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02-15-16 11:31 AM
02-15-16 11:31 AM

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Game Review: Final Fantasy II (NES)


02-15-16 11:31 AM
janus is Offline
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Glad that its “Final” Fantasy was not one after all, Squaresoft produced Final Fantasy II a few years later. Despite a very unusual way of playing – you basically had to mutilate yourselves in order to increase your statistics such as strength and hit points – it was still a great success.

That success, no doubt, can surely be attributed to Nobuo Uematsu’s composition of the soundtrack once again. Having learned from Final Fantasy, he created a much better soundtrack where he put the NES sound capacities to better use. It’s incredible what only two years can do!

For starters the Prelude is now flowing much better; it doesn’t have that “backwards” playing that sounded like an echo in FF 1. The “flat” notes in the last part of the loop are much more obvious. The flow is also much better for the various dungeon themes like Ancient Castle and Dungeon. It loops better and, most important of all, the volume is just perfect.

In addition the arrangements are more complex. Dungeon has a kind of “Arabic” feel to it that I liked and that the Final Fantasy Origins did not do justice to. The village theme is slow and soothing, with guitar-like and flute arrangements that are far superior to their FF 1 counterpart. Uematsu also put an interesting contrast between the Rebels’ and the Empire’s theme, showing his mastery of video game music. The former is quieter and more epic (it was done better in FF O), while the Empire’s theme is much louder and militaristic without being annoying to your ears. Finally music surrounding battles was done much better too. The battle theme itself is inspired from FF 1 and made it much more elaborate and epic. I just loved the second part; the arrangements were a little loud but they didn’t hurt the ear. The victory fanfare also sounds much more victorious with louder arrangements and a more joyous tone.

FF 2 also introduced new concepts like boss music (for Square anyway). Although it was more neatly defined in Final Fantasy III, 2 still made a sharp distinction between both themes and did it better than in Dragon Warrior II. Uematsu made the loop longer, more upbeat and much more dramatic. He also introduced the Chocobo theme! Although the loop is ridiculously short (like 10 seconds) it nevertheless inspired later themes that would be more elaborate.

The album also contains unreleased tracks, and it’s a shame that they weren’t. Notwithstanding the shop music (an annoying waltz barely better than FF 1), the other themes would have made the game more complete. The airship theme sounds very epic (as it should), Dungeon would later be used in Final Fantasy VI (when freeing Relm in the World of Ruins) – although I’m not sure where it could have fitted – and Battle Scene 3 would have been a perfect “major boss battle” theme – FF O used it when fighting the legendary monsters inside Pandemonium.

Speaking of the last dungeon, there were some deceptions with the soundtrack. Pandemonium sounded less than epic for a final dungeon, unlike FF 1. It sounds almost joyful and not epic at all; it could almost have been the overworld theme. Speaking of which, it doesn’t have the usual epicness associated with such theme. It would have been a better fit for Final Fantasy IX when the world is under the mist; it sounds very mysterious.

Finally, FF 2 left to the world one of the best tracks ever composed: Magician Tower (inside the Tower of Mysidia). Of the 1800+ video game tracks I own, this is one of the few (and I believe the first) I put as “favorite.” Why? Mostly because it fits the mood perfectly; you are climbing a magical place in order to obtain the ultimate spell, Ultima. The first part of the loop has both a magical and a mysterious feel to it. Even the 8-bit track in the background is integrated perfectly. The second part of the loop sounds even more mysterious; its conclusion is the apex of mystery.

In conclusion, if you can bare the self-mutilation then Final Fantasy II is definitely worth your while. The arrangements are more complex, at the right volume and always fitting of the context (except the final dungeon). 

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