Ultima is a White Magic from Final Fantasy II. The spell serves as an important story element, being the ultimate magic spell in the game's world. It is learned from the Ultima Tome item, a legendary magic tome that was sealed by its creators at the top of the Mysidian Tower. Only one character can learn Ultima in each of the game's story scenarios.
Many years ago, Pandaemonium rose into the world, and the Jade Passage opened far to the east of Mysidia. Demons from Pandaemonium attacked the world through the passage, until the Mysidian mages crafted the ultimate spell, Ultima, and used it. Pandaemonium sank back to Hell and the Jade Passage closed. The Mysidian mages feared for the world's safety and sealed the Ultima Tome in the Mysidian Tower. Entry to the tower was made possible with a Crystal Rod, which required a Black Mask and White Mask to be obtained. Furthermore, Leviathan served as the tower's guardian.
The Wild Rose Rebellion's fight against Palamecia is dire enough to use Ultima. Princess Hilda orders Minwu to travel to Mysidia and retrieve the Ultima Tome, but he takes longer than she expected and she sends Firion and his friends to find him. At the top of the Mysidian Tower Minwu sacrifices his life to destroy the seal on the door to the chamber where the Ultima Tome lay.
The ultimate magic, sealed away by the ancients.Description
Ultima is classified as White Magic, as it raises Spirit when used repeatedly. Its damage is not determined by Spirit or Intelligence; instead, Ultima's damage relies on the number of spells the caster knows and their level, as well as their weapon skill levels (unarmed and shield included). The more spells the character knows, and the higher their magic and skill levels are, the more damage Ultima does. Thus Ultima may do next to no damage, but when taught to someone with numerous high-level spells, it is the most powerful spell, far surpassing Flare and Holy, the otherwise two strongest Black and White Magic spells. Ultima is unaffected by penalties to Spirit or Intelligence, so a character can wear heavy armor with no downsides. It also ignores enemy magic defense and magic evasion.
The player can teach Ultima to any party member, but as the Ultima Tome is unique, they can only teach it once. In Soul of Rebirth, the player can only teach Ultima to Minwu.
The process of damage calculation for Ultima:
- Levels = SUM ( All Weapon Skill Levels + All Magic Spell Levels )
- Tier = FLOOR ( Levels ÷ 24 )
- Base Damage = Ultima Level × [ Tier + FLOOR ( Tier ÷ 2 ) ]2 + 100
- If multi-target, Base Damage is divided by 4
- Random Bonus = RANDOM ( 0 ... Base Damage % 256 )
- Damage = Base Damage + Random Bonus
- If 5% Critical Hit occurs, Damage = 2 × Base Damage + Random Bonus
Magic spell levels include Ultima itself, and empty magic slots are treated as level 0.
A tier determines the base damage value used, and is determined by the total sum of weapon and magic spell levels. Each tier is 24 levels, meaning that damage does not change within that group of 24 levels, assuming Ultima's level is consistent. For example, a character with Lv16 in all 8 weapon skills and only knows Ultima at Lv16 would have a total combined level of 144, putting them at tier 6. If they were to learn a new magic spell and leveled it up to 16, their total levels would be 160, which keeps the character still at tier 6 and Ultima has no change in damage. When this character gains another spell and levels it to 8, their total level becomes 168, placing them in tier 7.
Minwu's exclusive Ultima Tome in Soul of Rebirth does not take his weapon and magic levels into account. It calculates damage at the maximum tier, as if Minwu has 16 learned spells and Lv16 in all weapon skills and magic spells. The only thing that increases his Ultima's damage is the level of Ultima itself, which increases the multiplier in the damage formula.
When Final Fantasy II was originally released on the Famicom, the Ultima spell, which was difficult to acquire, was practically useless. It was initially meant to grow in power relative to the level of other spells the caster had, but due to a bug, did just around 500 damage at the most on a single target.
The Final Fantasy II version of Ultima appeared as a Legends character summon card for players to obtain. Several versions of the Ultima summons existed depicting several characters - Minwu, Leila, and Maria. The artwork and spell animations were based on the Ultima10 animation from the Wonderswan, GBA, PSX, and 20th Anniversary editions of the game.
Ultima (II) is Minwu's Arcane Overstrike Soul Break available from obtaining the Rune Staff (II) relic. When used, the attack will deal three massive white magic holy-elemental attacks to one enemy. The attack can break the damage cap by default. The ability initially costs 3 Soul Break bars to perform, but once the player hones the Soul Break to rank 10, it costs 2 bars to perform.
Behind the scenes
In the later drafts of Final Fantasy II, the Ultima Tome's seal would have not killed Minwu. While the Ultima Tome is rarely mentioned after obtaining the spell in the Mysidian Tower, the original drafts hint that Firion and his friends would use Ultima to serve as the killing blow to the Emperor in Pandaemonium. This idea was dropped in the final product. 
Director Hironobu Sakaguchi has later told a humorous story relating to the bug from the original version: When Square tested the game and saw the bug, Sakaguchi asked for it to be fixed, but the person who programmed it replied that legendary stuff that dates back to an age before "proper techniques" would look inferior from present's point-of-view, explaining Ultima's weakness. He reasoned that the struggle to acquire it only to discover it was useless mirrors real life, and thus he was not going to fix the bug. Sakaguchi was irritated by the reply and tried to fix it himself, but the programmer had ciphered the source and Ultima was left the way it was.
In the cutscene before the battle with the Light Emperor in Soul of Rebirth, when Minwu and the party see a vision of Firion and his allies fighting the Dark Emperor, it is Firion who was taught Ultima, which is maxed out at Level 16. This scene is the same regardless of which party member the player actually taught Ultima to in the main game.
- 20th Anniversary (PSP version)
- Pixel Remaster
- peter__ (19 February, 2019). ultima mechanics. GameFAQs Boards. Archived from the original on 23 May, 2021.
- Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive Volume 1, p.82
- Sato (20 October, 2014). Why Final Fantasy’s Very First Ultima Spell Was Useless. Siliconera. Accessed 1 December, 2014. Archived from the original on 1 December, 2014.