The road to hell is paved with good intentions

This is the second installment of the Final Fantasy series, but it actually didn’t make it out of Japan until the Final Fantasy Origins remake for the PS, where it was bundled with its predecessor, FFI. This has resulted in a temporary numerical confusion for the rest of the world, where, until Origins came out, FFIV was known as FFII (since it was, for all intents and purposes, the second FF game released outside of Japan), and FFVI as FFIII. Effectively, this means that the only way to play the original NES version is to use an emulator and the fan-translated ROM by NeoDemiforce. Barring that, the Origins version is the first official version of the game outside of Japan.

While all this may be a minor annoyance, the actual game itself certainly isn’t. If you ask me, this is quite possibly FF at its very worst. Yes, yes, worse than X-2. Worse than Tactics Advance 2. Worse than XIII. Worse than FFIV: The After Years.

To start off on a positive note though, the game does make improvements in a few areas. And, in fact, its failings probably stem from a genuine attempt to create something different from the original Final Fantasy. First of all, the graphics are a tad smoother. The message speed has also significantly improved, making battles faster. Now you don’t actually have to wait for hours scrolling through stat-ups when one of your characters gains a level, unlike the original FF. The storyline shows more effort, as does the characterisation. Contrary to popular belief, which is based on the delayed release of the game, this is the very first FF to have named characters with distinct personalities, even though some of the sprites, like Frioniel’s/Firion’s or Guy’s, have been shamelessly recycled from the first game. The cast is also more numerous and more varied. The very first Cid appears here, as well as the very first chocobos. The former hangs out in a bar and lets the party use his airship for a fee. The latter live in a forest near Kashuon/Kashuan, where they can be caught, allowing a temporary respite from random fighting as the party canters around the world (they’ll run away once the characters dismount, though). In short, at this point, things sound pretty good, right?

Right. But this does not take into account the combat system. That one single aspect completely BREAKS the game. I mean, the storyline and characterisation aren’t exactly masterpieces of detail or subtlety, but they’re still steps in the right direction. As things stand, though, the combat system only brings out the rest of the game’s shortcomings in much starker relief, tainting everything by association. By all means, give the game a shot if you really like your videogame archaeology, or if you’re curious to see just how low FF can fall. Otherwise, I’d steer clear from this sucker. Or, at least, from the NES version. Which, admittedly, isn’t difficult, since it actually takes some effort to obtain. The Dawn of Souls GBA remake and the XXth Anniversary PSP remake, however, are nothing short of astounding as they actually manage to make the game decent. So if you’re going to play, pick one of those two versions.

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