Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Final Fantasy II

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Final Fantasy II (ファイナルファンタジーII Fainaru Fantajī Tsū?) is a fantasy role-playing video game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) in 1988 for the Family Computer as the second installment of the Final Fantasy series. The game has received numerous enhanced remakes for the WonderSwan Color, the Sony PlayStation, Japanese mobile phones, the Game Boy Advance, and the PlayStation Portable. Only the PlayStation, Game Boy, and PlayStation Portable versions have been released outside of Japan. As neither this game nor Final Fantasy III had been released outside of Japan, Final Fantasy IV was originally released in North America as Final Fantasy II, so as not to confuse players. The most recent release of the game is a release of the enhanced version of the game for the iOS worldwide on February 25, 2010.

The game's story centers on four youths whose parents were killed during an army invasion by the empire of Palamecia. Three of the four main characters join a rebellion against the empire, embarking on missions to gain new magic and weapons, destroy enemy superweapons, and rescue leading members of the resistance. After defeating the empire and the Emperor, the trio discovers that the fourth youth, now a dark knight, has taken the place of the previous emperor and is preparing to attack the rebellion. Upon confronting him, the Emperor reappears as a demon and prepares to attempt to destroy the world; the four characters agree to join forces to defeat him. They proceed to do so in his demonic castle. The Game Boy Advance remake adds a bonus story after the game is completed, following several side characters who died during the game as they attempt to defeat an alternate version of the Emperor.

Final Fantasy II introduced many elements that would later become staples of the Final Fantasy franchise, including chocobos and the recurring character Cid. It also eliminated the traditional experience point leveling system of the prior and later games in the series, instead introducing an activity-based progression system where the characters' statistics increase according to how they are used or acquired. Despite being a sequel to Final Fantasy, the game includes no characters or locations from the first game. Final Fantasy II received little attention at the time from non-Japanese reviewers, though its remakes have garnered favorable reviews.


Gameplay

Final Fantasy II features gameplay similar to that of its predecessor, Final Fantasy. The player can freely roam an overworld containing several towns and dungeons. A menu-based system allows the player to outfit each character with equipment and up to two—often disposable—items for battle. Magic spells are assigned to the character from the item menu, and certain spells, such as "Cure", can be used outside of battle. The player can also save their progress on the overworld. Weapons, armor, items, and magic spells can be purchased at shops, and townspeople provide useful information for the player's progression through the game. One new feature is the "Word Memory" system: when in conversation with non-player characters (NPCs), the player can "ask" about and "memorize" special keywords or phrases, which can later be repeated to other NPCs to gain more information or unlock new actions. Similarly, there exist a handful of special items that can be shown to NPCs during conversation or used on certain objects, which have the same effect. Characters and monsters are no longer separated into separate windows in the battle screen as they were in Final Fantasy I, and players can see their current and total hit points below the battle. Players can also fight with less than four characters in their party, which was not possible in the first game. Final Fantasy II introduced the chocobo, the signature Final Fantasy mascot, which lets characters ride to a location at great speed without being attacked by enemies. The recurring character Cid was also introduced in II; a character of the same name has appeared in every main-series game since.

On the overworld and within dungeons, random encounters with enemies can be fought to improve each character's attributes. Unlike the original Final Fantasy, players could not upgrade their characters' classes. The game is also one of the few games in the series to not use experience-based levels. Instead, each character participating in battle develops depending on what actions they take. For instance, characters who use a particular type of weapon frequently will become more adept at wielding a weapon of that type, and will also increase in physical strength and accuracy. Attributes include hit points, magic points, magic power, stamina, strength, spirit, agility, intelligence, and evasion. Players can also increase their ability to wield certain types of weapon, and repeated use in combat causes the ability to level up. Hit points (HP) and magic points (MP) increase with their use; a character who takes a heavy amount of damage in a battle might earn an increase in maximum HP, while a character who uses a lot of MP during battle might increase their maximum MP. This experience system had several unintended consequences that allowed characters to gain much more experience than intended, such as players having their characters attack each other and repeatedly cast spells, thus causing their HP and abilities to grow extensively. Final Fantasy II uses the same turn-based battle system seen in the original Final Fantasy, with battle parties consisting of up to four characters at a time. The game introduces a "back row" in battle, within which characters or enemies are immune to most physical attacks, but can be harmed with bows and magical attacks.


Plot

Characters

Final Fantasy II features four playable characters as well as several secondary characters who are only briefly controlled by the player. Primary characters include Firion (Frioniel in the Japanese release), a resident of the country of Fynn; Maria, a soft-spoken archer and dedicated enemy of the Empire; Guy (Gus in the remake for the PlayStation), a simple monk who communicates with animals; and Leon (Leonhart in the Japanese release), a conflicted dark knight who is missing for most of the game. Five playable characters temporarily join the party to assist Firion, Maria, and Guy in their missions for the rebellion. These are Gordon, the prince of Kas'ion and a member of the rebellion; Josef, a villager in the town of Salamand; Leila, a pirate; Minwu (Mindu in the PlayStation remake), who is a white mage with the rebellion, and Ricard Highwind (Gareth in the remake, but Ricard again in the later Dawn of Souls remake), who is the first dragoon to appear in the series.

While Final Fantasy was mostly focused on gameplay, Hironobu Sakaguchi decided for the second installment to put more emphasis on character development. Care was taken to make the characters feel like real human beings, able to experience various emotions that the player could similarly feel, such as sadness or happiness. Final Fantasy II also had playable characters die as part of the normal storyline. Music composer Nobuo Uematsu was initially opposed to the creation of these death scenes, but eventually agreed with Sakaguchi's ideas. In terms of gameplay, once a guest character would die in a scripted event, the player would have no means to revive them or recover their equipment and weapons.

Firion and Mateus (the Emperor of Palamecia) are the respective hero and villain representing Final Fantasy II in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, a fighting game featuring characters from across the series. Firion is voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa in the Japanese version and by Johnny Yong Bosch in the English version; Mateus is voiced by Kenyuu Horiuchi in the Japanese version and Christopher Corey Smith in the English version. In the PlayStation's opening FMV of Final Fantasy II, Firion is also voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa, while Maria is played by Noriko Shitaya, Guy by Kenta Miyake, and Leon by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Final Fantasy II features an airship pilot named Cid; each Final Fantasy game in the series after II features a character named Cid as well.


Story

Final Fantasy II begins as Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon are attacked by Palamecian soldiers and left for dead. Firion, Maria, and Guy are rescued by Princess Hilda, who has established a rebel base in the town of Altair after her kingdom of Fynn was invaded by the Emperor. Hilda denies their request to join the rebel army because they are too young and inexperienced. The three set off for Fynn in search of Leon; there they find a dying Prince Scott of Kashuan, Hilda's fiancé, who informs them that a former knight of Fynn, Borghen, betrayed the rebellion and became a General in the Imperial army. The party returns to Altair to inform Hilda. She allows the group to join the rebellion and asks them to journey north to find mythril, a metal which could be used to create powerful weapons. The party makes its way north to the occupied village of Salamand, saves the villagers forced to work in the nearby mines, and retrieves the mythril.

For their next mission, The party is sent to the city of Bafsk to prevent the construction of a large airship known as the Dreadnought; however, it takes off just as they arrive. After retrieving the Sunfire, a weapon which can blow up the Dreadnought, they watch helplessly as an airship with Hilda on board is captured by the Dreadnought. When the Dreadnought is put down to stock up on supplies, the party rescues Hilda and throws the Sunfire into the airship's engine. Before escaping from the explosion, the party encounters a dark knight whom Maria recognizes as Leon.

On his deathbed, the King of Fynn tasks the party to seek the help of the seemingly extinct dragoons of Deist. In Deist, the party finds only a mother with her son, learning that all but one of the Dragoons are dead, partly as a result of Imperial poison. After placing an egg of the last wyvern in a cavern, the party returns to Altair and rescues Hilda from the Empire a second time, before successfully reclaiming Fynn from the Imperial forces. They then travel west in search of a powerful magic item, joining forces with the last surviving dragoon on the way. The party returns to Fynn and sees that many towns have been destroyed by a cyclone summoned by the Emperor. The party calls upon the newly born last wyvern to take them to a castle inside the cyclone, where they confront and kill the Emperor. Back at Fynn, everyone celebrates the Empire's defeat, but a mortally wounded Fynn soldier arrives and reveals that Leon has taken the throne and plans to destroy the Rebels with the Imperial army.

The party enters the castle of Palamecia and confronts Leon. However, the Emperor reappears in the throne room in a new demonic form, revealing he returned from Hell with the intention of destroying the entire world and its inhabitants. The party and Leon escape Palamecia Castle with the wyvern, while the place crumbles and is replaced with the palace of Hell, Pandaemonium. Leon agrees to help the group seal the Emperor away. The party travels to the Jade Passage, an underground passage to the underworld, and finds the portal to Pandaemonium, where they finally defeat the Emperor.

The Dawn of Souls remake of the game for the Game Boy Advance includes an additional mission that takes place after the game, called "Soul of Rebirth". The story of the bonus mission follows several characters who died during the story of the game as they travel through alternate versions of several locations in the game and defeat another version of the Emperor.


Development

During the development of the first installment in the series, Square's management decided to manufacture 400,000 copies of the game to make a sequel possible. As there were no concrete ideas for Final Fantasy II from the start, it was eventually taken in a new direction and included none of the previous game's characters or locations. Hironobu Sakaguchi, who had previously served as the main planner for Final Fantasy, assumed the role of director to accommodate for the larger development team. Using the experience gained from the first installment, which focused more on fitting story ideas into their new gameplay system and game world, the developers fully crafted the story of Final Fantasy II first. The gameplay was then built around the narrative. The experience system was designed to be a more realistic advancement system than that of the first game. Several members of the original staff from the first game reprised their jobs for Final Fantasy II. Sakaguchi again created the plot for the title, with the actual scenario written by Kenji Terada. Nobuo Uematsu composed the music, as he had for the first game, while Yoshitaka Amano was again the concept artist. As with the original, Final Fantasy II was programmed by Nasir Gebelli. The game was released one day less than a year after the first game came out.

The music for Final Fantasy II was later arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito for the WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance remakes. Although the two soundtracks were composed separately, the soundtrack to II has only been released as a combined album with the soundtrack to Final Fantasy I. They were first released as All Sounds of Final Fantasy I•II in 1989, which was then republished in 1994. An arranged album of music from the two soundtracks titled Symphonic Suite Final Fantasy was also released in 1989, while Final Fantasy & Final Fantasy II Original Soundtrack, a combined soundtrack album for the PlayStation versions of the games, was released in 2002 and re-released in 2004. The music of Final Fantasy II has also appeared in various official concerts and live albums, such as 20020220 music from FINAL FANTASY, a live recording of an orchestra performing music from the series including several pieces from the games. Additionally, several songs from the game were performed as part of a medley by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra for the Distant Worlds - Music from Final Fantasy concert tour, while a different medley of songs from the game were performed by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in the Tour de Japon: Music from Final Fantasy concert series.

In April 1989, the game was novelized by its original scenario writer Kenji Terada under the title Final Fantasy II: Muma no Meikyū (lit. "The Labyrinth of Nightmares"). It was published in Japan exclusively by Kadokawa Shoten.


Unreleased English version

Following the successful release of the original Final Fantasy by Nintendo in 1990, Square Soft, Square's North American subsidiary, began work on an English language localization of Final Fantasy II. It was to be called Final Fantasy II: Dark Shadow Over Palakia. Assigned to the project was Kaoru Moriyama, whose later work included script translations for Final Fantasy IV and Secret of Mana (known as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan). Although a beta version was produced, and the game was advertised in several Square Soft trade publications, the long development time, the age of the original Japanese game and the arrival of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES's successor console, led Square Soft to cancel work on the Final Fantasy II localization in favor of the recently released Final Fantasy IV (which, to avoid confusing North American players, was retitled Final Fantasy II to reflect the jump in releases).

Although a prototype cartridge of the NES Final Fantasy II was produced (with the subtitle Dark Shadow over Palakia), the project was, by Moriyama's own admission, still far from complete. He said that "We had so very limited memory capacity we could use for each game, and it was never really "translating" but chopping up the information and cramming them back in... [Additionally] our boss had no understanding in putting in extra work for the English version at that time". In 2003, when the game was finally released to English-speaking audiences as part of Final Fantasy Origins, it was released with a brand new translation under the supervision of Akira Kashiwagi. A fan translation of the game was also created prior to the release of Origins, and makes use of an original translation as the existence of the prototype cartridge was not common knowledge at the time.


Re-releases

In addition to its original Famicom release, Final Fantasy II has been re-released as a compilation package with Final Fantasy I titled Final Fantasy I•II on the Famicom in 1994, on the WonderSwan Color by itself in 2001, and both singularly and as part of a collection with Final Fantasy I for the PlayStation in 2002. It was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as part of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, for mobile phones in 2004 and 2006 by itself, and on the PlayStation Portable in 2007. Its most recent release has been for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console on June 16, 2009.

The Final Fantasy I•II collection included the original game with only minor changes. The WonderSwan Color remake of the game was first released on May 3, 2001, and later included as a bundle with a special Final Fantasy II edition of the console. It included completely redone graphics in the manner of the 16-bit generation Final Fantasy games and includes larger character sprites, redone music by Tsuyoshi Sekito, and full graphical backgrounds in battle mode. The PlayStation version featured even more graphical updates over the WonderSwan version, and the soundtrack was again remixed by Tsuyoshi Sekito to a higher quality to use the audio capabilities of the PlayStation and composed a few new tracks to be used in the new cutscenes. It was published both individually (in Japan only) and alongside Final Fantasy I in a collection entitled Final Fantasy Origins (or Final Fantasy I+II Premium Collection in Japan); this was the first release of the game outside of Japan.

Final Fantasy II was again released in a new format in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance as part of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. The primary change for this version was the addition of a bonus storyline entitled Soul of Rebirth accessible to the player after completing the game. In 2004 and 2006, Square Enix released a version of Final Fantasy II for three Japanese mobile phone networks. To celebrate the Final Fantasy series' 20th anniversary, the game was released in Japan for the PlayStation Portable in 2007. The remake features improved graphics, the cutscenes and soundtrack from Final Fantasy Origins, and the bonus quest and dungeons from Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. It additionally includes two new dungeons in which more character-specific equipment can be found, alongside powerful enemies and a new boss. The release for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console on June 16, 2009 is the most recent release; this version is identical to the original Famicom release, incorporating none of the updates of the later versions. On February 25, 2010, Square Enix released a port of the PSP version modified with touchscreen controls for the iOS platform.

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