The World of Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy II
One year later, Square released the second Final Fantasy game for the Famicom (Nintendo) console. The evil empire Paramekia burnt down a village, and killed all its inhabitants, including the parents of the four heroes of the game: Frionel, Maria, Guy, and Lionheart. The four orphans also have to face the empire's Dark Knights. Being no match for the strong villains, the four are defeated in the battle, but a rebel princess Hilda saves them... all but the fourth one - Lionheart. The three want to join the rebel group and to help people to defeat the evil empire, to avenge the death of their dear ones, and possibly, to find their lost comrade.
Gameplay-wise, "Final Fantasy II" is much simpler than the first game, and can be considered the most primitive Final Fantasy game. The characters gain automatically better stats while fighting monsters, buy magic (which is also divided into levels) in towns, and have distinct class assignments: Frionel a knight, Guy a sort of a barbarian (a slow fighter who uses an axe), Maria is best suited to be a magic user. The uncomfortable targeting system of the first game still remains, as well as the round-based combat. "Final Fantasy II" has surprisingly few boss battles. A refreshing change is the constant switching of the fourth party member (since Lionheart is not found until much later in the game).
Many well-known elements of the Final Fantasy series appear first in "Final Fantasy II": popular monsters such as Leviathan, typical weapons (Masamune, Rune Axe), the powerful spell Ultima, and a character named Cid, who will be destined to appear in every Final Fantasy game in the future.
In many aspects, "Final Fantasy II" was a huge improvement over the first game. For the first time, the characters had been given names, and each had lines of his (or her) own. The story also went into a different direction, introducing some typical plot elements of later Final Fantasies: an evil empire that seeks world domination, a rebel group, characters dying, characters having inner conflicts and changing sides, etc. Not only the main characters, but also the supporting ones have much more distinct personalities than in the first game, and their importance goes way beyond supplying information. The characters reveal such qualities as friendship, willingness to help others, and several characters even sacrifice their lives for the cause of justice. The three main characters sometimes express their thoughts, which, however rudimentary they might be, set the foundation stone for later Final Fantasy games, with the typical habit of their heroes of "thinking aloud". Especially interesting is the figure of Lionheart, who experiences an inner conflict near the end of the game, and who certainly doesn't qualify as a typically "noble", bland medieval RPG character. Gameplay is less annoying than in the first game, although it is equally slow and simple; however, the difficulty level is clearly reduced. The music belongs to the best the Famicom console could offer, with many memorable tunes, and an especially beautiful world map melody. From the point of view of story and character development, "Final Fantasy II" is definitely the best Final Fantasy for NES, but its primitive and slow-going gameplay, that lacks the excitement of later games, prevents it from being a masterpiece comparable to SNES Final Fantasies.
The approach of "Final Fantasy II" toward the story is the closest to "true" Final Fantasy storytelling among all NES Final Fantasies. Dramatic events, sudden plot twists, the characters expressing their thoughts, and a general emotional intensity make "Final Fantasy II" one of the most memorable experiences on the Famicom console. Of course, it lacks the grandeur and the all-embracing epic quality of later Final Fantasies, but its generousity and its tight script set the path for the Final Fantasies to come.
"Final Fantasy II" was never released outside Japan.
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