Review by EPoetker

"The last true old-school it please, would you?"

What's so great about Final Fantasy 2(4 Jap,) you ask? Only everything. Look at almost any RPG in today's market. All of its core features probably had their origin in the epic quest of Cecil, Rydia, Kain, and all the rest. Truly, in my mind, this was the last ''old-school'' RPG. Every one that followed it was...''innovative,'' perhaps. Interesting, surely. Fun, definitely. Better? Maybe...

GRAPHICS: This was in no way the best feature of the game. They weren't eve the best the SNES could come up with at the time. In fact, this one was originally slated to come out for the NES. When the Super NES was announced, Square scrambled to take advantage of the update, but one can still point out many glaring instances where more could have been done. The sprites(in overhead mode,) for example, were very simply done...every character had only two alternate forms of animation besides walking: A: Hanging head in shame/sadness/etc. B: Waving hand to indicate happiness/confusion/sexual orientation. The backgrounds were a little better, as they were MUCH more colorful and detailed than previous Final Fantasy efforts(where green, yellow, and blue were pretty much the predominant world map colors) and thus saves it from the bleakness that plagues many RPG overworlds today(FF7-8, anyone?)This game also had a lot of fun with Mode 7 graphical scaling and rotating once you got the chance to climb into one of those airships...easily the coolest vehicle in any RPG I've seen so far. I mean, once you saw five airships flying in formation at the beginning, you automatically knew that this game would be cool. (1991, remember.) We also had ''cinema sequences'' back then...but the memory was so limiting that they mostly involves characters jumping up and down as another part of the

STORY was revealed. Y'know, I never really thought about playing an RPG for the story until I played through this game. Actually, I still don't, which is why I can be perfectly happy with Final Fantasy Tactics, a game with a story so incomprehensible that inevitably you just nod your head and accept it. There's no head-nodding here...actually, you're more likely to lean it back and laugh your posterior off the first time you hear ''spoony'' used as a viable insult. Or when you hear ''ACHOO!'' used as a battle cry. As far as ''wacky'' goes, FF2 takes the adjective to a whole new level in its translation. Strangely, however, this actually makes the game better. Not to mention the fact that they cut out all the extra ''dramatic'' or ''deep'' dialogue from the japanese version. Let's put it this way: If I wanted to depress myself, I'd go play the REAL FF2(for NES, not SNES.) I suppose that it's all an immature desire on my part to see HAPPY endings. More likely, it's because it's a whole lot easier to depress people than it is to amuse them or(God forbid) make them SMILE at the fact that yes, the good guys DID somehow manage to make it through that life-threatening situation unharmed! If it's a fight between depressing realism and dramatic fantasy, the latter wins hands down(did I buy this game to get another variation on existentialism? Sorry, Sartre & Camus, but I want to have FUN!) But the story is even better than a simple tale; it manages to throw the perfectly timed plot twists and startling revelations at just the right times, and a depressing moment is almost always a setup for another of high triumph. Forgiveness, redemption, and an ending that manages to give a real sense of fulfillment are all here, which is why I still think that this is the best story the FF writers have yet been able to come up with. There, I managed to give a long overview on the story without mentioning a single pertinent in-game event. Eat your heart out, spoiler people!

MUSIC: Good stuff. Real good stuff. Quite possibly the best synthesized stuff you can listen to on a long, epic quest which takes you almost everywhere. (Note: Final Fantasy Tactics is exempted from the following rant.) I'm thinking it was a mistake to give Nobuo something other than a MIDI synthesizer to belt out his tunes on. FF7 was the beginning of the BGM quality slide, and FF8 topped it(I'm optimistic on 9.) Today, game developers seem to set the game music on the back burner, if they have it at all. Or even worse, they just stick in one well-made, popular ''theme song''(Eyes on Me) and delegate all the rest of the music to ''background'' status, perhaps offering a suggestion that the guy try to ''set the mood.''
In FF2, the music IS the mood. And unlike the forgettable beats in many other of today's titles, you actually REMEMBER those tunes after listening to them as little as two or three times. Except that these compositions aren't the annoying drumbeat that passes for music today, they actually transport you back to the place where heroes were...heroes. Where traveling the world trying to do good isn't considered trite. Where...ahh, there's too many to list. But my big notables are the title screen music(that classic FF octave-traveler now has a new addition that comes when you listen long enough) and the Big Whale theme. I REALLY wish that musicians would go for that kind of inspiring stuff a little more often.

GAMEPLAY: Ah, this is where it's at, isn't it? I'll keep it simple. Every character has their own unique weapons and attacks. Customizability is virtually nil. And there is NO switching characters-if the game has you with a certain lineup, you can bet it's for a good reason! Big new features are here...the loved and hated ''Active Time'' battle mode, for one. No time to plan your strategy! Choose a move now, slow witted American! (Note: They also took quite a few extra moves out of this one. A quick glance at the FAQs on the Japanese version shows that those moves kinda sucked anyway. They also made the ''heal'' potion heal everything, whereas in the Jap version you had to spend money on a myraid of different items to cure all the different status conditions that would crop up. Hardcore FF-fanboys say that ''dumbing down'' the game this way was inexcusable. I would ask these people to remember that the Dragon Quest series, which basically involved wandering around for about 100 hours getting experience, was always much more popular in Japan than Final Fantasy. Somehow the word ''fun'' just doesn't sink in as far there as it does here.)In any case, the setup was basically done so that you'd have the right characters present at the right points in the story. Oh, but did I mention that you could have up to FIVE, rather than just four or (yeech!)three characters to plan your strategy? Yes, that's another reason why I like it. This was also the first American-released FF to have summon spells...except these ones didn't take two minutes to complete! Yippee! What generally don't have to do the MAD LEVELING UP that you were forced to go through in previous FF games; in fact I would strongly advise against it, since almost all of those leveled-up characters will almost certainly leave the party at some point. Stop that nervous shaking and just play through, nice and easy-like. Goooooood...that's it. Overall? This is a masterpiece that you're not likely to see except in heavily diluted(read: improved) forms. Think of it as the best history lesson you'll ever take. On ROM or cartridge format, it's ALL good.

Nintendo Logic: (possible spoilers)Swinging a sword in the air and having it somehow kill your enemy has been a staple of RPG logic for more than a decade. I'm a little less clear on walking around on the surface of the moon in non-vacuum compliant armor without immediately having your heads explode. But hey, if Bahamut can live there, you can too! And I also like how the benevolent king of Baron expresses his gratitude at being freed by immediately attacking you(he hurts, too.) Thanks a lot, old chum, if you weren't already a ghost, I'd beat you over the head with one of Cid's wrenches! But I've generally moved into the realm of accepting a certain degree of wackiness in my games anyway. You should too. Trying to make sense out of these games is a fruitless enterprise. Do it enough and you may end up greeting everyone you meet with ''Lali-ho!'' (Oh yes, I do love the dwarfs.)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/26/00, Updated 06/26/00

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