Final Fantasy II Leveling & Progression Explained

Final Fantasy II gameplay

Final Fantasy II Leveling & Progression Explained

In what’s been a sticking point for fans of the series since the game’s launch, Final Fantasy II is notorious for its non-conventional approach to RPG leveling. Despite this, the game does stand the test of time thanks to its great cast of characters and more complex story than the original, even if it does borrow liberally from Star Wars. Final Fantasy II is, at the end of the day, a commendable footnote in the franchise’s history for how it so willingly takes risks and deviates from the formula that the original establishes. That said, the fact that its mechanics don’t appear in any other game in the series is telling.

Many of its key designers would end up starting their own team after shipping Final Fantasy II, going on to create and spearhead the SaGa franchise at Square. As a result, there’s really no other game in the Final Fantasy series quite like the first sequel in the franchise. If one is willing to put in the time to understand Final Fantasy II‘s leveling and progression systems, it can be a compelling and enjoyable RPG, but it definitely takes some knowledge and insight into the game’s non-explicit mechanics to understand how to craft a powerful party of heroes.

How Final Fantasy II Deviates From Series Norms

Final Fantasy II gameplay

In most mainline Final Fantasy games (and virtually every other turn-based RPG, for that matter), characters accrue experience points after defeating enemies in battle. These experience points accumulate until they reach a predetermined threshold, at which point the characters level up. Traditionally, the stat increases that characters receive as a result of leveling up are randomized, though later entries in the Final Fantasy series would give players some agency in that regard by allowing them to equip characters with items or magic artifacts that provide specific stat boosts at level up.

Final Fantasy II exists as an outlier within the series thanks to the way that it approaches leveling up and character progression. Instead of stat increases coming as a result of leveling up, characters must individually level up stat attributes, weapon skills, and magic potency through using them in battle. Every weapon type has its own skill path, as does every single magic spell in the game, and the only way for characters to increase their HP and MP pool is to frequently use them. In other words, characters have to sustain damage and survive in order to grow stronger and more formidable in battle. It’s not experience but rather the player’s actions that determine the growth of the party.

Increasing Stats in Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II gameplay

The only way to effectively grow stat attributes in Final Fantasy II is to use them in battle, though how to go about that is never explicitly stated to the player. Each character in the party has 8 different stat attributes that they’ll need to consider — HP, MP, Strength, Spirit, Intellect, Stamina, Agility, and Magic. HP and MP are the characters’ respective pools of hit and magic points, while the other stat attributes impact various effects in battle. Somewhat intuitively, the way to improve these attributes is tied to the effect that each has on the characters overall.

Stat AttributeHow to Improve
HPTake damage from attacks (enemy or ally).
MPDeplete MP by using magic spells in battle.
StrengthAttack using melee weapons during battles.
SpiritUse White Magic spells during battles.
IntellectUse Black Magic spells during battles.
StaminaTake damage from attacks and survive. Mortal blows (resulting in a KO) do not earn points.
AgilityEquipping heavier weapons and armor and participating in battles will earn points toward Agility, culminating in characters acting first.
MagicUse magic spells during battles (White or Black).

Improving Weapon Skill in Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II Gameplay

Similar to how players must complete certain actions in battle to improve stat attributes, each weapon type in Final Fantasy II has its own skill and proficiency level that each character must grow. Weapon proficiency for each type starts at level 1, and each time the player selects “Attack” they earn 1 point (whether the hit lands or not). After earning 100 points, the weapon levels up. Players can level up each weapon type to the max of 16, or 1600 attacks with that particular kind of weapon. The weapon types in Final Fantasy II include:

  • Swords
  • Spears
  • Axes
  • Staves
  • Knives
  • Bows
  • Unarmed

How to Increase Magic Spell Potency in Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II gameplay

Just like weapon levels, each spell in Final Fantasy II has its own proficiency level by character. Depending on how often players use spells in battle, it can be quite the arduous process to fully level up a spell to the maximum of 16. Similar to the process for leveling up weapon proficiency, players must cast each individual spell multiple times to level that spell up. Also similar to leveling up weapon types, players can cast spells on themselves or their party members to expedite this process. Spells that reach the max level of 16 have been used hundreds of times and will have reached their maximum potency.

General Tips & Helpful Exploits

There are a few tips to remember that can make the process of leveling up characters in Final Fantasy II much easier. The game does not communicate a lot of this information, so it really is up to the player to experiment with different strategies and figure out what contributes toward character progression. Thankfully, years of experience and hindsight (as well as a few helpful exploits of the game’s mechanics) make the process much easier nowadays.

  • Perhaps the most important tip to remember is that players must fight enemies that are at their level or slightly above, as fighting weak enemies will result in the inability to earn points for completing actions in battle. Players can take advantage of this early in the game by getting each character to learn the Cure spell and then get into a battle around the town of Altair. The enemies here are weak, but so is the party, and players can quickly spam attack on their companions and then cure them indefinitely, gaining plenty of weapon levels and boosting HP in the process. This trick only works in the early game, so it’s best to have this be the first thing you do to ensure a strong party.
  • Every character can dual-wield weapons, but Final Fantasy II only calculates damage based on the weapon in the character’s dominant hand (which is listed in the menu and status screens for characters). Therefore, it’s not necessary to level up more than one weapon type per character, as a secondary weapon will use the damage calculations of the weapon in the character’s dominant hand.

The Pixel Remaster Advantage

Final Fantasy II Pixel Remaster menu

As part of the re-release of the first 6 games in the Final Fantasy series, the Pixel Remasters, Square Enix has gone in and implemented helpful boosts for each game that expedite the process of grinding out levels and progressing characters. These features are especially helpful in the new release of Final Fantasy II, and turning them on essentially makes playing the game feel like any other entry in the series. The following Boosts are available to players at the outset of the game and are extremely helpful, making the Pixel Remasters release the definitive version of Final Fantasy II.

At any point during gameplay, entering the menu and then selecting “Configuration” and then “Boost” will display the options above, which include the ability for characters to gain HP stats after set amounts of battles and earn up to four times the normal amount of Gil, Exp, weapon, attribute, and spell points.

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