Final Fantasy II Part One: Baffled in Bafsk

I love how minimalistic the box art for the PSP versions of Final Fantasy I and II are.

Final Fantasy II

System: PlayStation Portable

Developer/Publisher (Famicom): Square

Developer/Publisher (Remakes): Square Enix

Released (Famicom): December 17, 1988

Released (PSP, Japan): June 7, 2007

Released (PSP, North America): July 24, 2007

Released (PSP, Europe): February 8, 2008

A long lived peace…

is at an end.”

September 12, 2011: Hold on. Am I supposed to die right off the bat?

Yes. FFII opens with four young people (Firion, Guy, Maria, and her brother Leon) trying to fend off Palamecian Black Knights.

Firion, Maria, Leon, and Guy with the Emperor looming in the background.

 The Empire of Palamecia, led by their Emperor, is trying to take over the world. The Empire killed these four protagonists’ parents.

At the outset of the game, you are thrust into a hopeless battle against the Black Knights, who leave you for dead.

The PlayStation remake added a CGI intro, which makes the characters look quite different from their in-game sprites, and even from Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations. Oddly, despite the intro’s lack of dialog, big-name Japanese voice actor Hikaru Midorikawa voiced Firion’s little grunts and vocalizations.

Firion, Guy, and Maria were rescued by Princess Hilda of the kingdom of Fynn, who has established a rebellion in her hometown, Altair. And that’s how our trio joined the rebellion.

Hilda

Their first task was to find mythril in the mines beyond the town of Salamand. Mythril was used to make powerful weapons.

Their next task was to prevent the construction of an airship called the Dreadnought in the town of Bafsk.

Who names a town “Bafsk”?

These graphics are pretty cute.

The spells look pretty snazzy.

Thirty-five gil to stay at Fynn’s inn? Ripoff!

Money was pretty tight early on in the game. -.-

September 13, 2011: We need a canoe.

Prince Scott looks so much like Prince Gordon that I thought Square was just being cheap, but it’s really because they are brothers.

Gordon

OMG, the inn at Altair is actually suffering inflation!

Prices at the inns fluctuated due to the war going on.

I was quite taken with the effect of clouds moving over the city, and with the airship over the overworld map.

Now, we have to find Josef in Salamand.

January 1, 2013: Idiots in Alitair

Altair was ravaged by the Dreadnought’s rampage, but the cheery innkeeper is still running her inn!

I returned to Altair to learn how to retrieve the Sunfire from Kashuan Keep.

The Sunfire was supposed to be capable of destroying the Dreadnought.

I accidentally found Chocobo Forest, kweh?!

Guy can barely speak English, but he can speak beaver.

Guy may surprise you. 😉

A buddy of mine on a gaming website really dislikes this game. They gave it one star. Though that was the NES version, and probably the fan-translated version I downloaded but never played. It was just too old.

I like the graphics and how the stat increases remind me of the SaGa games, but it’s very repetitive and primitive.

Let’s talk about those stat increases. It is probably the single most infamous part of the whole game, the axis on which it shifts. It’s the lack of experience levels. Rather, characters can gain boosts to their stats and weapon and magic levels depending on their actions in battle. Get hit a lot? You may earn a boost to defense or HP. Use magic or physical attacks a lot? You could gain points in magic or strength. However, if your stats are already sufficiently advanced enough, trying to buff certain attributes can be frustratingly vague due to a lack of feedback for your base statistics’ experience levels, unlike with magic and weapons.

There are some flaws in this system. It’s not very well-balanced. Take Maria, for example. She starts off with a bow. Great, right? We’ll use bows, then.

The problem is that bows are worthless.

Some ways into the game, I stopped using bows altogether with Maria because she never seemed to hit or damage anything with them. I switched to having her use magic exclusively and had a MUCH better time using her from then on. I suppose you could soldier on with her as a warrior or archer, but I lost my patience with getting it to work.

There were also some flaws in earlier versions. In the versions for the Famicom and PS1, the game had a bug where selecting and then canceling a move was treated as performing the move, allowing for easy grinding.

I still think it’s a fun system overall, but it’s done better, or at least differently, in several other RPGs of many different stripes. FWIW, FFII precedes the streamlined experience system in The Elder Scrolls games, starting with the second entry, Daggerfall. 😉

Akitoshi Kawazu was one of the designers on FFII, and it shows in the stat grinding system. It may be worth noting that FFII is considered to be one of the black sheep in the Final Fantasy series, similar to many of the SaGa games that Kawazu worked on.

It’s kinda cool how some spell effects appear in menus too.

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