I’m about a third of the way through Final Fantasy II, having just completed the Snow Caves, and thought I’d update you on my thoughts so far.
You watch your tongue!
Final Fantasy II makes a lot of huge steps forward in the series, not the least of which is actually having a progressing storyline. You wake up after having been saved by the rebellion and decide to help them in taking down the evil empire of Palamekia. After speaking with the rebellion leader, you are set off on your epic quest because, hey, obviously this rebellion has nobody better than three kids who literally just had their asses whooped by the very same empire only moments before. Good call, guys.
Well, you aren’t exactly set off with the sole purpose of just “destroy the empire”. They’ve got some missions for you to accomplish that will help them reach that ultimate goal. Thus, when you are released into the wild, you don’t feel that vague wandering feeling that the first Final Fantasy had. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a goal but on the other, being forced into a linear path becomes very old, very quickly. It wouldn’t be so bad except after every mission you get, you have to go all the way back to the first town to report in.
“Hey kids, go find me some Mithril.” Wander over to the next town, explore cave, go back to hideout.
“Hey kids, go get talk about airships with Cid.” Wander over to another town, find Cid, go back to hideout.
Aww, our first meeting with Cid… and he swears at us!
This results in a crazy amount of backtracking. In my 10+ hours in the game so far, I’ve barely scouted the majority of the first continent (By comparison, Final Fantasy, I had already explored the entire southern hemisphere by this point and even some of the northern). That combined with the greatly increased encounter rates makes for some tedious adventuring. The game map doesn’t seem to be any bigger than Final Fantasy, they just make you go to the same places more frequently.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. In fact, the storyline makes it almost entirely worth it. Sure the storyline is one of the simplest in the history of the franchise but it’s kind of cool to see what they could do with the limited NES hardware. Twists occur, disaster strikes and characters die all within the first part of the game. More importantly, characters actually create a lasting impact with interesting dialogue. Since there are only three main characters, the fourth party slot is cycled in and out with secondary characters that range from placeholder to fairly interesting.
So far, the game isn’t the most memorable in the series by any means but it’s neat to see how far the game has come. Also, it’s pretty amazing all that they managed to accomplish on the NES, a console where it seemed reasonably involved storylines were beyond its capabilities.
Next post, I’ll talk more about the battle system. As it’s fairly complicated and requires quite a bit more time than you’d think to explain, it won’t really fit here.