The world's preeminent role-playing game franchise, Final Fantasy, has long tantalized the souls of gamers. Each time RPG fans think they've discovered the essence of the series, Square (now Square-Enix) alters the gameplay fundamentals — so much so that it feels like the RPG juggernaut slipped them a ruffie.
This is exactly what occurred with Final Fantasy 2. Those who were introduced to RPGs with the relatively tame Final Fantasy were shocked when they played its drastically different sequel. Instead of spoiling it now, however, I'll first give you a chance to become reacquainted with the series' genesis in my comprehensive Twelve Worlds of Final Fantasy article. Once you're caught up, feel free to join my rebellion against the empire.
A Burning Crusade
The moon and stars glimmered beautifully in the clear night sky as the Palamecian Empire's forces descended upon the majestic kingdom of Fynn. As heavily armored knights rode into the village on horseback setting homes ablaze, the villagers desperately searched for shelter. Most inhabitants of Fynn were massacred, others were enslaved, and a few managed to escape.
Sadly, four fleeing youth weren't so fortunate. They were encircled by these raiding barbarians, and their corpses were left to rot — that is, until the priest Minwu saved the day.
A Phoenix Rises Out Of The Ashes
Three of the four teenage orphans who appeared to die in battle were miraculously revived by the Kingdom of Fynn's finest priest. He informed these noble youth that they were in the rebel army headquarters — a sanctuary for the remainder of Fynn's military forces and royalty. These brave young men and women were granted an audience with Princess Hilda, but were rejected when they asked to join the rebel forces. Not accepting no as an answer, Firion, Maria, and Guy embarked on a quest of their own.
Before heading to the captured city of Fynn to prove their worth, the inexperienced warriors tested their mettle against an assortment of monsters surrounding the rebel city of Altair and nearby Gatrea. They fought pesky Hornets and prickly Thorn Eaters and gained a fair amount of battle experience, but the way in which their skills improved was unconventional.
A Do-Whatever-The-Hell-You-Want Battle System
Anyone who played the original Final Fantasy knows that its battle system was fairly rigid with six stock character classes that limited the growth potential of its characters. Sure, it was great that white mages could cast all healing spells, but they couldn't equip swords.
With Final Fantasy 2, Square went back to square one. They removed the ability to accumulate experience, took away character classes, and no longer allowed Final Fantasy heroes to gain levels. Instead, each character could be molded into an object of the player's desire.
Firion, Maria, Guy, and the oft-changing 4th character could gradually transform into fearsome warriors by being exposed to enemy attacks and friendly fire. Instead of earning additional HP by gaining levels, Final Fantasy 2's characters would increase this invaluable stat by withstanding enemy (or friendly) blows. In the Famicom version, gaining HP was an excruciatingly slow process, so attacking allies was a handy way to expedite this process.
Likewise, every other stat ranging from MP to Attack Power could be increased in a similar manner. To increase Attack Power, you'd simply strike an enemy and hope for an award at the end of battle. What's most interesting about this system, however, is its effect on weapons and magic.
In Final Fantasy 2, each character can equip whatever weapon(s), pieces of armor, and magic the player desires. If the player wants Firion to wield two Mythiril Swords, it can be done. If she wants Maria to become a deadly bare-knuckled brawler who can cast Ultima, then that can occur as well, but that's not the end of Final Fantasy 2's flexible character-building system.
Characters can also gain weapon, armor, and spell levels. If Guy wants to become a battle axe-wielding badass, he simply has to equip and axe or two and use them in battle. Within a few battles, his axes will have gained a level, and will be able to slice through more than butter.
Any weapon (including fists) can gain levels, but so can spells. If a player wants Cure to have a greater effect, he simply needs to use the spell more — but he should also be aware that higher levels of a spell cost more MP.
Final Fantasy 2's battle system provides a seemingly endless amount of customization, but unfortunately there are a few downsides. Battles can be quite brutal towards the beginning of the game, since it's difficult to withstand enemy blows and increase your characters' stats, simultaneously. Also, what stat boosts you're rewarded with after battle are often unpredictable.
The game's most painful experience, however, is gaining magic levels. You'll have to use spells 10 to 100 times to gain a single magic level, and even then, your spells won't be enough to impress Harry Potter's spoiled step-brother. Even Final Fantasy 2's best spell, Ultima, is disappointingly weak. You can use it hundreds of times, and it still won't faze the final boss (despite the claims of one of the game's citizens).
Accounting For Inventory
Improving stats in the Famicom version of Final Fantasy 2 feels like being poked in the eye at times, but that's nothing compared to its inventory system that's more messy than a train wreck. The original edition of Final Fantasy 2 only allowed players to carry 32 items which sounds like a lot, but it's not when you learn that a single potion counts as one of those items. This means you'll frequently be throwing away old equipment to make room for whatever goodies you find in treasure chests strewn about the game's many labyrinths.
Most of the time, you won't mind having to part with your expired goods, but if you're not using a FAQ or guide, there's a high probability that you'll drop the seemingly useless Blood Sword, which is the only weapon capable of doing a significant amount of damage to Final Fantasy 2's main baddie. So if you ever decide to play Final Fantasy 2, don't ruin your chances of saving the world by throwing away the Blood Sword.
The Journey Continues
After the heroes outfitted themselves, they traveled to Fynn where their journey began. It was overrun by imperial soldiers, so Firion, Maria, and Guy stealthily snuck into the pub for a drink. After these underage drinkers failed at their attempt to secure some liquor, they presented the rebel password, Wild Rose, to a man guarding a door.
Before revealing what's behind the door, it's important to describe one of Final Fantasy 2's key innovations: the Keyword System. When talking to important non-player characters, the player can choose to memorize certain highlighted words. These recorded words can then be used on the person who first used these terms or other VIPs.
Once Firion and his posse opened the door, they encountered a wounded soldier — but this was no ordinary grunt — he was Scott, the prince of Kashuan. Shortly after revealing the traitor who transferred control of Fynn to the Empire and handing the heroes a ring, Scott passed away.
The heroes then returned to Altair, entrusted Scott's brother with the ring, and asked to join the rebel army. This time, Princess Hilda granted their request and gave the three youth and their new ally, Minwu, a canoe which would allow them to navigate rivers.
With a canoe in hand, the three warriors and their priest ally sailed to Paloom. There, they caught a ferry to the town of Poft, which lay on another continent. While drinking a cold brew in one of the fine pubs in this wonderful city, the heroes encountered a man named Cid. This is the first time he appeared in the Final Fantasy series (he was only mentioned in name in FF1), and as any Final Fantasy veteran would expect, he owned the world's only airship.
Unfortunately, Cid wasn't willing to part with his baby, but he did offer the heroes outrageously expensive airship rides to various locations. They declined his offers, however, and hiked to a snowy northern village called Salamand.
The four intrepid warriors immediately noticed something odd about the town. Ladies were everywhere, but there were no men in sight other than Josef. The heroes didn't mind, because they thought Josef would donate some mythril to the rebel army, but he asked that they free the men of Salamand who were forced into slavery by the Empire first.
The eager heroes quickly reached Semitt falls where they rescued prisoners (including a thief they met in Fynn), fought a giant turtle, and battled an imperial sergeant. After defeating the sergeant, the heroes obtained some mythril and traveled back to the rebel headquarters.
Infiltrating The Dreadnought
Back in Altair, the heroes outfitted themselves with mythril equipment, then set out to determine the location of the imperial Dreadnought and the traitor who gave Fynn to the Empire in exchange for a high imperial rank. They traveled to the town of Bafsk where a rebel spy awaited them. After meeting, he granted them access to the site of the Dreadnought's construction.
The heroes went deep into Bafsk cave only to encounter the Dark Knight who barred their passage to the Dreadnought. Instead of fighting, he gloated about the enormous airship's completion and left to launch an attack on the rebel army.
The four young warriors quickly left the cave and traveled on foot to Poft, but the city was already in ruins by the time they arrived. The Dreadnought truly was a threat, so they asked the airship-junkie, Cid, for its weakness (the Sunfire), then returned to Altair to report on what had occurred
By the time the heroes arrived, Altair had already been struck by bombs, but fortunately, the rebel leaders survived. They instructed the heroes to find the Goddess Bell located in the snowy north, which would enable them to enter the abandoned Kingdom of Kashuan that contained the Sunfire.
Minwu left the party, so the three remaining warriors traveled to Salamand on their own. There, they once again encountered Josef who joined their party and gave away his canoe-like snowcraft. This monk was an asset to the team, as his powerful punches helped the heroes fell Adamantoise in the Snow Cavern and obtain the Goddess Bell.
As the heroes were about to leave, they were confronted by General Borghen. They made quick work of that traitorous swine, but he was determined to stop them with a gigantic boulder before perishing. Fortunately for the heroes, Josef decided to sacrifice himself, so they could continue the mission. Without stopping to mourn, the three remaining warriors headed towards Kashuan.
At Kashuan Keep, the heroes picked up Egil's Torch, which they would use to obtain the Sunfire. During their time in this monster-infested castle, they encountered the Prince of Kashuan's brother, Gordon. This cowardly prince wasn't of much use, but they managed to gain the Sunfire despite the extra baggage.
After leaving the castle, the heroes watched in horror as the Dreadnought captured Cid's airship. They weren't sure how to reach this floating fortress, so they decided to return to Altair via Chocobo and ship.
They soon discovered that the Dreadnought would need to land at a refueling station, so the heroes marched north. The four youth managed to climb aboard with their imperial boarding passes obtained at Bafsk, and they quickly rescued the princess before bringing down the airship with the Sunfire.
Before the Dreadnought burst into flames, the Dark Knight appeared, and his voice was strangely familiar. There was no time to listen, however, as Cid commanded the heroes to enter his airship. After boarding, the party flew to Altair.
Send In The Dragoons!
Of course the Dreadnought wasn't the end of the Palamecian Empire, so the heroes were given new orders after arriving safely in Altair. The dying king put Gordon in charge of the army, he tasked Minwu with finding the ultimate spell, and the heroes were told to travel to Deist to gain a platoon of Dragoon allies.
Without an airship, the heroes hiked to Paloom to find a worthy sea vessel. There, they encountered a young lass who offered to take them to Deist. But once the heroes climbed aboard, they were surrounded by pirates. These pushovers barely even fazed the heroes, and Firion generously decided to let Captain Leila live. They now had possession of a ship and a new party member, so they sailed northeast to Deist.
Upon arriving at the castle, the heroes noticed it was empty — other than a mother, child, and the world's last remaining wyvern. Apparently, the dragoons had been slaughtered, so it was now impossible to communicate with wyverns — unless the heroes obtained a certain pendant.
As you might expect, they entered Deist Cavern seeking this artifact. This spelunking expedition was fairly uneventful until the warriors encountered a chimera guarding the object of their desire. They quickly defeated it, then returned to the last remaining wyvern. This dragon-like beast entrusted the heroes with a single wyvern egg before passing away, and expected them to deliver it to the life spring in the cave they just traversed. After this task was complete, the heroes returned to Altair.
A Suspicious Tournament
Soon after arriving, the heroes met with the princess, and noticed that she was acting suspiciously. Princess Hilda invited Firion to her room alone to seduce him, but his friends intervened when they recognized that it was an imposter. The Lamia Queen attempted to slay the party, but they snuffed out her miserable life instead. It turns out the real princess was being used as a prize at the imperial coliseum.
The four warriors immediately boarded their ship and sailed to the distant arena. There, they battled a behemoth and won the tournament. As the heroes stepped forward to receive their prize, they were captured by imperial soldiers and thrown in prison.
Fortunately, Paul, whom they rescued earlier, miraculously appeared and unlocked their jail cell. The heroes then rescued Hilda and Gordon, and escaped to Altair.
After arriving in Altair, the intrepid warriors learned that the rebels were preparing to regain Fynn. Of course they required the heroes' assistance as usual. While the rebel forces distracted the imperial army, Firion, Maria, and Guy infiltrated the castle and assassinated the commander. Fynn was then restored to its rightful owner, but of course the heroes weren't off the hook yet.
They were then tasked with assisting Minwu in obtaining the "ultimate magic." The heroes would need a white mask, black mask, and a crystal rod, so they set about collecting these items. The white mask was in the castle basement, the black mask was on a tropical island, and the crystal rod was in hidden in the Mysidian Cave.
While collecting these items, the heroes had the opportunity to learn about the history of the world in the mage village of Mysidia. There, they also purchased a plethora of magic spells and placed the white mask on a statue.
Once the crystal rod was obtained after using the two masks, the heroes sailed to the Mysidian Tower, but their progress was impeded due to them being swallowed by the mighty Leviathan. Inside the serpent's belly, the three remaining warriors encountered Ricard, the world's last dragoon. After besting a round worm lodged in his stomach, Leviathan spit out the warriors and their ship, so they were finally able to reach the Mysidian Tower.
With the crystal rod, the heroes entered the looming ten-story building. Inside, they encountered numerous elemental-themed bosses, but nothing prevented them from proceeding until they reached a door guarding the ultimate spell. Fortunately, Minwu was there, and he used all his remaining life force to break the seal. Despite this tragedy, the heroes had no time to weep, so they obtained Ultima and returned to Altair.
Attack Of The Cyclones
Unfortunately, they learned that Fynn was facing a new threat. The Emperor had summoned a cyclone which threatened the very existence of the rebel forces. Being unafraid, the heroes went to the castle's magic mirror, held high the pendant received in Deist, and summoned the now-hatched baby wyvern. The wyvern then carried the warriors on his back to the floating palace hidden inside the cyclone.
The intrepid warriors battled dragons and royals guards on their way to the Emperor, but eventually, they caught up with the man himself. What should have been an epic encounter was a disappointingly brief battle, but at least the heroes saved the world. Or had they?
When the heroes arrived at Fynn after slaying the Emperor, there was a celebration held in their honor, but the dance was cut short by the announcement of a new emperor. The heroes were curious about his identity, so they planned on heading to Palamecia after finding a new airship.
A Cowardly Backstabber
Unfortunately, Cid died in the cyclone, so the heroes had to resort to another method of transportation. — or so they thought. Thanks to Paul the thief, they learned that Cid's airship had survived, and were given its location. After commandeering the dead gear head's rickety wooden vessel, they flew to the heart of the Empire.
Once inside, the heroes descended into the depths of the fortress until they reached the third floor which gave them access to another stairway. The intrepid warriors then proceeded to the top floor where they encountered the new emperor: the Dark Knight, Leon — a former friend who was thought to have perished at the beginning of the game when the heroes were ambushed by enemy soldiers.
Instead of fighting Leon, however, the former Emperor returned thanks to his new allegiance with the forces of Hell and laughed at the Dark Knight's pathetic attempt to lead. He threatened to crush the party, but the altruistic dragoon, Ricard, made a noble sacrifice, so the heroes could escape.
Into The Depths Of Hell
Once they were back in Fynn, the heroes decided to forgive Leon, but he showed no remorse for his actions. Despite his evil intentions, he decided to join the heroes in pursuing the Emperor. They soon learned that they could only reach him by traveling to Pandaemonium through the Jade Passage.
The heroes descended into a crater full of green ooze, which eventually took them to a portal. This portal would send them on a one-way trip to Pandaemonium, so the heroes quickly entered and marched through the ten-story crystalline palace. On the 10th floor, the heroes confronted the arrogant Emperor and slew him quickly thanks to the mighty Blood Sword. Finally, the heroes could return to Fynn and celebrate their glorious victory over the forces of Hell.
During the celebration, the heroes caught glimpses of friends who'd perished during the war, which made the ending a tad bittersweet. Leon decided that he couldn't remain with the other heroes after all the atrocities he'd committed, so he decided to set off on his own. The other heroes let him go, but they also decided to embark on a new quest in their ever-changing world….
Versions of Final Fantasy 2:
Famicom: December 17, 1988 (JPN)
Famicom (FF1 & 2): February 27, 1994 (JPN)
Wonderswan Color: May 3, 2001 (JPN)
Playstation: April 8, 2003 (US)
Mobile Phones: March 1, 2004 (JPN)
Game Boy Advance: November 29, 2004
Playstation Portable: July 24, 2007 (US)
Virtual Console: June 16, 2009 (JPN)
- The only Final Fantasy where characters don't gain levels
- First appearance of Cid
- Chocobos and the Chocobo Theme introduced to the series
- The first FF where supporting characters die
- The only FF with a village of beavers
- The first FF with Mysidia, the village of mages
- Leviathan appears for the first time
- First 'Resistance Vs. Empire' story in an FF
- New vehicles: Snowcraft, Chocobo, and Wyvern
- First FF where an ally betrays you
- Airship, canoe, and the ship return
- First FF with orphan characters
- The Famicom FF2's Firion looks like the Fighter job class from FF1
- First FF with an effeminate villain
- The only Final Fantasy with weapon, magic, and armor levels