Review by ShadowAspect
Worthwhile to play if you haven't played the other versions already out.
Final Fantasy.....a name commonly held in both the highest regard and in the lowest levels of distain. There has been a number of Final Fantasy games released...both spin offs and sequenced games and on many platforms including nearly all modern day systems (the x-box 1 being the only system not receiving one). Even before the days of the now infamous and legendary merger of Squaresoft and Enix, Final Fantasy was already a household name.....a reputation well deserved for there have been truly some epic examples of RPGs as well as some other game types under the moniker of being "A Final Fantasy Game".
However, in recent days, Square-Enix has gotten into the habit of re-releasing old games onto new systems. In some cases, where the original game was never released in the states, this has been a good thing. However, in many cases, this has been seen as a cheap cash in on the Final Fantasy name. It doesn't help matters that as of late there have been "re-releases" of "re-releases" already out on the market. Thus is the case with this title, Final Fantasy II. So how does this new version stand up to it's previous incarnations?
The story of Final Fantasy II revolves around the kingdom of Fynn. In this game world, the evil Empire is already on the move, taking over one city or neighboring kingdom after another. When the story begins Fynn is currently in the final process of defeat against this Empire. Part of the reason behind this success is that the Emperor himself has been able to summon otherworldly monsters to add on to his already substantial armies thru the assistance of powers gained from an at the start unknown benefactor (who doesn't come up till about half way thru the game).
Four young adults are fleeing from Fynn....or at least try to before getting run down by mounted calvary from the Empire. They don't stand a chance of course and lose. One of these teens, for some reason, gets taken away.....but the other three are left to die. Fortunately, the remaining royal guards of Fynn are able to find them and they are whisked back to the city of Altair, which is now serving as the HQ of the new "Rebel Army" (sound familiar?) and revived by the former royal white mage of Fynn. When the self appointed leader of this band of kids, Firion, requests to join the Rebel army with his friends and is summarily turned down they decide to instead rush back to the now occupied Fynn to search for their missing friend....and thus the story begins.
FF2 was one of the weaker FF games originally released back in the NES/SNES days on many fronts including story. It's a step in the right direction from the somewhat generic plot of it's predecessor and it was the precursor to a more involved storyline in all future FF games but it clearly shows it's aged roots now on the PSP. Also, it can sometimes be very hard to find out just what you have to do in the story as there can be moments where the storyline dialogue isn't very clear on where to go next (this is perhaps where it gets hit the hardest on for it's story score). Still, there are far worse storylines out there in this day and age.....so this gets an average mark.
First things first....this is a 2D game. While I myself enjoy a good 2D game, if you are not of the same thinking then this is a game to avoid. However, if you are able to play a game like this then you can't find much better in 2D design then the early FF games...especially one brought up to HD quality that the PSP can produce. Character designs are vibrant and well crafted and animated. Monsters are also well designed though lacking the same level of animation as the player characters. The CG intro is very good, if a bit stiff and totally nonsensical fluff in terms of story (It implies that the dark knights that they meet are in fact zombies which is not the case). The only downside is that the overworld is very flat looking and there is a fog like haze on the top of the screen on it.
Much like the graphics, the sound benefits a lot from the move to this era of production. The re-arrangement of music adds a lot to the game from its original version...though to be fair FF2 didn't originally have very memorable tunes to it. Still, S-E didn't spare any expense in giving it the royal treatment and it shows. One thing of note though, there is little to no difference in sound quality between this version and the previous Compilation remake of this game.
FF2 was in many ways a testing ground for different game ideas. Some of those ideas would be later used in future FF games and would just be expected game design practices. The concept of skill leveling such as a weapon type or magic type was a precursor to some of the systems used in 12. Also, combining this skill leveling in lieu of a traditional character level would later be used in many modern day MMOs (it's kind of hit or miss in this game however). Another concept was the interactive map...which would reappear again in 6 (the U.S.'s 3). However some of the ideas would not turn out to be good gameplay choices and would be scrapped such as the Key Word system which is clunky and not anything that added to the gameplay experience. Thankfully, anything that didn't work died with this game. Yes, this was where Square truly first cut its teeth....
In terms of additions to the original, there's the Arcane Labyrinth, which is a sort of special dungeon that uses what current words you have available to sort of create a formula for semi-random dungeons....but sort of falls flat on its face. Also, there is a fine Art Gallery and Bestiary option available in this game.
The biggest complaint that can be made on this game however is "Was it really necessary"? This was already done on the PS1 and not much if anything has changed from this version and the last one. It looks, smells, and feels like a cheap cash-in by S-E to make a buck with a minimal of effort by porting this to PSP. This wouldn't be unheard of in today's "new and improved" Square. If you've never played FF2 before or if you're hungry for a traditional RPG, then this is a good game to try (but there are better games out now if you've haven't floated around). But if you have cranked thru old FF games already, or you're not a fan of 2D, or even worse you own the previous remake....then you need to do yourself a favor and give this a pass.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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