Final Fantasy II was the sequel which dared to be different. A shame that it tried a little bit too hard. But, while some of its changes proved unpopular, others remained as staple in the series. Final Fantasy II has guest party members, a large supporting cast, a villain who was larger than life, and a new world. But, it also included the strangest leveling system in the whole series (even stranger than the junction system from VIII).
On paper, the leveling system for Final Fantasy II sounds like a good idea. Your characters would level up their abilities with use. This is similar to how practice works in real life, with a gradual improvement rather than sudden skill gain. However, implementation of the system did not go as smoothly as planned. It was clunky, caused needless amounts of grinding, and even worse it was boring. Players who wanted to max out their skills would find themselves hunting for enemies who could provide a longer battle in order to actually level up. Especially near the end game when most enemies would die in a hit or two. But, speaking of end game, if the player did not grind their levels the final boss would tear them to shreds.
You see not only was The Emperor a pain in the rear. He was also a nightmare. The Emperor wanted to beat you down (the player) as every single step you took towards progress he would eliminate. His job was to make your life miserable and it worked. He is easily one of the most hated characters in the franchise as unlike many enemies after him, he had no excuse for his behavior. He was simply a bastard for no apparent reason. It gets bad enough when you kill him and another character takes over in his stead, but then the Emperor comes back from the dead to further ruin your day.
Final Fantasy II was just a stream of terrible events following one another. At the root of them all was The Emperor, who seemed to prevail at every step of the way. You gained some form of advantage on your last quest? Well, I guess you won’t need this town, and just as quickly there would only be remains on the map. That is the embodiment of Final Fantasy II, if you want a happy ending then it will make you earn it.
Yet, while it didn’t come as a surprise when Square went back to the old leveling system Final Fantasy II left a serious mark on the franchise. It allowed Square to gauge the efforts that players would be willing to put in order to finish a game. Final Fantasy II gave birth to Cid and all of those who would follow after him. The water poisoning scene from FFVI, also originated in this game with The Emperor laying down a similar siege. Towns being eradicated and a world which changes as the story progresses were also born in Final Fantasy II.
While it might not be the best Final Fantasy game, it was certainly impactful. Final Fantasy II deserves a playthrough (at least once), even if it’s just to appreciate what we have these days (except XIII that one sucks).
In this game the poison skills and other magic attacks which cause instant death are actually very useful!