The second entry in the bone-shatteringly popularFinal Fantasy series.During the flight from the occupied city of Fynn, four orphans are ensnared by imperial troops and left for dead. (So much for Easing Into the Adventure.)Three of the victims are recovered by a mystic working for La Résistance, and taken to a nearby rebel stronghold. Upon being revived, the group is recruited to — what else — help stop The Empire from taking over the world. The Emperor, a Bishounen with genocidal designs (hey, that sounds kind of familiar), has an advantage in that he's opened the gates of Hell to enlist an army of demons.This being an NES Final Fantasy title, the main characters remain more or less blank slates, though Squaresoft was beginning to experiment with larger, more epic storylines with a memorable supporting cast. Indeed, the main trio have personalities, names, and a dynamic with each other, unlike in the first game where they were simply cutouts.What makes FFII stand out from the rest of the series is its "learn by doing" experience system more commonly associated with The Elder Scrolls and SaGa series (with the exception of the third game, which used a traditional EXP system), also known as Stat Grinding: A character that cast magic a lot increased their magical abilities, a character that got hit a lot increased their hit points and defense, et cetera. In theory, this gave players total control over the party's makeup, allowing them to mold character classes over time rather than simply packing their party with "Black Mages" or "Thieves." In actual practice, it meant that the most efficient way to level up your party's stats was to order them to ignore the monsters and club each other on the head. This, combined with recycled sprites and textures from the previous title, have given FFII a reputation akin to Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and similar Mission Pack Sequels.Despite the frustrating nature of the above — especially in the original releases — this game is where many FF staples began: Chocobos, Dragoons, the recurring character named Cid and his ubiquitous airship, and the Nonlinear Sequel concept. It also got remade on the WonderSwan, Playstation, Game Boy Advance, PSP, and iPhone, later versions also tweaking the stat system to make it more manageable.
In addition to standard FF fare, this game provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: A major subplot is the party unsealing the bindings on the forbidden Ultima Tome which teaches the ultimate magic Ultima, and the Mysidian library mentions Ultima was originally crafted to destroy the risen palace of hell Pandaemonium. Classic Chekhov's Gun it appears, but once you acquire it Ultima has no storyline relevance and usage of it is entirely optional.
Aborted Declaration of Love: Scott initially asks the heroes to tell Hilda he loves her, but then orders them not to, saying that she would only be pained to hear that from a dying man.
Absurdly High Level Cap: Weapon and Spell proficiencies max at Level 16. Unless you do a lot of level grinding for the PSP Bonus Dungeons, odds are by the end of the game most of your skills will be no higher than level 10, if you spam them relentlessly the entire game. Of course, the only spells you need to buff to 16 are Aura (a buff spell with stacking abilities for every level) and Ultima (which uses the levels of all equipped spells-including itself-for attack power), as most spells are quite formidable by level 10.
All There in the Manual: Although the game is story driven and has a complex plot for being made in 1988, character development is minimal, and most details about your party, their personalities, and the people they work for and fight against are derived from the novelization of the story that was published shortly after the game launched. In Japan, naturally.
Anyone Can Die: Hell, you start off the game dead. This doesn't seem to affect the Emperor much, however. Or you, for that matter—Imperial soldiers kill you at the beginning of the game, but succeed only in pissing you off.
The Atoner: Leon. In the ending, he leaves to parts unknown over the guilt he still has about his actions as the Dark Knight.
Attack Backfire: In this game, attacking enemies with the wrong spell (eg Ice monsters with Ice magic, Undead with Drain and Osmose or Blob Monster with Poison) will actually heal the monster. With Drain or Blood Swords, results will be ugly.
In fact, all Final Fantasy games after the first one have a system of elemental absorb.
Awesome but Impractical: The Revive and Destroy spells from the PSP version— the first will revive and completely heal everyone in the fight, including the enemies. Destroy will kill everything on the screen (including your allies), except the caster, who will be left with 1 HP.
Beef Gate: The world map is wide open, designed in a way so as to not even so much as suggest a way you should go, with featureless plains and forests in every direction being the norm. Some advice for if you don't know where to go is to pick a direction. If you died to a random encounter, you went the wrong way.
The situation is slightly better in the remakes, where the world map becomes available fairly early on and always marks the next destination to advance the main plot with a blinking yellow light.
Bigger Bad: Satan. He's only mentioned in the novel, where he actually becomes the Big Bad after the Emperor is taken out. In the game, Mateus presumably kills him to take his throne.
Bonus Dungeon: Soul of Rebirth in the GBA remake. The PSP release added the Arcane Labyrinth and Arcane Sanctuary on top of this.
Bishōnen: Firion to some extent, but Emperor Mateus is the first bishonen villain in the series, thus setting the trend for manymoreto come.
Black Magician Girl: Odd example; while any of the party members can be made into Black Mages, Maria's starting stats are best suited for the role.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: An English translation was actually produced for a North American NES release that never happened. Which is just as well, considering that the resulting translation, just to start with, consistently spelled "pirates" as "piretes," turned Beelzebub into "Beelzlbl," and had the boss Gottos shriek "Rebellions!" when confronted by the rebels.
Bragging Rights Reward: The PSP version adds the Revive and Destroy tomes. They can only be gotten by completing the entire Arcane Labyrinth sequence, Arcane Sanctuary, and then defeating Bonus Boss Deumion, who can't be fought until you've done everything except beating the game's final boss. You can only pick one of the two tomes, and each one is an Awesome but Impractical spell.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Maria believes Leon to be this, but after the party kills the Emperor the first time, he doesn't turn back. Instead, he hops on the throne himself and tries to set himself up as the new Emperor. He does turn back when the party goes to confront him and the Emperor returns, though.
Chainmail Bikini: Guy's artwork and his PSP sprite has him wearing a breastplate that bares his midriff, some shoulder pads, a cape, and a pair of briefs. He pretty much pioneered the standard outfits for SNES-era Final Fantasy heroines. He has a more forgivable outfit in the Origins and Dawn of Souls versions.
Continuity Nod: Asking Gordon about mythril will have him note that Scott had a prized sword made of the material. Guess what Scott's default weapon in Soul of Rebirth is.
Contractual Boss Immunity: Averted, because every single boss in the game is vulnerable to instant-death spells. The only ones it doesn't really work on are the Dark and Light Emperors, and Zombie Borghen, who are technically vulnerable to the spells but have high enough magic defense stats to ensure that the spells have pretty much zero chance of hitting them.
Crutch Character: Minwu. Although his stats are very high when you first obtain them, he leaves before he gets to become useful. When you play as him in Soul of Rebirth, he becomes normalized, since he is the main character. Interestingly, this can be inverted if you grind your main three characters a lot, giving them at least twice as much HP as the fourth character when they join.
Darker and Edgier: You start off the game getting your head handed to you, many of your allies quickly die, and many towns in the game world get destroyed twice.
Degraded Boss: Lots. In fact, it's probably easier to list the bosses who don't go on later to become standard monster encounters. Even Gottos, the imperial commander at Fynn Castle, inexplicably ends up with clones of himself overrunning later dungeons.
Grind until you can defeat the Captains roaming the streets of Fynn. They don't disappear when beaten and they drop Curse and Toad Tomes, as well as Flame Bows and Golden Armor, all of which aren't normally available until quite a bit later, as well as a fair bit of money. The toad spell, in contrast to its normal usage, is only a Baleful Polymorph when used on your party members, while against enemies it functions as a One-Hit Kill. Only a few enemies are resistant to it and almost nothing is immune, not even most bosses, so with a few levels in it that spell and the gear from the Captains can carry you through the whole game.
After the first few Fetch Quests, Minwu joins, and he has the teleport spell. In addition to its traditional use of escaping dungeons, this is also a One-Hit Kill against almost anything, and with a little grinding it can work just as well as toad mentioned above. Of course, Minwu won't stay with you for long, so to make use of this you'll have to either use him on the Captains mentioned above or...
Reach Mysidia. This is major Sequence Breaking, because the Random Encounters in the area are a Beef Gate unto themselves, about as hard as the Captains in Fynn but in larger groups. Still, with a properly leveled Toad or Teleport they'll die just as easily as anything else, and the shops in Mysidia have the best gear for sale in the whole game. With that on top of what it takes to handle the local monsters, nothing short of the final dungeons will pose a challenge.
In the original Famicom release all of this is even easier thanks to a major glitch in the mechanics of stat gains in combat that renders the initial grinding risk-free and slightly faster than in the remakes.
Doomed Hometown: Inverted; nearly every goddamn city in the game except the player's hometown is wiped out by the Empire. The outright destruction doesn't happen until near the end, however, as the Dreadnought doesn't completely ruin everything in the towns it attacks.
Downer Beginning: The protagonists narrowly escape the razing of the kingdom of Flynn in the wake of the Palamecian army, only to be immediately ambushed in a Hopeless Boss Fight. It clearly sets the tone for this game.
Dual Wielding: Everyone can do this with any weapon except bows, if you're willing to forgo shields.
One uncommon strategy for turning Firion immortal from the beginning involves doing a small amount of grinding, just to get some money and then as soon as possible, buying 6 shields and having everyone Dual-Wield shields for about an hour. Since nobody has a weapon nor are unarmed, they will just stand in battle and block all attacks, causing evasion and shield level to increase tremendously.
Dumb Muscle: Guy is one of the most pronounced examples in Final Fantasy history. He's so slow, he's barely capable of speech (except with animals because it's All There In TheJapan-exclusiveNovelization that he's a Wild Child.) Then again, it might just be a language barrier, rather than outright stupidity—he (along with everyone else) can use magic, after all.
Empty Room Psych: LOTS. You will grow to hate random doors in walls. And they all have ridiculously high encounter rates and place you away from their entrance—you're lucky to get out of them without at least one random battle. Adding insult to injury, some of what look like doors to yet more empty rooms turn out to actually contain valuable treasure or lead further into the dungeon. These rooms are excellent places for grinding in the remake versions, however.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Hilda of Fynn is a surprisingly proactive example for an early FF game. She does get kidnapped once, but for the majority of the game, she's the main strategist behind the rebel forces, which she takes over from her father after he's injured in battle, and even joins the army when they're camped outside of Fynn preparing to retake it from the empire's soldiers.
Fission Mailed: The first battle is extremely one-sided, and ends with the entire party being beaten... then revived in a nearby castle, which kickstarts the plot.
From Bad to Worse: Any time you think things are looking up, you're only setting yourself up to be proven wrong. The game is pretty much an escalation of the Emperor one-upping every move you make against him and destroying a couple towns or killing an important ally in the process.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Considering the huge casualty count in the game, it's practically inevitable. Two particularly egregious examples that stand out are the fact that while you can show any item in your inventory to the King of Fynn, you can't ever get him to use any of your healing items; also, in the room where Scott dies, there are three treasure chests containing Potions. It doesn't matter whether you take them or not; he dies anyway.
Not only that, but Minwu is tending to the King for quite some time before he dies; a White Wizard who knows almost every curative magic in the game. It never occurred to him to cast a high-level Cure on him, apparently, although Minwu mentions that there's only so much his spells can do.
Guest Star Party Member: Your fourth slot is always filled with one of these. The Soul of Rebirth epilogue lets you play with the ones that die during the game.
Guide Dang It: Obtaining the Revive Tome in the 20th Anniversary release requires you to find Deumion before the guards on the "Guardian" floor of the Arcnae Labyrinth. You can't simply walk to his home though, even if you know which one it is, you have to speak to the guards, then you have to follow them through down via the back alleys, heading them off several times. The trick is that only a certain path to try and head them off will succeed, fail and they make it to Deumion instantly. And contrary to the hint given, no you do not take the shortest path, in fact some of the paths you take are closer to the longest path. In the final segment, the guards walk straight to Deumion's house, and in a manner that defies all logic, you have to head up and trace Deumion's steps through an alley and south to his home in order to beat them there, just following them again has them get there first, but somehow taking the long way around gets you there first.
Heroes Prefer Swords: Although any character can equip and train with any weapon, Firion starts off with a sword and his Infinity+1 Sword in the PSP version is the sword Ragnarok. Scott in Soul of Rebirth specializes in swords.
Infinity–1 Sword: The Excalibur, as well as the strongest weapons of each non-sword weapon type.
Infinity+1 Sword: The Masamune. The GBA version gives each of the characters in Soul of Rebirth their own exclusive ultimate weapon (save for Josef, who instead gets an exclusive piece of armor) and the PSP version gives every character in the main game a unique ultimate weapon from the Bonus Dungeon.
Kicked Upstairs: The Emperor gets killed by the heroes... he can't do any harm dead, right? Well, actually, you kicked him upstairs to becoming the ruler of the entire afterlife (since the Emperor's soul split into two for some reason and ruled Heaven and Hell, respectively).
Loveable Rogue: Leila. She tries to hold you up when you first meet her, but once she joins the team, she apparently loses her every villainous desire and proves herself to be a trustworthy ally. She even briefly leads the rebel army while Princess Hilda is imprisoned and Prince Gordon joins the heroes to rescue her.
Paul is this as well; while an admitted thief, he claims to only steal from the Empire and helps you out a few times in your quest.
Magic Knight and Squishy Wizard: while in the original, leveling up weapon abilities drained your magic abilities and vice versa, the remakes do away with this, making everyone able to be a Magic Knight.
The Medic: As above, the lead Firion starts out with the best stats for white magic.
Minwu is a better example. He joins your party with excellent magic attributes and has nearly every White Magic spell learned and at high levels.
Mighty Glacier: Guy starts with the highest power and the most HP but the lowest agility of the main characters.
Mordor: Palamecia lies nestled in an impenetrable mountain range surrounded by the largest desert in the world.
My Death Is Just the Beginning: The Emperor again. Arguably, his plan was to let himself be killed by the heroes when he's in the Cyclone, since after his death, he takes over the entire afterlife and comes back stronger.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: If you have not read the manual, Guy, who speaks only a few times in the entire game, will suddenly and conveniently reveal his ability to speak beaver at a critical juncture.
Soul of Rebirth is arguably even HARDER, especially when going in blind.
No Export for You: This originally applied to the game until the PlayStation port. The Japanese novelization of the game will most likely always fall into this category.
Official reasons for the original localization ("Dark Shadow Over Palakia") being canceled were given as Final Fantasy IV being released right around the corner, and NES development was drying up in the west. However, the likely real reason the game sat in Japan for so long is the fact that the game carries a heavy death theme and the endgame involves a trip to Hell, which would have been impossible to alter for or dodge by Nintendo's Censorship Bureau.
Pirates: Leila and her crew. Granted, the fight against them is one of the easiest in the game, so they're probably not very good pirates, but at least they're nice enough to join up with you and let you use their ship after you beat them. (Leila herself seems to be the spiritual predecessor to another purple-haired female pirate captain, Faris of Final Fantasy V.)
Peninsula of Power Leveling: Just to the south of the city you start in. (Though this isn't as impressive since, once you get the canoe, you can walk anywhere in the game world, where there are plenty of extremely powerful enemies to pummel.)
Plotline Death: No less than three player characters bite it during the course of the game - Josef is the first to go, getting crushed to death by a boulder after the party takes care of Borghen. Next is Minwu, who has to sacrifice all his life energy to give the party access to Ultima. Finally, Ricard sticks around Palamecia Castle for a few fatal minutes in order to allow the party time to escape while the resurrected Emperor is busy tearing the place apart.
Cid perishes from his wounds after his airship is clipped by the Cyclone. It's the first (but by no meansthe last) time his namesake has died in Final Fantasy.
In the GBA remake, the Soul of Rebirth mode has you play as those three characters, plus Scott to take out a strange being who's taken over the afterlife. Cid's soul also appears in this realm.
Rare Candy: The orbs at the top of Mysidia Tower which increase a specific stat on a random party member by 10 points.
Retroactive Legacy: Originally, Kain from FFIV was named after Ricard as an in-joke/Shout-Out. The GBA remake of II continued the injoke by giving its playable dragoon the surname Highwind, and the little boy who survived the poisoning of Deist the name Kain.
And one of the game manuals to IV (Final Fantasy IV Settei Shiryou Hen, for those curious) says that Leon/Leonheart is the one who left Deathbringer with King Fabul and that after the events of the game, Leon renounced his status as a Dark Knight and became a priest, an obvious parallel to Cecil's own atonement quest (and eventual class change to a Paladin).
Scratch Damage: Averted, at least in the remake. After a few casts of the protect spell (which Minwu has at level 5 by default), enemy attacks will regularly hit some characters for 0 damage, even without level grinding or armor upgrades.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The portal to Hell was closed in the distant past using Ultima, until The Emperor somehow breaks the seal and brings Pandaemnium back into the world.
Sequence Breaking: The dungeons can only be visited in the order the game lets you due to such locations being inaccessible until you acquire the next MacGuffin or a new mode of transportation. The towns however, can be visited in any order you like because right as you start the game you're free to wander the world as you wish. Beef Gates will hamper your efforts, but if you want you can head to Mysidia the second you leave Altair and, with enough level grinding to earn the cash, purchase some of the best spells and equipment in the game there.
Shout-Out: In the rerelease, Cid's tiny airship is gobbled up by the Dreadnaught in another homage to Square's favorite film, A New Hope.
The entire game is a shout out to Star Wars, actually. Rebels being chased and overtaken by The Empire at the start of the game? Check. The heroes seeking the aid of a pilot with a form of fast transportation? Check. A party member making a Heroic Sacrifice (and being completely calm and accepting of it) to motivate the heroes to fight on? Check. A huge doomsday weapon that threatens the world/galaxy? Check. A family member becoming The Dragon to the Big Bad? Check. Said Dragon having a Heel Realization near the end? Check. The Big Bad himself being the Emperor? Check. The Big Bad having plans for a second doomsday weapon? Check. Granted, all of these were fairly common cliches even when A New Hope was made, but for a video game that came out in 1988, there are too many that overlap to just be considered a coincidence.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: Every fourth party member who leaves your party permanently will take their weapons and armor with them forever. This actually serves a purpose in Soul of Rebirth, though, where three of your four player characters were playable in the main game, so it'll be easier if you left their equipment on them. However, you're out of luck if one of your party members leaves without dying, since you won't be using them in Soul of Rebirth.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Played with. You can freely roam the map, but if you visit the locations in sequential order, the enemies' ranks rise by 1 or 2 every few areas. About halfway through the game, the random encounters all get replaced to compete with your newfound power. Sometimes justified by how important the area is to the Emperor or, occasionally, a third party.
Spell My Name with an S: Frioniel was changed to Firion in the English translation for name-space restrictions; Leonhart to Leon for the same reason. Guy was named Gus in the PSX translation, but then renamed to Guy for the GBA. Same goes for Minwu (renamed "Mindu" in the PSX version).
Mr. Highwind is a particularly egregious example. He was called Edward in the translation of the prototype English version for the NES, Gareth in the PSX translation, and Ricard on the GBA and PSP versions, which is most likely supposed to be Richard, based off his name in Japan, but is over the letter limit. In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, his name on the Player Icons of him is Richard.
Thunder and Blizzard in the original were changed to Lit-x and Ice-x respectively, where 'x' is the spell's level. In the Origins version, a certain White Magic was named 'Life'. In the European version of the GBA port, this became Raise.
Spiritual Sequel: As noted in the intro text, this game begat the SaGa series. The gameplay is the same (albeit with improvements,) they share the same "go anywhere" philosophy usually utilized in WRPGs, and Everybody's Dead, Dave tends to be a driving force in both games' themes, especially in the Romancing sequels.
Stripperiffic: Maria wears half a shirt with a metal pastie covering one breast, being the first heroine in a long line of these in the series. Her appearance in the Origins and PSP FMV cutscene shows her wearing a completely different outfit with more to it.
Not to be outdone, Guy wears a chestplate that bares his midriff and what can only be described as bikini briefs in his artwork. Most versions of the game have him wearing modest green clothing, but in the PSP version, his battle sprite is faithful to his artwork.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Ricard tells the Emperor that he "might have some trouble slaying the last of the Dragoons." The Emperor's response? He blows up the entire castle that they're standing in. Admittedly, he needed to do that anyway to raise Pandaemonium in its place, but it just goes to show that the resurrected Emperor doesn't screw around.
This Isn't Heaven: Inverted. In Soul of Rebirth, Cid is the first to realize that the setting isn't Hell.
Unexplained Recovery: Leila mysteriously disappears in the middle of the sea when the ship is swallowed by the Leviathan, then reappears in Altair's Castle with no explanation.
Useless Useful Spell: Mostly subverted. While the game has its share of useless spells, Teleport is stupidly easy to max the level out for, allowing you to survive in some high level areas to Sequence Break and gain good equipment. In the GBA and later remakes, grinding up Toad to max level also allows end game equipment to be easily obtained.
Oddly enough, Ultima. When you get it, three quarters of the way through the game, you will enthusiastically go around using it... only to realize that, thanks to a glitch that makes it so that it never gains any power, it's actually a pretty weak spell. Even in versions of the game where this glitch is fixed, the spell's extremely unusual way of powering up (its power increases depending on all the other spells and weapons that you've leveled up) means it takes exponentially more grinding to be powerful, compared to usual spells. On the other hand, though, if you do trick Ultima out fully, you've got pretty much guaranteed 9000+ damage for 16MP a pop, elemental resistances and magic defense/evasion be damned.
Arguably EVERY spell in the game (except Cure, Life, and Esuna) can be seen as this; level 1 spells are insanely weak, even by the standards at the start of the game. Attack spells do pathetic damage, status and buff spells miss constantly, the only way for them to become actually usefull is to level them up with constant use. But the amount of time needed to level up all these spells is INSANE and physical attack power increases MUCH quicker, especially with all the loot you can get in dungeons, so many players may find themselves simply relying on Cure, Life, Esuna, and nothing else.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Pandaemonium, after not one but two Disc One Final Dungeons, and a grueling cave you have to slog through in order to reach the dungeon itself.
Weapon of Choice: Every playable character has a moderate level of experience in one specific weapon type, with the exception of Black Magic. The remake rectifies this by giving Scott several leveled black magic spells.
White Hair, Black Heart: Firion averts it by being the hero. Mateus plays it straight by being the villain, though he's more platinum-blond than white or silver.
White Mage: This game bucks the trend somewhat with Minwu, who is the only male in FF history to canonically be a White Mage.
Wild Child: Guy. According to the All There in the Manual backstory, this is the official explanation for his being able to talk with animals, as well as his somewhat lacking grammar.
Womb Level: Leviathan. Apparently his first appearance before he shows up as a summon in later FF games, he's a dungeon in this one, and you're walking around in his guts.
You Shall Not Pass: Ricard gets to do this in Castle Palamecia, when he takes on the resurrected Emperor, who's now wielding the powers of Hell, to buy the rest of your party time to escape.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: At one point in the game, Princess Hilda, the leader of the rebel force, gets kidnapped. You have to sneak onto the Empire's warship, where she's being held, and break her out. It turns out that the Hilda you rescued isn't the real princess, but a Lamia Queen disguised as her, sent by the Emperor as part of a plot to kill you. Said plot involves the Lamia Queen, as Hilda, getting Firion alone and trying to seduce him. And although he's flustered at first, he almost falls for it. The only thing that saves him is Leila kicking the door in at the last minute, right as the Lamia Queen turns into her actual monstrous form, so the party can team up to kill her.
Kansas City Shuffle: Building off of the above, when they go to rescue the real princess, the Emperor turns out to have faked an entire gladiatorial match just to set a trap for them. And the original airship? Turns out it wasn't his only idea for an aerial super weapon, or even the most dangerous. His friggin' castle has a booby trap on its top floor that drops down several floors, apparently just so it's impossible for anyone to land on his roof and assassinate him with a sneak attack.