This article is from the Final-Fantasy and other Square Soft Games FAQ, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Nick Zitzmann) with numerous contributions by others.
Frionel, Guy, Maria, Lionheart, Minh, Josef, Gordon, Layla, Richard
Cid, Hilda, Nellie, Scott, Paul, Borgan
The evil Paramekia Empire is casting a dark mood over the world. By
military power, it keeps all who oppose it in thrall. However, rebellion
slowly stirs in the city of Altea, where its queen Helen makes a
desperate attempt to fight the Empire. Helen uses the powers of three
wandering youths (Frionel, Guy, and Maria) to aid her in her battle
against the overbearing empire. However, not everything is what it
seems, and the many friends and enemies made throughout the journey
always have surprises up their sleeves.
Final Fantasy II was a great departure for the series; in fact, it's far
more similar to the SaGa games. There were no "levels", but individual
attributes are raised when used in battle. Magic raises levels with use,
and both its MP cost and power goes up when it did. Magic was still
bought in shops, but it could also be found in dungeons. Characters
could equip up to two items to use in battle (but couldn't access
anything else). There was no job system or character classes of any
type; everyone can gain expertise in everything.
Story-wise, this is the first game where characters change: the first
three characters were constant, but the fourth one was variable. The
story was also far deeper than its predecessor, with double-crossings,
comebacks, enemies turned friends and vice versa. The three heroes (the
lanky Frionel, stoic Guy, and noble Maria) were aided by Minh, Altea's
magician; Josef, a heroic martial artist; Gordon, a cowardly prince;
Layla, a high-spirited pirate; Richard, a dragon knight; and Lionheart,
Maria's knightly brother.
One of the more interesting innovations was the Keyword system. When a
keyword was heard in a conversation, it could be learned and said to
someone else to get a different response or advance the story.
Unfortunately, it garnered too many problems and was scrapped. Other
than that, the gameplay is far more refined than the first FF game:
additions like specific places to put armor, ability to save anywhere on
the world map, additions of face graphics and more detailed menus, all
serve as a great stepping-stone to later Final Fantasy games.