|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 24, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Final Fantasy II has just been released for the PSP, and it really looks nice. The game has been remade for its debut on the system. Many minor changes and extra content have been added to provide the Final Fantasy fanatic with the best version to date. If you're expecting a totally new game with unique gameplay, then you'll be disappointed. If, however, you want a classic RPG that's been made over to sparkle on your Sony handheld, you've got to run out and get it.
Final Fantasy II was a significant game in the franchise's history. It redefined the way RPGs were played. FFII introduced a totally new character advancement system. Done away with were benchmarks for leveling. In its stead, a new system was introduced based upon constant leveling via consistent use and character familiarity. For example, specific stats increased over time with their use, while other skills would wane if left untouched. Using spells would increase both the character's intelligence and the spell's specific level. Taking damage would increase your HP (hit points) stats, and using your sword or bow makes the character more proficient with those weapons. This system of leveling has become the backbone for the wildly successful Elder Scrolls. At the time, this was a revolutionary departure from RPG dogma and allowed the player to customize a rich party of characters that was tailored to their playing style. Other hallmarks of the title were the introduction of the Chocobos, and the infamous Cid. Chocobos are the iconic bird-like mounts that typify the world of Ivalice. Cid, the gruff inventor of the Airship, makes his first appearance and provides valuable clues to taking out the super weapon, Dreadnought. There can be no doubt that this game is one of the seminal components of the Final Fantasy series.
The game was recently remade for the GBA in an outstanding Final Fantasy I & II punch combo known as the Dawn of Souls. Despite the success and quality of that cart, the UMD of FFII is far superior and worth what may be a third look for some of you. Here are the reasons why. First, the graphics are the best they've ever been. The world of Ivalice is now presented in widescreen to match the PSP screen ratio. Additionally, the sprites have been entirely redrawn and take full advantage of the high resolution available on the PSP. The battlefield backgrounds are a beautiful backdrop for combat. Second, the sound effects and music have also been tinkered with. All the sounds come through the PSP's little speakers with amazing clarity. If you slap in some ear buds, you'll be transported. Third, new dungeons have been added for veterans and newbies alike to explore. There are some new monsters and new treasure this time around that will challenge and reward the player. Fourth, I really like the new top-down angled view. The battlefield and maps look even better due to the new perspective. Fifth, those in the know will really appreciate the wonderful art gallery where you can view the beautiful hand drawn work of the extremely talented Yoshitaka Amano. And last but not least, the opening cinematics, though brief, are breathtaking. All of these subtle changes add up to make this version the absolute best you can buy.
Despite all of the re-tooling and hard-work that went into its production, this is essentially the same game we played in the early 90s and then again in 2003 for the GBA. Gameplay may become tedious and even boring to novice gamers and old-hands alike. At various points in the game you will become too powerful for the enemies that challenge you. You will win battles by blindly pumping the attack button until all of your characters actions have been selected and you have laid waste to your foes. I've actually done this without even looking at the screen, or even knowing what kind or how many creatures I'm facing. The only battles that are truly worthwhile are those that require you to use a combination of attack, magic, and item commands in order to see you through. This only happens when your opponents are superior to you, and that's infrequent. These challenging battles are great and make the game occasionally a lot of fun. When you have to silence enemy spell casters, revive your comrade with a phoenix down, and then come back with a dual-wield bashing, you'll love it. Otherwise, battles are humdrum affairs that will have you often wishing that the wilderness of Ivalice was not so wild. Thankfully, the story has also been strengthened and is enough to keep you traipsing across the woods, marshes, lakes, and rivers to advance your quest.
In conclusion, this is a wonderful little game that is a must buy for any Final Fantasy fanatic. The revamped graphics, sounds, story, and additional content make the game a valuable addition to your PSP. If you're not a fan however, you may find the battles to be dull and tedious. This is not a game I would recommend to everyone. However, the production values and quality of the title have proven to last the test of time. If you're looking to pick up a classic game that helped revolutionize a genre, give this version a look-see, as it performs admirably. Despite its antiquated gameplay, this game is better than at least 75% of the PSP software out there. Well done Square, even your old games still rock!
CCC Freelance Writer