To start the game, you must choose a name for each of four characters. While each of the four starting characters have predetermined names, those names are not presented to the player when assigning them on the Famicom. The predetermined names are provided by default in every remake, although you are still given the opportunity to change them to whatever you wish.
Among the many differences between the first Final Fantasy and the sequel, one of the biggest is the fact that the characters don't belong to any one class of hero (such as a warrior or a mage). Every character is a blank template with the unlimited potential to master any skill that you see fit.
- See also: Controls
The landscape of Final Fantasy II consists of a variety of terrains, such as grasslands and forests. Oceans may only be traversed by ship, and ships may only dock at ports, which are usually located near points of interest in the southern hemisphere. Rivers may only be traversed by canoe; however, the Light Warriors can carry the canoe with them, so it is automatically activated when you reach a river. Mountains may not be traversed at all. With an airship, you can fly over anything, but can only land on plains and grasslands.
Occasionally you will reach points of interest such as towns, castles, and caves. When you step onto one of these, the game "zooms in" and you control the characters inside the point of interest. Here, you will often find people that will yield some information when you talk to them. Sometimes the information is useless, other times vitally important to the story. Occasionally, someone will say a key item that you can learn or memorize, and then repeat back to others to yield additional information.
You will also occasionally find treasure chests, many of which contain common items, while others contain rare equipment or key items. In towns, you will find several different kinds of shops that will exchange goods and services for money. These include item stores (sell curative and utilitarian items), Magic tome stores, weapon and armor stores, clinics (can revive slain allies), and inns (restores living characters to full status, and saves the game).
When wandering throughout the world map and in dungeons, you will fight "random encounters". The enemies you face in these encounters depend on the area of the world you are currently traveling in and the terrain. Oceans and rivers have their own set of enemies. There are no random encounters while riding on the airship or in towns/castles. Sometimes battles are preprogrammed (usually directly in front of key items).
On the subscreen you can view data relating to the characters and perform many actions. These actions are:
- Items: Use items such as potions, tents, etc. or key items. However, battle items and equipment that may be used as items cannot be activated from this menu.
- Magic: Magic tomes that have been assigned to various characters can be used here, assuming the character has enough MP. After the NES version, learned magic may be discarded if desired.
- Equipment: Weapons and armor can be equipped or removed from this menu. Along with seeing what is equipped you can also see the character's ATK, ACC, DEF, and EVA stats and what effect the equipment has on it.
- Status: View the attributes of each Light Warrior in greater detail including experience needed for the next level, stats, current equipment, HP, MP, and current level.
- Formation: Change the order of the party. In the Famicom version of the game, this is performed by pressing the button.
- Memo: (Origins only) Quick save your game to the system's temporary memory at any point. When the power is shut off this file is erased.
- Config: Change video, audio, and gameplay options. Also view the bestiary (DoS/20AE) or Collections (Origins).
- Save: Save the game in one of three or four save game slots (depending on the version).
- Saving: The game can be saved at any moment that you are standing on the World Map. While standing in the World Map, simply open up the subscreen and select "Save".
- Memo Saving (Final Fantasy Origins only): This is more of a precautionary method of temporarily saving your game inside a dungeon in case you die. While purists of the original game may dislike Memo Saving, it's definitely helpful for beginners and the like. To use the Memo Save feature, go into the main menu and select the Memo option. After that, select yes when it prompts you to save your game. Note that this type of save is only temporary - if you shut off the console without doing a normal save, you will lose your data.
- Auto Target (Origins only): If on and a character is directed to attack a dead enemy, they will select a random target to attack instead. If off they will simply attack empty space.
- Map (Origins only): When viewing the map of the world from the game, this will change whether it appears as a flat map, or as a globe.
- B Button Dash ( Dash in Origins): If on, the character will always run, otherwise you have to hold B (or ) to run.
- Cursor: If "Memory" is selected, the next time a menu appears, the cursor will start at the last option chosen, otherwise the cursor always returns to the top of the menu.
- Sound Output (Origins only): Switch between mono and stereo sound.
- Controller (Origins only): Customize the controller layout.
- Text/Message Speed: Adjust the speed that dialog appears when talking and how fast the text changes during battle.
- Vibration (Origins only): Turn off/on the PS1 rumble feature.
- Window Color: Mix red, green, and blue to make a custom background color for the subscreen. In Origins, this takes you to a separate screen for this purpose.
- Collections (Origins only): View the collections.
- Bestiary (DoS and 20AE only): View the bestiary.
- See also: Battle commands
In combat, you are presented with your party on the right side and your enemies on the left. Before each round of combat, your characters step forth one by one and awaits your orders. After the warriors receive their orders, they carry them out while the enemy counter attacks. Combat continues until all of your enemies, or all of your party has been defeated, or until one of your party members successfully flees from battle. If either side is completely incapacitated by status aliments, the other side gets free rounds of attacks until at least one member recovers. If all of your party members are defeated, the game is over.