Review by dajungki

"A truly "legendary" old-school RPG with amazing replayability and customization."

Whoa, this game looks old.

And it is! 1991, to be exact; back in the days when big-name RPG series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were just getting off the ground. This review is being written in the year 2007, when the seventh console generation is in full motion. So, dear reader, I ask you to put this game in context of its time. You're not going to be blown away by flashy graphics or riveting plot development. However, you may be surprised to find yourself strangely hooked to the simple, yet engaging gameplay. Read on!

Where mah experience points at?

Your dear old Dad's been missing for years, leaving a magical artifact in your care before his departure. Naturally, you want to track him down and figure out what he's up to, not to mention give him a talking-to for missing so many dinners. Assemble a lively party of four and you're good to go!

Choose Your Own Adventure™
Before we move on, this is an extremely important element of Final Fantasy Legend II. You're presented with four distinct classes (two of which also have separate genders): Humans, Mutants, Robots, and Monsters. Because each class has its own unique leveling and fighting style, effective party combination is key to having a smooth runthrough; you'll find recommended parties in your instruction manual. (Differences between males and females are minimal.) Although some parties make the game much more difficult than others, you'll find that it's very flexible once you get accustomed to the game. This adds an incredible amount of replayability to an otherwise fairly short game. Experiment, challenge yourself, and have fun!

Classic RPG gameplay, with a few twists
The general flow of the game is easy to grasp, especially if you're familiar with RPGs: you navigate your four-man party around a world map, fighting random battles along the way. You'll often come across towns and cities where you can rest at an Inn, receive useful info at the Pub, buy equipment/items from various shops, and talk to the townspeople. Dungeons are fairly straightforward; there aren't any complex puzzles or random warping about.

Battles are equally straightforward. Before actual combat takes place, you'll command each character which weapon, spell, or item to use. Then, the fight will commence in a timely order: those with the highest Agility stat will go first. Upon defeating your enemies you'll receive a certain amount of GP (gold pieces). But here's the catch: there is no structured EXP point system whatsoever. “Well, then how will my characters get stronger?” you ask. The answer is that it's random. After every battle, there is a chance that one of your stats will go up one value, based on what equipment/spell you used in battle. For example, if you used a heavy broadsword, your Strength attribute would have a chance to rise. If you used a magic spell, your Mana stat would be affected, and so on. HP works differently—if your character merely survives the battle, a random amount of HP can be gained at the end. Generally, Humans have faster HP growth than Mutants. In addition, Mutants have a chance of acquiring a new spell/ability, up to four spells (when you learn a new spell, the very last spell is replaced by the new one). This way you can keep your favorite three spells constant by shuffling the spaces around.

Is this system problematic? At times, it can be frustrating. It's possible to go for a whole hour and see one measly levelup, but then receive back-to-back levelups every other battle fifteen minutes later. It sounds like a broken system, but there are two factors that offset this issue: 1) the game isn't very difficult as long as you have a decent party and equipment; and 2) there are ways to boost your stats other than levelups. Finally, know that while the levelups may seem more infrequent than you'd like, they do happen. It's impossible for a player to go through the entire game without leveling up. I've played through the game too many times to count and I've never had a serious problem with the system. Most of your frustration may stem from not having control. In any case, few people consider this more than a minor irritating issue.

It broke!
The game has an ability/item usage system which you may have seen in other games. Basically, the vast majority of weapons, spells, and items will have a set usage number. When you've used them all up, the item “breaks”, or in other words disappears from your inventory. While this rule doesn't apply to armor, you will be constantly purchasing weapons and items for your characters to use. It's not annoying to the point where you will be constantly grinding for money; and Robots, Monsters, and Mutant spells are simply replenished by resting at an Inn.

I lost…
No worries! You have infinite continues, and there are no penalties upon death. However, if you find it impossible to beat a particular enemy no matter how many times you restart the battle, you may have to go back to your previous save. This is almost never a problem if you save often, which is simple because there are no Save Points. You can save at any time by pulling up the menu.

So, is it fun?
For an RPG, the game moves fairly quickly. It may seem like you have to grind awhile for enough money to purchase the latest armor, but it gets much easier as the game goes on. New enemies and new equipment keeps combat exciting, and dungeons can be confusing but far from impossible. If you have a Monster on your team, it adds a customization element since you can become essentially any monster you fight. There's nothing more satisfying than using an enemy's move to kick their own tail.

Daddy, come home!

It's tragic, I know. No kid should have to grow up with out his daddy. However, the main plot isn't so much about tracking down Dad as it is about gathering the sixty-six pieces of MAGI in the world in order to save it from those who would abuse their power. This little collection-fest takes you on a journey to various worlds, some of which force you to battle for their MAGI while others are simply tucked away in caves and dungeons for you to find. While this certainly sounds boring, you'll often interact with various characters you meet in the different worlds in order to figure out where the MAGI are; some even join your party temporarily as NPCs. And, of course, you'll catch glimpses of your father as you chase him around the worlds.

The writing isn't spectacular, but there aren't any glaring grammar or spelling errors. It's usually pretty clear what you need to do in order to get the next MAGI; if you're unsure, you can always consult the townspeople or the pub to get an idea of where you should look. The worlds have different themes, so it's not repetitious, and some of the conversation is silly and even satirical at times. Don't come in with your expectations too high, and you might be pleasantly surprised. There is also a plot twist at the end, and the ending itself is rather satisfactory. The only downside is that once you've been through the game once or twice, you'll pretty much know everything that's going to happen, due to its limited length and text. However, it's still refreshing to pop in once a year.


Oooh, pretty pictures.
The graphics are fairly simple and clean. On the world map, there are ground tiles, forest tiles, mountain tiles, sea tiles, etc. Some worlds look very empty and bland; but there are others with a lot of personality, like a world based on the ancient Japanese Edo period, and another high-tech city with actual elevators. Character sprites are distinctive enough that you won't be confusing your Human for Mutant. Battle illustrations can actually be pretty attractive—some look comical while others are very realistic and detailed. However, this will wear off fairly quickly as enemy portraits are recycled throughout the game even though the actual enemy is different (simply the same creature type). Bosses and mini-bosses will get their own unique portraits. Attacking animations aren't fancy, but they get the job done.

What? THE Nobuo Uematsu?
Yeah, that's right. The same guy that composed music for nearly all the Final Fantasy series. Although this is a collaboration project, it's still quite excellent and characteristic of his work. Although the songs are limited by the Game Boy's sound hardware, a lot of the melodies are very catchy. The world map theme has an adventurous, epic feel to it, and the battle theme is driving and intense. There isn't a great variety or different genres represented, but the tunes capture the mood and get the job done. The placement of the music is also appropriate. As for the sound effects, they are remarkably clear—a sword slash sounds like it should, as does a cannon blast or a fire spell. Needless to say I have very few complaints, if any, regarding the music and sound. Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly above-average fantasy RPG fare.

Man, that was over quick.

Well, relatively. Your first playthrough of the game shouldn't take you more than ten hours, if that. It'll most likely be somewhere around six to seven hours, and once you get familiarized with the game, you can blow through it even faster. However, due to the unpredictability of the levelup system, as well as varying difficulty levels based on character selection, you can easily change the amount of time you play from a little to a lot. Which leads me to replayability—there's a bunch of it. There's a good number of team combinations you can use, and even the most extreme ones can make it to the end. Equipment and spells are also varied, so you can take time to customize your characters just the way you want. Finally, as I mentioned earlier in the review, Monsters in your party add a whole new level of customization. You can become just about any monster you face in normal combat, and by consuming “meat” left behind by defeated enemies your monster will turn into a different one. There is a certain formula that precisely dictates what changes to what, but it's more fun just to experiment and see what you get. You can always revert to an earlier save if you liked your monster's previous form.

Not half bad, lads!

FFL2 doesn't offer anything new or revolutionary. Compared to recent RPGs in existence, it just looks like a dated vanilla game, largely forgotten by the world. However, there are just certain things about it that make it stick out from the rest of the old-school titles. Its unpredictable nature, high customization and replayability factor, and not-too-steep difficulty curve make it an easy game to enjoy for a few days, finish, then play again a few months down the road. By using a different party, each playthrough feels like a different experience, and if you find it too easy, there are many ways to make the game more challenging. The story is simple but charming, and the ending is sweet without being overly cheesy. In other words, it's just plain fun. When you examine each aspect of it (graphics, gameplay, sound) by itself, it just seems average, but when you put everything together as a complete package, it has a strangely addictive power to it. I would highly recommend any RPG fan to give the game a shot before judging it. It's not for everyone, but for those who give it a chance, it's an incredibly fun game you'll want to play again and again for years to come.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/19/07

Game Release: Final Fantasy Legend II (US, 11/30/91)

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