Final Fantasy II: With 100% more plot… and fabulous pink people!
So, it’s time for our February installment of “Let’s Play Final Fantasy.” Next up: Final Fantasy II! And our first question, as novices to this game, is the all important question:
Hey Amano! WHO’S THE FABULOUSLY PINK DUDE WITH THE HORNS?
Here he is in the FFII Dawn of Souls (GBA) remaster:
And here’s an alternate logo found on FFWikia.
Well, with the first tantalizing mystery of the game unveiled, let’s proceed to the playthrough!
First up, the scintillating prologue:
Oops, no, sorry, that’s (I think) a fan translation of original FF2, which was never released in English. Moving onto the iPad version, which tosses in a few cutscenes to pad out the prologue…
…we learn of the Palamecian’s emperor’s power grab, the rise of the rebellion in Fynn and its sack by the dastardly empire, the flight of our young heroes who lost their parents in the fighting, and their pursuit by imperial soldiers.
In other words, this game has more plot in the first minute than FFI had in the whole game.
The emperor of Palamecia and his mooks sack Fynn.
I’m trying to imagine this opening prologue in the voice of Marquis Ondore from FFXII (Totally rockin’ userpic of Sev). He’d gussy it up with pseudo-Shakespearean prose:
“Thus did the Martial Might of Palamecia overmaster all resistance, and the peaceful Kingdom of Fynn was overthrown. Out of the ash and ruin there came sad Tidings that the king himself had fallen in battle, arrow-pierced, and that Princess Hilda and her suitor the Prince of Kashuan were quite lost. It is feared that they may have perished in the general Tumult…”
Excerpt from prologue of Final Fantasy XII. PROTIP: Ondore lies.
Heeeey….wait a minute. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, Final Fantasy XII. Well played, Squeenix, well played.
Ahem. So, we’re reading the prologue, and then suddenly, we’re flung into a boss battle. None of this futzing around for an hour killing rabid tomatoes or playing blitzball or giving cute girls guided tours of Balamb Garden (totally a fierce name for a military training academy!) when we’re supposed to be prepping for our field exam.
It’s a good thing I’ve played enough Final Fantasy to recognize the warning signs….
UNWINNABLE BATTLE! GAAAACK! Don’t waste items; WE’RE TOAST!
[P.S. Graphics comparison with original game… oo, ahh.]
I like these NPCS.
Even if they immediately have to abandon us for staff meetings before we wake up.
I briefly wondered if Hilda was the Fabulously Pink Dude on the game cover art, because she’s sporting Viking horns, but no — she’s got an art nouveau headdress covering her hair. And drinks martinis, according to Amano.
Repeat after me: Hilda rocks.
So Firion wakes up on his own, says, “Who am I?” followed up by calling out his friends’ names — awww — and thereby firmly establishes that in this game, unlike the last, the characters lead their own lives and are not simply avatars for the player. Yes, yes, I’ll stop harping on that topic.
Outside, we meet Maria and Guy for a buddy reunion and our first BAD TRANSLATION WOO HOO!
Oh, pooh. That’s not a bad translation, that’s just Stereotypical Hulk Smash dialogue. Darn. I was looking forward to playing a retro game with mangled subtitles.
Maria frets about her brother, Leon, who hasn’t turned up. The other guys don’t seem to notice. Or perhaps they did notice, and they’re secretly glad her chaperone’s vanished.
The game is still controlling our every move, frog marching us through the rebel hideout into the War Room. Apparently Hilda has terrifying mind control powers. For now, she plays the benevolent leader and inquires after our health…
To my surprise, Hilda’s follow up to “Yeah, we’re good” is NOT, “Excellent. Here’s your first Hero Quest, suckers!” I guess Hilda misplaced the Standard Fantasy Ruler Script.
However, Firion is quick to put the lives of his friends in danger without asking, and promptly volunteers them for the rebel army!
Princess Hilda says nope. BECAUSE THEY SUCK AND GOT KILLED IN ONE TURN, right?
Haha, I called it.
Instead, she tells us to remain under her protection, and she gives us the rebel password: “Wild Rose.”
Which apparently will let us into ANY place, including the bedchamber of the wounded king:
Uh, thanks for that information. Good thing we’re not Palamecian moles, isn’t it?
Someone really needs to sit down with these rebels and explain about security.
(By the way,
Rasler the king said he was shot with an arrow, although presumably not while riding a War Chocobo.)
So we explore the rebel base, chatting up Exposition Dudes (the chamber where Firion was revived has sprouted a bumper crop of them). Then we exit to find that the rebel base is actually a TARDIS, since it’s inside a small house at the corner of Altair’s town square. I suppose it could be underneath. After all, doesn’t every peaceful little fantasy polis build massive, well-stocked underground bunkers in case of nuclear attack? (I can think of a few such fantasy kingdoms that might have benefitted from this foresight).
Outside, we meet a guy whom I would really, REALLY like to hire:
He fits my gamer philosophy of “steal everything you can, use the loot to pay for everything you can’t.”
I would also note that NPCs in this game run from place to place like over-caffeinated bees and RUN AWAY every time I try and talk to them. Argh.
I find Altair’s peaceful “tranquil town where you start out” music strangely disquieting…
Yep, this town is toast.
In the blacksmith shop, we find a feeble old guy who lights up when we whisper the password “Wild Rose” in his ear…
Wait… he’s wearing pink!!! HE’S the Big Bad! Quick, Hilda, send out your army and let’s end this whole story right here!
We shop around — I’m glad to see that Spoo’s Tea Emporium is still doling out remedies at exorbitant prices — and run into a bishie prince with the improbably mundane name of Gordon. Who will now be known as Emo Flash Gordon. He wants to enlist, however…
Actually, a prince who ISN’T a Badass Hero makes a refreshing change. At the very least, this being Final Fantasy, he should have a longer life expectancy.
So now it’s time to go out and
level grind explore. And get buzzed by something big and brown that’s zipping across the overworld map too fast too see…
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a turd! It’s a plane! Oh, right, that must be Cid’s airship.
To the north, we reach the village of Gatrea, another peaceful little village with the ANVILICIOUS PLOT ANVIL OF DOOM hanging over it, where townsfolk remark how nice it is that the empire hasn’t bothered them yet. One person informs us that as soon as
Draklor Laboratories finishes construction of the Bahamut the empire finishes building the Dreadnaught, they’ll be toast.
We also pick up our first Plot Coupon:
Our missing party member, perchance?
Venturing further west, we learn that this game uses Beef Gates instead of broken bridges to keep you on the Path of Plot Fulfillment:
Luckily we saved recently.
Also, we discover the joys of beating each other up to raise our HP and stats.
Resisting the “girls are wimps unless they use magic or distance weapons” trope, I put Maria in front to beef up her HP. This rapidly leads to an unholy fusion of Tifa and Lulu, which means I have to stop letting her punch the guys barehanded. Otherwise this happens:
Welcome to S&M Temple, serving the dominant religion practiced in Final Fantasy II. Yes, your friends really ARE trying to kill you.
(My Maria demonstrates her Lulu credentials):
(Side Note: In order to multi-cast spells on the iPad FFII, you must SWIPE your finger from somewhere outside the target group to INSIDE the target group and release while they’re still highlighted. Thanks for nothing, Battle Mechanics Exposition Dude.)
At last we reach Fynn and play a game of hide and sneak with some incredibly nearsighted soldiers.
I discover that yes indeedy, once you actually engage them in battle, the Imperial Guards will KEEL YOU DED, unlike Imperial Stormtroopers.
One restart later, we reach the aforementioned pub, discover the rebel sympathizer barkeep, and find that he is sheltering…okay, not Leon, but the big brother of Emo Flash Gordon. Who has the even less flashy name of Scott, Prince of Kashuan. He’s in a bad way…
Like many Shakespearean/fantasy characters, Scott has a lot to say before he keels over. Viz: tell the king that Fynn was betrayed to the imperials by Count Borghen — what did I say about the rebels’ security? — tell Gordon that he’s less of a wuss than he thinks he is, and tell Hilda that Scott loves her. Only then Scott waffles and asks us NOT to tell her, because she’ll feel SO much better that her fiancé had messages for everybody but her. Guy reasoning, gotta love it.
Then he gives us his ring and expires.
We return to Altair. Gordon is shocked to see his brother’s ring, but all we get out of him is, “He really said all those things? About me?” YES, DUDE. GET A GRIP. Stop whinging and pick up a sword so we can refill our fourth party member slot.
Leaving him to angst, we proceed to report to Hilda. Except that Firion lies and says, “Nope! Not a thing!
He forgot all about you!” when she asks if Scott said anything. Again with the guy being an insensitive git.
Afterwards, Hilda accepts the trio into the rebel army.
First fetch quest! She needs us to travel to Salamand to find some Mythril for Tobul the Smith to forge into super-duper weapons. Wait! No! Isn’t that the guy who wears pink? YOU’RE PLAYING RIGHT INTO HIS HANDS!
She doesn’t listen.
And…we get a guest character. Minwu! The bloke who healed us back in the prologue! Annnd….he has the game’s folding canoe!
Is that a canoe in your pocket, or… oh never mind.
I’m disappointed to discover that Minwu is a he, but the script confirms it. Ah well. At least his vaguely Middle Eastern attire is an interesting riff on the usual White Mage red-and-white duds.
So let’s see: Gordon, Hilda, Minwu, Leon, Paul, Maria, Kashuan, Firion, Tobul, Scott… yep, we are definitely in the land of Aerith and Bob.
An Exposition Dude gives us supporting words about our chances…
Gee, you guys sure do know how to recruit people to your desperate cause.
After much grinding, we find the oddly-named port of Paloom (whose name will crop up again in several future FFs)…
Where it turns out we have to PAY to ride the ship. Wait… isn’t this FF?
After some more grinding to replenish the gil we blew on armor upgrades, we set sail!
We land in the oddly-named city of Poft. Hey ho, there’s a pub!
Inside the pub, we crash an aviator convention. So where’s their airships? Isn’t the standard number of airships in FF worlds one or two?
To a man, they have one thing to say, proving that Hilda is not the only person with creepy powers of mind control:
Bafsuck? I am once again reminded of my first impression of naming conventions in Final Fantasy, when I was cutting my teeth on FFVIII: Are the game designers just sitting around brainstorming names that are impossible for a native Japanese speaker to pronounce? Only this time, I can’t say it, either.
We finally notice the one non-cloned aviator in the pub and discover…
Huzzah, it’s Cid! The original, first ever, Cid Mark I! Can we ride his airship? Can we? Can we? Woohoo!
Did he say cash?
Since when have airships or boats in FF ever cost actual GIL?
Wakka: We gotta PAY?
Rin: I have faith in your victory.
Oh, shut up, Rin.
This warrants an Auron “Hmph.” Disappointed, we set out to explore our new continent on foot. A secret map that came to us with Scott’s ring gives us some glowy dots to aim for:
North of Poft (Poft?! Is that like “Poofta?) we discover an Arcane Dungeon with a locked door:
Oh, no! It’s probably another Random Bonus Dungeon! So we turn around and head south, towards that interesting land-locked bullseye area.
Which is totally in the wrong direction, oops.
Alas, the first glowy dot we aim for turns out to be the imperial-occupied town of
BASF Bafsk KEYBOARD SMASH, where the inhabitants are too frightened to speak to us:
We tiptoe around the nearsighted imperial guards but find nothing worth looting or buying, so we carry onward, completely forgetting our mission.
Far to the south we run into Beef Gates, the dreaded Adamantoise. We manage to survive a mob of four of them by blowing ALL our MP on spells plus Minwe’s inexhaustible healing (thank MOG) and Maria’s incredible fists of DOOOM (which can break danged near anything, even when the guys are doing this):
Tucking tails between our legs and heading back north, we reach the bullseye area of the map, where we discover that
Nabudis Prince Scott’s old castle, Kashuan, is infested by monsters:
However, we aren’t up for a major dungeon in this condition, so we continue to limp back to Poft or Poroom or KEYBOARD SMASH or some place with an inn.
North and west of Kashuan Keep, we find another “Arcane Labyrinth” cave:
Inside, Black Mages from the first game tell our fortunes…
Sounds like something out of The Phantom Tollbooth. I think I want to add that to my business card.
We become suspicious of Visionary Vivi after he tells EVERYONE in the party the same fortune, “The power this word holds…does not bode well for you…” except Minwu, who’s told that his fortune is very auspicious. Either he crossed V.V.’s palm with silver, or else the fortuneteller is a fraud, in which case Minwu had better start guarding against falling Anvils of Doom.
The other mage tells us stuffs about these Arcane Shrines, which are sounding more and more like dreaded Random Bonus Dungeons… or else the gate to the Really Ultimate Dungeon:
A little further in, we find a sealed portal. Once again, we realize that we need to find an inn before we suffer TPKO.
Cid’s airship frisks over us from time to time, taunting us as we stagger back to civilization:
Determined to find our way to Salamand on foot, we finally see a mysterious town abutting the northern white mountain range:
And get ambushed by goblins at the front gates (random encounter, just our luck).
After ownage, and another “nyah nyah nyah, I could’ve brought you here in five seconds!” Cid flyby, we enter the town:
Salamand proves rather snowier than one would expect from a town that bequeathed its name to the Final Fantasy fire sword. Of course, we stop for a warm cuppa at Spoo’s House of Tea…
Locals tell us about their love life, their dreams, their acid trips and so on. Apparently they’re used to treating visitors as itinerant therapists:
More lucid villagers inform us that all the menfolk have been hauled off by the empire to labor in the mythril mines at Semmit Falls.
Luckily for Josef, the guy who’s supposed to give us Mythril, he’s a named NPC. This gives him special powers to avoid the Imperial Draft. That, or he’s actually a she.
Josef seems to have more clues than the wounded king’s guards, and remains skeptical even after we blurt out the surprisingly widespread Secret Rebel Password:
You guessed it! He sends us off to rescue the slaves to prove ourselves trustworthy.
Massively overleveled, we head south to rescue the captives!
There’s just one problem. Semmitt Falls is a bit of an understatement, when it comes to
kayaking canoeing. We’re talking Niagara Falls here:
A cackling Cid buzzes past as we bump futilely along this barrier which should be smashing our canoe into driftwood. I’m really beginning to hate that guy.
Okay, okay, we’ll hire the danged airship. I mean, it’s CID, after all. We should be happy to see him!
Back in Poft, we talk business with Cid’s Underling (bet Cid VI wishes he had one), empty our purses, and step aboard Cid Airlines.
Whoa. It dropped us off and flew away. HOW ABOUT A RETURN TICKET, CID?!
Stranded, we head into the mine at Semitt Falls.
Where we find the most garishly-colored sasquatch I have ever seen (not that I’ve seen many). I surmise that orange and green are the Fall Fashion colors for yetis this year:
(To my surprise, I see these colors were present in the original FF2 NES sprites: check out row 2, far right).
And… aha, it IS Final Fantasy, after all… a crystal!
Which doesn’t do a durned thing. No spiffy costume changes, no disembodied voices of doom, no nothing. Feh. Onward.
Once again, there’s Final Fantasy Magical Cave Weather Patterns (notice drifting clouds).
Our friends the “Balloons,” close cousins of the Bomb, put in their first FF appearance, but are not quite as fierce (the Bombs already KEELED US DED when we ran into them on the starting continent’s Beef Gate area.)
Also, D&D Green Slime now looks suspiciously flan-like.
We discover monster battles galore behind every door we come across. I’m beginning to wonder if Josef is in league with the Empire and sent us down here to die. Where’s these townsfolk we’re supposed to be rescuing?
Aha, here they are, hapless. “Help us!” they all say, milling around in a random room with no guards.
Paul’s down here too. Speaking of hapless. Or is that gormless?
Paul’s “looking after” Josef’s daughter Nelly, whom Count Borghen captured in order to “threaten” Josef. Into doing what? I donno. Anyway, look! Plot! We have plot! Even the npcs have plot!
Paul thanks us for saving them — what? The door wasn’t even locked! — then he leads everyone out of the depths of the monster-infested mine. Apparently the monsters only attack US. Maybe those Black Mage fortunetellers were right.
We head deeper, looking for Mythril.
Aha. There’s a boss. We haven’t had a boss battle yet, have we?
Weirdest danged boss music I’ve ever heard. Especially for a no-name, no-avatar crunchy boss who’s just a regular monster palette swap.
Maria takes him out with a timely lightning bolt. Yep, the Lulu/Tifa combo can’t be beat.
We loot the corpse and pick up the Not-Quite-Kopyrighted Mythril.
Now, how to get outta here, since Cid dumped us?
*glub glub glub* Wet and dripping, our heroes make their way back in triumph, only to discover there was a back way into the dungeon that wouldn’t have required hiring an airship. Hmph.
Hey, there’s another cave up here to the northwest, near Salamand.
Oh, it’s THESE guys again.
Well, I’m still not willing to try a Probably Random Bonus Dungeon; I’m here for the main story. Maybe later.
Back in Salamand, we get a hearty welcome:
And faint praise from Josef. THANKS FOR NOTHING, TWITASAURUS.
Josef doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know. Time to head home.
We proudly haul our loot back to Altair, where Emo Flash Gordon is still dithering outside the rebel base.
“Hey, Gordon, look! We found mythril! Now we can arm ourselves to fight the evil empire!”
*Facepalm* And I thought Cloud and Squall needed therapists.
Tobul the Smith, however, perks right up.
Entering the rebel base, we learn from Exposition Dudes that BAFSKFSASDKEYBOARDSMASH’S people were under the mind control of the Dark Knight — and I thought they were just antisocial! — who’s building the Dreadnaught. Various npcs tell us to “blow it to smithereens.” Once again, security at the rebel base is a joke; random npcs milling around in the front hall always know what Princess Hilda’s going to tell us before we meet with her.
Er, Your Highness, couldn’t you have told us this before we hoofed it all the way back from that region on foot? Oh, well, anything for an art nouveau Valkyrie Princess who drinks martinis.
So! We’ve had our first airship ride and our first fetch quest, our first boss and quite a few total party KOs! Seems like a good stopping point.
Tune in next time, when we tackle the urgent task of destroying the enemy’s ultimate weapon before it rains down devastation on every helpless hamlet……waiiiit, is that a chocobo forest? Later!