Final Fantasy II - How to level up and an explanation on the leveling system
Final Fantasy II is one of the most interesting classic RPGs for a handful of reasons. For instance, since the original Final Fantasy is actually more of a not-so-secret take on Dungeons and Dragons more than anything else, FF2 is really where a lot of the franchise's iconic creature & enemy designs began life, such as the Behemoth, Bomb, Malboro, and Chocobo.
More to the point, Final Fantasy 2's leveling system is quite different from the rest of the series, and it's honestly pretty different than most traditionally-styled RPGs altogther. Going into the game without warning, you might get caught off-guard in a handful of ways. You may wonder 'how do I level up? Where is the EXP meter?' Things like that.
We're here to help.
How to Level Up Stats in Final Fantasy II
Flat out, there are no 'levels' in Final Fantasy II, at least not in the traditional sense. Firion, Maria, and Guy cannot be level 12, or level 19, or any other singular number, because the game doesn't work like that. Similarly, EXP is not a traditionally-used meter either.
Instead, individual stats in Final Fantasy 2 level up individually. HP, MP, Strength, Spirit, Intelligence, and several more stats all can rank up organically depending on the actions taken in battle. The list below details each stat in the game and how it can increase in battle.
- Max HP - This can increase if a character's HP is reduced significantly in battle. In the Pixel Remaster, it seems HP can increase after any battle.
- Max MP - This can increase if a character's MP is reduced in battle. In other words, use MP to gain higher Max MP.
- Strength - Affects damage and critical hit chance. This can increase by using the 'Attack' option in battle.
- Magic - This can increase by using any spell. The magic stat actually will affect how much MP you gain when a character's MP increases.
- Stamina - This can increase by taking damage in battle. Similar to magic, this stat will affect how much HP a character gains when their HP increases.
- Spirit - This stat affects the potency of white magic, and can increase by using white magic spells.
- Intelligence - This stat affects the potency of black magic, and can increase by using black magic spells.
- Agility - This stat affects battle order, your chance to evade, and affects the likelihood of preemptive strikes or ambushes. It can increase by dodging attacks.
- Evasion - This stat determines how many physical attacks you can evade at once. This will go up by being targeted with a physical attack.
- Magic Evasion - This stat determines how many magic attacks you can evade at once. This can increase by being targeted with a magic attack.
It's important to note that undertaking these actions in battle only has a chance of increasing their stat. There is no way to guarantee a stat increase.
You may have heard how, in Final Fantasy 2, you can have your characters hurt each other in order to power up. This is technically true, specifically for the HP stat, because as long as a character HP is hurt in battle, there's a chance for an HP increase at the end. Honestly though, this isn't really worth the effort to do as your character HP will go up naturally plenty over the course of the game, but it might be worth keeping in mind if you really feel like gaming the system for whatever reason.
Weapon & Spell Proficiency in Final Fantasy II and Best Weapons to Use
Similar to your character stats, weapon and spell proficiency also determine how potent a character is with a certain type of weapon or magic. As can be seen in the above image, a character's proficiency is shown for each weapon individually, and once the bar fills to full (reaches a value of 100), their weapon skill will go up.
Ultimately, a character's ability with a given weapon is determined by exercised use. The more they use a certain type of weapon or spell, the better they will become at using it. This also goes for spells. Use Fire spells more frequently, and your Fire Spell proficiency will increase, allowing Fire to do more damage.
This likely means that'll you'll want to pick out a weapon type for your characters early, and then never change a character's weapon type as you proceed through the game. Let's say you having Firion using swords, and he'll get stronger and stronger at using them. If you randomly decide to switch him to using a lance, he'll become much weaker with the weapon type until you level it back up a bit. This is very similar to the systems found in many of the SaGa series titles from Square, which effectively were spun off of Final Fantasy II.
You might be wondering what weapons are the best for each character to use. Any are viable and it's really up to you. You can't go wrong with the default: swords on Firion, bows for Maria, and give Guy an axe. Just make sure you pick one and stick with it for each character, so they can power up with that type.
One last important element to mention for Final Fantasy II is the Battle Rank. Every enemy type in the game has a static Rank value, ranging from 1 to 7, which can be seen in the game's bestiary. At the beginning of combat, the rank of the enemies you face is averaged, which determines the Rank of the battle. The higher the Rank, the faster your Weapon and Spell proficiencies will increase. Note, Firion and company do not have a Rank, only monsters in the bestiary do.
Battle Rank does NOT affect most stat growths, with a few exceptions. However, it does affect Weapon Proficiency (including Shields), Spell Proficiency, Evasion, and Magic Evasion.
Effectively, the higher the Rank, the faster your proficiencies will increase. Using weapons with low proficiencies against high-rank enemies will power up quickly. However, using highly proficient weapons against low-rank enemies will probably not power up at all. How much a weapon proficiency powers up depends on the Rank of the battle, as well as how many times it is used.
We won't dive deep into the formulas, just know your weapons and spells will get stronger the more you use them, but you'll have to take on higher and higher rank enemies once you power them up a bit.
All that said, once you get things moving, you can pretty much play Final Fantasy 2 like a normal RPG. Your stats will go up as you proceed through the game, just make sure you stick to a certain weapon type for each character, and it also helps to make sure at least one character works on their magic stats too. It does help to know some of the mechanisms behind this leveling system, however, so hopefully this page has been useful to you!