Today I'm playing the original Final Fantasy II on the NES, not to be confused with Final Fantasy II on the SNES which is an entirely different game (probably). I've got a problem here though, as Square seems to have neglected to release the original Famicom version in English and rule #3 over there on the right strictly forbids me from playing fan translations. So I can either run each line of text through Google Translate as I go, or play a remake. Or better still, I could do both!
Also 'Leon' is called something like 'Leonhart' in the Japanese game, but I can understand why he'd want to go with the short version.
This version added a new introduction cutscene to the game showing an evil Emperor leading an army of demons through peaceful villages, harassing the peaceful village folk with his laughing fireballs.
But hey, at least this one got an English translation.
And then after this there's another pixelled cutscene of them running away from knights, but the original NES game had none of this. Instead it cut right to the chase, or the end of the chase anyway.
I'm sure this probably isn't the first RPG to ever feature an unwinnable fight, but it must be one of the first to start with one. My poor heroes each got wiped out in a single hit.
There's one thing here you'd never see in the first game though: a conversation between party members. These guys have opinions, personality and motivations of their own, plus they actually say things.
I tried selecting 'Memorize' here and it added "Wild Rose" to my list of keywords I can ask people about. Not many people though unfortunately as most NPCs just give me the standard line of semi-helpful text when I chat to them. I got my hopes up for a moment that this might be the first FF game that I can actually ask for directions in.
Okay this hirogana says 'ka wa no bo u shi', which Google translates as... uh, 'kono prevention'. Or some kind of hat maybe? A few minutes of online research tells me it's a leather hat, which makes sense. See, I'll figure this out yet! Okay, onto the next line...
LATER, AFTER MY SUCCESSFUL SHOPPING TRIP.
The overworld music is far more melancholy than the heroic FF1 overworld theme, but that makes sense seeing as we're the Survivors of Failure rather than the fabled Warriors of Light this time around.
Like in FF1, if an enemy is defeated, characters still waiting to hit it during that round won't automatically target a different enemy instead. So some of the strategy comes from trying to avoid wasting moves.
A BIT OF WANDERING AND A FEW FIGHTS LATER.
According to this grid of hiragana symbols I'm using to decode the text, that message at the bottom says "Chiseiga Sagatta" which means... 'Terrain drops'? Dammit Google Translate, you're not making any sense!
Well okay, I know a solution to this. All I have to do is never hit things, but there's no defend or skip turn option, so every round I'll have to use magic. Fortunately the game uses an MP pool now instead of each group of spells having a certain number of uses, and casting spells makes my max MP increase, so after a bit of grinding I should theoretically have a big enough tank of mana to last a few battles.
Though I can't figure out how to get to that pub. It seems that some idiot has built it on the wrong side of the city wall and forgot to add a back door.
Then I boldly marched upstairs again and picked a fight with one of the knights in town just to see if I could win. Which was kind of a dumb move as he wiped the floor with my whole squad in three hits and I hadn't saved since the overworld.
Oh that reminds me, unlike in FF1 I can't use the inns to save my game any more, but I can save on the overworld as much as I want without using a tent. Which is cool. Still no save points though.
LATER, BACK AT THE REBEL BASE.
Anyway this town wasn't Salamand, so I carried on up the coast and found another town. That wasn't Salamand either...
I'm in a mine by the way, looking for mythril. It's a bit of a maze, there's treasure chests lying around for no reason, and every few steps I have to fight another group of monsters. Oh, also they've put doors around to add a bit of mystery. One door will lead to the next floor, the rest lead to... nowhere much. Basically just another regular fight, which isn't great when I've got a limited amounts of shots with my mage before I have to run back to town to refill my MP. But I gotta try them all until I find the one that lets me make progress.
My Famicom version crew managed to take him down easy enough because they were massively overpowered due excessive grinding as I tried to increase my max MP to a point where it'd last a whole dungeon. But it seems that the PlayStation version doesn't take away intelligence as you gain strength, so there was no need for Team PS to grind magic. So Team PlayStation were totally unprepared for the wrath of the Spiketoise as it took them apart in a handful of turns. Not even the mighty 'swap' spell that exchanges a character's health and mana with an enemy could save them.
LATER, AT THE END OF THE MINE.
But Team WonderSwan Color have done no grinding at all. So is it even possible for a player to make progress in this game without hours of stat building? I dunno, but it's definitely possible to beat this guy. Minu's life spell let me resurrect my fallen characters and keep them in the game, while they brought the hurt.
So okay now I have the mythril and I can warp out of the dungeon. But now what? Do I just walk all the way back home now, past all those towns?
LATER, DURING THE LONG WALK BACK HOME.
Actually I have figured out a way to skip my mage's turn without using up MP, an item, or hitting someone and losing intelligence: tell her to run. Sometimes it screws up and the team actually escapes from battle, but that's so rare that it's not even worth worrying about. The game really wants me to sit through every single one of these bloody fights.
By the way it seems that I can equip any character with any weapon or magic and they'll get better with it over time, no class restrictions, no classes at all in fact. I like the idea, but it's not really implemented all that well. For one thing I have to cast something like 'life' 50 times to level it up even once and I just don't get my people killed that often.
It took me a while to even figure out how to get this world map to display (and it sure takes a while to turn the map around as well, it must be really taxing the NES processor). It turns out that I was pressing the right button all along, but it only works after you get the ring from the dying soldier in the inn in Fynn. Maybe an NPC somewhere explains this, who knows?
A BILLION RANDOM BATTLES LATER.
|Game Boy Advance|
This cutscene isn't actually in the Famicom game by the way, I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear.
Still, it does look cool.
|Game Boy Advance|
So I guess I go back to rebel HQ again now then? Alright then.
SEVERAL TEDIOUS RANDOM ENCOUNTERS LATER.
Okay okay fine, I'll go walk all the way back to Cid, then pay for a ride to Kas'ion (wherever that is). All I can say is that this had better be leading to one awesome explosion.
Right now I'm in Kas'ion, what do I do? I can't seem to open the doors and I can't pick up the sunflame. I'm totally stuck here, with nothing left to try but going back to the towns and talking to NPCs.
So I hiked all the way back to base and spoke with the ill king. He mentioned that I'll need the Goddess's Bell to get to to the sunfire and the Princess knew just who to talk to about that. Yep it turns out that my old friend Josef in Salamand is the expert on the Goddess Bell and knows just where to find it. How can this man know all about this bloody bell, but not a clue about what it unlocks?
|Game Boy Advance|
|Game Boy Advance|
So that must be the first party member death in a Final Fantasy game then. It's a bit surprising that it happened as early as FF2 I think. No time to hang around and mope though, I've got a dreadnought to blow up. Just as soon as I get back to civilisation.
|Game Boy Advance|
Actually I know a place to the west where higher level enemies spawn, who can cut through Gordon's entire HP in a couple of hits. It's a bit of a walk from here though. The game likes to block off areas of the map with tough enemies as much as it does with physical obstacles, which I think's a fair enough idea, I just wish the run button worked for those times when I accidentally cross that invisible line and find myself facing a battle I can't win.
Anyway this particular maze was a lot like all the others I've done. I'd turn a corner or two, get dragged into a fight, select Fight, Magic -> Fire, Fight, Fight, until the monsters were dead, heal up in the menu as required and then go down the next corridor. Repeat.
|Game Boy Advance|
And I thought Final Fantasy XII was supposed to be the one inspired by Star Wars.
chocobo theme, well the first part of it at least. I keep waiting for it to change but it never does. Just like this game!
You know, Final Fantasy II isn't actually as bad as I was worried it might be. I've heard so many bad things about the stat levelling and how you need to hit your own characters to get them tough enough to fight bosses, but I've been doing well enough without that. Especially on the GBA version where it seems you can just walk through the game with the button held down and win every fight without looking at the screen. Don't get me wrong, I agree the system is a little... broken, but my main issue with the game is the constant tedious backtracking. When I have to walk past two or three towns back and forth for every step of a quest, then something ain't right.
On the other hand, it's nice to be encouraged to use magic this time around. In Final Fantasy 1 I found myself saving my mage's limited spell uses for tough enemies or boss fights, but in this I was firing off my most powerful magic every other battle and being rewarded for it with more mana. Being able to give the whole team cure magic definitely saves on potions as well. I liked how FF1 just let me get on with things without tying me down with cutscenes, but I thought the story in this worked to the game's benefit. Except for the bit where characters kept telling me to go to places. Plus despite the game art looking near identical to FF1, those two tile tall walls make a surprising amount of difference to the look of the interiors.
I can't actually stand playing this damn game one minute more, but it's got me wanting to try the next game at least. So that's kind of a win for FF2, I suppose.
If you want to talk about Final Fantasy 2, the Final Fantasy series or JRPGs in general, that endless sea of words you just waded through to get down here, or just my humble site in general, feel free to leave a comment!