Something I forgot to mention in my prior post:
Final Fantasy II is an open world. Once the party gains Minwu's canoe, it can reach just about any area on the map with enough effort. Paid travel via Cid's airship or Leila's pirate vessel make travel even easier as the game moves on. The only restriction on the character's travels is their ability to survive the increasingly difficult monsters that wait only a little ways off the beaten path. As the heroes begin as a trio of nobodies, this creates another in-world reason for the characters to restrict their actions to certain areas of the map. The bottom line of this is that it gives the game the feel of a real world in which you are free to travel from A to B but must suffer the consequences if you try. While this hides a good deal of rail-roading, it does so in a way that makes it easier to suspend disbelief and by in to the story the game is telling. That suspension of disbelief is key to creating the sense of wonder, of fantasy, that the entire series revolves around. In this respect, though it is only the second title in the series, Final Fantasy II outdoes several of it later descendants.