February 05, 2012

Final Fantasy II - Ranking

Story & World

While visually very similar to Final Fantasy I, the progress of the story in FF II is not nearly as linear in terms of locations visited.  For the majority of the game, the cities of Phin and Altea are the major hubs of activity.  This gives it more of a novel feel and strengthens the overall story (even though shops never upgrade the weapons they sell).  Coming back from a long quest feels much more like coming home instead of just the last place that has an inn.  Other than that, the FF II game world is the same as FF I (i.e. excellent).

 
The centralized hubs of Phin and Altea mean the characters interact with many of the same characters over the course of the story.  Townsfolk quite often change what they say after completing a quest which is essential since there are few towns.  Fewer NPCs with multiple interactions I find is more compelling than many NPCs with one-liners.  Some NPCs will have been characters at some point, further strengthening the bond to them.  For example, Gordon redeemed his poor fighting abilities just before becoming king which made the party take him more seriously later on.

Much like the first, the main quest dominates with the smaller quests requiring completion to continue the main.  The main quest itself is slightly less bland than the one in FF I.  The characters initially were more swept along with the events as they unfolded.  As they grew more powerful, they ended up becoming more and more important to the destruction of the empire.  17/20

Character Development

The classless system was a pretty bold move but worked out fairly well for the most part.  The ability to fine tune each character the way you want is a great idea but quite open to exploiting.  The game difficulty seems to account for this, as it is quite tough.  The problem with this is that then the game must be exploited to some extent in order to compensate for the difficulty.  The robust training system allows one to switch focus on any character aspect at any time to fulfill any party needs.  The fourth slot member swapping is another nice idea that isn't seen very often (just don't equip them with any really valuable gear). 


A huge number of items are available to be used in the game's seven different weapon and four armour types.  Many weapons and armour enjoy a usable secondary benefit in combat and there are slews of single use items to mimic many spell effects.  As in FF I, there is still no way to determine an item's stats without crunching some numbers.  Unlike FF I, weapons and armours are now stored in a general inventory instead of having their own separate one.  15/20

Combat & Monsters
 

Very similar to the first installment but characters can now be assigned to the front or back row, with back row characters being targeted less frequently but unable to use melee weapons.  Another slight change is that buffing spells have become a lot more useful.  Being able to train up a buff spell to make it more effective is so much better than being stuck with a static spell that never improves.  There are a few more status effects in play and bosses lasted longer than two rounds so bonus.  15/20

Graphics & Sound

Almost a clone of the first game style-wise.  Graphics are fantastic and music is outstanding (Nobuo Uematsu rarely disappoints).  Also has the honour of being the first FF to showcase the unbelievably catchy Chocobo theme18/20

Gameplay

The economy stayed balanced for the first half of the game and became a non-issue at around the midpoint.  This was partly due to the extra fighting time put in while training spells but, more importantly, also due to the fact that there isn't much to purchase for the last half of the game.  Using the same handful of towns for the entire story means no new shops.

High replayability due to the flexible nature of character development.  In this run, they were all warrior-mages but each one focused on a different element type (Shen was fire, of course).  The story is wonderfully paced, though this pacing, as well as difficulty, will vary depending on how much the character development system is exploited.  This allows players to customize the challenge in subsequent runs once they understand how the system works.  16/20

Final Ranking:  81/100