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Old 01-03-2011, 05:34 AM
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Default "One to be born from a dragon..." -- Let's Play Final Fantasy II


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This was my very first exposure to what would eventually become my very favorite RPG.

I was in fifth grade. I didn't know what an RPG was. My friends and I were old hats at the original Final Fantasy, of course, and we'd long since bombed our way to the heart of pseudo-RPGs like Crystalis and The Legend of Zelda. I'd dabbled a bit in Ultima: Exodus and Wizardry, but I never really got the hang of them. No, for the most part our NES hours were filled with Mario, Mega Man and whatever looked interesting on the shelves at the local pawn shop.

We didn't have an SNES. Nobody at school did. They were magical machines from the future which, if you were lucky and your parents were rich, might appear underneath the Christmas tree. But that was months away. One of our adult cousins had purchased the system, so every weekend we'd beg to spend the night over at his house so we could play the games in his meager collection: Lemmings, Super Castlevania IV and Darius Twin. We spent three days of our summer vacation just watching him play Act Raiser to completion.

In the meantime, we had this issue of Nintendo Power, which explained this new, awesome-looking Final Fantasy game in great detail. I've never had a subscription to Nintendo Power, but my best friend did, and after reading through this particular issue at school I made sure to beg my mom to buy me a copy of my own, just so I can sit at home and read it again and again. I think I may have promised to wash her car or something in return. I wonder if I ever did.

I had a lot of questions. What kind of character classes were "Sage" and "Bard", anyway? Did jumping on monsters do damage, or just squash them like in Mario? Why wasn't the black mage wearing a pointy hat? How on earth could you call monsters to fight for your side? Why were the orbs now called crystals? Why did the guys stand in a zig-zag pattern, and how come there were five of them?

Just the fact that the game could handle names as long as "Edward" was enough to blow my young, feeble mind.

We finally received that magical phone call late one Friday afternoon. School was out for the weekend, pizza was on the way, and my brother and I had just started a new game of FF1. The party was FI/BB/RM/BM. Their names were JO, TINY, ZACH and ONYX. We had just killed the PIRATEs when we received a magical phone call.

It was our cousin. He said, "Hey guys, I just got Final Fantasy for Super Nintendo. Wanna come over and watch me play it?"

To this day that is still the greatest question I've ever been asked in my life.

~~~

So, what is Final Fantasy II?


I'm sure I don't have to clarify this for anyone here, but Final Fantasy II is the fourth game in the Final Fantasy series. They switched the name from Final Fantasy IV on account of the two previous FF games never making the trek to North America. And honestly? Maybe it's for the best they didn't. Those games were hard and mean, and not very much like the first game at all when you get right down to it. My taste in games was still in its infancy, after all. If I'd been forced to choke down Firion and his gang back in the short pants days, I might have never developed a lingering taste for the series.

But FF2 was quite a bit like FF1. It had relatively simple game systems that were easy to wrap your head around. It had a single, linear experience system exactly like the one I was already used to. The plot graph was easy to follow, and the game world was difficult to get lost in. I approached the game with the mindset that it was just a newer, prettier FF1 with maybe two or three new things in it. The game was happy to oblige me.

There turned out to be more than "two or three" new things, of course, and I was eventually forced to learn some tough lessons as the game went on. The biggest change over the original game, though, was the colorful cast and the complex narrative. This game had a real story, and not just an excuse to do things. In FF1 your dudes went into the cave to get the thing to give to the guy to wake the prince, but they did all this because that's how you get the TNT. The characters in FF2 had far deeper motivations for their actions; you don't wake Rosa up from desert fever because she's the only person who can open some locked treasure room. You do it because the main character loves her.

Nowadays we take these kinds of stories for granted. We even rail against them when the text drags on too long or the cutscenes can't be skipped. But back in the day games did not work this way. FF2 was the first. It was like nothing that existed on the NES, where even the best examples of story games were full of holes and contrivances. In FF2, one plot event leads into the next, which leads into the next, which leads into the next. The game world opens and closes doors as you advance in a very natural and logical way. Seeing what happened next in the story became its own reward.

Mechanically speaking, FF2 had a lot of stuff that took some getting used to. In Japan, its predecessors had already shown how in-depth character-building systems could get in RPGs. It's easy to picture a Japanese player, who had watched the progression from "build a party" to "use a sword to level your sword skill" to "dozens of unique jobs", turning up his nose at the back-to-basics systems of this new sequel.

(Can you imagine it? All those "it's prettier but it's dumber" arguments we hear nowadays about FF13, being made in 1991? I bet there were players like that!)

The place where FF2 decided to innovate was in the core battle system, which it called Active Time Battle (ATB). No longer did the player and his enemies take turns hitting each other. No more queueing up a round full of commands, then spending forty seconds watching the game play itself. In FF2, each combatant worked on a timer. When their timer was full, they got to act. This meant the bad guys could sit there beating on you while you were trying to figure out what to do. It also meant the player was always engaged in the battle, because he was entering commands constantly, rather than the old system of "act, wait, act, wait".


ATB became one of the cornerstones of the Final Fantasy series. It was over a decade before the series attempted to innovate again, and the most modern systems are still heavily influenced by it. I think it's fair to say ATB was absolutely revolutionary.

I'll go into more detail about ATB and how it impacts the game as the LP goes on, as I explain the characters and their actions.

~~~

Are you going to start the LP anytime soon?

Oh, I suppose. Our story opens with a fleet of airships returning home from a particularly lucrative voyage...

Next: The crystal or your life!

Last edited by Brickroad; 02-07-2013 at 07:15 AM.
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  #2  
Old 01-03-2011, 05:43 AM
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Oh man, so looking forward to this. You've done a really great job of putting FFII in context so far!
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:15 AM
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I missed II the first time round and didn't get to it until well after III's castle-engine-devouring tenticles were wrapped firmly around my brain. I tend to rank it low on my FF lists (re: dead last), because for all its innovation and significance it has not aged well. I'm excited to sell it through the eyes of love and reverance. Please update everyday, all day.

Also, kudos on using Volume 30 as a jumping off point. That article is amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:52 AM
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I used to pore over that issue. The article on FF2 was like ten pages long. It was almost as good as having the game to look at all the pictures and read the character bios.

The only problem was that some of the character artwork looked weird. Palom and Porom don't even look human. They look like some kind of weird ball people.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:06 AM
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That cover really bothered me as a kid. Why would they put a guy on the cover whose arms have been ripped open? That's just sick.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:10 AM
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The only problem was that some of the character artwork looked weird. Palom and Porom don't even look human. They look like some kind of weird ball people.
No way, those pictures were amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:12 AM
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No way, those pictures were amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.
The only amazing picture was the Tellah one. Rydia looks like a middle age woman, not a child.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:16 AM
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Spoilers: She's not a child for the whole game. She spends like 45 years in Monster Land.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:24 AM
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Spoilers: She's not a child for the whole game. She spends like 45 years in Monster Land.
I know that, but still its the first picture of her.

I've always wondered, are these official square artwork or pictures that NP cooked up?
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:09 AM
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That cover really bothered me as a kid. Why would they put a guy on the cover whose arms have been ripped open? That's just sick.
Oh God, now I can't unsee it.
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:36 AM
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Man, I remember that issue of Nintendo Power. I think it's still back in my closet in my parents' house.

It's, uh, kinda mangled. My oldest issues of Nintendo Power weren't kept as well as the newer ones, I was one of those kids that pretty much demolished his action figures, how do you think magazines held up? Hell, if I'm not mistaken I think I used some of that crazy character artwork in the FFII section on a Pog Maker I got sometime later. So not only is the cover mauled and the pages dog-eared, there are circular holes cut in the FFII section as well. Man, good times.

Oh, right, the LP. Do we get to vote on character names, or do you have that decided on already?
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:51 AM
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Final Fantasy 2 is one of he greatest games I've ever played. I remember that issue of Nintendo Power with fondness myself.

My first exposure was watching my friend's brother play it through the window of their house (it was kind of common). But for FF2?

He invited us in. I watched him cast Lightning on Odin.

It was love at first sight.

- Eddie
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:01 AM
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this....this makes me so happy.
i love this game. I love cecil's redemption story, and i love rydia. this game introduced me to every cliche in gaming, which means it was all so fresh and new when i saw it here. I never owned a SNES so i lived the game through nintendo power and strategy guides and stuff. When i finally got to play it (on emulation in college a decade later) i was thrilled to find that the real game was as awesome as my imagination had made it out to be. Next to FFX, this is my favorite mainline FF game.
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:58 AM
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Yet another SNES RPG I only experienced through the crazy ravings of a few of my RPG friends...

I didn't get into console RPGs until FF7, though like everyone else I played an awful lot of FF1 on the NES.

I came back to this one on the PSX when Squaresoft released it on CD! Load times were awful. Then decided the load times were terrible and discovered emulation. I've always enjoyed the simple story and sprite design in the game.

I might even enjoy this game more than FF6... Looking forward to knowledge bombs
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:22 AM
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I can't call this game Final Fantasy II with a straight face anymore, but I'm looking forward to seeing this LP of FFIV's initial Engrishy, content cutting, number relabeling translation. It'll be nice to see it again, even though I can't bring myself to play it that way with the billion other FFIVs and another on the way.
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loki View Post
No way, those pictures were amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.
Kain's visible scrotum is amazing in a very way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Falselogic View Post
Looking forward to Bomb and Imp Summons
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:54 AM
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God, this game is fucking horrible.

I love it so much.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:04 PM
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I remember, a friend of mine introduced me to the game at a party. I don't know if she was trying to get rid of me for the duration, but no one saw me again for hours. I made it all the way to when Yang gets himself kersploded before anyone tore me away to go and be social.

I played this game after Final Fantasy III/VI, but I still remember being surprised at some of the stuff they worked in there. The structure was a lot more basic, but it really worked. And they integrate gameplay into the plot surprisingly well, better than a lot of games today.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:32 PM
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God, this game is fucking horrible.

I love it so much.
You love/hate every Final Fantasy!
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by SpoonyBardOL View Post
Oh, right, the LP. Do we get to vote on character names, or do you have that decided on already?
No name changes. I don't want to showcase a game so near and dear to my heart with a team named Pants, Pants, Percy, Pants and FAGNUTZ.

This is gonna be more of a "kick back and watch" LP.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:41 PM
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No name changes. I don't want to showcase a game so near and dear to my heart with a team named Pants, Pants, Percy, Pants and FAGNUTZ.

This is gonna be more of a "kick back and watch" LP.
Shoot. And here I was going to vote for calling Palom and Porom 'Herp' and 'Derp'.

I did it in my last FFII playthrough. It made their sacrifice hilarious.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:41 PM
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Shoot. And here I was going to vote for calling Palom and Porom 'Herp' and 'Derp'.
Yeah, see? Shit like this. This shit right here. You people. You people.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoonyBardOL View Post
Shoot. And here I was going to vote for calling Palom and Porom 'Herp' and 'Derp'.

I did it in my last FFII playthrough. It made their sacrifice hilarious.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brickroad View Post
Yeah, see? Shit like this. This shit right here. You people. You people.
I'm only ever going to name them Herp and Derp from now on.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:00 PM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUG1EIfPz88
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:09 PM
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Yeah, see? Shit like this. This shit right here. You people. You people.
You need to forgive and forget, and let Baigans be Baigans.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:10 PM
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You need to forgive and forget, and let Baigans be Baigans.
You guys can't start with the puns on PAGE ONE. Come on! It hasn't even been 24 hours since the last update, yet!
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Brickroad View Post
Yeah, see? Shit like this. This shit right here. You people. You people.
Quote:
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I'm only ever going to name them Herp and Derp from now on.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Brickroad View Post
You guys can't start with the puns on PAGE ONE. Come on! It hasn't even been 24 hours since the last update, yet!
I think you're giving them credit for more restraint then they actually have.

Personally I'm looking forward to this LP. I wanted to get FFII when I first saw it (sadly it would be many years before I finally got a SNES of my own...)
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shivam View Post
this....this makes me so happy.
i love this game. I love cecil's redemption story, and i love rydia.
I came to this game well into the PS2 age and have attempted to forge my way through it I don't know how many times (at least three). But I lose steam once Cecil has his redemption, every time. That was the main draw of the story for me, and once it was over, the game had trouble keeping my attention.

I'm looking forward to reading about others' good memories of it, and seeing the rest of the story, if only at second hand.
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:07 PM
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Yessss. I had the exact same "OMG STORY" revelation that brick described. This was the game that got me into RPGs. I should calculate how many hours of my life that's cost me in total. No I shouldn't.
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