I have a very important announcement to make: I have finished Final Fantasy II. This is actually a pretty big deal for me and for the project, as it is (as I have mentioned before) the only one of the series I hadn’t ever finished up until this point. I haven’t started Final Fantasy III yet (I’ll be playing the DS version), but that’s going to happen before my next update (which should go back to being weekly now), so to round off my discussion of FFII, I’d like to revisit some of the things which made its completion so elusive to me, and see whether they’re still problems.
The biggest thing, of course, was the difficulty level, and more specifically, the way it tended to spike to a point where you simply must wander out into the virtual world and find that perfect grinding location (where you will inevitably spend many not-so-happy hours) if you are to have any hope of continuing to progress through the main story. This is still a problem for me, as even in newer JRPGs, I don’t care for pointless grinding—doing so in pursuit of a side quest, or even to find materials for crafting or the like, is fine, but simply running in circles until you’re tough enough? Not so much. This is compounded by the still-atrocious leveling mechanic, which I’ve gone on about at length, as well as the “guest characters” who have a tendency to completely upset the balance of your standard party, for better or worse (and it is usually worse).
These factors make it extremely difficult to maintain a reasonable level of power and proficiency, and worse yet, they tend to obscure whether or not you’re even on the right track until you’ve gone too far (usually into a dungeon) and suddenly discover that you are out of your depth, often necessitating a return to the overworld, a loss of progress, and/or a complete massacre of your party members (which usually means that the first two situations will occur as well). Pure stubbornness is really the only reason I managed to push through this massive problem area, and even that nearly failed me when I reached the last dungeon.
The last dungeon of FFII is actually TWO dungeons strung together, with no way to escape for rest or resupply in between them, unless you’re okay with going through the entire first dungeon a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) time after you do so. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it before, but your inventory space is actually quite limited in this game, and the restrictions are a bit ridiculous (i.e. a single potion takes up one slot by itself—nothing stacks), so even if you have the money to carry a lot of recovery items with you (and the really useful ones, as might be expected, are insanely expensive), you probably don’t have the space.
In an earlier column, I mentioned a revelation that I’d had concerning replaying the early bits of dungeons more than once, both to make it easier to reach deeper points of the map and also to increase your party’s levels while benefiting from the loot you reach each time you venture in. I’ll freely admit that, during the last dungeon, I should have heeded my own advice and taken more time to explore at a more gradual, repetitive pace. I didn’t, though, because I knew that the end was near, and I was, quite frankly, sick of FFII. Obviously I was successful anyway, but it was a bit of a rough ride. Here’s how it ended up going:
- Enter the dungeon. Clear a few floors. Things are going pretty well.
- Three bosses later, am at the end of the first dungeon. Wait, the FIRST dungeon? WHO DIDN’T TELL ME ABOUT THIS?
- Venture into the SECOND dungeon. This probably won’t be so bad.
- Monster levels are higher. Start quick-saving after EVERY FIGHT. (Please note: the encounter rate is so high that this is approximately every half-dozen steps. Also, quick-saves are erased if you turn off your system, so it’s nowhere near a permanent fix.)
- Four bosses in, and no end in sight. How many floors does this place have, anyway?
- Ten. There are TEN floors, and plenty of backtracking to get there. Am beginning to suspect that I didn’t bring enough Elixirs.
- Definitely did not bring enough Elixirs.
- Two more bosses later, and the day is won. Barely, and with copious use of the quick-save file, but it is won.
- I am never playing this game again.
- But… let’s save the completion data anyway, okay?
I lost track of how long that final dungeon took me, but without the quick-save option, I would never have made it. I doubt that existed in the original version of the game, so I really have no idea how anyone ever finished it back then. I certainly wouldn’t have had the patience.
I still don’t like FFII, but I am glad I put in the time to finish it. I like knowing what I’m talking about when I badmouth something, even if it IS something where I might feel the flaws are so obvious that I don’t really need to have experienced it firsthand (see: Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey). I know what I’m talking about now, so you can have a reasonable amount of faith in me when I say that you probably shouldn’t play Final Fantasy II. FFIII is next up, and while I don’t remember this being one of my favorites, I definitely don’t think I disliked it as much as II. After all, there IS a job system, and that’s worth a lot to me.
WEEKS 10-12 PROGRESS: Final Fantasy II completed (final time: 30 hours 46 minutes)