Not going to lie — nostalgia is going to play a big role in the ranking and I don't even care. This shit saved me several summers' worth of staring at trees and rusty farm equipment. There's no way I'm giving out anything less than a 50, out of sheer gratitude.
Story & World
Each world in FFLII is its own little world, with nothing linking them together other than a loose network of space vines. It's like each one is its own chapter, but the chapters all come from different books and yet it somehow still kinda works. There's a few reoccurring characters that pop up from time to time, notably Dad and Apollo, but they're not really enough to tie everything together. Speaking of Apollo, does he take the prize for most obvious villain of all time? I like how, even if we did nothing, Apollo still would have failed due to missing the one MAGI he didn't know about. Shit, if he was so lazy as to make us gather the MAGI in the first place, maybe if we did nothing he just kinda would have given up. I wish I could have liked Dad a lot more, as he was pretty decent in combat, but I have no respect for cheaters. Good thing I'm a robot and don't really care what that walking, talking piece of shit does with his genitals (which are small).
The little details in each world continued to impress me throughout the entire game. For example, this one cave was suppose to be so otherwordly mindblowing that we needed a special MAGI just to be able to begin to comprehend its splendour. Now, how to accomplish that when you have a colour palette of monochrome? How about a checkered floor pattern that constantly scrolls downward? Even better, it scrolls at the same speed as the character moves, giving the funky illusion that the floor isn't moving, but just the walls are. I never thought a GameBoy game would ever be able to get me to trip balls, but there you have it. 15/20
Four classes that function very differently from one another in how they're built. Humans and mutants are further split by being able to choose male or female, although I didn't see much difference between my two muties. Party configuration itself can have a huge impact on how the game is played as a whole. Human and robots are going to make for a costly party, which means a lot of grinding. All monsters would have minimal grinding but be a challenge just to survive.
There are no levels to speak of. Instead, stats randomly go up (for humans and mutants) depending on what weapon or magic they are using. Robot stats are equipment dependent as well, but their stats are immediately altered and do not change after battle. Monsters are all over the map, with all stats and abilities changing after eating fresh chunks of meat.
I really like how all the weapons are usable by all the classes (except monsters). You want to make a ranger brandishing an axe and a bow? You can do that. You want a Jedi Knight type of character dual-wielding two laser swords? Word up. You want to be completely made out of chainsaws? Well, it's been done already, but go ahead with yo bad self and doowhutchalyke, kid. I think it also goes without saying that any game that allows a robot as a playable character is going to score big with Shen-dawg. Weapons also have a limited number of uses before they break, adding another layer to the inventory management. More powerful weapons generally break sooner, so it behooves the party to keep some weaker weapons on hand for the scrubby minions. 16/20
Combat & Monsters
With every character having multiple forms of attack, combat never becomes a case of button mashing. Many foes have resistance / vulnerability to different elements and a good team leader will be mindful to keep a decent mixture of firepower on hand. Groups of monsters are arranged in a manner I've not seen very often; they have depth in addition to breadth. There can be a maximum of three sprites across the battlefield, but each one of those can have up to nine individuals in it. Sounds daunting, but there must be limits in place as I never saw any single pack get to the max of 27. Still, a single stack of nine can ruin your shit if they manage to go before any of the PCs that can harm entire groups.
In addition to usually outnumbering the party, monsters have a variety of special attacks at their disposal. Some of them are pretty rank when encountered in a large stack. For example, slime type creatures generally have a corrosive attack with ignores defense, putting me at a high risk of having my sweet chrome finish tarnished (also, death). 16/20
Graphics & Music
The attention to detail is staggering, with each world having a distinctive tileset and very few tiles being reused (other than basics like trees). Monster sprites are nicely detailed although they lack animation. Not all is lost, however, as the attacks themselves are animated and differ depending on the weapon or spell.
Music is pretty good, though bear in mind that it's heavily influenced by my nostalgic ear filters. You can pass judgement for yourself by listening to a few of my favourite tunes here and here. 15/20
How well one deals with the economy depends entirely on the chosen party configuration. I love it when games allow the player to customize the difficulty with the initial party selection (Final Fantasy I is the same way). I much prefer this over having a nebulous difficulty setting because usually the details of such settings are hidden. Of course, one will only become familiar with the different classes and their effect on difficulty by replaying several times, so the game itself better be worthy of multiple playthroughs. Thankfully, FFLII totally is; I'm already thinking about having a go with an all mutant party (one male and three sexy, sexy females (*wink*)). The overall pacing is brisk, though very linear. The party isn't allowed to move on to the next world unless all the MAGI in the current world is found. 17/20
Final Ranking: 79/100