Well, Square-Enix has managed to get me to buy the same game three times. Final Fantasy II has been released on the PS1, GBA, and now, the PSP. One would think that the average fan would stop at picking up one version of the game. Well, I’m a sucker for things Final Fantasy. And do I ever feel like a sucker for handing over my lunch money the way I did for this totally average package of a game that never held much luster to begin with. I’m not really saying that Final Fantasy 2 for PSP is a bad game; I’m just saying that it’s the same game, slightly gussied up for mass consumption. And considering some of the other titles that are out for the PSP now, it sure does seem like a waste to encourage Square-Enix to keep doing these remakes by picking up this title.
First off, Final Fantasy II received the same glossing of graphics that Final Fantasy I received a little less than a month and half ago. So all you are paying for is a different story with new characters, and a slightly tweaked game play system. Final Fantasy II has the distinction of being one of the weakest games in the series, and it truly shows in this PSP port. The biggest weakness is that despite re-working the dialogue, Square-Enix forgot to include the sense of direction one would need to play this game. I really felt like I was wasting a lot of time learning new words and picking up items and having no idea where they needed to go or who I needed to talk to. Revisiting some areas only made things more cryptic as the dialogue for the characters changes after they tell you to do something. So if you happen to not be paying attention, boot up good ol’ Game FAQs, because otherwise you are just going to roam the countryside, needlessly leveling up your stats. But if you can get past those first few hours of fetch quests the story does start to come together, the hard part really is making it to that point as this game really tries to do a lot of boring things in an attempt to drive you away.
Again, here is another flaw to Final Fantasy II, you don’t gain levels, you simply gain stat boosts over time by doing certain things, which includes swinging your weapons, casting spells, or dodging attacks with a shield. Some of these seem to go up arbitrarily and so you really don’t feel like you have much control over your characters, save for the type of equipment and spells they receive. Take for example Maria, you make her a caster and to raise her HP you need to get her to attack with a weapon, the only problem is that she will whiff more often than not. To bolster your magical arsenal you plug in spells to your characters by picking them up at the store or by finding them on enemies, and repeated castings will cause them to level up and become more powerful. So if that cure spell isn’t cutting it, head out to battle and start casting like a fool, and the endgame will go a lot more smoothly if you’ve got a lot of casters so make sure you’ve given everyone a good lesson in basic magic.
In Final Fantasy II you can build a character to your preference, though the game tries to outline some characters for you from the get go. Firion is your typical Paladin, a swordsman with a light dabbling in the magical arts. Maria, who is meant to be your big bad magician, and Guy is the big dumb cart full of rocks that will smash anything that gets in your way. The guy speaks beaver for crying out loud. Also I don’t know if this is because the dialogue appears to be rewritten or something but his is just awful now. He can barely construct a sentence, making me wonder if I could have left him at an inn by sneaking off earlier in the night. So while you can build whatever character you want, you will find that magic is almost always the way to go. Why would I want to sit there and pound on a boss with physical attacks for ten minutes when I can off him with just two castings of Blizzard?
As much as I enjoy all things Final Fantasy, I find it hard to recommend this version of the game. It has already been released on two other consoles, and the game play has not been changed at all. A new coat of paint really doesn’t scream ‘BUY ME,’ especially when I can roll in to a game store and pick up both games used for a cheaper rate than just by picking up Final Fantasy II on PSP. Granted, if you have been living under a rock since 2003 then the prospect of this game may seem appealing, but at this point I think I will hold out for a full Final Fantasy compilation on one Blu-Ray disc. With the rehash craze that Square-Enix is on lately, it’s only a matter of time.