Final Fantasy II came out on the SNES in America in the early 90's not too long after the first Final Fantasy game on the NES. More Final Fantasy games came out in Japan in the interim and it threw off the numbering scheme here in the states since those games weren't released here. We in the US didn't see the "real" Final Fantasy IV (This was the second in the states, 4th in Japan) until the early 2000's on the PlayStation and there were some differences. Today though, I am talking about the one I grew up on and spent my young years playing, Final Fantasy II on the SNES.
You play as Cecil, leader of the Red Wings Airforce of the Kingdom of Baron who use they're flying Airships to start raiding other Kingdoms for powerful crystals. Cecil is starting to wonder why the King is so violent these days and the King strips Cecil's command and tasks him with a quest when he completes it, he will be reinstated. The quest ends up burning a hidden town to the ground and Cecil must get home and learn what has happened to his King. Cecil makes friends, enemies along the way, sees heartbreak and finds and rescues his love and learns some interesting secrets about his past and the ones he seeks on his quest.
Final Fantasy II is an RPG that forsakes the turn based style of other RPG's and uses what is called the active time system where your character's agility determines when they attack again in the battle or when the monster attacks. With enough agility you can keep your turn going and defeat your enemies. Spell casting works in a similar method where some spells take longer to cast then others for the desired effect. Move your character around the map between caves, castles, and other locations and at random intervals a battle will take place. Make your commands for attacking monsters, using healing items and more.
Cecil starts as a Dark Knight using the evil power of his dark sword for fighting off enemies but will make the change to a Paladin to open his world up to the power of light and using more weapons and even magic. Other characters come into play over the original NES Final Fantasy where you had a permanent party of 4 tailor made to your tastes of fighters and magic users. Final Fantasy II can have you completely alone as Cecil or gaining a party of as many as 5 and the party instead of being blank slates have they're own personalities. Kain is your aloof friend who comes and goes and uses Jumping power to defeat his enemies. Yang is an honorable karate fighter who has manners and fists for combat. Tellah is a vengeful old Sage who's magic destroys all in his path. Along the way there are many challenges to overcome like Cave Magnes where your metal weapons are paralyzed, Mount Ordeals and it's undead denizins and even worse, the Sealed Cave where it's Trap Doors will devour your party.
The game unlike the previous NES game is REAL linear. Very rarely does the game break off it's path for you to really explore. It's possible in a few places in the game but mostly it has one path and you follow it to your destination. It's not Final Fantasy 13 levels of bad but it's only got a branch or two here and there. The game opens up much more when you get the airship and more so when you have the modified airship for the underground but that is largely it.
The games only really failing is that it is a little too easy in some places. There are a few hard parts but level grinding is not as important as it used to be. The most powerful healing items are inexpensive and can even be found in a great supply in caves and the cave's hidden passeges are outlined in many places so that it's easy to find them. Some parts of the script you can tell didn't survive the translation such as when Tellah is reffered to as Edward's Father (father in law really) but it's nothing you can live without. Should I decide to review the PS version which reincorporates the missing elements from the Japan version, I will talk about them more there and focus more on the SNES version.
Even though the later Final Fantasy 3 outdoes this version on almost every level, the graphics and sound for a SNES game are great. All the music tracks are memorable and identifiable. Cave music, music when something terrible has happened or Cecil makes a revoluation, the futuristic towers it's all good. The graphics are lush and colorful I can still see the mountain top view from the mountain levels and still think it looks wonderful even for a game as old as this. It's another one of those games where you can see the SNES's colors taken advantage of and FF3 turned it up even more.
The game has it's hiccups here and there including but not limited to the Final Fantasy emo hero who mopes around a little too much, but none of that matters a lot in the long run. The series was still fresh and relatively free of the Sony era garbage that the series would pick up like pop singers, stupid mini games, dress up and even more syrupy soap opera stories. It started to show a little here but it was just a taste, not the main course. My middle school years are etched with this game and I will never forget it. If it wasn't for Final Fantasy 3 which came out a little later, this really could have been the in fact, Final Fantasy.
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Final Fantasy II is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) in 1988 for the Family Computer as a part of the Final Fantasy series. The game was only released on this system in Japan, although enhanced remakes for the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance were released in North America and the PAL region. Other remakes were released on the WonderSwan Color and mobile phones. The most recent remakes were for the PlayStation Portable in 2007 and the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on June 16, 2009.