Final Fantasy II

The original Final Fantasy was a success on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. As it turns out there was nothing “final” about these fantasies as Square continued to produce them. Final Fantasy II was released in Japan in 1988 but would not see a release in the U.S. until Final Fantasy Origins for the PlayStation in 2003. My review of Final Fantasy II comes from the PlayStation Portable version which was developed by Tose and published by Squaresoft in 2007. The second installment of this role-playing fantasy saw immense improvements in the characters and plot. How does it compare to the original Final Fantasy?

Story:
I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to immerse myself into the plot and characters of Final Fantasy II after finishing the original game. My main complaint with the first Final Fantasy was that while the plot was decent, there were no character arcs or development. You played the game with four mysterious and nameless warriors who had no origin stories or personalities. They were interchangeable and forgettable.

Final Fantasy II gives the player an amazing story of greed, power, betrayal, and heartbreaking sacrifices. I loved it! This was an incredible RPG experience to play through and watch the story unfold.

It begins with four friends escaping their hometown after the empire has sent soldiers in to destroy it. These friends escape the town but are caught by a patrol unit outside the city and are quickly defeated in battle. Three of them wake up in an underground resistance center where they are nursed back to health, while one of the four has gone missing.

The main characters are “Firion” a white-haired young man, “Maria” a nimble girl with dark blue hair, and “Guy”, a silent hulking muscle man. A fourth character named Leon, who is the brother of Maria has gone missing and with his whereabouts and status unknown. Our heroes wake up in the town of Fynn, home to Princess Hilda and Prince Gordon. They’re in the middle of a resistance against the Emperor who is power-hungry and invading all towns.

Firion, Maria, and Guy join the rebels and begin their quest of taking back the land from the Emperor. They are first tasked with finding a solution to the poor equipment the rebels have. Mythril Armor is rumored to be the best possible defense around, but they need a source of Mythril for the local blacksmith to craft with. Our heroes are sent to the caves where Mythril is located only to run into one of the Emperor’s best generals. With the help from Josef, a local hero to a neighboring town they defeat the general and secure the Mythril. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost as Josef holds back a massive boulder from crushing them before it ultimately crushes him to death. Tragic, but it wouldn’t be the last sacrifice.

The rebellion receives word that the Empire is constructing a massive ship capable of destroying cities in a matter of seconds (not the Death Star), but a ship called the “Dreadnaught”. It’s being constructed a few towns away from Fynn, so our heroes travel in hopes of destroying it before it can take off. When they arrive, they realize they are too late. The Dreadnaught takes off and begins its rampage. Cities and citizens are blown up from the massive guns on the ship before it lands to refuel near the mountains. Worse yet, is that the Dreadnaught captured Princess Hilda from Fynn!

Our heroes rush off to find the docked ship and infiltrate it with a mega-weapon called “Sunfire” that can destroy the engines of the Dreadnaught. Hilda is rescued from the ship before Firion, and his companions throw the Sunfire into the engines destroying the ship. Before escaping from the ship, Maria hears a familiar voice in dark knight armor, but it’s too late to investigate who it was.

Things seem bleak as the King of Fynn passes away (he was old anyway), but in his final wish, he asks Firion to travel to Deist to recruit the Dragoons to fight for the rebellion. They travel to the land of Dragoons and discover that all the wyverns have been killed due to a poison that the Empire leaked into the lands. There’s one wyvern egg left so Firion places it in the birthing spring hoping that the egg will hatch someday. When they return to Fynn they realize Hilda has once again been kidnapped by the Emperor who has taken her to a colosseum to award her to the winning gladiator. The heroes travel to the colosseum where they win the tournament and rescue Hilda.

Firion and his pals meet up with a pirate named Leila who tries to swindle them but is defeated. She offers her ship to help sail them around the land in search of the most powerful magic tomb in existence. This magic tome called “Ultima Tome” was sealed away. Before the king died, he requested that Firion find it. To help Firion on his quest, Minwu, the king’s mage helps track down the location of the tome. Firion meets Minwu at the seal, and Minwu uses all of his mana to unlock the seal killing himself in the process. Another hero’s life is given to the cause!

As they arrive back in Fynn, more destruction has occurred, and more is on the way. A massive tornado created by the Emperor is making its way toward Fynn destroying every town. The wyvern egg has hatched and commanded by the last Dragoon who joins Firion, the four of them fly toward the cyclone. They make their way through the castle and kill the Emperor causing the cyclone to disperse before destroying Fynn.

Our heroes celebrate back in Fynn before a soldier bursts into the castle and inform them that a dark knight has taken up the throne and plans on resuming the plans of destroying Fynn. Firion, Maria, and Guy head to the castle and confront the dark knight who reveals himself to be Leon! Shock! (Not really)

Just before Leon and Firion start to battle, a portal from Hell opens up as the Emperor transports himself to the throne! He’s back from the dead after fighting his way through Hell! (Epic) As the Emperor erects a new castle from Hell, the wyvern swoops in and saves Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon.

Leon admits to wanting to rule the land but decides to help them out in defeating the Emperor once and for all. The four of them infiltrate the new palace and make their way to the Emperor. They defeat the final form of the Emperor destroying his soul and body. Everyone celebrates as Fynn and the surrounding towns are finally safe. Firion confronts Leon, and the two agree that they can’t be friends as too much has happened. They swear to meet again (maybe in battle, maybe as comrades, who knows!?) as Leon walks out of the castle as the credits start to roll.

This story was refreshing to play through, and I loved all the sacrifices that the characters made. Many characters died in this epic tale, and it was touching to watch them make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of a greater good. Not only do you get to know the three main characters throughout the quest, but there are a few characters who join you making the world feel bigger. It was a great addition to an already wonderful story.

Gameplay:
At first, I didn’t know what to think of the leveling up system in Final Fantasy II. It had changed drastically from the first game, which was unexpected. Instead of characters having set specialties or weapons, you can customize each character and build their powers however you see fit. Firion doesn’t have to wield a sword. He can become an expert with a bow, or ax, or spear, or knife. Maria doesn’t have to be a healing mage. She can become an ax wielder who casts dark magic. I didn’t know if the system would be too advanced for me coming off the first Final Fantasy, but the longer that I played, the more I loved it.

If you want to become the ultimate traveling party all it takes is some serious hours of grinding. Each of your members can learn magic, so if you decided to teach them all spells, they can all level up to become insane mages. If magic doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can train them in different weapons. Bows, swords, knives, spears, axes, staffs, shields, and fists are all options. In the end, I had Maria as an expert in bows, dark magic, and healing. Guy was an expert in axes, spears, and moderate in dark magic, and healing. Firion was an expert in swords, shields, dark magic, and healing. Maria had the least amount of health, but it seemed like she wasn’t targeted much where Guy had a massive health bar but was constantly beat on.

Admittedly, I used a guide as a walkthrough to complete the game quicker. I just don’t have time to figure out where to go next, but Final Fantasy II was easier to decipher where the next quest was as opposed to the first game. I mainly used the guide during the dungeons, which littered the game. Death didn’t greet me much. The game over screen only appeared on my PSP a few times, and it was when enemies got lucky. The final fight against the emperor is a joke if you equip the Blood Sword. He has 10,000 HP, but each hit you do with the sword does at least 1,000 damage. If you use magic to boost your offensive stats, you can take the Emperor down in about three turns. Sure, that wasn’t a tough final boss, but if you don’t use the Blood Sword I’m sure it would take a little more effort.

Graphics and FMV scenes that were added to the PSP version are gorgeous. The cut scenes are more frequent than they were in FF1 and add an extra element when it comes to storytelling. Watching the Dreadnaught take-off was mesmerizing.

Memories:
I remember seeing the cover of Final Fantasy Origins for the PS1 growing up. One of my friends had it, and it featured Firion holding the sword. I thought he looked goofy, but it stuck with me. After all these years, I finally discovered who he was. In a heated eBay bid, I won Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. I was so stoked, and so far, after playing I and II it was all worth it.

Overall:
The PSP version of Final Fantasy II is essential and must play for RPG lovers who missed out on it during the PS1 years. There’s a massive shift in story-telling, character arcs, and customization from the first game that would shift the entire series into stardom. It’s an incredible story of power and sacrifice, and Final Fantasy II surpasses everything the original laid out. If you have a PSP, this is a must-own title.

Final Fantasy II scores a 9.4 out of 10.

Do you remember when Final Fantasy II first came out? Did you play it on the PS1, or did you snag it later on the PSP? Who was your favorite character from the story? Which quest gave you the most difficulty? Where does this entry rank in the series? Let me know your memories and thoughts I’d love to read the comments.

If you’d like to own a copy of Final Fantasy II, you can purchase a used copy of it for the PSP for $36 on eBay.

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