Current Status : Main Game and Soul of Rebirth complete. Will touch on bonus dungeons down the road if I get the time.
Clear Time – Main Game : 29:38 Soul of Rebirth : 09:09
Review table of contents :
- Part 1 – Covers the main campaign
- Part 2 – Soul of Rebirth
- Part 3 – The Wrap-Up (for you impatient readers)
Part 1 : Final Fantasy II’s Main Quest
Ah, Final Fantasy II, considered one of the bastard children of the series. Before I get to the game proper, it must be mentioned that a good portion of the time between the 15 and 27 or 28 hour mark was spent grinding spells and getting the party to reasonable stats for the run through the final dungeons… while it’s possible to spam cure on the field (poisoned characters required to abuse) everything else had to be upgraded in battle…. I stopped after getting Firion’s Ultima to level 10 and Maria’s Flare to 10.
Thankfully, spell grinding isn’t entirely bad (at the higher levels). Since you can set commands to memory in the psp version, it becomes a simple matter of holding down the X button with something heavy and going on to do personal business such as using the bathroom, sending a text message, taking some hot potato skins out of the oven… grinding here rocks because it doesn’t tie you to the screen/controller. The only issue is that spells can only level up once in a given fight, so at a certain point, no spell xp is awarded.
I can break down my playthrough into two segments : The Naked half and the Clothed half.
The logic behind the naked half is as follows : until you start getting high end weapons, unarmed fighting has a ridiculous advantage the more you level it up in the early stages. Stats such as agility and evasion are dependent on the weight of the armor you have equipped meaning the less you have on, the faster those stats raise, and since you’re gonna have shit for defense a large portion of the game, it’s best to balance it with one hell of an offense. In the naked half, magic was next to worthless, as my fists would do much more damage than my spells could hope to achieve.
Admittedly, I could have been considered over-leveled for the naked half, but it was not my fault! The game has a serious problem telling you where exactly you’re supposed to be going, and on a few occasions I would make a lengthy trek fighting tougher enemies only to find out I went the wrong way and have to go all the way back. What’s worse, there was an occasion I was running around a desert fighting slightly stronger than me chimera monsters, only to be forced to turn back and do a dungeon where –surprise- those same desert monsters were the boss fight.
One big complaint is that the battles in dungeons felt lopsided most of the game. You have most of the fights against weaker monsters, but would sometimes come across an encounter against an enemy that would just slaughter you. It kept me from becoming cocky mid-dungeon, that’s for sure. The game also has it out for curing status effects : one guy leaves my party with the blind status on him, hours later he returns to the party only to still be blind!
Final Fantasy II is not very good at surprises either. Upon starting a new game, you name the four characters who are your endgame team. Since you spend 90% of the game with everybody but the final member, you already know the fourth slot is for temporary characters. A couple of them die, and it was honestly hard to be either shocked or saddened when the time came. The way they handled the death scenes was also radically different : their body would blink and disappear, a small 4 or 5 second jingle would play while the characters have their head down, the music cuts short and they go back to finishing the dungeon.
Thankfully the characters that meet a cruel fate return for Soul of Rebirth which shifts focus to these under-appreciated heroes. I haven’t started it yet, but that’s what a review in progress is meant for, this entry will be updated when the time comes.
The fully equipped half of the game began toward the end, around when you scale the Tower of Mysidia to gain the Ultima tome. At this point, unarmed fighting began to quickly lose steam to the new weapons available. Also, the damage dealt by regular enemies made it mandatory to finally stop seeking evasion/agility points and just stack on my best armor. With Hi-Potions becoming all but useless, it was now time to grind cure levels, ultima levels and flare levels (but mostly jacking up the maximum mp for each character which was lagging behind the large hp levels). This half was less about actual progress, but since I would have other things running on the side while grinding, it wasn’t all that painful.
The final part of the game : the Jade Passage and Pandaemonium : two large dungeons in a row is where the difficulty really spikes and the game actually becomes exciting. I had to do the two dungeons three or four times : Once or twice exploring and clearing out the Jade Passage and trying to survive to Pandaemonium and the second two times exploring and finishing the castle. The thing is that it felt like a struggle just to reach the final boss, not to say much about beating the boss itself.
The final boss is an asshole and took me a few tries. Leon and Guy did barely any damage, so they became support. Firion as my knife user was also pretty worthless in the melee department, which left Maria equipped with both Excalibur and Masamune as my sole heavy hitter. The strategy I used to beat him involved berserking and hasting Maria. The boss has a melee attack that heals more than Maria dished out, but uses it at random, so he didn’t go down until he stopped using his melee attack for a long enough period to get knocked out finally. Took a while to get the strategy right, but he went down…
The ending was nothing special. The usual Wooooo! Time to Rebuild sort.
In the end, Final Fantasy II’s main game is a mixed bag. Depending on your tolerance for the lopsided fights, lack of direction, bosses that go down in two or three turns until the final act and their love for throwing in a cheap fight to end your winning streak, you’re either going to enjoy it or hate it. Me, I’m tolerant enough, and staying up til 4 plowing through Pandaemonium was a fun experience – I liked it.
Aside from the previously mentioned complaints, the game has one hell of a soundtrack, some of my favorite in the series looking back. The battle tracks are amazing, Pandaemonium’s theme was climactic and even the world map and towns have some emotion to them. They also did a good job capturing the dark atmosphere of the game, and the anniversary edition had a sweet polish to the artwork. The sprites looked nice, the dungeons as varied as they could be. The story isn’t special, but the atmosphere works.
I plan to begin Soul of Rebirth soon. FF2 was no masterpiece, but I want to see how the adventures go when the underdogs of the main game are put together. I wasn’t emotionally attached to them knowing something was gonna happen, but now that they get the spotlight, I can invest more into them. See you around when I finally get to playing it!
Part 2 : Soul of Rebirth
Well I’m glad I loved the Jade Passage and Pandaemonium so much from the main game – Soul of Rebirth takes place in the same two dungeons mirrored!
Were you an asshole like me, letting your temporary characters stay dead most of their time spent in your party because they couldn’t carry their own weight and you knew they would be out of the picture soon anyways? Get ready for a rough start!
The stats of the secondary characters carry over to Soul of Rebirth, and you start out with only the weakest two characters since one is like the very first temporary and the second is the first story character in the game to die (you actually didn’t get to play as him in the main game). Translating to overall shitty stats from the very beginning in my case.
Since you have to traverse the entire reversed Jade Passage before finding any kind of respite, I had a small mental flowchart going on : Save, Start random encounter – if the fight was unbeatable, soft reset and load, if it was beatable finish it, save and continue the process. Eventually I had a full party, and some breathing space, but the beginning was really an uphill battle.
Separating the two dungeons this time is a small town, Machanon, where many of the villagers and some npcs who die during the main game build a home. This serves as the sole town of the quest and gives easy access to both Jade and Reverse-Pandaemonium (and a third place that only has an optional boss fight, the ultima tome and some stat boosts)
That said, there is a huge gap in the difficulty of fights in both areas and grinding is a requirement – except you only have one real place to fight and gain levels. My first gripe is just that : if you have to grind anyway, why didn’t they just put mirror versions of other dungeons that you could warp to just to keep things fresh? Instead I fought the same giant with high attack power who has a tendency to ambush the party, asshole slime things that drain mp while attacking, and a bunch of crap not worth mentioning.
In terms of leveling strategy, I gave the same treatment as the main quest : the Naked part and the Well Equipped Part.
My characters began with shit for agility, which goes up by taking hits and is hindered by wearing armor with weight. HP goes up by taking hits as well as stamina and sometimes evasion. Like before, being naked increases chances of getting hit, HP loss when getting hit and rate of getting the vital stats that keep your guys healthy.
Unlike the main quest however, the Ultima spell really showed its true colors. By the end it was hitting for over 4000 compared to the < 1500’s from conventional attacks. It made boss fights (including the final battle) easier than it should have been. Instead of three characters on offense with one on support, I had three support with one offense… match went no longer than five turns.
For the experience, there’s barely any story going on, where you find out where you were sent to, why, fight a boss and then watch the first ending over again with commentary from the crew who are now watching over Firion and the crew. Disappointing, for all that work.
Part 3 : The Wrap-Up
The story can be bland at times and they frequently have a hard time telling you what the hell you’re supposed to be doing. A gamer looking for a story as vivid as a great novel should look elsewhere.
I played the PSP Anniversary version, meaning that the visuals were remastered. As you might be aware, there are two directions that remaking the old games in the series have been going that I will refer to as the PSP and DS styles. The PSP remakes are more along the line of the originals, with more vivid imagery and a sharper design which I like a lot more than the models in the DS remakes.
The music is not very different than the PS1 and GBA remakes of FF1 and 2, which isn’t so bad, I loved how they treated the music in the remakes. Final Fantasy 2 in particular has some of the best battle themes in the series along with some really good world map and town music. Pandaemonium’s theme also does an excellent job establishing the climax.
Lastly in terms of enjoyment and replay value… I don’t see myself replaying anytime soon, but the incentive is there. With the way stats are obtained, there are a vast amount of different ways the game can be played and characters can be treated. The variety is there, just wish Soul of Rebirth had substance to it.
If you like the idea of killing a lot of enemies to gradually raise stats, give it a shot! There certainly is no shortage of battles in this title.