Faith has a way of making us do funny things. Like a zealous medieval priest, franchise followers endure the pain of playing Final Fantasy II to preserve their belief in an unbroken line of great games. No matter how torturous its character development mechanics or unfair its difficulty at times, faith carries them through those tough times.
In many respects, Final Fantasy II does build upon the old-skool role-playing tradition established by its predecessor (check out our Final Fantasy iPhone review). Its story is more involved, scale larger, and gameplay more sophisticated. Yet none of these advances protect against a self-defeating character progression system and uneven difficulty.
And that's before accounting for the changes made in this impressive-looking iPhone and iPod touch remake.If looks could kill
The charms of Final Fantasy are not lost upon this sequel. Quite the contrary, as Final Fantasy II sends you on a rousing quest to defeat the evil emperor of Palamecia whose demonic minions have scorched your home and murdered your family. Orphaned, thirsting for vengeance, and cast in cute sprite form, your ragtag band is as endearing and adventurous as any other role-playing party.
Thanks to beautifully remastered visuals and audio, they're ever more adorable on iPhone and iPod touch. Final Fantasy II looks so exquisite that it's hard to accept that such a charming game hides a cruel edge.
Character development is done not by levelling up with experience collected generally from defeated monsters. Instead, individual attributes are developed based on actions taken in battle. In short, progress is skill-based. While this approach has proved successful in countless games that followed it, serious shortcomings ruin the system here.
Hit points, for example, are tied to this system. In order to increase a character's HP, they must come under attack and take damage. This means either slogging through countless battles and slowly raising each party member's HP or opting to speed things up by bashing on your own characters. It's as though the game encourages you to beat up on yourself in hopes of beefing up for the boss battles ahead.A gentle touch
If you don't manage to defeat yourself, no doubt a random catch of monsters will. The game is characterised by dangerously unfair fluctuations in difficulty that pit your party against overpowered foes without warning. An appetite for exploration may result in your party ending up down a fiend's gullet, the only indication you're in the wrong area being your unceremonious return to the title screen.
To complain about the slower pace of battle and trickiness of chatting up characters as a result of the new touch controls required of this iPhone translation seems trivial in comparison to the more egregious design flaws previously articulated.
Afflicted with flaws in its fundamental design, Final Fantasy II remains a laborious play despite the sheen of its touch controls and enhanced graphics acting as a neat distraction.