Role-Playing Game, Super Nintendo Entertainment System
I'll go ahead and quell the inevitable outrage right now - yes, I know Final Fantasy II for the SNES should technically be called Final Fantasy IV. Yes, I know that there were two other Final Fantasies on the NES (II and III) before this one, so it really really is Final Fantasy IV. But, neither of those NES titles were released in the US on the NES. And seeing as I'm only reviewing American releases, I'm going to go ahead and call this one as I see it on the box art and label for the game - Final Fantasy II!
So let's start with developments in the Final Fantasy series from the last game to this one. For all intents and purposes, us Americans jumped from #1 straight to this title. There were some improvements in the series during those two phantom Japanese-only releases, so it's sad that we didn't originally get to see them. The hallmark Chocobos came into play during that time, the battle system turned into more of what we recognize today, and there was a shift from anonymous "heroes" to characters with very human emotions and trials.
In Final Fantasy II, the story opens to an airship descending upon a kingdom called Mysidia to steal their powerful Water Crystal. Cecil, the leader of the group, is riddled with guilt for what he has done, and upon returning to his home kingdom of Baron expresses his concerns to the King. He and his second-in-command Kain are then sent unknowingly on a trip to suicide bomb a town of mages (you couldn't make this stuff up), and soon realize a strange man named Golbez is behind an evil plot to control all crystals of the world.
Everything about this game is crafted with such love that it creates a markedly more memorable experience than the original Final Fantasy. The music is a beautiful arrangement of catchy and diverse compositions. The graphics are vibrant and detailed. The characterization is leaps and bounds ahead of the predecessors; so much that many of the characters and lines of dialogue are still cherished to this day. This game raised the bar for not only the Final Fantasy series, but RPGs as a whole. It also has one of my favorite hero plotlines involving a sort of vision quest that changes both Cecil's physical appearance and his entire skill set.
|This is what an octopus looks like on acid.|
And then there's the menu and battle systems. They're so far improved from the first game I think they merit mention as well. Gone are the "dumb" attacks, where a character will slash at the empty air where an enemy once resided. The equipment isn't a guessing game anymore; not only are there icons next to each item corresponding with the type of character that can equip them, but it's much easier to determine which piece of equipment is the strongest.
|Just cruising around the center of the earth with my airship, bro.|
Final Fantasy II is one of my fondest gaming memories. It features a broad ensemble cast, the graphics are much improved from the NES premiere of the series, and the world simply feels so alive and fantastical. The story begins with the standard "save the world" cliche, but soon expands farther and farther, until you find yourself taken aback at how far the characters have come. Anyone who enjoys turn-based RPGs, or even just a good story are in for a treat with this one. It is easily among the best of Super Nintendo RPGs, and in my opinion one of the best in the Final Fantasy series as a whole.