The Earth has been saved! The four orbs have been lit, the fiends have been cast down and Chaos has been vanquished from the realm. The world rejoices!

In the real world, Final Fantasy has found a success of it’s own. After Hironobu Sakaguchi convinced Squaresoft to ship 400,000 copies of the game, the game sold enough to justify a sequel. That’s right, 400,000 copies of a game apparently justified a sequel back in 1987. Now, if a game sold 400,000 copies, it would be seen as a commercial flop but hey, different times.

Final Fantasy II Box Art

Bonus points for anyone that can actually read the title!

Since I’ve started this blog, a few people have asked me, “Crosstix, what the heck is up with the Final Fantasy numbering system??? It makes no sense! Why were 2, 3 and 5 not released in the US?” I can’t answer for 5 just yet but there is actually a good reason for 2 and 3. The year is 1988 and Final Fantasy II is released in Japan, just under a year after Final Fantasy hit the market. II is a success as well so they bust out Final Fantasy III early into 1990. Well a few months after III is released in Japan, Final Fantasy finally makes its way overseas to the US market in July of 1990.

So, right after Japan has finished up with Final Fantasy III, we finally get a taste. Now, other forces start to come into play. Final Fantasy II and III were obviously made for the NES but over in Japan, the Super Nintendo is about hit the market in a big way and it’s even being eagerly awaited in the US although it wouldn’t be released here for almost another year. Final Fantasy was great but fans were moving on from the NES and were ready for the 16-bit era. So, instead of translating and releasing II and III over here, they decided to skip over those and release the upcoming Final Fantasy IV instead for the SNES. Since that wouldn’t make much sense for us to have Final Fantasy and then Final Fantasy IV, they decided to make that Final Fantasy II in the US. Would have made perfect sense if the series stopped there but on and on it went and that’s why we have such screwed up numbering.

But we’re starting to get ahead of ourselves. III and IV are still a few years in our future, it’s time for Final Fantasy II! It’s been a year, Final Fantasy has a way larger budget, this is sure to be a massive step up for the series!

Final Fantasy II World Map

Look at those next-gen graphics

Well, the city got walls but other than that, this looks EXACTLY the same as Final Fantasy. In fact, it uses many of the same textures and character sprites. It’s a little zoomed in but otherwise, it’s the same game.

Don’t be fooled. The graphics didn’t get much of a makeover but the rest of the game is a HUGE improvement over the first. In fact, I can’t imagine a sequel like this even being made these days since companies aren’t willing to take such huge risks anymore.

Basically, aside from the textures and sprites, everything about the game was thrown out in favor of bigger and better. Instead of one text box dialogues with silent protagonists, we now have reasonably long cutscenes, several named characters and talking protagonists. Not just that but the player actually gets to interact with the NPCs. While I can’t say for sure that this was a first, it was certainly a forerunner in active dialogue. Basically, as you talk with people, you learn key phrases. You can then use these key phrases to initiate conversations with other NPCs. Along with phrases, you can also show them items in your inventory to gain additional information. I immediately think of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

The battle system also got a huge overhaul. I’m not too far into the game just yet so I can’t speak much as to the difficulty of the game but the leveling system has changed completely. Instead of getting level ups for your characters, you receive stat increases and weapon proficiencies. Think Chrono Cross mixed with Elder Scrolls. Basically, the more you use or need something, the better it becomes. If your health drops below half, you can look forward to a health increase at the end of the battle. Using a lot of your MP, see a boost in that as well. Has your magic user been busting out Cure a ton, lately? They may see their spell upgraded to Cure2 as a result.

It’s a fun system but I can already see why they scrapped the idea after this game. In a word, exploitable. Want your health to increase? Just start wailing on your own party members while fighting weak monsters to see some insane max HP really early into the game. Also, due to buggy programming, increasing weapon proficiencies isn’t so much a matter of attacking enemies as it is selecting to attack them. Cue constant selecting and backing up to gain a weapon level every battle, if you’re so inclined.

Guy attacking Firion

Bwahaha! Take that, Firion!

Frankly, after the buggering I got from Final Fantasy, I could use a nice exploitable game. Seems like I’ll need it too. I’ve got a whole empire to fight. The game starts out with Firion and his three friends (I’m using a mash-up of the Japanese and English names for the characters, taken from direct translations, fan translations and official Squaresoft translations in later releases for the names. I tried to get the most accurate I could use: Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon) getting destroyed by some empire lackeys. As Firion wakes up, one of his friends is lost and they must battle the evil Empire to save their homeland and their friend. It’s a much more involved story with actual characters so I’m excited to get started this weekend.

Oh, for what it’s worth, I’m currently using a ROM titled Final Fantasy II (Japan) [En by Demiforce v1.03] [Title Fix by Parasyte v1.0]. While Final Fantasy II has had re-releases in English, the original NES version has never been officially released in the US, hence my use of a ROM. Seems like a pretty accurate translation with no typos or obvious errors; so far so I’m liking it. I have no way of confirming that nothing is changed from the original game so I just have to trust at this point. If you know anything about the accuracy of this ROM, please let me know and I’ll make adjustments as necessary.

Game on!