Final Fantasy II Anniversary Edition Review
Beware - Final Fantasy II Anniversary Edition is in fact the original Japanese Final Fantasy II, and not the one that was released on the SNES in the US - in reality Final Fantasy IV. The two share a bit in common, though - both are story-heavy romps following a story-light one in the previous game.
FF2 is special because it was the first game in the series to give characters names from the get-go and put a huge focus on storyline and dialogue throughout - in many ways, FF2 was major foreshadowing of what was to come for the FF series.
It's also a major change from the gameplay of the previous games - in fact, outside of the interface, little is familiar here. Each character in FF2 develops their skills in areas they actually use - if a character uses swords constantly, switching him to magic will be as if he's back at level 1 - in fact, he is - every area of each FF2 character has its own individual level.
It's an interesting twist on the concept of experience and levelling up that was the hallmark of the RPG genre at the time, but in FF2 the execution of this twist is flawed and the game suffers as a result.
FF2 is famous amongst FF fans for being the game where you could buff and level up your characters by having them attack each other rather than the enemy to extend battle lenghts and rapidly build up statistics. While FF1 required grinding in places in FF2 it was required even more and almost necessary to make your way through the storyline successfully.
As such, FF2 Anniversary Edition is more different to the NES original than FF1's remake as Square have been desperately trying to fix the issues ever since. This version of FF2 is deifinitely the best there's been, though there are still clear issues.
The battle system has been overhauled and difficulty tweaked to make the game more forgiving, allowing players to successfully build a team as long as they think things through first. Underlying problems with FF2's battle system - such as huge variation in damage dealt - are still there, but it's definitely much better than it's ever been before.
The item management system has also been host to some welcome changes, making it more in-line with other FF titles with the number of items the party can carry no longer ridiculously restricted.
Like in FF1's Anniversary Edition, every single graphic in the game has been recreated lovingly in high resolution and it looks fantastic and reminiscent of the original sprites whilst looking suitably stylish. The same problems as FF1 still exist here - it does still look like an old-school title, not a PSP game.
Most of what was said about FF1's PSP remake is true here - everything feels like it's been done before and in spite of the fresh graphical overhaul the port still feels remarkably lazy with recycled PS1 CGI and Music and a tweaked but still troubled battle system.
FF2 is worth a play for people who want to see the evolution of the Final Fantasy series in action, and this is definitely the superior version of that game - it's just perhaps not worth full price for the effort that Square Enix put in.