Sunday, March 21, 2010

Final Fantasy II

Several years ago, while pretending to listen to a lecture on software systems analysis and design, I with my trusty Gameboy Advance in hand bested the final boss of Final Fantasy I. I immediately started playing Final Fantasy II, and this turned out to be a grave mistake in two respects.

My first error in judgment was the decision to disregard my professor’s lecture. Perhaps if I would have been paying more attention, I might have grasped some key pieces of his knowledge that would have unlocked my success as a software development, thus preventing my catastrophic failure in the field.

Self deprecation aside, the second mistake that I made was jumping right into one hardcore JRPG right after finishing another. Running high off of my previous victory, I started burning through the main points of Final Fantasy II without taking time to familiarize myself with the intricacies of game, which is vastly different than its predecessor. By the time I reached the Dreadnaught, my team was greatly underpowered, and they were decimated by powerful enemies. Having no way of escaping the area with any party members intact, I stopped playing.

After a respite of nearly 3 years, I played the PSP remake of the game and have come to the conclusion that Final Fantasy II is the first good entry in the Final Fantasy series. Its strengths begin with characters that have some kind of personality and end with mechanics that depart from the norm held by its contemporaries (specifically Final Fantasy I and the 3 Dragon Quest games that had been released by late 1988). The idea is that the more you use a particular weapon or ability, the more skilled you become in its use, as opposed to gaining a level and receiving a predefined boost in stats. The result is a charming—although easily exploitable—approach to character advancement, the nuances of which I had failed to grasp in my earlier attempt to play the game.

This time, the mechanics clicked with me, and I spent close to 30 hours overthrowing the evil Palamecian Empire: a quest that is more persuasively constructed than the crystal quest of Final Fantasy I. And while several fantastic RPGs have been released since then, Final Fantasy II is still very unique and merits a visit if for no other reason than to explore the ancestry of the Final Fantasy series.

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