DISCLAIMER: This is simply my opinion and not fact. I do enjoy Final Fantasy II, but there are some things I dislike. Just wanted to mention that at the start.
Back in the days of the NES (or Famicom), it was pretty common for game developers to see how successful their first game in a series is and want to make a sequel that expands on that game and tries out some new concepts. We see it a lot with games like Zelda II, Castlevania II, Super Mario Bros. 2 (but only here in the U.S. as the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 was basically the same as the first but with much harder levels, sort of like an expansion of the original if the game continued after World 8-4), a lot of video game sequels definitely expanded upon their predecessors, and the one I wanted to talk about today is a game I have a love/hate relationship with—Final Fantasy II.
Final Fantasy II was the fourth game in the series I ever played. Well, third if you only count main series installments. It was the GBA version: Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. I freaking loved the first Final Fantasy and it’s still one of my favorites to this day. I sort of played both the first and second game at the same time and noticed the similarities and the crazy differences immediately. It introduced an extremely innovative leveling system, but it just wasn’t quite what it should be.
So, here’s what I love about Final Fantasy II. In terms of story, it was far more interactive than the first one, involving more characters. The music, while not quite as fantastic as the music from the first one, had a few hidden gems people forget. Tower of the Magi is still a personal favorite of mine. The game itself seriously has so much potential, but the execution was a little poor. Seriously, it’s designed to where the only way you can get stronger is by hitting your fellow party members to increase certain stats. Each stat increases based on your actions, as well as your skill with weapon types, and proficiency with magic. I don’t mind level grinding. In fact, I love micromanaging in RPGs, but this game’s technique could have been better.
The dungeon design is honestly among some of the worst in an RPG. I guess it makes sense when you look at it in the way that they wanted to make the game seem longer, but it just gets frustrating. Battles are very unbalanced, too. You’re either gonna get your ass kicked, or you’ll be so overpowered that battles are not a challenge. That’s another flaw in the leveling design. Enemies are categorized by Rank, and basically, once your weapon proficiency increases past a certain level when fighting Rank 1 enemies, they’ll hardly let you level up.
There’s a lot in this game that was amazing, and a lot that wasn’t quite as much. But what I can say is that it’s inspiring. I actually want to recreate the game from top to bottom, but with better dungeon design, deeper writing, more depth within the characters and reasons for them to be involved with the story, a more traditional leveling system, and a redone soundtrack to sound better. The game isn’t bad at all; it’s a wonderful game and I still play it. It can certainly be annoying sometimes, but I’d still recommend it. But a quick warning—play any version other than the English translation of the original Famicom version. That is just an awful translation.