Review: Final Fantasy Legend II

Final Fantasy Legend II, or SaGa 2: Hihou Densetsu as it was released in Japan, is a JRPG for the original Game Boy. Released in November 1991 (December 1990 in Japan), FFL2 is, as the Japanese name suggests, not actually a Final Fantasy game, but is the second game in the SaGa series, the first being The Final Fantasy Legend (Makai Toushi SaGa in Japan).

FFL2 Boxart

Not actually a Final Fantasy. Go figure.

FFL2 plays similarly to the first game: battles are done in the traditional early JRPG-style of “pick all your moves, then watch the turn play out”, with four different classes that gain stats in different ways. The party is picked at the beginning of the game and to my knowledge, unlike the original Final Fantasy Legend, FFL2 does not allow for party changes after the beginning. Humans and Mutants both gain stats at the end of battles based on the actions they take: much like the greatly maligned Final Fantasy II. Mutants sacrifice stat gain speed for abilities, also somewhat randomly learned after battles. Unlike the original FFL, where Mutants randomly lose abilities for other ones, in II, Mutants will always lose the last of their four abilities when learning a new one. This allows for greater control over the party than in the first game. Monsters, like in the first game, have stats and abilities that are determined entirely by their species; a Monster’s species is changed by eating the meat of monsters to change into new ones. Robots, an entirely new class introduced in FFL2, have stats that are based entirely on their equipment and cannot use magic at all. The gameplay is, while admittedly a bit simple, quite a bit of fun, with the four classes allowing a great deal of potential variety in the four-character party.

Final Fantasy II Class Selection Screenshot

A pretty impressive collection of choices, for a 1991 Game Boy game.

The story of Final Fantasy Legend II is not overly complicated: there exist spread across the worlds 77 artifacts known as the MAGI, and whoever collects them will gain the powers of a god. Not terribly deep or engrossing, but then, it was 1991 and FFL2 was a Game Boy game. The plot, surprisingly, does take a few twists near the end, though admittedly they come out as a bit of a Deus ex Machina, developers-pulling-things-out-of-their-ass-at-the-last-minute change of storyline. Again, the problems in storytelling are somewhat forgivable, considering the time and system for which this game was made. The characters are largely forgettable: the party is chosen at the game’s beginning and has little characterization, and the NPCs by and large are not memorable. The only real memorable character in the game is the party leader’s father: an 8-Bit Game Boy Expy of Indiana Jones, much of the game revolves around searching for him as the party seeks the various MAGI.

Graphically, there is little to say about Final Fantasy Legend II. Like the first game, and like many early Game Boy RPGs, FFL2 looks a bit like an NES game condensed down into black and white, grainy sprite-driven characters and grainy, monochrome backgrounds. The graphics are decent, all things considered, and many of the character animations of the enemies during battles is impressive for such an early and simplistic game.

The music of Final Fantasy Legend II is, frankly, astounding. Despite using the Game Boy’s tiny, tinny, crappy sound output, FFL2 manages to have a relatively complex soundtrack full of catchy and memorable songs. The regular battle theme is excellent, and the background music in various areas is by and large fairly catchy. Final Fantasy Legend II‘s final boss theme is absolutely spectacular, and definitely makes sure the player knows the end is nigh. It should come as no surprise to learn that Nobuo Uematsu was one of the key composers for FFL2, working in tandem with Kenji Ito, the man responsible for most of the rest of the music in the SaGa series. Considering the massive hardware limitations, it is thoroughly impressive that Uematsu and Ito were able to create such a soundtrack.

Nobuo Uematsu Portrait

The mustachioed mastermind meticulously makes music masterfully.

Final Fantasy Legend II is certainly not a game without flaws. The main flaw with the game is the heavily luck-based nature of Humans and especially Mutants. The randomness inherent in the stat-gaining and ability learning systems can get rather annoying at times, though the balance is much better than in the original Legend. The randomness is a managed a bit better than in the first game, and much better than in Final Fantasy II. Overall, Final Fantasy Legend II is an excellent game, and someone looking for a classic RPGs would certainly not do wrong playing this gem of a game. What about you, readers? Have you played Final Fantasy Legend II, or any of the other games in the Game Boy SaGa trilogy? Maybe your friends have? If so, what did you or they think about the game?

26 Comments

  1. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 12:01 | Permalink

    Remember how, during training, I told everyone to make sure they close the formatting tags so that the entire site doesn’t end up in bold? Remember how I stressed that point and said how I would let you have it if you forgot? Remember? Yeah. Good job. You’re all winners, today.

  2. Slab Bulkhead
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 12:04 | Permalink

    The whole monster thing and meat thing makes it sound a lot like that Dragon Warrior: Monsters game you were playing about a month ago.

  3. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 12:29 | Permalink

    SaGa 2 has weapon durability. Weapon durability should be commended in games as pedophilia should be in real life.

  4. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 12:32 | Permalink

    Weapon durability is a blight on humanity!

  5. Deimosion
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 15:06 | Permalink

    @SB It’s nothing like it, really. Meat in DWM is basically a poké ball with a different name. Also, “about a month ago”? I played that game last summer, until about midway into last semester…

    @evilpaul @SN It’s not nearly as bad in FFL2 as in most games with weapon durability. Weapons are really easy to come by (unlike Fire Emblem games) and I’ve never really even come close to running out.

    @Lusi I swear I checked that. I’m really sorry that happened, I’m not sure how I could have missed something that easy.

  6. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 16:36 | Permalink

    FFL2 is the best of the SaGa games in my opinion. I know Ginia will say it is Romancing SaGa 3, but *she is wrong*.

  7. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 17:42 | Permalink

    (Nice tag update.)

  8. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 19:26 | Permalink

    My SaGa experience: I had very limited experience with FFL1. I remember there being lots of random weirdness to it, but I never owned it and didn’t get very far. FFL2 I’ll admit was much less broken, but I never really got into it. FFL3 I liked as a simple old school RPG. I’ve still got a copy although I never finished it.

    The later SFC games never came out in English officially, and trying to play the fan-translated version time I spent with them they seemed subpar compared to the many better 16bit RPGs.

    SaGa Frontier 1 & 2 were weird, but OK. Both had plenty of weird randomness (learning skills, etc). SF1′s scenario system made you redo a lot of quests using different characters a lot. SF2 had an elemental system I didn’t understand at all. It had an interesting, multi-generation scenario which I liked until I couldn’t beat the game’s final boss. Bested by an omelette. /sigh

    Minstrel’s Song seemed pretty bad, but I didn’t play much of it. Unlimited Saga can only be described as utterly fucking terrible. Pedophiles should be forced to play it in prison until they find a way to castrate themselves with a Dual Shock 2 controller.

    I may check out the import remake of SaGa 2 on the DS (there’s a translation available for it) as I remember hearing they made some of the random stuff less random and made the monster evolution make a slight amount of sense.

  9. Cram
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 20:02 | Permalink

    Nasty Dungeon is nasty.

    Enjoyed all three. Found FFL1 to be the most unique, and at times frustratingly random, of the three. FFL2 was the most memorable and the most difficult. FFL3 was the most polished in every aspect.

    FFL1, random but interesting. I still do not recall how I figured out a lot of things in that game back in ’90 or whenever (bought game day of release). Standing infront of the statue in world 1 manually clicking the Kings gear in your inventory screen….wat? How’d I even figure that out, how did anyone? In Ocean World, clicking every single orb till you found the right one, which could take hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if people gave up there and looked around in other areas trying to figure out what to do next. World 4 was a gongshow of epic proportions. Su-saku….you son of a bitch. Limited inventory screen and having to buy HP200′s to upgrade a humans health by 1 after 600 health was a broken pain in the ass too. I really liked all the worlds though, and all the mini worlds and rooms you came across in the tower. I liked all the tidbits of information you would get about Ashura and Creator as you went on. Wish they had showed us what was behind that door at the end.

    FFL2 was hard. Really hard. So many memorable areas and characters though. Masked Man, Ki and her MAGI, Edo, Bananas, Shogun and Magnate, Valhalla and Odin, Underwater Volcano, Dragon Race, Venus, Apollo. List goes on. The Nasty Dungeon…heh epic. F*ck you Haniwa.

    FFL3 was a more standard affair / modern RPG imo. Of the three, easily the most polished in every aspect, but lacking the staying power intrigue of FFL2.

    As for GB games carrying the “Final Fantasy” name despite not being part of the series, Seiken Densetsu was easily the best of all of them. The first three Saga’s don’t even come close to competing with Final Fantasy Adventure, imo.

  10. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.29 at 22:39 | Permalink

    @Cram: Trying all that crap on the Hero Statue in town! I totally forgot about that. It seemed pretty obvious at the time, honestly. I mean, here’s a statue and you just got a sword, a shield, and some armour–way overpowered stuff, too. Only makes sense that I should try putting it on the statue, right? WHAMMO! Gen-bu!

    I really like the SaGa games for GB. I wish they had stuck with that formula, because once you start hitting the end of the SNES era, things are getting kinda weird, and by SaGa Frontier I (which I finished, by the bye), things had gone from weird to terrible. SF2 was abominable. As for Unlimited SaGa, what EP said.

    I’m glad Deimosion mentioned the music, because these GBA games made that shitty little sound chip SING.

    And because he probably missed it in the podcast thread: Evilpaul, where’s my 3DDGH Cait-Sith!? I neeeeed it!

  11. Deimosion
    Posted 2011.04.30 at 00:09 | Permalink

    I found the first game to be too random, it was really annoying. I haven’t played much of the third yet.

    And I had to mention the music. It’s fantastic.

  12. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.04.30 at 00:20 | Permalink

    @Lusipurr
    I’m not the creator of the 3DDGH Cait-Sith. The game looked pretty awesome, but I’m stuck with a relatively decent PC, PS2, and older stuff due to being broke, so I can’t play it.

    Also, you really didn’t like SF2? It had all of the random and kind of janky SaGa stuff, but beautiful watercolor artwork. There was that annoying strategy RPG battle stuff, but the regular battle system wasn’t bad really. It just seemed like an awkward, but decent for SaGa RPG to me.

    Also, also, did SF1 have some sort of ending for finishing all the scenarios? I finished a whole bunch of the, but it was the PSX era and there were more than a few ~$40 awesome games to play at the time.

  13. Lane
    Posted 2011.04.30 at 00:40 | Permalink

    I remember beating the fuck out of this game when I was a kid. Gotta love that Odin, always sending me back to life with the promise that I’d fight him one day.

    HAIL ODIN!

  14. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.30 at 15:31 | Permalink

    @Lane: That fight came up whilst we were recording RPGCast today! It seems like it is what everyone remembers–except for me. I remember Apollo and Arsenal.

  15. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.04.30 at 15:32 | Permalink

    @EP: Damn! I wonder who it was. Maybe Oyashiro? Alas! I wish I still had it. Curse my losing it! CURSE IT!

    Also, yes, I loathed SF2. It looked pretty, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. The sort of unexplained arbitrary weirdness, for example (why are my magic-users regaining mp?), and, as you mention, the TERRIBLE strategy battle crap.

    I didn’t like SF1 very much, either. Playing that game is like groping about in the dark trying to find something you’ve never seen, never heard described, and have only a vague idea that it might–might–turn the lights on. But the official strat. guide got me through it all right. As far as I recall, there was nothing for beating all the storylines except for the credits. But I may be wrong.

  16. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 02:25 | Permalink

    Ethos is sabotaging the site! I knew it!

  17. Drachonus
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 05:54 | Permalink

    Luci, there’s a game for you that appeals in 2 ways. Hat collection and Final Fantasy. 4 heroes of Light Final Fantasy. the job system is by use of Hats or “crowns”. The graphics is “Wind Waker” style mixed with Final Fantasy DS games. unfortunately it’s a DS title.

  18. Drachonus
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 12:16 | Permalink

    Don’t you mean Nate is? There’s a fart app ad on here. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTT

  19. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 13:20 | Permalink

    @Drachonus: NEver! 4 Heroes of Light is AWWWWFFULLLL!

  20. DefChaos
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 17:11 | Permalink

    @Lusipurr: I made the Cait Sith 3DDGH figure, I’ll send it your way tonight after I get home. Glad you like it!

  21. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 18:05 | Permalink

    @DefChaos: THRICE-REVERED DEFCHAOS! Thank you!!!

  22. Drachonus
    Posted 2011.05.01 at 23:16 | Permalink

    btw, when is fan depreciation day @Lusipurr.com again?

  23. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.05.02 at 01:59 | Permalink

    @Drachonus: Every day is fan depreciation day at Lusipurr.com!

  24. Drachonus
    Posted 2011.05.02 at 15:03 | Permalink

    Thought that was when Nate was slithering about, like Jabba the Hutt. though, they do look like kin.

  25. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.05.02 at 18:26 | Permalink

    Jabba the Bup?

  26. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.05.02 at 19:12 | Permalink

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!