Archives by Day

Final Fantasy II

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: July 28, 2021


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Final Fantasy II: Pixel Remaster'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 4, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

The original Final Fantasy II comes to life with completely new graphics and audio! A remodeled 2D take on the second game in the world-renowned Final Fantasy series! Enjoy the timeless story told through charming retro graphics.

Final Fantasy II: Pixel Remaster follows the story of Firon, a youth from the country of Fynn, which was invaded by the evil Palamecian Empire. When Firon's village was razed, he and his friends, Maria and Guy, are the only survivors. Homeless and with a burning need for revenge, they seek to join the rebel forces that are battling against the Empire. Along the way, they'll discover that the Palamecian Empire's evil rampage isn't just about a lust for land and power, and there are others who've lost just as much as they have.

Perhaps the most distinctive thing about Final Fantasy II is that it is the first game to have a defined cast of characters. It's the earliest game in the franchise to show heavily character- and story-focused adventures. While the characters are simplistic, they still make the game rather engaging. You get a large cast of characters, but they are likeable enough that you feel it when something bad happens.

FF2PR's core combat system is fairly similar to the one in the first game. You get into battles, choose options, drop enemy HP to zero to win, etc. Perhaps the most distinctive thing that the game does to change up things is replace the spell slots with the MP system that you'll see more of in the rest of the franchise. This makes spells more viable, especially weird utility spells like Toad, instead of saving up for the optimal spell in every situation. It's still bare-bones, but it does its job well enough to be fun.

The weird thing about FF2PR is how it handles leveling up. Rather than the common "gain experience and get bigger stats" approach, it uses something more comparable to Skyrim. You gain stats as you do things, getting hit nets you HP, casting spells gives you MP, casting specific White or Black magic gives you Spirit or Intelligence (respectively), Agility goes up if you're not wearing heavy armor, and so on. Rather than selecting and finishing a job, you need to carefully consider how you want to build. Your options are to grind a ton or use exploits (e.g., lowering your HP to gain Vitality).

I'm so torn on this system. On the one hand, I enjoy the flexibility it gives and how it reflects a player's choices. On the other hand, it feels murky and awkward. The formulas that determine stat gains appear to have been changed, so it's easier to gain stats, but it still isn't something that feels particularly naturally, especially if you're a Final Fantasy fan coming to it from pretty much any other game in the franchise. I could see it becoming something more well-rounded if it had stuck around, but this early experimentation isn't as fun as what comes later in the franchise.

The rest of the game involves exploring the towns and dungeons, which is the standard for the early offerings in the series. The more involved story offers some fun options, such as collecting special keywords through conversation that you can use to advance the plot. It also means that FF2PR feels the most like later SNES-era games in terms of exploration and pacing, even if the mechanics are particularly distinct.

Like the other games in the Pixel Remaster series, Final Fantasy II has seen some updates and rebalancing. The UI updates include a very welcome minimap, and an auto-battle feature that repeat the last action taken. (If you intend to grind up stats, this is pretty great to have.) The game has been rebalanced to make it feel less "grindy." Stats seem more reliable and to come more quickly, which generally means that you'll be fine with stats as you progress rather than needing to grind up for certain enemies.

Unfortunately, FF2PR suffers from the same core problem as Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster: The game has been re-released a lot, and unfortunately, Pixel Remaster is not the best version of the game. The GBA version had an entire side-story with its own distinct characters, who are now entirely absent, as are the additional dungeons from the PSP iteration of the game. Pixel Remaster isn't a one-for-one adaptation of the NES version, but it is close enough to be disappointing. When you have years upon years of updated versions to use, it's a huge disappointment to not see the content carried over.

Final Fantasy II's visual upgrades are interesting. In the original game, the characters basically recycled sprites from the first Final Fantasy title, with Firon looking like the Warrior with shoulder pads. FF2PR gives each character a distinctive look based on their original Yoshitaka Amano artwork. It looks a bit weird at first, but it makes the characters look a lot more distinctive. I also think the updated sprites look much better than the Game Boy Advance's attempt at the same thing, though it's not as good as the PSP version. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy II carries over the original Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster's terrible font. There are already fan fixes online, but the current font is a bafflingly bad choice. Thankfully, Final Fantasy II also carries over the new and improved soundtrack, and much like the first Pixel Remaster, it really is excellent.

Final Fantasy II is probably the first weird experimental game in the franchise. This can be both good, such as the more involved plots and characters, but it can also be bad, such as the weird halfway-there leveling system that comes close to being something special but misses the mark. Final Fantasy II: Pixel Remaster is a basic rerelease of the game that's difficult to recommend unless you don't have any other version available. It looks nice and sounds great, but the loss of optional content really stands out.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Final Fantasy II
blog comments powered by Disqus