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Final Fantasy II (ファイナルファンタジーII Fainaru Fantajī Tsū?) is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) in 1988 for the Famicom as a part of the Final Fantasy series. The game was only released on this system in Japan, although enhanced remakes for the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance were released in North America and the PAL region. Other remakes were released on the WonderSwan Color and mobile phones. The most recent remake was for the PlayStation Portable in 2007.

The game's story centers on three youths whose parents were killed during an army invasion. The invasion leader, an emperor, pursues world control using monsters and demons. The youths join a resistance to end the emperor's war.

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, and introduced a system where the characters' statistics increase according to how they are used or acquired.

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 disposable items for battle.[1] Magic spells are assigned to the character from the item menu, and certain spells, such as "Cure", can be used outside of battle.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[3] Characters and monsters were no longer separated into separate windows, and players could see their current and total hit points.[2] For the first time, players could fight with less than four characters in their party. Final Fantasy II introduced the chocobo, the signature Final Fantasy character, who would let characters ride to a location at great speed without enemy attack. The recurring character Cid was also introduced, and as usual helped players gain access to air ships.[2]

The ill-fated opening battle in the Famicom version

On the overworld and within dungeons, random encounters with enemies can be fought to improve each character's attributes.[4] Unlike the original Final Fantasy, players could not upgrade their characters jobs.[2]

Attributes include hit points, magic points, magic power, stamina, strength, spirit, agility, intelligence, and evasion.[2] Players could also increase their ability to wield certain types of weapon, and repeated use in combat would cause leveling up.[2] Final Fantasy II uses the same turn-based battle system seen in the original Final Fantasy, with battle parties consisting of four characters at a time. Three of these characters are always present, but the fourth position rotates among several characters throughout the game. The game introduces a "back row" in battle, within which characters are immune to most physical attacks, but can be harmed with bows and magical attacks. Likewise, enemies can be arranged in up to four rows of two creatures. Only the two rows closest to the player's party can be damaged with physical attacks, and by eliminating these rows the player can then physically damage back rows of enemies.

The game is one of the few games in the series to not use experience-based levels.[2] 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.[2] However, trade-offs do occur in this type of development; that character's intelligence (magic power) may decrease with their overuse of physical attacks.[4] Characters who frequently cast a particular magic spell will learn more potent versions of it, while increasing and decreasing their intelligence and strength ratings respectively, forcing players to choose which strength to build.[4][2] Hit points and magic points increase depending on need; a character who ends a battle with only a small amount of health remaining might earn an increase in maximum hit points, and a character who uses the majority of their magic points during a single battle might increase their maximum magic points.[4] This experience system had several unintended consequences that allowed characters to gain much more experience than intended, such as cancelled character boosting commands still activating, and players having their characters attack each other and winning battles at very low life levels, thus causing their hit points to grow massively.



 Plot

Setting

The game features a series of cities and landscapes that set the stage for a battle between the resistance movement and the Empire of Palemecia. The resistance was born in the kingdom of Fynn, far away from Palemecia. South of Fynn are the towns of Altair and Gatrea, the former being the base of the resistance movement as of the start of the game. To the east is the magical town of Mysidia, and to the west are a series of small waterside villages, including Paloom and Poft. To the north are the mountain towns of Salamand and Bafsk; the former is an outpost for rebel activity, and the latter is an Imperial work colony building the Dreadnought airship. Several islands, including the dragon-infested, Imperial purged island of Deist, and the land featuring the large Mysidia Tower, dot the oceans. The Imperial capital of Palemecia and its ultimate headquarters, Castle Pandemonium, round out the regions.

 Characters

Yoxaka Amano's artwork of the main characters Leon, Firion, Maria, and Guy

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 humble resident of the country of Fynn and one of the top commanders of the Rebels; 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 the missing friend of Firion and brother of Maria.[2][5]

Five playable characters temporarily join the party to assist Firion, Maria, and Guy in their missions for the rebellion before Leon appears, each offering special services to the team, including Gordon, the prince of Kashuan who has been a member of the Wild Rose rebellion since the Emperor of Palamecia attacked Flynn; Josef, a kind soul who lives with his wife and daughter in the snow mountain village of Salamand; Leila, an adventurous girl who speaks in pirate-like jargon and first encounters the party by offering them transportation to the island of Deist; Minwu, or Mindu in the enhanced remake, who is a white mage for the Wild Rose rebellion; and Ricard Highwind, Gareth in the remake, but Ricard again in Dawn of Souls, who is the first dragoon to appear in the series.[2] As non-playable characters, Hilda, the former princess of Fynn and leader of the Rebels, issues commands to the party, and Cid, the staple airship pilot of the series, makes his first appearance. Boats no longer needed to be docked in harbors to return to land.[2]

They all oppose the Emperor of Palamecia, who hides a personality of total evil. Throughout the game, there are characters and names that are referenced in later titles of the Final Fantasy series. In Final Fantasy IX, Josef's story is told by the eidolon Ramuh to Zidane and his party. Leon is most likely the namesake of the more-popular Final Fantasy VIII character Squall Leonhart. The name Leonhart is both Squall's last name and also is very close to the name of Squall's strongest gunblade, the Lion Heart. In the Japan-exclusive novelization of the game Final Fantasy II Nightmare's Labyrinth (ファイナルファンタジーII 夢魔の迷宮 Fainaru Fantajī Tsū Muma no Meikyū?), the Emperor is given the name Mateus (マティウス Matiusu?). Hilda is the namesake of the Final Fantasy IX non-player character, Hilda, the wife of Cid Fabool IX, and the owner of the Steaming Sheep Tavern in Final Fantasy XI, Hilda, whom Cid shares a close relationship with.

While Final Fantasy was mostly focused on story, 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.[6]

Final Fantasy II was also the first console game in which playable characters could 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 mean to revive them or recover their equipment and weapons.[6]

Firion and Mateus (known in-game only as "the Emperor") are the respective hero and villain representing Final Fantasy II in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, where they are voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa and Kenyuu Horiuchi respectively in the Japanese version.

Mateus is also referenced in Ivalice-set titles Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift as a summonable entity (known as an "Esper" in the first, a "Totema" in the second and a "Scion" in the third) which shares his name and his exceedingly feminine appearance.

 Story

Final Fantasy II begins with Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon being attacked by Palamecian soldiers and left for dead.[2] Firion, Maria, and Guy are rescued by Princess Hilda of Fynn, who has established a rebel base in the nearby town of Altair after the Emperor's capture of Fynn. Hilda denies a request by Firion that he, Maria and Guy join the rebel army on the grounds that they are too young and inexperienced. Shortly thereafter, the three set off for the besieged Fynn in search of Leon, where the four find an ailing Prince Scott of Kashuan, Princess Hilda's fiancé, in the basement of the local pub. As he was dying, he informs them that Borghen, who was once a knight in the service of Fynn, betrayed the rebellion and became a General in the Imperial army. He tells the party to tell Hilda that he loves her, but retracts the request. He then gives the party his ring, which allows them to view the world map, and dies shortly afterward. They then return to Altair and present Hilda the ring, who after an emotional reminiscence of Scott, allows them to join the rebel movement.

Having proved their worth, the party is charged with journeying to the mountainous northern parts of the world to find Mythril that the rebels need to make weapons that can measure up to that of the Empire's. She originally sent Josef of the village of Salamand to retrieve it, but they lost contact with him. Before leaving, the party is joined by the White Mage Minwu, who healed the party at the beginning of the game. The party sail across the ocean to the eastern continent and make it north to the mountain village of Salamand, which is under siege by the Empire and are forced to mine Mythril for the Imperial army. There they meet Josef, who informs them that the men of the village are being forced to mine Mythril in the Semmit Falls. Josef, however, can do nothing, as his daughter, Nelly, is being held captive.

The party enters the mine and saves the captives, including Nelly and Paul, who proclaims himself to be the world's best thief. The party defeats the Imperial sergeant overseeing the mining operations and returns to Altair with the mythril. The party is then told to go to Bafsk, a small village east of Salamand, to prevent the construction of a large airship known as the dreadnaught. The village is under General Borghen's command and is easier to infiltrate. However, the party is too late to stop the Dreadnought from being completed. A plan is formed to use Sunfire from Kashuan Keep, but to enter, either the Goddess Bell or the voice of a Kashuan is needed to open the keep. Josef helps the party enter the snow caves with a snowcraft, and the party retrieves the bell. As they were leaving, Borghen attacks the party, and although he is defeated, he sends a boulder down the main entrance's stairway to prevent them from escaping. Josef holds back the boulder to allow the rest of the party to escape, however he is killed as it reaches the entrance.

The party reaches Kashuan Keep, where they find Gordon has already entered. Although they retrieve Egil's Torch, and use it to capture the Sunfire, the Airship — with Cid and Hilda on board — is captured by the Dreadnought's crane arm. The party enters the airship and saves Hilda, before throwing the Sunfire into the engine. Immediately after doing so, the Dark Knight appears, and Maria recognizes his voice before she escapes.

The King of Fynn, now close to death, summons Gordon, Minwu and Firion's group into his bedroom and gives them assignments. Gordon is given command of the rebel army, Minwu is told to find the Ultima Tome, and Firion's group is given the task of finding the seemingly extinct dragoons of Deist. The king then dies of his wounds. Firion's group realizes that no captain will take them to Deist save one — Leila. Leila, however, turns out to be a pirate, and orders her crew to attack Firion's party. The party fights them off, and although Leila expects that Firion will kill her, he instead asks for her help in taking them to Deist, a request with which she complies. In Deist, the party finds only a mother with her son, learning that the all but one of the Dragoons and all but one of the Wyverns are dead, partly as a result of Imperial poison. The party obtains a pendant to speak with the last Wyvern, who tells the party to take its egg to a pool deep in the cave before it dies. The party plants the egg in the cave, and fights off some monsters that come after it.

The party returns to Altair, where they learn that Hilda has been acting oddly, eating mice and acting seductively. She summons Firion to her room and tries to seduce him, revealing her true form as the Lamia Queen. The party defeats the Lamia Queen, and learns that they had rescued a decoy on the Dreadnought; the real Princess is in the Arena; Gordon goes to save her while leaving Leila to run the rebellion. The party defeats a Behemoth to win the Princess, but the Emperor tricks them and has the Dark Knight and his soldiers capture and detain them. Paul, however, breaks them out, and the party saves the real Princess.

Upon their return, the party learns that Hilda and Gordon are launching an attack on Fynn, and infiltrate the castle to kill the commander of the enemy forces. Hilda then tells the party that Minwu has not been heard from for some time, and tells them to search for him. The party acquires a Crystal Rod to enter the tower after acquiring the White and Black Mask, but Leviathan swallows their ship and separates them from Leila. They meet Ricard (his name is based on the Game Boy Advance translation, and varies significantly with the translation), the last surviving Dragoon, who had set out to find the Ultima Tome, and they join forces. After gaining another ship, they sail to the Magicians' Tower. At the top, Minwu explains that he was waiting for the party, and then casts a powerful spell to shatter the Ultima Tome's seal, at the cost of his own life.

The party returns to Fynn and sees that many towns have been destroyed by the Emperor's Cyclone. 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. Everyone celebrates the Empire's defeat, but a mortally wounded soldier arrives and reveals that the Dark Knight has taken the throne and plans to destroy the Rebels with the Imperial army. He then makes a more shocking revelation- that the Dark Knight is Leon, Maria's long-lost brother. The party realizes that they will have to infiltrate the castle of Palamecia from the air after talking with Paul, and receive the airship from a dying Cid, who was mortally wounded by the Cyclone.

The party enters the castle and confronts Leon. Then, the Emperor returns in a new demonic form, and reveals that he does not seek to regain the Empire, but to destroy the entire world. As he summons magical fire against the party, the Wyvern arrives, and takes the party to safety as Ricard holds off the Emperor and dies. Princess Hilda is shocked to see Leon on their side, but Maria convinces her to trust him, and Leon agrees to help his friends and sister once again.

The party then enters the Jade Passage, an underground cavern near a lake, and find a portal to Pandemonium. The party fights its way through the fortress, and reaches the Emperor at the top, defeating him for a second time. The party then receives congratulations for their efforts, and learns of Hilda and Gordon's plan to unite Fynn and Kashuan, which may indicate that they plan to marry. Paul is upset that he will no longer have the Empire to steal from, and suggests that he will steal from the former rebels. Leila invites Firion to become a pirate, but Maria objects, and Leila suggests that Firion will have to deal with her in the future. Maria hopes that they will live together as they once did, but Leon says that they cannot live together again- some translations have him indicating that they know too much about each other, which may refer to his lust for power. Maria begs Firion to stop him, but Firion believes that Leon must follow his own path, but tells him that they will be waiting for him, as though he hopes that Leon will return someday.

Soul of Rebirth

Minwu awakens in a strange cave, similar to that of the Jade Passage. He then encounters Scott, Gordon's brother who died earlier in the game and helps him defeat some Black Knights and a revived Zombie Borghen, receiving Josef's aid for the latter fight. They then carry on through the passage, where they encounter Ricard, after which they defeat the Roundworm that had been defeated in the Leviathan's belly. They are unsure of the reason why they have been reunited. Soon, they discover a portal, which leads them to Machanon, a town inhabited by all who have died, including Tobul the smith and Cid, who tells them that the town has been terrorised by monsters.

A portal they find leads them to room very much like the top of the Tower of Mysidia. There they receive spiritual power and they defeat Ultima Weapon to obtain this world's version of the Ultima Tome. The other portal leads them to what they believe to be Pandaemonium. After fighting their way up to the top, they encounter an angelic entity which says he is the Emperor's light side, as opposed to the dark side causing havoc on Earth.

The light Emperor explains that the passage was Raqia not Jade and that the palace is Arubboth (Heaven) and that they have been brought back to be asked for forgiveness, even going so far as to offer them immortality. The party declines, thinking he is mocking them after visions of their friends on Earth appear, showing them Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon fighting the Emperor's evil half on Earth. Offended and enraged by their refusal, the Emperor attacks them. They defeat the Emperor's light side and observe their friends on Earth returning to normal after the Emperor's defeat. Minwu explains that they do not need their help as they have grown strong.



Development

A second installment of Final Fantasy was not planned in advance, and only materialized after the first game's widespread popularity. The game was released less than a year after the first game came out. As the first Final Fantasy game was not plotted to have a sequel, Square took the game in a new direction, and became the first sequel in video games to feature none of the previous game's characters or countries. The experience system was designed to be a more realistic advancement system.[2]

An early press release video of the game reveals that the series may have originally been intended to continue by using Arabic numerals rather than Roman numerals. The video also reveals a different logo for the game.[7] Several members of the original staff from the first game reprised their jobs for Final Fantasy II.[2]

The music for Final Fantasy II was composed by series veteran Nobuo Uematsu. It was arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito for the WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance remakes. The soundtrack album was released together with the score of Final Fantasy in 1989. Arranged versions of some of the tracks were included on Symphonic Suite Final Fantasy, which was released the same year.



Versions and re-releases

Unreleased English version

Screenshot from the unreleased English prototype

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.[2]

Assigned to the project was Kaoru Moriyama, whose later work included script translations for Final Fantasy IV (released as Final Fantasy II in North America) 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 gamers, was retitled Final Fantasy II to reflect the jump in releases).[2][8]

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:

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. NeoDemiforce's fan translation of the game, similarly, made use of an original translation, as the existence of the prototype cartridge was not common knowledge at the time.[8]

WonderSwan Color

In 2000, Bandai announced a color version of its WonderSwan handheld aptly titled the WonderSwan Color. Enhanced remakes of the first three Final Fantasy games were revealed as part of the console's lineup.[9] Final Fantasy II was later shown at the Tokyo Game Show the following year and was officially released on May 3, 2001.[10] A special Final Fantasy II edition of the console was later released bundled with the game.[11]

Noted for not just being a port of the original game, the game received a complete graphical update including larger character sprites, redone music by Tsuyoshi Sekito and Yoxaka Amano character portraits, and full graphical backgrounds in battle mode. One track, "Battle Scene A", was added for the remake. Menu shortcut keys and a run button are also included as new features.[12]

PlayStation

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), the PlayStation port of Final Fantasy II was based on the WonderSwan Color version. Most of the changes instituted in that version of the game remain in this version. However, there are a few differences. Although the graphics are basically the same as in the WSC version, the higher display resolution of the PlayStation means that most have been improved to some degree, with more detail. Tsuyoshi Sekito also remixed the soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX quality to use the audio capabilities of the Sony PlayStation and also composed a few new tracks like the ones used in the opening movies.[13] The 2003 Playstation release was the first time the game was released in North America.[2]

In the Japanese language version, the script by Kawazu and Terada has been changed to include Kanji. Character and magic name lengths have been increased from four to six characters, as well. Saved game data takes up one block on the PlayStation memory card, which means that up to fifteen games can be saved onto each memory card, a major improvement. The "quick save" feature of the WSC version has been left out, but in its place a "memo save" feature has been introduced where game data can be temporarily saved to the PlayStation's random access memory. This data remains until the system is turned off, or its power supply is otherwise interrupted. There are also two full motion video cutscenes and an "omake" (or bonus) section has also been made available. It includes a bestiary, an art gallery, and an item collection that are unlocked as the player progresses through the game.[14]

Game Boy Advance

Another fairly extensive list of changes accompanies the Game Boy Advance release of Final Fantasy II as part of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. It was published by Nintendo in Japan on July 29, 2004, in North America on November 29, 2004, and in Europe on December 3, 2004.

The redirection of "ineffective" hits, which had been optional since it was introduced in the WSC version, is now mandatory. Graphics are more or less identical to the PlayStation version, although the GBA has a slightly lower screen resolution than the PS1. Changes to the battle and character development systems were also made, including the elimination of the "action-cancel" bug, removal of stat decreases, and implementation of regular maximum hit point increases (in addition to increases due to hit point depletion as true of other versions).

This version of the game also featured a completely original feature found in none of the other contemporary remakes. Once completed, a bonus storyline entitled Soul of Rebirth would be accessible to the player, featuring a number of characters who had been killed off during the course of the main story. The game only features 4 areas and most of the time will be spent training up for a 2nd encounter with the last boss. An Ultima tome can be achieved but it requires the killing of the extremely powerful Ultima Weapon.

The game was delayed in release because of several bugs discovered at the last minute.[15]

Mobile phones

In 2004 and 2006, Square Enix released a version of Final Fantasy II for three Japanese mobile phone networks.[16]

PlayStation Portable

Final Fantasy II also received a remake for the PlayStation Portable, celebrating the Final Fantasy series' 20th anniversary. The game was released in Japan on June 7, 2007,[17] North America on July 24, 2007.[18] and was released in Europe on February 8, 2008.[19]

First revealed by Japanese magazine Famitsu on January 17, 2007,[20] the PSP remake features improved graphics, resolution upgrade, the FMVs and soundtrack from Final Fantasy Origins, and the bonus quest and dungeons from Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. Aside from the PSP exclusive dungeons, the script is borrowed from the GBA version both in Japanese and English. It also includes the 'Arcane Labyrinth' and 'Arcane Sanctuary' dungeons, exclusive to this version, in which character-specific equipment can be found (even for temporary characters, and separate from the Soul of Rebirth equipment), alongside powerful enemies and a new boss. Depending on actions taken on this boss, the player can obtain one of two Tomes containing the most powerful of white and black magic spells (aside from Ultima): 'Revive' and 'Destroy' (respectively).[21]



Reception and legacy

As of March 31, 2003, the game, including all re-releases at the time, had shipped 1.28 million copies worldwide, with 1.08 million of those copies being shipped in Japan and 200,000 abroad.[22] As of November 19, 2007, the PlayStation Portable version has shipped 90,000 copies.[23]

GameSpot noted the game's mostly outdated graphics but praising their length and bonus content.[24] IGN noted the great improvement in the translation of the story and the adding of later Final Fantasy features, such as being able to save anywhere in the overworld map without a tent or cabin.[25] The Dawn of Souls release was called the "Game of the Month" for March 2004 on the Game Boy at IGN.[26] The dialogue system was thought to be time consuming and stilted, but was still a milestone for interactivity.[2] The story was much more involved and deep than the first Final Fantasy and involved love and also had characters die.[2] The game's plot was thought to mirror elements of Star Wars: A New Hope in its use of an orphan joining a rebellion against an empire that was building a massive ship, and a captive princess inside.[2]

In April 1989, the game was novelized by its original scenario writer Kenji Terada under the title Final Fantasy II: Tsū Muma no Meikyū (literally "The Labyrinth of Nightmare"). It was published in Japan exclusively by Kadokawa Shoten.[27]





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