Final Fantasy Legend II
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 12/14/1990
    • US November 1991
Score: 75%

This review was published on 07/29/2014.

Final Fantasy Legend II is a role-playing game developed and published by Square for the original Game Boy. It was first released in Japan on December 12, 1990, and then it later got a North American release in November 1991. North America also got a rerelease of the game in April 1998, which was published by SunSoft. Even though it bears the Final Fantasy moniker, this game has nothing to do with the Final Fantasy series. In actuality, this is the second game in the SaGa series. All three Final Fantasy Legend games were originally released under the SaGa name in Japan, but Square decided to market them as Final Fantasy in North America to help sell more copies. The SaGa games are stylistically and mechanically different from Final Fantasy, which surprises a lot of people who go in expecting a typical Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy Legend II pretty much improves everything from the first game by considerable leaps, fixing most of the issues the previous game had. As such, fans consider this to be the best of the three Final Fantasy Legend games, and they aren't far off the mark.

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There are 77 objects of mystical power hidden throughout the world of Final Fantasy Legend II. These sacred objects, called MAGI, are broken shards that once formed the statue of a goddess named Isis. Because of the considerable power contained within the MAGI, many sought to obtain it. Countless battles were fought for the MAGI, and to the victors went the spoils. The game begins with a father waking up his child in the middle of the night. He gives his child a single shard of MAGI with the instruction of keeping it safe, and then mysteriously leaves through the window, never to be seen again. Years later, the child grows up to be the protagonist of this strange tale. Finally being old enough to fight, the protagonist decides to go on an adventure to search for dad. Before leaving, the brave protagonist is told that dad was actually on a quest to find all 77 pieces of MAGI, in order to prevent their misuse. Upon hearing this, the protagonist agrees to help in collecting all the MAGI, in addition to searching for daddy. There are a lot more cutscenes than in the first Final Fantasy Legend, but still not very many when compared to other RPGs like Final Fantasy IV. As a result of the slightly more active storytelling, this game is far better at communicating its goals to the player than the previous one, lessening the likelihood of getting lost.

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The protagonist's race, gender, and name are completely up to you. Not only that, but you are also free to create three other characters to accompany the protagonist on his or her quest. Just like in the previous Final Fantasy Legend, different races have different capabilities. You can choose between humans, mutants, and monsters. Humans are versatile, mutants are excellent magic users, and monsters change forms by eating meat dropped by foes. New to this game, however, are robots. Yes, that's right; you can now have robots in your party. In fact, you could even make the protagonist a robot, if you want! Robots spice things up by being tanks that excel in the use of weapons and armor. Their one weakness is that they are incapable of using magic. Only four characters can be in a party, and you'll never be able to change characters later in the game, so party setups are very important. The different races are a lot more balanced this time around, although a few imbalances still exist. Monsters, for instance, still have the same problem in that they start to fall behind in usefulness by the end of the game. The character creation system is the greatest part of Final Fantasy Legend II, as it has the potential to make each play through unique. It adds versatility, flexibility, and replay value, all of which are good things.

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Battles are randomly encountered and turn-based, just like any other Japanese RPG. While the battle graphics and animations are slightly better than they were in the first game, they're still pretty drab. There are still no backgrounds, for instance. Enemies of the same type will be grouped together into a single sprite, which saves space on the screen, but is confusing. Some attacks can target a single or multiple groups of enemies, depending on the type of attack. There can be up to three enemy groups on the battlefield at once, and enemy swarms become quite common later in the game, meaning there is a big emphasis on multi-target attacks. Strong single target attacks are still useful for bosses, but most of the game is spent in regular battles, so multi-target attacks are ultimately more important. For this reason, magic is really useful in this game, unlike most Square RPGs. That's all well and good, but there is a huge problem: the incredibly high encounter rate. Sometime's the encounter rate is so high, you'll be fighting battles every single step. Combine this with huge swarms of tough enemies and you're in for a bad time. Many of the late game areas become almost unbearable due to this issue.

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Wondrous worlds worth wandering await you in Final Fantasy Legend II. Like in the last game, Final Fantasy Legend II is divided into separate worlds, many with their own theme. There's a vast desert world, a world where giants once lived, a world themed after Japan's Edo period, a world in which dragons are raced like racehorses, and a world consisting of a futuristic city with paved roads. Not all the worlds have distinct themes, but most do. The only drawback to the worlds in Final Fantasy Legend II is that they're sometimes really small. A few worlds are so small, that they consist solely of a single town and dungeon. The game makes up for this by having a large quantity of worlds, though it would have been nice if some of the worlds were bigger. Connecting all these worlds together is something called the "Sky Pillar," which resembles an inter-dimensional beanstalk. Ascending the Sky Pillar grants access to other worlds, almost like Jack and the Beanstalk. The Sky Pillar fulfills the same role as the tower from the previous game, except it does a better job. Why is it better? It's simple, really; there are no random encounters on the Sky Pillar. Thank God. All in all, the worlds in Final Fantasy Legend II are neat, and the Sky Pillar is cool.

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Collecting MAGI is the game's main objective. They're kind of like the stars from Mario 64, in that they open certain doors that bar your progress until the required amount have been collected. MAGI are more than mere plot devices, though, as they have practical game play functions besides unlocking the way forward. Imagine if the stars in Mario 64 actually did something. Most basic MAGI can be equipped onto characters to temporarily boost their strength, agility, magic, and defense. Some will boost the attack power of different elemental spells, like fire and ice. In other RPGs, this function is typically held by accessories. There are also a couple of MAGI that can be used during battle once equipped, such as one that inflicts damage, or another that heals everyone. On top of all that, there are MAGI that can be used outside of battle to produce various effects. The first MAGI you start with fits this description, as it tells you how many MAGI are left to collect in a given area. Later in the game, you'll get a piece of MAGI that enables you to teleport to any towns you've already been to, which is pretty darn cool. The multipurpose of MAGI makes them a smart and fun addition to the game.

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Equipment, magic, abilities, and items can be used a limited number of times, much like in the previous Final Fantasy Legend. Armor lasts forever, but weapons, spell books, and items all tend to have limited uses. Once all uses have been expended, the weapon or item in question is gone for good. New weapons must be purchased or found to replace broken ones, creating a never ending cycle. Therefore, having a stockpile of weapons is paramount to success, especially when on long journeys away from town. Weaker weapons will never become totally useless, because strong weapons are best saved up for bosses. This is especially true for weapons that can't be bought anywhere, or weapons that are simply too expensive to waste on a weak enemy. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. One such exception is that mutants and monsters can restore their innate abilities by resting at inns. Additionally, robots can do the same to repair their weapons. Besides that, though, everything else is limited. While the durability mechanic can be a nuisance, it is the bread and butter of the Final Fantasy Legend games. It adds more strategy to the act of choosing equipment, so that it's not just about going with whatever does the most damage.

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Growth is a peculiar thing in Final Fantasy Legend II. Instead of gaining experience to level up, characters get stronger in Final Fantasy Legend II in a myriad of ways, depending on their race. Humans and mutants grow stronger by taking certain actions in battle, similar to Final Fantasy II. For example, using weapons increases strength, wielding shields increases defense, casting spells increases magic power, etc. Permanent stat gains are totally random, so there's no rhyme or reason to when they might happen. Humans gain stats quicker than mutants, but to counteract this slight imbalance, mutants have the ability to learn abilities after battle. Mutants can have up to four abilities learned at a time, but like stat gains, what abilities they learn and when they learn them is totally random. Monsters and robots grow differently, in that they don't really grow at all. It's only possible for a monster to get stronger by eating meat randomly dropped by enemies, whereas robots only increase stats through equipment. Barring robots, every race in the game has a big random factor in its growth. The randomness of stat growths is frustrating, as there's no way to tell how much progress is being made, if any. By the end of the game, stats will increase at a snail's pace, resulting in an endless grind. The game's difficulty spikes at the end, too, basically requiring that all your characters have their stats maxed out. Grinding sucks.

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Final Fantasy Legend II is a tremendous improvement over the original. The races are more balanced, the game is more forgiving, the story is more forthcoming, the graphics are marginally better, the music is good, and the different worlds are fun to explore. There are a few problems, however. Chief among them is the extremely high random encounter rate, which might actually be worse than the first game. High encounter rates were a common occurrence in RPGs of the time, but that's no excuse. Another major issue is the huge difficulty spike towards the end of the game that requires tons of grinding to get through. The game has enough redeeming qualities to make it worth playing, though. Final Fantasy Legend II is a great introduction to the Final Fantasy Legend games on the Game Boy, so consider giving it a try if you haven't already.

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