Final Fantasy II has long been considered one of the weaker mainline entries in Square Enix's series. While it did attempt to push the property forward in terms of storytelling, its intriguing but deeply flawed levelling system has left many a player unimpressed over the years.
In Final Fantasy II, you play as a group of youths who make a stand against an all-conquering empire. When compared to its predecessor, there's a heavier focus on characters and political plot points — perhaps a sign of things to come for the franchise. It's not what we'd call a particularly memorable story, but it does add a bit of weight to the adventure.
Actually progressing said story can be tedious, however. The game has a 'keyword' mechanic where you'll learn various phrases by speaking to non-playable characters. The idea is that you can then use these important words to open up new topics of conversation, thus advancing the plot. Unfortunately, it ends up feeling like an unnecessary step in unfurling what is ultimately a straightforward, mostly predictable narrative.
And as alluded, Final Fantasy II has more weird ideas up its sleeve. The aforementioned levelling system sees your base stats and weapon proficiency increase through performing specific actions in turn-based battles. Take enough damage and your maximum HP will increase; cast magic a few times and your intelligence will get a boost. A fairly innovative system on paper, but it falls apart very quickly in practice.
The main problem is that it just takes so long for these stat increases to rack up. The grind in Final Fantasy II is real, and to make matters worse, it sometimes feels like growth happens at random. Not to mention that it's all highly exploitable, since party members can attack one another to maximise their gains. It's just so poorly implemented.
Thank god for the Pixel Remaster's boosts, then. In this enhanced re-release, you can increase the rate at which your stat gains occur (by up to four times), making the whole process way more tolerable. These additions alone arguably make this the best version of a divisive Final Fantasy.