Final Fantasy II

Review Date: April 8, 2021

Release Date: December 17, 1988

Platform: NES

Publisher: Square

Genre: Role Playing Game

Anecdotes: Final Fantasy fans can be very fickle. The main series is at 15 games as of this writing with a 16th in development. I bet that if I surveyed 100 people and asked them to rank FF games, I’d get 100 different answers. There would be only two things that are consistent: XI doesn’t exist at all to 95% of the fanbase, and II would be in the bottom half of 90 of those lists. I plan to cover Final Fantasy XI on August 30, but for now, I will try to answer whether or not the hate for Final Fantasy II is justified. I really can’t give a straight yes or no because the answer is somewhere in between.

Description: The Palamecian Empire is trying to take over the world. Princess Hilda and company are trying to form an opposition to them, but they have failed repeatedly to take them down. She decides to test Firion, Maria, and Gus by sending them on a small mission. After their success, Hilda begins to trust them more, and so the three of them now lead the mission to take down the empire. With that in mind, let’s do a rundown of all of the playable characters, in alphabetical order.

-Firion: Firion occupies the top slot of the party throughout the game. Square pretty much considers him the de facto leader of the group, even though Maria and Gus are with him 100% of the time. I give him a bow and put him in the back row. He is my mage, and his priority order is revive, cure, fire/ice/lightning, osmose, and attack. Once he gets Osmose, I suggest removing the bow because of the magic statistic penalty that goes with it.

-Gordon: This guy starts with a pitiful 64 HP and really doesn’t get much better as the game rolls on. Firion will get plenty of chances to level up Cure and Life with this guy around.

-Gus: Gus somehow has the ability to communicate with animals, which comes in handy exactly once in the game. I usually leave the axe in his hand for a while, but there are some great knives late in the game, so I tend to put him on knives after Leila parts ways. Gus also serves as my backup mage when something goes majorly wrong with Firion.

-Josef: He’s basically only around for the Snow Cavern, so don’t waste any money to build him up. I would advise taking his armor from him and giving it to one of the permanent characters.

-Leila: Leila is awesome. She threatens the party just like Bikke did in the first game. It’s exactly the same; the party beats up a large group of pirates. The only difference is that Leila joins the party afterward. She’ll have two stints. When she first joins, her max HP is 150, but she’s hard to hit. Pull that sword from her. Put a shield in her right hand and a dagger in her left. In Final Fantasy II, it is easy to remember the lefties. Both left handed characters’ names start with L. The rest do not.

-Leon: Leon only joins the party at the tail end of the game. Generally, I keep him on swords so that he can use the second Blood Sword with some proficiency.

-Maria: Maria is my tank. She’ll be practically unhittable by time the party reaches the Dreadnought. She’ll be swinging swords the entire game. At the start, I swap the bow with Firion’s sword and shield, plus I move Maria to the front row. Her higher agility makes it easier for her to take out enemies quickly. Throughout the game, I make sure Maria has all of the armor she can with agility boosts so she’ll usually take an enemy off the field immediately.

-Mindu: Mindu offers his canoe to allow the party to take the short route to Paloom. He’s the first guest star and he carries an excellent array of white magic. However, I only use it when facing a boss, reviving Firion, or warping out of a dungeon. Otherwise, I just let him attack and have Firion do the healing so he can level up the spells.

-Richard/Gareth: This guy comes along for the vicious Mysidian Tower climb and he’s a big part of the Wind Drake story arc late in the game. I leave him with his default equipment.


-I really enjoy this leveling system. I like the fact that the party can’t just pick up a random weapon and instantly do massive damage with it. The characters have to train with it.. They can’t be professionals at swinging a sword unless they practice. They can’t be proficient with their spells unless they actually use them. Every ability is like this. I like the concept, but there’s one problem which I’ll get to later.

-One of those statistics is Agility. It’s a nice addition that the first game didn’t have. This has a huge effect on turn order. This allows a melee fighter to wipe out an enemy right away, or it can allow a healer to get that heal in. Agility can be raised, but the best method I’ve seen is just equipping a shield. Be patient, though.

-I’ve never seen any other game do this, but the inn prices are determined by a formula. It works kind of like a gas station. The more gas needed, to more the driver will pay. It charges a gil per 4 HP to refill plus a gil for every magic point.


-The game has churches in every town to revive fallen heroes. They’re free to use, unlike the first game. That’s all nice, but when the game revives him or her, that person is automatically placed in the back row. This would be merely annoying in any other FF game, but here, it’s frustrating. 90% of the time, it’s going to be a front row attacker dropping. When they move to the back, they don’t do half damage like other FF games. Here, they do zero, as all non-bow back row attacks automatically miss. That makes characters useless if players don’t catch it before going into battle.

-Along the way, there will be times when the party is presented with a series of doors. Players will be presented with any number of doors, but 90% of the doors could be and should be ignored. They’re traps. The party enters a seemingly empty room; however, the encounter rate is jacked up to “Screwed” as nearly every step is a battle. “So what?,” my readers may ask. Well, the game places the party 3 tiles in instead of at the door like in every other room. Getting out almost always requires a battle or two against the toughest enemies in the dungeon. It’s infuriating. Those rooms can and should just be avoided. That’s easier said than done, though. The game likes to make the required doors identical to the traps, so players are going to find the traps while looking for the doors needed for progress. Nothing in the game indicates which is which, so it’s all just guesswork.

So many doors, and only one leads to the next floor.
Ah, the trap rooms. Normally, these are full of encounters, but this was in Deist Castle, so this one is safe.

-As much as I enjoy growing my characters through practicing weapons and spells, the weapons are fine, but the magic happens way too slowly. Spells usually gain two percentage points per casting, so at that rate, it would take 50 castings to level it up. For black magic, that’s slow enough to just say “forget it” and switch to physical attacks. For white magic, Cure is casted often enough that it can keep up with the constant demand, but Esuna (Heal) is nearly impossible to keep high enough. At level 1, it cures Poison and Blind/Dark, but it’s unlikely it will need to be used the 50-100 times needed to level it up. It can’t be used when it’s not needed, so it can’t be cheated, either. It’s an issue because it can eventually heal other ailments. It will happen that someone gets Amnesia and the Esuna spell isn’t leveled up enough, forcing the party to use a Mallet.

-The targeting issue still wasn’t fixed. It’s even worse here because only the first two rows of enemies can be physically attacked. There are a lot of situations were only one or two enemies can be attacked and it will likely lead to wasted turns.

-As I was leaving the Leviathan, I had noticed Maria’s Blood Sword disappeared? What happened to it? Where did it go?

More Screenshots:

Really? Wild Rose? That’s too simple. Why not make up some nonsense words instead? How about Ekmet Teloez?
Welcome to the first of many ice towns in Final Fantasy, Salamand.
In Final Fantasy II, party members can be revived by walking up to these statues. Alternatively, the Life spell can revive, too, if it ever works.
Ok, funny guys. Thanks for wasting my time.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Some FF staples just never get old, like burning Zombies.
I understand, too. It said, “Gauwau. Gau!” He was looking for the guy in FF6.
Josef joins the party and he fights barefisted. Naturally, that’s completely useless against Adamantoises this early.
Ugh. That’s Gordon, who threatens to join us. He sucks.
The Dreadnought is attacking the smaller ship. I guess we need to infiltrate that next.
Hey, look! It’s a Chocobo! Maria took over temporarily because Firion got knocked out.
The undead tend to show up in packs. Luckily, they’re all weak to fire.
Will do. Now get out of here before something bad happens.
Nah, we won’t, but her pirates are pathetic.
Gus! Please help. What is it saying?
So I have to drop a huevo into a spring? Easier said than done.
Ok, this is one of the worst bosses in the game. She can charm people to attack each other, plus she can cast Blink to make herself unhittable.
Leila is a wise woman.
The Behemoth is a straight up melee fighter, the opposite of the Lamia Queen.
It’s like I’m watching Batman.
Putting the Fantasy in Final Fantasy.
Mysidia is a quaint little town.
We’re supposed to throw a mask on top of this statue, but why bother if it doesn’t have a face?
Normally, Square’s graphics are good, but the Tropical Island is just awful. It’s terrible. The patterns and overuse of green are just plain ugly.
All FF players will hate Malboros in short order.
Firion can’t get out of his own way.
What a bunch of R Souls.
Ugh. Where did my Blood Sword disappear to? I never used it! I’m done with this.

Final Opinion: I really enjoy Final Fantasy II, but this version is really rough to play. The lack of autotargeting combined up with the slow pace of battles makes the battles last forever. It’s improved in later versions, but for those looking for an improved experience that stays true to the original, purchase Final Fantasy Origins for the PSX.

Grade: C

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *