Review by darthjulian

"Enjoyable RPG that earns a spot in the Game Boy elite"

Now it should be common knowledge by now that the original Nintendo Game Boy is not exactly the ideal console for Role Playing Games, considering its technical limitations that practically make an appropriate presentation of a storyline along with beautiful visuals and a haunting soundtrack impossible. So, while the Game Boy is perhaps more fitting for puzzle games and other similar genres, these limitations did not prevent Squaresoft from releasing an RPG called "SaGa" on Nintendo´s first handheld, and in order to exploit the enormous popularity of the "Final Fantasy" franchise, Square renamed the game "Final Fantasy Legend". It most definitely was not on par with the RPG elite on home consoles, but at the very least, it was a surprisingly well done achievement for a Game Boy game. And since the game turned out to be a modest success, a sequel was released quickly after part 1, and believe it or not, not only does it surpass the first "Final Fantasy Legend", it also proves itself to be a worthy addition to Squaresoft´s game library.

Judging from the game´s story, it´s clear that the Game Boy indeed is not the perfect console for Role Playing Games. It might be an improvement over the sparse and underwhelming cookie-cutter plot found in the first one, but it´s still not a totally engrossing tale. But let´s get to the basic outline first: you take the role of a nameless regular-Joe, living peacefully in quiet village. However, the kid´s life changes abruptly when his father mysteriously leaves the village one day. A few years later, our hero has grown up and tells his mother that he wants to leave the village and search for his dad, and hence the hero´s adventure starts, with a far greater threat lurking in the background. It´s a rather basic and simple storyline, but it´s nicely told despite the Game Boy´s limitations, having some rather decent story-scenes. Nevertheless, the story has its fair share of problems, with the first significant one being the lack of interesting dialogue. The discussions between the characters and some important NPCs have been reduced to the most essential details about your objectives and your next destination, and to some extent, this makes the story seem a little stale and wooden, since some well written dialogue can sometimes breathe life into an RPG, but not so in this game - even though I do not know whether it was any different in the original Japanese version. Perhaps the biggest problem the storyline has to face is the lack of charming or memorable main characters. Your party consists of nameless protagonists you can even create yourself (more on that later), and the main character only has at least some development. Apart from him, there are also only few important NPCs like Ki the healer, who sometimes even temporarily join your party. Despite all this, the story is not bad, not at all, it just pales in comparison with more modern RPG efforts. But for its time and seeing that it´s a Game Boy game, it´s really good.

In terms of gameplay, "Final Fantasy Legend II" is quite intriguing and unique for a Game Boy game. First of all, there are nine different worlds in this game, like the "Giant´s World", for example. These worlds are accessible via a monument called "the Pillar in the Sky", and in order to enter a new world, you´ll have to collect MAGI. MAGI can be described as an early equivalent of the materia in Final Fantasy VII. Each materia you collect can be equipped to one of your characters (even though each character can carry only one MAGI at once), and they provide them with status improvements like higher speed or more powerful attacks. It´s quite an interesting concept, and this feature alone makes the game a whole lot more innovative and intriguing than its predecessor. Speaking of attacks, there is one important aspect you always have to keep an eye on: no matter whether you are using magic or attacking your enemy with an ordinary weapon, each of them is only available to a limited extent. For example, if you buy a sword, a number tells you how many times you can use the sword until it vanishes and you will have to buy a new one, and the same goes for any kind of magic. It does not make the game easier for beginners for that matter, and there´s a good deal of strategy involved in using your attacks wisely. Speaking of which, "Final Fantasy Legend II" is indeed a very difficult game, and you should expect spending quite some time levelling up your characters in order to stand a chance against the various enemies. It´s not really an RPG for beginners, but experts will certainly like its old school feel. As for the battle system, it´s quite simple and basic, which is not exactly a bad thing considering the game´s age. It´s still nice to play with, and fortunately, the battles are rather fast paced due to the lack of cinematic attack sequences, so you can even forgive the really high random encounter rate. Last but not least, I also have to say kudos to Square for the amount of creativity that went into this game, ranging from small but funny details in towns to the design of the dungeons themselves, and in that regard, I especially liked one quest in the game that was based on the premise of "The Fantastic Voyage", where you actually enter a human body (I won´t spoil whose) in order to get rid of some shrunken enemies (somewhat reminiscent of that one quest in "Breath of Fire II"). So all in all, the gameplay is far superior to the first "Final Fantasy Legend", and it´s a lot of fun to play for a Game Boy RPG.

Considering that the game has been released on the Nintendo Game Boy, the visuals do a surprisingly good job. The towns and dungeons astound with a creative and visually appealing design, giving each new location and world you enter in the game its own distinctive feel and makes them feel special. Especially the representation of the enemies during the combat scenes is really neat, featuring some well drawn stills of your opponents that all have a unique and interesting design. Even the design of the character sprites is excellent, since there are more than just two or three different sprites in comparison to some other Game Boy RPGs. All in all, "Final Fantasy Legend II" is an excellent looking RPG for a Game Boy game, and this aspect indeed is another improvement over its predecessor.

The most impressive aspect of this game, however, is quite possibly its excellent soundtrack. It´s awe-inspiring to see what composer Nobuo Uematsu was able to get out of the GB´s limited sound chip, featuring some memorable, epic and catchy melodies. Of course, they do not sound perfect, but you can´t blame Squaresoft for that in view of the hardware, and the variety of the compositions as well as the overall musical quality more than make up for that, even if the music is not completely on par with Uematsu´s SNES game compositions. By the way, if you like the music, then you will be delighted to hear that there is a jukebox in a pub in one of the first towns in the game that enables you to listen to all music tracks.

You really have to admire Squaresoft for this impressive Game Boy effort that proves that quality Role Playing was possible on Nintendo´s handheld if the developers put some energy and creativity into the making of the game. "Final Fantasy Legend II" looks good, features an excellent soundtrack and also plays very well, even though the storyline might seem quite unremarkable nowadays. Nevertheless, if you´re a fan of Squaresoft RPGs and manage to find this game somewhere, then I can wholeheartedly recommend buying it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/21/06

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