateus.  The three join the resistance and do their best to stop whatever Mateus is planning. 

During their encounters with the empire, they eventually run into the Empire's second in command named "The Dark Knight" and he isn't having any of this crap.  He builds a giant warship and bombs the shit out of the resistance, and kidnaps the leader.  The trio sneaks onto the warship to rescue their leader and then destroy it.  Shortly after, Mateus himself kidnaps the resistance leader and offers her up as a prize in a tournament where people fight to the death.  After the trio rescue her again, they are ordered to obtain a magical spell called Ultima so they can destroy Mateus in one blow.  While on their mission to obtain Ultima, Mateus summons up a giant tornado and makes his main base INSIDE the tornado. He then uses it to destroy everything in his path.  Eventually, the trio obtain the spell, confront Mateus in his base, and kill him.

Everyone is celebrating for their victory, but it's then discovered that the Dark Knight has taken over the Empire and that his identity was Leon this entire time.  The trio go to confront their friend and try to figure out why he even joined the empire to begin with.  When they finally meet up, Mateus appears in the shape of a demon and mocks Leon for trying to take over the empire.  He then reveals that when he died, his soul was split in two.  One half invaded and conquered Heaven while the half they are talking to did the same thing with Hell. 

Mateus then attempts to kill the four, but they manage to escape.  Realizing that they have to stop Mateus, the four travel to the depths of Hell and confront the demonic Mateus for one final confrontation.  At the same time, some of the resistance members who passed away from all of this travel to Heaven to defeat the half of Mateus who resides there.  Eventually, Mateus is defeated in both Heaven and Hell, and the gang celebrates over the true defeat of Mateus while the members that passed away move on to the other side. (There's a death between most of the dungeons in this game)  At the end of the party, Leon feeling regret for everything he has done, walks off saying that things can't be the same between him and his friends.  So Firion tells Leon that they will wait as long as it takes, and Leon walks off thus ending the game.

The plot sure has come a long way from four heroes trying to protect four magical gems, but at its core, it's your typical corrupt government and a resistance is formed to overthrow it.  The game's plot is simple, but it doesn't do Leon's story very well.  The game starts with Leon getting his ass kicked, and the next time you see him, he's the second of command for the empire.  They never actually explain how or why he joined up to begin with, nor how he rose to power so fast.  After that, they just suddenly make him the new main antagonist at the end just for him to magically decide to join his former friends.  It's revealed that everything was of his own free will, but it would of been nice for them to go more into detail with Leon.  It also sucks that you don't get an actual confrontation with the guy.  If there was an actual fight with him where Leon saw the error of his ways, I wouldn't mind.  But Mateus just came in and ruined all of that.

I will say though that Mateus is one heck of a douchebag.  Though the guy doesn't appear in person until roughly half way through the game, the stuff he has done is insane.  Building a warship to nuke every city in the world, creating a tornado and using the tornado as his own base, and then conquering both Heaven AND Hell.  This guy is a force to be reckoned with, and everyone you talk to is terrified of the guy.  For a guy who only makes four appearances in the game, I have to give him kudos.  I'd even go as far as to say that he's probably one of the top three main antagonists in the series. 

Now lets talk about the gameplay.  As stated earlier, it's the second game in a series and on the NES.  Because of this, the way the game is designed is going to be completely different as are many other IIs on the NES.  Now, the game still plays like your traditional turned based game, but the main thing to note is that they completely removed a level up feature from the game.  Instead, your stats will randomly go up at the end of battle, but this is very rare.  However, there are ways to make these happen more often.  The ways to make your stats raise depend on the stats, and they are as followed:

- HP: Your character's health.  Getting hit in battle increases the chances of this going up.

- Stamina:  The amount a character's health will go up.  Same as HP.

- Strength:  Influences the amount of damage your physical attacks will inflict.  Attacking with physical attacks increases the chance of this going up.

- MP:  The amount of Magic you can use.  Casting spells increases the chances of this going up.  (Also, they use the traditional MP system.  Thank god)

- Magic:  The amount of the character's MP that will go up.  Same as MP.

- Spirit:  Influences the power of White Magic.  Use White Magic to increase the chances of this going up.

- Intelligence:  Influences the power of Black Magic.  Use Black Magic to increase the chances of this going up.

- Evasion:  Increases the chances of evading attacks.  Having a high shield level increases the chance of this going up.

- Speed:  Influences your character's chances of going first.  Evading attacks increases the chance of this going up.

I mentioned that there is also a shield level from this.  What makes II stand out from the others is that you can build your characters however you want.  You can choose what equipment and what magic your characters learn.  Every character has a level for how good they are with weapons.  The more you use a specific weapon, the more that weapon's level will go up.  The higher the weapon's level, the more damage they do with that weapon.  If you have a shield equipped, then their shield level will go up every time they get hit.  The more that goes up, the more likely it is that you'll evade attacks.  The more you evade, the faster your characters get.  So you always want a shield on your members at all times.

Lets talk about magic now.  You will obtain books that teach someone a certain spell.  When they learn it, it will be at level one.  As the character uses spells, they will also level up.  The more they level up, the stronger the spell.  On top of that, the MP cost for the spells will always be equal to the spell's level.  So a lv 1 spell costs one MP when a lv 5 spell costs 5 MP. 

It's time to talk about equipment, and here's where things get annoying.  Like any other game, equipment helps raise your stats.  It's the same here, but there's one thing to note.  Equipment in this game is no different in that regard, but there's a catch.  Every piece of equipment has a weight value to it, and the amount of weight causes a negative effect on your stats.  While it raises your offense and/or defense, it penalizes you by hitting your evasion/spirit/intelligence stats.  So while you will be able to take more hits, your magic will be seriously weakened and you wont be evading nearly as many attacks.  Because you're not evading, your not influencing the game to raise your speed.  Because your speed isn't being increased, your characters are going last every round.  This is a game where the enemies have low HP, but can hit like trucks.  So going last, especially mid to late game is not a good thing.  Because of this, it's not advised to wear a lot of equipment.  Sure, you CAN wear equipment, but the more equipment worn is worse in the long run.

Speaking of things that's annoying, lets talk about the party.  I stated in the story that you have a main trio of Firion, Maria, and Guy.  I also mentioned that you can build them however you wish.  As nice as this is, you're missing a fourth member.  One gimmick with the game is that you will occasionally get a temporary fourth member.  The first one you get is a White Mage who is built so well.  He has a ton of very powerful healing magic and will always be there if things get too tough.  The rest of them have next to nothing.  They all have below average stats, usually they have crap for equipment, have next to no magic, and they will more than likely be nothing compared to your main three.  So your best bet with these guys is to just have them wack your own party and hope this causes their HP and stamina to increase.

Now to bring mention to the dungeons.  I never thought I'd have to bring mention to dungeons in an RPG, but they really stand out for all the wrong reasons in this game.  This game has needlessly huge dungeons that have roughly six to ten floors in them, have multiple routes that either loop you to a place you've already been or have you go a good few floors just to reach a dead end.  Because of this, you're going to get lost very easily in them.  I'll admit that the dungeons in the first game got a little too big for their own good, but this is just absurd.  It doesn't help that throughout these dungeons are dozens upon dozens of doors that lead to empty rooms, and the end of almost every dungeon usually has a section with roughly five to seven doors where only one is the right way, and the rest are completely empty.  Sure, these rooms very rarely have treasures in them, but having a countless number of rooms with nothing in them is annoying.  To top it all off, someone decided to jack up the encounter rate to a disgusting degree.  Don't you hate it where you're in a dungeon, get out of a battle, and then another one starts after just one step?  Well get used to it because that happens almost all the time in this game.  Dungeons drag on far longer than they have any right to because of these ideas, and it just burns a player out.  Thankfully they realized how bad it was and made the dungeons a lot more linear in III with a far lower encounter rate. 

Now for an interesting idea.  This game decided to make talking to NPCs a big deal.  When talking to NPCs, you'll occasionally be given a key word.  By talking to NPCs and asking them about these words, you can learn more about their lives, get some small talk, or proceed with the plot.  You're almost always told where to go and who to say these words to, but it's nice to just fuck around and learn what you can about everyone else from this.  It's a nice way to have world building, and for an NES game, I think that's great.

On top of having a great idea for NES games, this is the first game to feature a map system.  By pressing B and Select, you'll bring up a map that shows your location, all the key areas, where your boat and airship is, and where you should be heading to.  Because of this, getting around the world should never get too tedious.  Or so one might think.  Lets talk about the world map.

Usually, the world map would be seperated into many different sections, and you could only get to different sections at specific point in the game due to something in the way like water or mountains.  This game has one main continent, and the entire thing is opened right from the start.  It sounds interesting, but here's the problem.  In these types of games, there is a type of grid on the world map, and each block on this grid has specific enemies placed within.  Because this entire world is open from the start, you can end up in a section with enemies you're not supposed to face until much later in the game, and they will just destroy you.  One example is at the very start.  You have to go from your base to a kingdom to the north, and to reach it, you have to walk around a giant lake.  This is fine, but don't go too far away otherwise you're in a section that you're not supposed to be until halfway through the game.  This is just dumb design all around.

Speaking of dumb design, lets talk about the structure of the map.  Usually you just go from point A to B, and then B to C until the game has you go back to point A from lets say point R.  This game loves having you go from point A to B, then back to A to go to point C.  This process goes on and on where you go from the main hideout to the next destination, just to travel all the way back to the main base.  This is tedious work and it drains the player.  Sure, there are modes of transportation to make the journey easier, but considering the game in question, you really just want to walk so you can hopefully build up your stats.

You'd think I wouldn't have much more to talk about, but now it's time to explain just how disgustingly broken this game is.  This game is full of ways to manipulate the game's systems that it's not even funny.  You can use a command and then cancel out of it.  Even though you're not using this command anymore, the game still thinks you did.  So lets take a magic spell.  By using magic, the spell builds up EXP and eventually levels up.  What you CAN do because of how the game is programmed is to simply use a spell, cancel out of it, and then use it again.  Every time you do this, the game thinks you have used it even if you haven't, and gives it EXP anyways.  Doing this can make your weapons and spells gain so many levels so fast that you can kill just about anything in one shot after a battle or two.

Speaking of broken, lets completely shit over the game's armor mechanics.  Remember how I said it's bad to have armor in the long run because this will make it where your characters are slower?  It's time to throw that concept out the window and say that you won before you make it to the first town.  The enemies at the start of the game will always run after a while.  Not only that, but party members in the back row can't land hits nor be attacked until the members in the front row are dead.  So follow these steps to become a god within the first few minutes:

-  Throw 2 of your 3 party members in the back row.

-  Give the person in the front 2 shields.

-  In every battle you're in, have everyone attack while the guy in the front row heals himself when needed.

-  Keep doing this until the monsters run because you can't attack the enemies and they can't kill the guy in the front.

-  Watch your lead member's shield level increase to a disgusting level which shoots their evasion through the roof.

-  Also watch how the weapon level of the other 2 members shoot through the roof as well.

-  Repeat the process with the other 2.

By doing this, as stated, their weapon and shield levels, as well as your evasion stat will all jump to levels that they would never reach by playing the game normally.  This makes it where you will dodge damn near everything until end game, your party's speed will be maxed out just a few hours into the game, and even the heaviest equipment will hit your evasion so little that the game literally can not show the hits.  So yeah, you just won by doing nothing.  Good job guys.  The sad thing is the game is poorly programmed that there are millions of other ways to manipulate the game to have god like stats at the start of the game.  So much so, that you can't lose and there's no real point in playing.  I criticized VIII for having the same problem, but at the same time, as you got stronger, so did other enemies.  It would get to the point where even the smallest of bugs could wack you for insane damage and even instantly kill you.  So the chance of losing still existed.  This game on the other hand doesn't even have a chance.

Speaking of poorly programmed, lets talk about the spells.  Most of them don't even work.  You got all of these offensive and defensive spells that should be doing fancy shit, but they don't actually work.  I said before that spells get stronger as you use them more, but that's only half true.  Most spells have some kind of side effect, and that effect is where their real beauty shines.  At least in theory.  The most guilty one is Ultima itself.  You're told it's needed to beat the emperor, and you have to go through a good four to five side dungeons just to be able to get it.  Hell, one of the best characters in the game sacrifices himself so you can get it.  The way it's supposed to work is it's power is based on the number of spells the user has learned, but this is bugged so that's not happening.  So at best, you got a magical spell that can only do about 300 damage at max level.  Great ultimate spell huh?  If anything, the spell you should be going for is Berserk.  That is a Black Magic spell that causes your attacks to do around 200 damage to over 3000 damage. 

At this point, there's not much that can be said.  It's a game that has ideas, did its best to give us actual characters and world building at the time, and has so much promise.  However, I feel this is like Final Fantasy VIII where there were too many good ideas, but a lot of them weren't executed well.  However, Final Fantasy VIII didn't have tedious dungeons, didn't rely on RNG for stat gains, and didn't have you doing a frustrating game of back and forth between areas.  For the playthrough I did of the game for this review, I decided to make Firion a Paladin, which, for those who don't know, is a Fighter who can use White Magic.  I was using magic every battle, but his MP wouldn't move an inch. His spirit and HP shot through the roof, but his MP refused to move until the final dungeon.  You know, at the point where White Magic is irrelevent.  Maria in contrast, I made a Black Mage. Her MP shot through the roof, but her HP wouldn't budge.  Thanks to this, she was constantly getting killed in one shot and I spent more time reviving her than actually fighting with her. 

RNG is not something that should be a factor for something as important as stat gains.  I think the magic and equipment levels are an interesting idea, but I despise the RNG for actual stats.  The dungeons frustrated the hell out of me with how they were designed, and I got sick of fighting battles every few seconds.  I never thought a game could make me feel bored and angry at the same time, but lord and behold, Final Fantasy II is here.  This is a game where I always think "Maybe I'm remembering it incorrectly.  It can't be that bad"  but then I remember why I can't stand this game a few hours in.  It's not a terrible or unplayable game, but it's an unpolished game.  All it did was make me wish I was playing something like Disgaea or Secret of Mana.  Two games that use ideas from this game, but flesh them out to where they are fun. 

So overall, this is a game I really do want to like.  It has interesting ideas and I think the soundtrack is pretty damn good.  I can compliment it for the map and direction which is something I and III lack in, but it's bogged down by horrible dungeon structure and shoddy programming which makes shit either not work, or break the game so early on to where there's no point in playing.  With that said, this is my least favorite game in the entire series.  Sure, I've only played up to X so maybe a later game will get that spot instead of this, but this isn't a good game at all.  I wouldn't recommend this to anyone unless they are very curious.  Maybe you'll see something I don't.

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