What is this game?
It's got the words "Final Fantasy" followed by a "II." If you're reading this post, I'm going to go ahead and guess that you can pretty much figure it out. But if you want a more detailed scoop:
Following the success of their thinly-veiled D&D knockoff Final Fantasy, Square decided to follow up with a more ambitious project for the Famicom. It introduced many groundbreaking new ideas to the world of console JRPGs and began a number of longstanding Final Fantasy traditions that were not cribbed directly from the works of Gary Gygax & co. It also distanced itself from the generic plot-lite dungeon crawling of its predecessor in favor of a more cinematic, story-driven experience. How did they hope to accomplish all of this?
Cutting corners, mostly. Such as playtesting. Or documentation.
Why are you LPing this?
Well, it's an interesting curiosity. With its goofy, unconventional and highly exploitable character building mechanics and its inept melodramatic storytelling it's really a much better prototype for modern Final Fantasy titles than any of the other early FF games, so it's a nifty footnote in the history and development of video games.
It also has a whole. lot. of wacky mechanics that can be broken, exploited, and abused to no end. This has contributed to something of a bad rap for the game--it's actually got a pretty decent gameplay curve compared to other early JRPGs, but that tends to get lost in the confusion over what the hell is happening with your characters' advancement.
Will you be showing off all the bugs and exploits?
I should note, however, that I am basically a lazy person. While it's possible to powerlevel the hell out of your characters and have a party of walking gods armed with shiny magic weapons and armor and high-end spells before setting foot in the first dungeon, this takes time and effort. I like to exploit mechanics so that I have to do less work, not more--a lot of the most popularized exploits in this game are inefficient, unnecessary, or even counterproductive. I'll still be pointing them all out and using them if necessary, but for the most part when it comes to actually playing I'll mostly just be goofing around, slacking off, and using the mechanics to coast along rather than spending time over-leveling my party for what is really a fairly easy game.
Aren't there newer versions of this? Why the fugly NES version?
There have been several remakes of this in the last decade or so, yes, and each one is a pretty decent incremental upgrade over its predecessors. But since Square has been gradually fixing and re-balancing the game with each release, there are fewer bugs and exploits to show off in the new version.
Also, the newer remakes are simply much more accessible, so there's not quite as much point in showing them off. If you're really interested in Final Fantasy II, then for god's sake play the new ones. The PSX release of FFI & II is kind of a mess, but the GBA version looks and plays much better; there's a PSP version too, but I haven't checked it out as I'm not in any big hurry to pay Square yet again for the same twenty-year-old game (fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, fuck you.) The newer releases deliver a decent romp that's relatively bullshit-free, so if you're into old school JRPGs they might actually be worth picking up and playing. The NES version is not terrible and I still enjoy it more than most of its contemporaries, but there are a lot fewer reasons to actually play it yourself.
I will be stealing the portraits from the GBA version, though, since it has nifty dialogue portraits for more major NPCs than in the NES version. Makes it a bit easier to keep track of who's talking.
I'm done yapping, on with the show: