Final Fantasy 2 took a lot of risks, that much is clear. For a game released in 1988, it had a lot of ideas that even today aren’t used often. The most obvious of which is that it is a skill-based game, not a level-based game.
As a general rule, I prefer skill-based for my Video Game RPGs. I feel it is more natural and offers some variations that level based can’t really touch. I was pretty excited by the idea of a skill-based Final Fantasy, however, the implementation is rough to say the least. So if you aren’t familiar with the base idea… if you use it, you get better at what you use. I only played the game a little bit (more on that later), but for the most part it seems ok. You don’t get like a point for each use, instead, I believe you get a greater chance of getting a point for each use. So as an example, using made up numbers, if you use a sword once in a fight you have a 5% chance of gaining a skillpoint. If you use a sword 5 times you have a 25% chance of gaining a skill point. 100 skill points and you get a level in the skill. And obviously as you level up a skill it gets increasingly more difficult to get skill points. The system is OK. the percentage chance means there are a lot of fights that you don’t get points for even if you use a skill… I find this weird. Each weapon type and spell is considered its own skill. In addition, HP and MP are use based as well… only way to get a higher max HP is to keep getting hit. But again it is percentage based on how much HP vs your max HP got hit. Even if you use most your HP in a fight… you aren’t guaranteed to gain more max HP.
The system is a bit grindy, this not abnormal for JRPGs, or even CRPGs, so is not a huge deal. The problem comes in the most natural way to grind… which is to attack yourself. I spent a couple hours in the newbie area just doing nothing but entering fights and attacking my friends. And each fight took an extreme amount of time. It was a really boring experience. I like the idea though. I have heard that Final Fantasy X returned to a skill based system and I would like to try it at some point to see if they fixed some of the flaws from 2.
Final Fantasy 2 had a number of innovations for the series that would follow it on to today. Chocobos and the Chocobo forest were added, and really this was one of the first true unique beings within the Final Fantasy Universe. They also introduced a rotating cast of characters. You start the game with 4 characters to name, 1 of which doesn’t play with you for much of the early game. This was really unique. They basically set the stage for you to know from the get go that they were doing things differently here, much like in Final Fantasy 1 how saving the princess was only the beginning. Even worse, they chose the second character you named as the one to get rid of from the get go… well this was odd as I named my characters 0,1,2, and 3 because it was a Japanese game and I didn’t read Japanese and I wanted to be able to recognize my character names somewhat. Well my game went into 0, 2, 3 as my character names! Not a big deal, but kind of funny.
You then would have new party members coming and going throughout the story as required by the story which was interesting and something they obviously decided to keep doing in future games of the series. The problem in this particular series is that many of the characters had no starting experience in any of their skills so you almost dreaded a new character being added because you would need to grind that character or just leave him be useless. Another weird thing is there was a glitch that counted each selection of an item/enemy as a use in the above system. So you would select a character to fight, back out over and over to gain extra uses in a fight. This didn’t work for the last character in the party (selecting him to fight would start the fighting round!), so grinding the last character in the party was a chore. All the new characters that got added were always the last character in your party, and unlike Final Fantasy 1, you had no ability to move people around. Oh well.
You did have the ability to move characters from the front row to the back. This is another feature that kind of continues in the series. This one in particular was more difficult though. If you put someone in the back row, it was a double edged sword. Enemies couldn’t touch them without magic or ranged weapons… but neither could you touch enemies. (And enemies had rows as well!) Was a cool feature, not a ton bad especially in a use based system. I could see this sort of restriction being a bigger deal if your person in the back row had no ranged weapons.
So as I previously stated, I was playing the japanese version of the game so I couldn’t really understand what was going on without reading guides. And so I had to trust what they told me to do and use. I can sort of read Japanese letters, but I don’t often know what the words mean. At some point the game I was supposed to take an item and throw it into an airship engine to make the airship explode… except the item the guide I was following told me to use didn’t work. I can only imagine that I either read it wrong or the guide gave it to me wrong. I looked up the word in other guides and it was spelled differently in the one other guide I could find. And I figure I must have accidentally deleted the item while trying to clean out my inventory earlier in the game. This sucked. I had no way of figuring out what exactly I was missing or if I actually missed picking up the item in the first place (which I don’t think i did).
My choice was simple. Restart or end it. The thought of going through hours of really boring grinding did not sound great so I decided to end it. So my end story that I cam up with for my adventure is this…
My friends and I lived in a small town that started being attacked by the imperial army with t heir giant flying warship. They began attacking all the neighboring towns as well. So we underwent a mission in which we snuck onto their airship, started throwing random shit into the engine in hopes of it blowing up. After this failed, we shrugged our shoulders and swore our fealty to the empire!
Hopefully Final Fantasy 3 works out better!