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 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.
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.
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?