When I was growing up, the games I played were simple. Platformers and collect-athons like Donkey Kong 64 and the various lego games and, strangely enough, flight simulators like Star Wars Rogue Squadron. It wasn’t for awhile till I started exploring more than that, starting with finding Mega Man, and later Fire Emblem, which have both become some of my favorite game series’. After making that leap of finding my own games to play, I started wondering what else I had missed out on. There are two genres that I’ve always had an interest in getting into.
Fighting games, and JRPGs. I’m made attempts to get into both with a bit dodgy results. My strongest attempt towards JRPGs was when I got Octopath Traveler for my Switch when I was still very much uninitiated, to say the least. I did surprisingly well until I hit a roadblock with the chapter 4s of each character, since I had avoided grinding for practically all of the adventure.
Another attempt was a bit before that, when I got Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE for my Wii U. That was more a matter of me losing interest. Like a lot of things, I think part of it was just that it hadn’t really clicked with me yet. Even still with both of those things happening to me, JRPGs continued to be an idea I found rather quaint and inviting.
I finished my first true (non Fate related) jrpg just a few years ago – the original Final Fantasy (the gameboy remake). I’d talk about it, but I haven’t played it since then. I can say at least that I did enjoy it – enough to almost immediately start the second game, but something stopped me when I was part of the way through. It might have been me getting ready for college or something, but I don’t really remember.
In light of recent events, mainly being quarantined (though I’m a lot better off than others), I suddenly got a really strange urge to play the original Final Fantasy again. And to just play a traditional JRPG in general. Buying weapons, armor, and items. Exploring dungeons, the turn based combat. The works. Maybe I was getting tired of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (as I was working on, and am still working on, finishing it) and wanted a change of pace.
I ended up going for 2 instead, this time on the psp so I could play the most modern version of it. I’d always heard bad/problematic things about 2, but when I played it through the Dawn of Souls version (the GBA version) I remembered not hating it.
The story, still being an NES tale, is pretty simple, though still more involved than the first game’s simple “Four heroes of destiny” plot. First of all, unlike the first game, where you had to name every member of the party and assign them a class, in 2, all four characters have a set name (though it can still be changed)
The main character Firion
and his three childhood friends: Maria, her brother Leon, and Guy.
The story follows these four as the Palemecian Empire has been terrorizing the land, destroying towns and crushing any dissenters under foot. One of these towns is home to our main characters, and are attacked after escaping from it being burned down. Narrowly avoiding death, 3 of the 4, as Leon has gone missing, are rescued by the rebel army and are nursed back to health. With the fact that they have nowhere to turn to fresh in their minds, Firion and company decide to join the rebel army, led by Princess Hilda.
There’s something about rebellion stories that I enjoy or something, I’m not sure, but the premise is about all the story really has going for it, if I’m being honest. Originally being an NES game, and the remakes not changing the game much, you only know some basic things about the characters, there aren’t really any defining characters moments or anything. The best way to describe it is that the story is more of a backdrop for what you’ll be doing rather than being something that’s really there to be experienced. Firion and company are tasked with doing various jobs for the army, like sneaking into the capital to meet with a spy, liberating towns, gaining other help for the army, etc. Since Leon is missing, there are several times when you have a fill in party member to accompany you.
Now, like most classic Nintendo sequels, FF2 changes up a ton. Unlike most rpgs, where you fight in battles to earn experience that ups your stats, in 2, you build all of your stats by doing specific actions. To build strength, you attack enemies, to build defense, you take damage, to get better at magic, you cast magic, etc. It’s a really interesting system, but one that does not have its flaws. On the one hand, it makes every encounter have some importance, even super early ones, but it also can make the beginning of the game kind of grindy (and maybe some of the middle or endgame). Some stats are harder to develop than others. When I say that… I mostly mean agility, which you need a lot of in order to run from battles if you aren’t feeling too confident. You build it by being attacked by enemies (not taking damage, just an enemy literally targeting you), and so because that would take a lot of time to build up considerably, I never did and kind of paid for it a bit in the end. To build magic, up to a possible level 16, you have to cast it constantly. In the NES version, the amount of casts for each level is the same, but in the GBA and PSP versions it’s low starting out but gets higher and higher the farther it gets, which I think is actually pretty intuitive. I certainly abused the speed up button to level magic now and then, but when I was moving from town to town, very often I simply had my characters just only use magic, which built up their proficiency organically. Though the only spell I got even close to max was Cure, the healing spell, since it can be used outside of combat and I used it quite liberally…
That being said, I don’t know what it is, but I never felt very challenged when it came to the bosses most of the time. I swear I didn’t really grind TOO much (and it was only really for spells), but most boss battles either turned out to be physical wars of attrition or me spamming magic till whatever I faced died. Especially since enemies that are weak to specific spells are WEAK. It was probably because of me trying to get my spells up to respectable levels, but it makes me wonder what would’ve happened if I would have just avoided grinding altogether.
I will say that I did have some struggle with a lot of the more annoying enemy comps as well as the final boss, the Emperor. It felt like an epic struggle where I needed to make sure Maria kept my damage dealers healthy and attack buffed! It was kind of exhilarating!
… until I felt stuck and decided to look up some strategies, found out he gets massively defeated by the Blood Sword, which saps health from enemies based on the amount of damage you do. I did not realize that it always did a sixteenth of the targets max health though, so… I ended up ending him that run in three turns.
Firion, not only in the cover of FF2, but also in everything he makes an appearance in, is depicted with the blood sword. Hard not to see why, now.
I will say, even when I first played Dissida Duodecim Final Fantasy, the PSP arena fighter, the music of Final Fantasy 2 sounded really good. Finally hearing the remastered tracks of the PSP version, I can really say that I personally, maybe enjoy it even more than the first game, though that’s still up in the air. Both are pretty great. FF 2, due to the war setting and the tragedy it tries to depict, it has a much more somber sounding soundtrack. One of my favorites is the theme of the Rebel Army.
Here’s the original version:
Here’s the PSP version:
And here’s a really beautifully orchestrated version of it:
Pretty good stuff, right?
The battle theme is also pretty good, and the entire soundtrack in general, like I said, has quite a few gems that I like personally.
Personally, I enjoyed Final Fantasy 2. The PSP version anyway. It has some pretty interesting and cool concepts that I don’t quite think were fleshed out completely, but I’d say I generally like it (at least with a speed up button). If it ever got a true remake or something, I think the storyline has a lot of potential, and imagining the soundtrack being fully orchestrated makes my ears tingle.
As a game, I probably do prefer Final Fantasy 1 a heck of a lot more, but my bias towards Firion and the Emperor in Dissidia Final Fantasy keep me from hating the game haha. Also, not everyone has played it, but it was the second FF I’ve played (cause I’m playing them in order), so I feel at least a tiny bit proud of myself for just jumping straight in, updated version or otherwise.