Review by Psycho Penguin

"The minuses outweigh the pluses as SquareSoft bombs the second game of the series"

When you ask the average video gamer what their favorite role playing game series, chances are the player will respond with ''Final Fantasy''. Simply put, Final Fantasy is a phenomenon. The series has become one of the most beloved series ever, and will be etched in history for all time. There are a lot of fans of the classic series, including me, as I have always been a fan of Final Fantasy and the games.

However, I had not played the ''true'' sequel to Final Fantasy until about a month ago. I had heard a lot about it, and was not expecting too much from it when I first sat down to play it. After all, I had read the reviews on the game, and a majority of the reviews said that the game was not as good as they expected. I was hoping I would end up liking the game, because the last thing I wanted to play was a below average Final Fantasy game.

One of the main reasons why I did not want to play a below average sequel to the original Final Fantasy is the fact that I actually enjoyed the original, to a certain extent. It was a fun game, but it did have a lot of problems that could have been easily corrected. So, I was hoping that Square Soft would turn the tables and correct all the flaws from the original, while adding new features and innovations. I was seriously hoping that Square Soft would not try too much new stuff, because the only other time they tried to add a lot of new stuff to the Final Fantasy series (Final Fantasy 8), I ended up hating the results.

Unfortunately, I ended up hating the results of this game, as well. I never knew that I could be so disappointed. I was going into the game with mixed emotions about it, simply due to the fact that I did not understand some of the new things that Square Soft was trying to incorporate into this game. The level up system seemed very weird to me, and I was unsure as to how I was going to adapt to it. I ended up hating it, but more on that later.

I will first discuss one of the things I actually enjoyed about this game. Storyline has always been an important part when it comes to role playing games, in most people's opinions. It is my opinion that a role playing game needs a quality storyline in order to be considered as an all time great. Of course, gameplay also helps a lot, but story line definitely does not hurt any.

And I ended up being pleased with the story line of Final Fantasy II. I never really liked the story line in the original Final Fantasy, it seemed a little bit too much like a ''save the world from the evil bad guys'' type story line for my liking. Therefore, I was hoping for a significant improvement in the story of Final Fantasy II, and I was also hoping that it would stray away from the whole crystals, orbs, etc. story that plagued (in my opinion) the original.

I definitely feel as if Square Soft delivered everything I was hoping for when it came to the story line in this game. There is no longer any signs of crystals, orbs, and princesses. Instead, the game adopts an ''Empire vs. Rebellion'' type story, which kicks major butt. The main story is that the evil Emperor attacked Phin because there was a resistance group in Phin, and four survivors from the attack set out to avenge the deaths of their townspeople. It is a really interesting story line that I definitely enjoyed.

The coolest aspect of the story line in this game is the fact that it conveys a sense of death and darkness throughout. There are a lot of deaths, because of the impeding wars that take place a lot, and this is cool. I really liked the whole death aspect of the game, as i feel that a lot of the other Final Fantasies (all of them) have never shared this dark feeling when it comes to story line. This is a shame, but it is part of what makes Final Fantasy II's story line so unique.

Now, onto the graphics of the game. I liked the graphics in the original Final Fantasy, but I felt there could have been a few improvements in those graphics. One of my main complaints was the lines that appeared in the battle screens. The enemies were on the left hand side, and the characters were on the right side, but the characters were surrounded with a white line, that really got annoying after a while. Fortunately, there is no sight of those evil lines in the battle screens of the sequel, and that is definitely a good thing.

However, this is about the only improvement to the graphics. The game looks a lot like the original. Some may be disappointed by this, as the series always seems to improve graphically from one installement to the next (well, after Final Fantasy V). But I was not too disappointed with the graphics in this game, after all the game was released in 1988 or so. I liked the graphics in Final Fantasy and was pleased with the (little amount of) changes that were featured in the sequel when it came to graphics. I was not expecting too much of the graphics to begin with, anyways.

The character designs are solid, and the cool thing about the character designs is the fact that the character's portrait actually appears on the menu screen. If you remember the original Final Fantasy, the menu screen showed a little picture of the characters, but it did not actually show a portrait. So, this is the first Final Fantasy game where portraits are shown on the menu screen (as opposed to pictures of the characaters). Cool, eh?

The enemy designs are solid, as well, as I really liked most of the enemies. A lot of the enemies from Final Fantasy return, which is always a good sign. The boss designs in the game were awesome, especially the final boss. I really liked the look of the final boss, and the rest of the bosses were killer, as well. The enemies themselves sport updated looks somewhat, although you still get that annoying ''repeat the same enemy, only with a different color'' syndrome.

Music in role playing games has always been an interesting topic, in my mind. After all, a lot of what makes role playing games so great is the music soundtrack that the game features. Music could also make a role playing game completely unplayable. For instance, since you will hear the battle theme a lot, chances are the battle theme better be good. The last thing I can stand in a role playing game is a completely annoying battle theme, because you wil not want to play through the game if the battle theme is so annoying.

Fortunately enough for this game, the battle theme is not that annoying. Sure, it may seem that way at first, but you will get used to it after a while, more than likely. I still prefer the original's battle theme, but the remixed battle theme in the sequel is not that bad, at all. The cool part of the battle theme is actually the boss themes, there are three different themes. Of those three, two of them totally rule, I did not like the final boss's theme too much, though. Regardless, I really liked the battle music in the game, and am glad that there is actually a variety of battle music in the game (as opposed to the original, which featured the same battle theme for every battle, including the final boss).

The rest of the music featured in the game is solid, although it is certainly nothing amazing. I would not exactly say that this is the best music soundtrack to be featured in a role playing game, because nothing could be farther from the truth. I really did like a majority of the music in this game, though. The town theme was pretty good and seldom got annoying, and the overworld theme was actually an improvement over the overworld theme featured in the original. I did like the music in the game, althouh I do think it could have been done a little bit better.

Sound effects in the game are definitely top notch. I really liked the sound effects in this game, although most of them take place during battle, as you may expect. I felt the sound effects in battle were much improved over the ones featured in the original, and the best part about that is the fact that the ones featured in the original were pretty good to begin with!! Also, that annoying sound of the screen moving whenever you enter and leave a town or screen that was featured in the original has been done away with, which is definitely good news.

I have never had too much problems with the control in the Final Fantasy series, so I was not expecting to have any problems with the control in this game. And for the most part, I did not have any problems with the control. Sure, there were certain instances where I felt the control could have been a little bit better, but overall I am pleased with the control in the game. Controlling the characters and moving through the various menus and menu screens was simple, and what more could you really ask for in a role playing game?

The main problems that I have with this game surface when I discuss the gameplay of this game. Simply put, I feel as if this is the second worst game in the series when it comes to basic gameplay. I had hardly any fun at all playing this game. The same thing that happened in Final Fantasy 8 happened in this game, as well: Square Soft tried too many new things, and ended up failing miserably. In Final Fantasy 8, it was the junction system. And in this game, it is the level up system.

Simply put, this has got to be one of the worst level up systems I have ever seen in a role playing game. It definitely is a contender for the worst, along with SaGa Frontier. Simply put, you don't actually level up in this game. And you do not gain experience points, either. How do you level up then? Well it is quite simply the stupidest idea I have ever heard.

The way you level up stats is by putting those stats to the test, so to speak. In order to level up your hit points, for instance, you have to be in critical status at the end of battle or something. You gain more max HP depending on what your current HP level is in relation to your max HP level at the end of battle. Is that not stupid or what? Magic points is the same thing.

Weapons and magic levels however are different. Each weapon and magic can be raised from level 1-16, and each time you use the weapon or magic, it gains experience. If you use it one time, it will go from 1-2, two times it will go from 2-3, etc. There is basically a way to cheat, just use your weapons to hit your character, use magic to cure the character that got hit, rinse and repeat.

I really did not like this aspect of the game at all, and I felt it was completely unecessary for Square Soft to include these level up changes into this game, after all what was so horrible about the gameplay of the original Final Fantasy? It is such a shame too, because I really liked the battle system in this game, as this is the first Final Fantasy game that used magic points (the original had magic levels, with certain MP delegated to each level, it was a good idea for its time), but the battle system takes second running to the fact that the level up system is so horrible.

Replaying the game is definitely not advisable, simply for the fact that you will problably not even want to replay the game much at all. The level up system will cause you to just throw the controller down after about 20 minutes or so, and you will problably never want to pick it up again after seeing how stupid the gameplay could really be. It is a shame too, because this could have been a very fun game, had it not been for the huge design elements in the gameplay. Oh well, there is always Final Fantasy III...

This has got to be one of the most challenging role playing games of all time, no questions asked. You may expect me to comment about the level up system of the game, but I am not going to. Let me just say that it makes the game a whole lot more challenging then it has to be, that's for sure. Otherwise, this is a very challenging game, with plenty of tough fights and battles, mainly the boss battles. I really felt this was a challenging game, much more so than Final Fantasy. But it is challenging for different reasons than the original...

Overall, I was disappointed with the way this game turned out. I thought I was going to enjoy it somewhat, and I did. There is a lot of good points about this game, especially the music, graphics, and battle system. But the bad points of the game definitely outweigh the advantages, and that is a shame, because this game had the chance to be an all time classic. Instead, it rests on its laurel as the sequel that never lived up to its potential.

Good Points
-The story line in this game is top notch, especially with the dark feeling of war and death.
-The graphics in the game live up to my expectations.
-The music in the game is great, especially the boss battle theme.
-The game was never released here. Yes, it's that bad.

Not So Good Points
-The leveling up and experience system of the game is horrible.
-The character development could have been a little bit better.
-I did not really like some of the music in the game.
-it cost a lot of money to purchase, and it isn't worth it.

I Run Down the Ratings... DaLadiesMan style!
Storyline - 8.8/10
Graphics - 8.9/10
Music and Sound Effects - 8.3/10
Control - 9.1/10
Gameplay - 2.3/10
Replay Value - A Little Below Average
Challenge - Way Above Average
Reccomended Purchase? - Nope, cost too much money. Downloading the ROM is a good decision, however..
Overall - 3.3/10
The Last Line: It could have been an all time classic, but it isn't. Stay away from this stinker unless you want to play a terrible Final Fantasy game. It is only rivaled by Final Fantasy 8.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 09/23/00, Updated 07/16/01

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