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Final Fantasy 2

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Reviewed by Brian Kerr Epic. It's the single, unquantifiable element that ties together all of the great artistic achievements of the human race. From the _Odyssey_ to _Star Wars_, epic is what brings us together. And epic--the sheer scale of storytelling--is what makes the Final Fantasy series of Role Playing games worth the while. Final Fantasy 2 is incredible and playable, despite its accumulated age, simply because the epic story it presents surpasses all of its many shortcomings. The story itself can be summarized on many levels--as coming to an end of a great, ancient civilization, as a personal quest of one man to discover inner peace and morality, or as a political thriller, or as a love story, or as a religious allegory... You get the idea.

Graphics 27 out of 42

The graphics are your standard over-the head little cartoon figure affairs. Clear, stylistic, and varied. However, the background textures and enemy graphics are suspiciously recycled at times, probably due to the constraints of the console and the laziness of the artist. At their worst, the graphics are merely adequate. At their best, they are astounding. The character animations are quite revealing of personality and psyche--somehow, the characters' emotions and actions are made crystal-clear through the little 4-frame animations.

Music and Sound 35 out of 42

Video game music is often hailed as "catchy". Final Fantasy 2's large and varied score, while "catchy", is also plain old good. So good, in fact, that I imported the soundtrack. :) Each of the main characters and important locales has its own musical track, and there are several important themes that are subtly varied upon several times throughout the course of the game. The music is so well-written and tightly integrated that it tells a story in its own right, independent from the game. And since during the game itself, the music changes dynamically to suit the situation, the whole experience could be considered a 20+ hour ideological fugue. Only problem is, some of the tracks are downright annoying.

Game Challenge 42 out of 42

Final Fantasy II is essentially a linear game, but there are enough tangential options and sub-quests to allow the game to expand to meet the gamers difficulty expectations. It is totally possible to bomb straight through the game, and as such, it is not horribly difficult. However, to collect the secret weapons and monster summons and whatnot, requires an almost insane amount of vigilance and skill.

Game Play-Fun 25 out of 42

The story line and game engine are not geared towards "fun", per se, but towards dramatic depth and meaning. I mean by this that Final Fantasy II is not a game to be played for fun in the same way that an arcade racing game is fun. Final Fantasy 2 is meaningful and enjoyable, on a deeper, more cerebral level than almost any other game, and, as such, isn't really that fun.

Frustration

At all times during the game, you have clearly stated goals and objectives--you know where to go and what to do. The interface and battle engine are intuitive in their complexity, and the story is straightforward, if deviously layered and Epic. Some of the boss enemies take a while to beat, but it's really just an issue of working out a strategy and making sure all of your characters are properly equipped and levelled up. It's frustrating at times, yes, but just enough to make finishing it all the more worthwhile.

Replayability 35 out of 42

You will never find all or even most of the hidden and/or optional stuff the first time you play through it. Period. The story itself is linear, but it's big enough that you will want to play through it several times to understand it all.

Game Value 41 out of 42

Final Fantasy II is my favorite story, on any medium, of all time. For me, it is priceless. However, for most people it is just a dated, boring RPG. I have given it quite an impressive value rating, and will justify my rating by saying that I have played through the game 5 times. Each time it takes me about 30 hours. 5 * 30 = 150 hours. The game, used, runs about $30, making it cost a whopping 20 cents an hour. Now *that's* quality entertainment on a budget. :)

Overall 40 out of 42

The most important element of Final Fantasy II, the story, is the one thing I have not written about at all in this review. It is best experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible, and I must close with this: If you want to have fun, play Super Mario Kart or some such. If you want to play a fun game, play Final Fantasy II.

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