Final Fantasy 2
Box Shot
Final Fantasy II
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Square
Designer: Square
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Red Baron

It's good, but could have they watered it down any more?

I'm going to start this review the way one would start an import review: The Japanese gaming public get all the good games, we get crap, blah blah blah. This especially holds true for the Final Fantasy series, as up until recently (with the release of FF7, when after selling millions, Square saw profit in mass- manufacturing game after game loaded to the gills with pretty FMV), they got twice the FF's we did. One of the few FF's to make it across the Pacific was FF4, and after a name change, heavy butchering censoring, and having the difficulty toned down, it was released here. Even with all the aformentioned changes, FF2 US is still a solid game, and can stand its ground, even when compared to many of today's RPGs.

If a stereotypical "modern" gamer (one who has been raised on a diet of flashy 3D graphics) were to play this game, he'd probably play for 5 minutes, throw the controller down in disgust and ask if you had any good games to play. For you see, cosmetically, this game is AWFUL. The graphics, at times, look like something an NES could do (ie: small sprites, bad palleting, and weak animation), but with Mode 7 effects. Speaking of Mode 7, even though such things as the intro shot of five airships flying in formation were spectacular in 1991, the effects look rather tame, esp. when put side-to-side with something like FF5 or 6. The fact that the translation is shoddy (more on that later) doesn't help. But hopefully, you're not THAT superficial, aren't you?

The plot is one of the best in the series, ranking just behind FF7 and the REAL FF2 (Ya know, the one for the Famicom). You play as Cecil, captain of the kingdom of Baron's air force, known as the Red Wings, fighting on the side of... EVIL!? Yep, you heard right. You see, in the tradition of Square using subtle foreshadowing, the king of Baron has been acting strangely lately, and has sought the 4 Crystals of the Elements (Water, Fire, Wind, and Earth). He's been using the Red Wings to get them, and Cecil, a Dark Knight, begins to doubt his majesty's actions, after he leads a violent raid against the magic town of Mysidia, just to get at the Water Crystal. After speaking to the king about his concerns, he is promptly discharged from his post, and as a last mission, he and his friend Kain, a Dragoon, are ordered to deliver a parcel to the Village of Mist. However, when they arrive at the Village of Mist (and after defeating a Mist Dragon), the parcel turns out to be a bomb intended to destroy the village, populated by harmless Callers (people who can summon various monsters). After finding one survivor, Cecil and Kain are split up; Cecil then has to get the surviving Caller, a young girl named Rydia, to safety. What follows is a very deep storyline, involving manipulation, power transfers, love, redemption, tragedy (even though all but one of the people who die in this game inexplicably come back to life sooner or later), and the biggest bad-ass of a villan ever to grace the FF series, Golbez. And you also get a whole slew of vehicles, even though most are just variations of an airship.

FF2's battle system is, more or less, like your standard RPG, with one big exception: This is the game that first used Square's infamous ATB (Active time battle) system. The premise of the ATB system is that, like in a real fight, your enemies can attack while you attack. In other words, there's no turns to take; rather, you can attack while your foes are still deciding on what to do, and vice versa. It's a big innovation, but with two problems: First off, you can't even SEE your time meter (which you can do in Square's later RPGs), so you never know when you'll get your chance to attack, and second, I always hated the thing, as you never do get enough time to fight strategically. Plus it just doesn't feel very intuitive. Oh well, at least a GOOD innovation presented here is Battlescripting. In a few battles, people will say things, or do scripted events, for use as plot devices. Rather nicely done, and really adds to the game, IMO.

It's also worthy of mention that this is the only FF game that uses a fixed class system (like what every other RPG uses). And the characters themselves are very unique and chock-full of personality. Cecil is a run-of-the-mill swordsman dude who becomes a Paladin during "Act II" of the game (@!$#!, why couldnt've he stayed a Dark Knight? Grr...), Kain is a Dragoon (Many an RPGer on the 'net sees Kain as a cool character, esp. with his Jump attack), jealous of the fact that Cecil is betrothed to Rosa, a stereotypical female healer, who even has to be RESCUED, fer chrissakes. Yang is a quiet, resolved Karate Master of Fabul who uses his fists as a method of attack, Edward is a cowardly bard (who even runs away when his HP are at critical) who is despised by the old sage Tellah, because he tried to elope with his daughter. Edge is a love-starved nut, with Rydia being the object of his affection (luckily, this occurs when Rydia is an adult..), there's Palom and Porom, twin mages who lend you a hand, Cid, the mechanic who fixes airships for you long after he's put out of commision, and Foo-Soo-Ya, another old-guy-wizard type who happens to live on the moon. Then you have the villan, Golbez, who aside from being 80 feet tall, definately wins the "Ultimate Bad Ass Award" (tm) of 1991.

The music is, arguably, the best in the series. The tunes are WONDERFULLY composed, and some (most notably the battle themes) still echo in my head, even today. It's kind of sad that the synthesizer they were composed on was rather primitive, and it's even worse that in the next games in the series, the music has been declining ever since. Alas, alas.

Unfortunately, there's one flaw with this game that nearly brings the house crashing down: The translation from the Japanese version, FF4, is rather half- hearted. Spelling errors and cheesy dialogue (Like the famous fight between Tellah and Edward, where Tellah says: "You spoony bard!") are just the beginning: You see, there was a time when Nintendo had very strict policies against "nudity" and "violence" that ruined many a game (Final Fight, Mortal Kombat... the list goes on and on). Many things were censored for various reasons: Dialogue between Cecil and Rosa that implied they were sleeping together, the fact that Yang is a Monk, not a "Karate master", the scything blade that nearly kills Rosa was turned into a boulder, the infamous programmer room that had a porno mag in it... They also took out a whole bunch of items and battle commands, and toned down the difficulty, dammit! Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!!!!! When will the gaming companies take the American market seriously? (Note: I now know that the items and commands weren't taken out for American release; rather this was a port of FF4 "easytype", which already had the items and commands out, and the difficulty scaled down. Uh... more on this in my FF4 review.)

Overall, FF2 is a very good game, one that will keep you playing 'till the end. Even though I recommend playing FF4 instead, no RPGer should go through life without seeing "You spoony bard!" at least once.

Final Fantasy 2
Box Shot
Final Fantasy IV Hardtype (Import)
Platform: Super Famicom
Publisher: Square
Designer: Square
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Red Baron

...And to think I used to like this game's American counterpart...

(Note: There are 2 versions of FF4: Hardtype and Easytype. Easytype is the exact same game, but had lots of items, battle commands, and other things removed. Easytype was the game that was translated for American audiences.)

It's a wonder what Emulation can do. You see, I used to like FF2 US even more than FF3 US, or even FF7... Aside from focusing on things other than the graphics, it held a special place in my heart as the very first RPG I've ever played through. However, one day after discovering a certain RPGaming site (Uhh.. you all know what I'm referring to), I saw people conversing about the FF games... and what caught my eye particularly were people asking questions about "FF4". 'Huh?' I thought. 'I thought there were only 4 FF games: 1, 2, 3, and 7. What's going on?' I searched every emulation site for a rom of the game... once I found one, I downloaded it (Along with FF5), fired up Zsnes, and prepared to see just what they were talking about.

5 minutes later, I thought: 'Wow. So FF2 WASN'T the second in the series.'

Yep, that's right. FF4 is the Japanese counterpart to FF2 US, but much, much, MUCH better. How much better? It's better, trust me.

As I already went over such things as plot, music and graphics in my other review, I'll skip over them and get right to the good part. So, what's the difference between FF4 and FF2 US? Well, for starters, in Easytype and FF2 US, a lot of items and battle commands were removed, and the difficulty toned down to make the game easier. Here, however, everything's intact: Even though you'll be swamped with the amount of items you get, and a few of the battle commands are completely useless (Rosa's Pray, Gilbert's Heal, Tella's Recall...), there are some priceless attack-items along the way, and Cecil's DWave attack is VERY cool. Oh yes, did I mention this game is friggin' HARD? I mean, I had to be at level 40 just to kill the stupid Demon Wall. Frustration occurs often; however, the ego boost you get whenever you kill a super-hard boss is priceless. (Oh yeah, take that, Ashura you bitch! I'm king of the world!!!)

Plus, it's worthy of mention that, at least in the J2E translation, everyone has extra personality. Golbeze (Golbez) is a BIGGER bad-ass, Gilbert (Edward) is weaker than before, The "Mysidian Genius" Porom is a bigger loudmouth, while his twin sister, Palom, always stands by to shut him up. Cain (Kain) also has some background story, as he laments about how he has disgraced the sword of his departed father, a Dragoon himself. Edge is a bigger chauvinist, while Rydia becomes even COLDER in response to his come-ons. Oh yes, similar to FF7, Cid has a foul mouth. It brought a tear of nostalgia to my eye to see how different they are in contrast to FF2 US's heroes.

And finally, we come to the pointless censorship. You see, in FF2 US, a lot of things were cut for one stupid reason or another: Dialogue between Cecil and Rosa that implied they were sleeping together, The fact that Yang is a Monk, not a "Karate Master", the infamous programmer room that had a porno mag in it... Luckily, they're all here, and with some cursing thrown in too. Thank God such lame phrases as "You spoony bard!" are out for good.

In any case, when you get right down to it, FF4 is a leap, skip, and hop above FF2 US... even though they're practically the same game. Fans of the US version will love this game; even if you aren't one, this is still a great RPG that'll keep you occupied for a while. Highly recommended.