Final Fantasy 2 stands out as an oddity when compared to the other games in the main series. Even the online or more action focused games (15) seem less odd than 2. Gameplay-wise, it’s the same as Final Fantasy 1. Plot-wise is heads above the previous game, as in there is an actual plot with actual characters instead of the 4 nameless warriors of light.
You see, for Final Fantasy 2, they decided to do away with the level system of yore and replace it with something more akin to that used in the Elder Scrolls games. Which is the more you use something, the better you get at it. Now on paper, this works. But in this game, it hinders more than helps. You want to cast magic? Go ahead and try, but you’ll be awful initially. You want to use a sword? Go ahead, but you won’t hit much and if you do you won’t do much damage. But you will in time! By far, this Final Fantasy has an emphasis on the grind, which you need to do order to keep up with the steep difficulty. I do love a bit of a grind in these sort of games, I don’t get bored and am pretty happy just to fight random enemies for hours. Here though, it just feels counter-intuitive. For example, to raise your hit points and to get stronger you need to take damage. Because of this, I found myself attacking my own characters in order to raise stats and to make my healing magic stronger. It’s a strange system and I’m not the biggest fan. I guess it gives a nice message to players that you need to be awful and make mistakes in order to get better. Or maybe I’m just trying to find positives in all this mess.
Another change is the difficulty. Final Fantasy 1 wasn’t too much of a challenge when compared to other JRPGs. Final Fantasy 2 ramps things up significantly. Now I know a lot of people will disagree with me if I say that FF2 is a hard game. However, if played slightly incorrectly, the game’s difficulty spikes drastically. This is where the next issue lies. The sense of purpose in the game is better than the first but there’s still this occasional meandering that occurs, where it hasn’t quite told you where to go. The last dungeon, for example, appears randomly on a section of the map where there was very little, and no-one tells you to go there. Sure they tell you to head to Mysydia the town on the same continent, but that’s like telling someone who wants to go to Leeds to head to the land mass that has London on it, it’s about the same place!! Vague and if you’re reading in America you probably have even less of a clue about the landscape of England, which emphasizes my point nicely.
Couple this with enemies that can kill you in one hit if you are not appropriately leveled (statted, sorry), well all I can say is I hope you saved recently. For example in the opening area, if you stray too far west, the enemies get tough, you head south from there, and in that I mean like two steps and you will die as the enemies will hit you for 400-500 damage when you have about 50 hp at the time. I like to explore in RPGs and doing so in Final Fantasy 2 punished me severely with no warning at all.
The game is wildly inconsistent and that’s a big problem I have with it. I got lost when the game told me to head to Fynn and wandered up north to the desert. Saving often in order to keep going, then headed back when I realized the desert was totally impassable. I was then far too strong for the plot segments when going to Mysydia. Then the game turned punishing again, one hit kills abound until I managed to head in the right way and make progress, only for the final dungeon to do the same again. Now, my complaint isn’t that the game is too hard, I enjoy a challenge, as someone who has every trophy available on Bloodborne (including the DLC), I can attest to that. But normally there’s a gradient in difficulty, which this game defies. And before you say Bloodborne is easy I counter with Laurence on ng+ and I grew up with games of the ’80s and ’90s, where you start from scratch upon death. So there.
One thing that is consistently brilliant across every Final Fantasy game is the music, and that’s no different here. Scored once again by the simply amazing Nobuo Uematsu. Seriously, the man can do no wrong. He could bring me an hour of cats screaming and I’d think it was a masterpiece. Maybe I’m biased but the soundtrack is still great and even if you don’t want to play any games in the series, I’d highly recommend you get on YouTube or Spotify and have a listen.
I’ve said the story is better but I’ve not explained it, I know that, but trust me it’s better. There’s an actual protagonist and everything. Anyway, I pushed on through and managed to complete the second game in my Final Fantasy challenge. Despite the obvious flaws and annoyances, I did still have fun and I was glad to finally get through this odd duck of a game and cross off another Final Fantasy game that I should have finished a long time ago. It’s a long list and I’m ashamed of it.
I’d say to anyone to give this game a try. Even if you hate it it’s worth playing even if just to see how different it is to the others. Next up is Final Fantasy 3. Expect to read my thoughts on that in about 5 years time, when I finally finish it. I’ll still be done before the Final Fantasy 7 remake is complete, so I can’t be that bad.
Once again, let me know your thoughts of Final Fantasy 2 and any other games in the series in the comments below.