Off the Grid: Final Fantasy Legend II
Back in the early ’90s, Square-Enix (then SquareSoft) was in the habit of confusing their North American customers so much they didn’t know which way was up. The Final Fantasy name seemed to be the only thing that would sell RPGs in the region, so many genre games they released here were slapped with that franchise name just to sell copies. This was true of two Game Boy RPGs. There was Final Fantasy Adventure, which as really a member of the Seiken Densetsu series, which included more familiar sequels like Secret of Mana and Legend of Mana. There was also Final Fantasy Legend II, which is a member of the SaGa series. This game in particular was called SaGa 2: Hihō Densetsu.
Needless to say, the game was unique in its own right. The game obviously borrows from the Final Fantasy formula, with some interesting twists. You could choose to play one of eight race/gender combinations and the quest focuses on going in search of the mysterious Magi (or, as it’s written in the game every single time it comes up – MAGI). It starts out like your typical cliché RPG – your character is awakened by your father one night and he tells you he has to leave. Flash forward several years and you decide to leave and go find your father – making plenty of friends (and enemies!) along the way.
This game, at the time, was pretty awesome. It was portable and had an interesting, if cliché, story. The game overall wasn’t particularly good, but it wasn’t bad either. What made it stand out to me was just the fun I had playing it. It was my lifeline to gaming at the time, being able to take it wherever I went. We traveled a lot as a family when I was younger – one of the benefits of having family on each coast. We would travel to California one year and Florida the next. For a time there, this game would go wherever I went. It didn’t matter if I had played it before, this was an old standby as long as I owned a Game Boy.
This wasn’t an easy walk in the park. Final Fantasy games these days are rather easy, relatively speaking. Back then, they were a bit more difficult because the target gamer was more hardcore. And the SaGa series was even more so. This wasn’t an easy game. At times, it was downright painful. Back then, we didn’t care. Sure, the graphics were “black and white” sprites on the ol’ Game Boy screen, but the game was involving, no doubt in part because of the music. Nobuo Uematsu scored the music for SaGa 2 and that contributed to my enjoyment, even though at the time I wasn’t familiar with his name.
So, this game holds a special place in my heart – no doubt because it was a fun, portable title that I could carry anywhere. Today it would likely be hard to come by the original GameBoy title, but there is a remake for the Nintendo DS that will flesh out the story and characters much like the original, even if it has updated, 3D graphics. There were a few more changes when they remade the game for the DS – such as no random encounters and, of course, multi-player and touch-screen functionality, but, for the most part, the original game is in tact. So, if you happen to pick the new DS game up, it’s definitely nice to keep in mind where its roots lie.