Within literally the first five minutes of FF2j, it becomes very apparent that this is a radically different RPG than its predecessor. It is clearly full of ambition. After Final Fantasy became a hit, Square could have churned our similar-feeling sequels, but instead the company zigged in an aggressively inventive direction for this first follow-up. And they did it all in just one year, no less. FF2j was released Dec. 17, 1988 – exactly one year after FF1.
A brief look at some of FF2j’s largest changes that manifest themselves right from the start:
I’ll cover most of these changes in more depth in later posts. For now I just want to emphasize that jumping into FF2j immediately after FF1 clearly spotlights that these are very different games. Superficially they might both look like clunky 80s RPGs, but they feel very different from one another. Heck, the fact that FF2j has actual characters with histories, friendships, and personalities as protagonists is a huge departure.
Anyway, let’s get on to the play-through!
FF2j’s prelude sets the stage for a smaller, more intimate story than FF1′s “save the world” plot. Instead, the focus seems to be on warring nations and politics, with our four protagonists slowly being pulled into the intrigue.
The game opens with the trope (although to be fair it wasn’t yet a trope when the game launched) of an unwinnable RPG battle. Our four young heroes are fleeing the defeated kingdom of Phin, and get run down and (nearly) killed.
Phin’s princess Hilda stumbles on the party, and rescues them (as seen in the screenshot at the top of this post). But only Frionel, Maria, and Guy were recovered. Leonheart is still lost. After talking to Hilda and other NPCs in town, a pretty dire picture emerges. Princess Hilda is leading a small group of rebels in your party’s current town (Altea), because her father, the king, was gravely injured. Altea lies to the south and Phin to the North, with the evil Paramekian Empire occupying nearly all Northern towns.
Hilda suggests players look for Leonheart back in Phin. Lacking any other immediate leads, I took Hilda up on her suggestion. Phin is a dangerous place for members of the rebel army, though:
Inside Phin itself, I learned that the NPC above wasn’t joking around. Every person walking around town is a Paramekian soldier, and when I tried to talk to one he immediately recognized my party as rebels, initiated combat, and slaughtered everyone. Game Over #1! Having these soldiers physically occupying the town was a pretty sophisticated (for the time) example of storytelling by design, I felt.
After exploring town (taking care to not talk to any soldiers), there is no sign of Leonheart. I did eventually discover that the pub owner is a rebel sympathiser. He is housing a dying rebel soldier in a secret room. This soldier has a message for Hilda. A man named Borgan betrayed his country and is now working for the Paramekians!
After hearing the news, Hilda formally asks our heroes to join the rebellion (she previously rebuffed their request, saying our heroes weren’t strong enough), and gives them their first task. But to prepare, my party is going to have to be quite a bit stronger…
Next: Character Advancement FF2j style