Review by RPG Critic

"Never before topped---this is the best game of all time."

Superfluous, breathtaking, spellbinding--Squaresofts Final Fantasy II (FF 4 Japanese) captures the very heart and essence of roleplaying. This game tops all. From the first five minutes of the game, to final moments of the credits, Final Fantasy II draws the player into an epic tale so deep that moments, hours, even days escape you as you live inside this fantasy world. The only downside to this game is that it ends.

Emotion connects the player to each character in an intimate way that has never been duplicated by another video game. From the beginning, Cecil--the ruthless dark knight--destroys villages and kills innocent people to steal crystals. After questioning the kings seemingly unethical behavior, Cecil is demoted and given the duty of delivering a package to a distant town. He suffers disgrace, confusion, disillusionment, and shame. As he broods in his room, Rosa, his lover, comes and relieves his pain through a truly romantic love.

Just the first few minutes of the game grabs you, and pulls you right into this world of war, treachery, love, and soul searching. From the colourful graphics pallet to the moody, warm, classic music, this game barrages you at all angles with the building blocks of an epic story. We can believe the love between Cecil and Rosa. We can sympathize with Cecil, even though he kills innocent people in the line of duty. Kain's (Cecil's best friend) personality adds to the story, giving Cecil and us a kind of hopeful relief that carries us into the next portion of the plot.

Final Fantasy games usually start out well, however, this game continually develops a memorable. There is never a dull moment in this game. Instead of concerning themselves with ''cool'' FMV sequences, or flashy battle graphics, Square developed a game that caters to gameplay, story, and overall fun. Central to this fun is a concise, tightly woven plot that sucks you in at an intoxicating speed, and does not let you go until the very last moment. As the plot develops, so does the cast of characters. By allowing five people in your party, Final Fantasy II gives you the full effect of each character as you do not have to constantly leave people behind in an ''airship'' or ''central headquarters.'' Instead of picking and choosing your characters, and playing with the same party throughout most of the game, you end up having to play with a wide variety of different parties, some weaker than others. Because each character's abilities and equipment are so different, the player gets a real feel of the character's strengths, weaknesses, and even personality. Edward the bard has weak attacks (since his weapon is a harp) and has the ability to hide from battles. Rydia, although she has the fewest hit points and lowest strength and defense, packs a powerful punch with her summon magic. Each character has their own part to play in battle, and no one character can stand on their own without the aid of the others. There is a real sense of teamwork in this game which bonds the player to the different characters as you learn to appreciate each character for what they offer.

Battles in the American version are easier than the Japanese, however, the battles in this game were a definate high point. You will never tire of the catchy appropriate battle themes. Although the enemies can be rather easy, the are still fun to fight. Load time is instantaneous, and battles are short and fun. It is enjoyable to fight, especially since there are goals to work towards. Level gaining can be irrelevant at times, however, it is always fun to work towards that next spell or boost in hit points.

There really isn't much a person can say about this game without giving too much away. It's really much better to go into this game knowing as little about it as you can. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; it will glue you to the TV until you finish. Games don't do that anymore. Final Fantasy VII detached us from characters and story. Final Fantasy VIII wove emotion into an oversimplified story. Final Fantasy IX creates a highly unoriginal game full of cliches so old that we wonder why Square even considered them. The problem now-a-days is that the videogaming market is becoming mainstream. Because of this, large developers care only about making another quick million dollars. Unfortunately, the fact that videogames are becoming so mainstream may eventually spell out the doom of Final Fantasy. In order to attract more new players, Square creates high budget graphics along with a bunch of advertising and hype. It seems that Square has abandoned the things that matter: emotion through a music score and mainly a plot. Not just a plot, a story. Final Fantasy II plays more like literature than a movie. It invokes imagination rather than spelling out everything through a loose shallow story and tons of FMVs and special effects. Hopefully someday, videogames will become much easier to develop, and independent artists--who do not care about money--will come and develop great RPGs again. Until then, we must hold games like Final Fantasy II close to us, and not let them go. These games will survive, but only through our memories, transcending the death inflicted on it by pop culture and money. This game is an absolute must have for anyone. It real was the final fantasy.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/13/00, Updated 12/13/00

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