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Final Fantasy II

Released: 1992
Company: Squaresoft
Genre: Role-Playing

If I had to put the three installments of Final Fantasy I own in order of quality, I would have to put this game last. But, as the saying goes, it's much better to be third place in a first-rate competition than first place in a third-rate one, and that's exactly what I want to stress in this review. Even though the other two games are better, the second installment is still a high-quality game.

If there was ever one thing that was off par in this game, it's the graphics. You can definitely tell this game was released during the SNES' infancy; much of the sprites lack detail. This is especially evident in the overhead view; the characters look small and dinky. One positive note, however; floating enemies actually "float" onscreen during a battle, rather than stay in one static place as in FF3. I can't figure out why they'd take that out, it was a neat effect. On the other hand, the soundtrack is as stellar as ever. I'd be hard pressed to decide if FF2 or FF3 had the better music, it's that good. The only disappointment (albeit a minor one) is the final boss theme. Granted, it sounds terrific, but I like the opening best, and I only get to hear it once. They only loop the second part. Again, it's only a small complaint, but I need to uphold my reputation as a nitpicker. : )

Another part of the game that truly deserves merit is the storyline. I borrows from both fantasy and Sci-fi realms with as smooth a transition as you can think of. The final part of the game is especially surprising, and the ending ties up all the loose ends without a hitch. If there was one problem, it's that so much of the dialogue seems to be about one person saying someone else's name, followed by an ellipsis or an exclamation point. I don't know which is worse: badly translated English or a plot that dwindles down to "John..." "Marcia...."

FF2 is the first game from Squaresoft to utilize what it calls the Active Time Battle system. Once again, you can tell that this is its maiden run, because there are still a lot of kinks in it. First of all, there always tends to be a predetermined order for the party as to who fights when. Not a terrible fault, mostly because the stronger party members tend to be put on the front of the list. On the otherhand, once you submit your command for any particular party member, it takes them a little while to get the message and finally carry it out. This is especially true for magic; some spells take forever to cast.

As many Japanese game fans know (and as one person on ICQ is always happy to remind me ; ) ), FF2 is actually the fourth installment of the game. Not only that, but the American version is considered the "easy" version by Squaresoft. That's really sad, because the challenge here is right around top-notch. You really won't have to spend any time building up levels until you reach the end of the game, and that's really the way it should be. Besides, there are a couple of places where you're forced to fight battles in which the enemy is heavily favored (like the battle against Golbez in the underworld), and to crank up the challenge any higher would siply be unfair.

Like the other FF games, this one is just as fun to play. The enjoyment near the middle drags just a bit, but the beginning and endgames really draw you in. The music also factors into the high enjoyment rating, because it just puts me in a good mood when i hear it. Not many games can boast that. And of course, what would this review be without mentioning those elusive Pink Puffs - that's truly what stretches this game's playability. Even long after you beat it, you're still wandering around that one room hoping to finally get lucky.

I still have to put FF2 on the bottom of the list in terms of which FF game is best. But even that placement is on honor, considering its competitors. And like its competitiors, FF2 is a must-own game for all those with an SNES.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 14
Challenge: (Easy)
Aesthetic Score: 22
Overall Score: 86%

You are now listening to the battle theme to Final Fantasy II.