Final Fantasy II

    Love it or hate it, Square has committed itself to the WonderSwan Color, and not Nintendo's Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance. Of course, even if it's not on the common hand-held of choice, Square's sudden dedication to portable gaming is proving to be very beneficial for anyone interested in replaying the classics. Various NES ports are underway, and the Final Fantasy series is receiving the obvious five-star treatment. While Final Fantasy I for Wonderswan Color has grabbed the spotlight by having its own special edition of the aforementioned system, Square has continued preparing later entries of the flagship series, starting with Final Fantasy II, a benchmark of change for the Final Fantasy series.

*watches oldskewlers get confused on whether or not to hate improved oldschool graphics*
Touched-up town graphics.

    Final Fantasy II may not physically appear to be different from the first game; afterall, they both use the same graphics and basic gameplay engine. However, Final Fantasy II does offer one drastic change -- pre-defined characters and an active plot which are used to drive the gameplay. Where Final Fantasy used non-active character templates and fetch quests to guide the player towards accomplishing an end goal, its successor makes use of characters who have names, personalities, and conflicts to advance a central plot. Even the concept of a focused storyline wasn't too common around the time Final Fantasy II was released. Both Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy had bare-bones scripts to give meaning to various fetch quests, but Final Fantasy II uses character interaction and plot-related events to give your various trials a little more substance. Players will find themselves in the control of three main heroes -- Frioniel, Maria, and Guy -- although other characters will join your party for short periods of time. There's even the evil Paramekia empire to clash against, a theme which has stayed with the series in the seven main titles since Final Fantasy II was released.

    While the basic interface remained intact, Final Fantasy II also boasted additional gameplay systems, the beginning of a trend which has become the staple for modern RPGs. Fans of the SaGa series will feel right at home with Final Fantasy II, as many of the systems it uses are reminiscent of those found in the SaGa games. Rather than the traditional method of gaining levels through accumulation of experience points, your characters grow stronger from statistic increases by fighting battles and gaining experience with specific weapon types. Characters will also be able to collect passwords, which are used to trigger new plot points.

 *What a brilliant concept, giving main characters names and all.
The heroes

    Final Fantasy II's WonderSwan Color port will be identical in style to that of Final Fantasy I, just as the original games were alike. Menu interfaces will be more streamlined and less time consuming, and shopping improvements, such as showing statistic changes and being able to buy more than one item at a time, are included as well.

    In the audio / visual fields, gamers can expect early SNES quality asthetics, as the touch-ups put the NES ports near the level of Final Fantasy IV. The standard black backgrounds have been replaced with map tiles, and all map, character, and location graphics have received a 16-bit facelift. Audio quality has also been increased by improving the samples themselves, although the difference will have to be heard through a portable system's speakers.

    Although Final Fantasy II may have limited stateside exposure, the good sales seen by Final Fantasy Anthology should give fans hope for a possible localization when the WonderSwan Color lands in America. The game was ahead of its time and helped establish many of the now common RPG traditions. If you want to see where weapons systems, evil empires, full-blown plots and chocobos all got their start, look no further.

Preview by Jeremy Steimel, GIA.
Final Fantasy II
Developer Square
Publisher Square
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform WonderSwan Color
Release Date  05.03.01
Final Fantasy II WonderSwan Color details, screens
20 story screenshots
5 character designs / Supporting character portraits
Japanese box art / limited edition packaging