It’s pretty much expected once I start a Final Fantasy II article that I’ll start by saying this is the “black sheep” of the series. But as I tried to write it (this journal is the first of the ones carried over from my old blog, but intro is new), I find I just don’t agree. I wrote a few drafts, trying to explore my issue with the “black sheep” label, before coming to talk to Kyle and finding he felt the same. The internet may feel FFII is a black sheep, but seems that, 6 core games and 5 spinoffs later, FFII doesn’t seem all that out-of-line to the two of us. Yes, its level progression is different, but Kyle gave me the same argument I had in my early drafts: that’s true of every Final Fantasy game. Even the Job System games (III, V, 4HoL, Bravely Default, Dimensions) work differently than one another. They just all happen to be rooted in levels, but that doesn’t mean a Black Mage from FFI levels the same way as Vivi of IX. And the same is true with FFII. Yes, FFII’s successors did go on to become spinoffs (the SaGa games), but only after introducing a whole pile of new mechanics all their own.
To the two of us, FFII just seems like the natural extension of FFI, given the mechanics in use in tabletop and PC RPGs of the era. Maybe that’s the experience with games from that era talking, or maybe it’s… just us! Or it may a matter of nostalgia: fans of later Final Fantasy games who have cut their teeth on later Final Fantasies coming back to FFII with an idea of what Final Fantasy “is.” to Kyle and I, as outsider, Final Fantasy is just a developing series growing up one entries at a time.
There is also the matter of the “black sheep narrative,” the idea that “every” game developer was creating weird #2s, like Zelda or Castlevania. Unfortunately, anything more than a shallow look at game sequels in the 80s will turn up more Mario 2 JPNs than they will Mario 2 USes. FFII hardly seems as experimental as Zelda II, even if it’s not as similar as Dragon Warrior II.
No, FFII’s real crime isn’t that it’s a black sheep. FFII’s real crime is that it doesn’t work. (more…)