"What? Square made a sequel to one of its Final Fantasy games? "
What? Square made a sequel to one of its Final Fantasy games?
The fact that Final Fantasy X-2 is a solid and fun sequel worthy of the Final Fantasy X crest is all one needs to know, regardless of what they would think of the cookie-cutter commercials that have been flickering through televisions across America for it.
While the world of Spira has remained unchanged, Yuna, the heroine of FFX has a definite new outlook on things; this is quickly noticed by the player within minutes of starting X-2. Yuna's philosophy is helping others who are in need, which is the obvious basis of all the missions in this adventure. Following close behind her is the returning Rikku, a young happy-go-lucky seventeen year old who will do just about anything for her close cousin Yuna. Newcomer to the group, and quite opposite of Yuna and Rikku, is Paine, a mysterious female who's wit is as sharp as her blade. In a group, the three, plus a few helpers who pilot their airship, the Celsius, travel around Spira helping others and sending wandering fiends to the Farplane.
Suddenly, because of Yuna’s new dynamic personality, the help of young Rikku and Paine, the exceptional battle system, and the intriguing storyline, Spira has changed into a whole new world.
The first notable change in X-2 is the way the story is played out-- not only a change from FFX but it is also something that has never been seen before in any Final Fantasy title. X-2 plot is told completely through missions. Some are mandatory, while some are optional. The optional missions do not need to be completed in order to conquer the game, however the game urges you to take on some of these as they help build up back stories for key characters while rewarding you with a useful items. Missions range from defeating a species of fiends in one area, to beating a boss fiend, or they can just be as simple as talking to a particular person for key information. You continue through these missions gathering Treasure Spheres, movies of that past that Yuna claims to be an integral clues in the whereabouts of ‘him’, the lost warrior, Tidus, from FFX.
This is where I had some criticism towards X-2. While the 'Normal' ending is sufficient enough, you might not get the ending you expect unless you complete some of these sidequests. Hell, in order to get the ‘Perfect’ ending, you must complete every single thing there is to do in the game; easily 100 hours of gameplay time. A positive aspect for those who keep their strategy guides close to their hearts, but a negative mark to those who find that digging their nose in a strategy guide is not a way to play through a game. However way you look at it, I found myself getting frustrated at the game for not showing me towards the important places that show the next integral parts in the storyline. One instance includes the story pointing you to the next crucial mission, but instead you could travel to another location, an optional trip, that will trigger a huge cut scene in which you uncover a massive discovery that involves a few leading characters. Strangely enough, later on in the game, if you did not see this optional but important part of the story, the game will go about as if you saw it any ways.
Regardless, this problem gets remedied in a very distinct manner. How, you ask? X-2 surprised me when I eventually found myself looking for sidequests myself voluntarily, eager to find out more about the characters and storyline. You’ll eventually be going through every location yourself trying to find new missions and items. Doing so will make missing important plot scenes an impossibility.
How can the tale be that interesting? For starters, X-2 features a slew of very interesting and dynamic characters that all play their own roles in the backbone of the story. Visiting these characters, which reside in different locales, could trigger various missions and even feature cut scenes that help tie up loose ends in the plot. Those who have played through FFX have enough reason to give X-2 a whirl, as there are a surprising amount of returning characters, such as Kimahri, Wakka, and Lulu.
A play through of the original FFX is highly suggested if you want to take on X-2. All of the more climactic story elements are directly rooted from those of the original FFX. That's still not to say that the game has a storyline to hold it up, with new conflicts and enemies. But what X-2 lacks in is the fact that the player never really HATES the main antagonist, if you can call him that. FFX had the dark and sinister Seymour that posed a threat throughout 80% of the game, while the other 20% had the massive beast, Sin, giving you trouble. X-2 feels lacking in the “tried and true” main villain area, despite Square’s intentions of making this game seem less dark and more light-hearted.
Following suit with past Final Fantasy games where each title features its own original battle system, Square dropped the somewhat clumsy Grid System of FFX for a more manageable, customizable, and intuitive engine that fits into X-2 quite seamlessly. Over the course of beating the game, you’ll uncover another kind of sphere, a DressSpere, that can be equipped to a girl of your choice. DressSpheres act a lot like job classes, such as Black Mage can cast Fire, Blizzard, Water, and so on, while White Mage specializes in curative spells such as Cure, Esuna, etc. Upon equipping these spheres, the girls can gain AP, an experience for the DressSphere, which will provide more and more abilities. Eventually, you’ll have mastered the DressSphere and can freely move onto mastering the next.
But what sets this DressSphere system away from others is that there is a large amount of spheres-- seventeen in all-- most of which are incredibly original and strategic. Take the Dark Knight for instance, a dress that is high on power and defense, has devastating spells like Doom and Curse, yet in order to attack it takes HP away from the girl it is equipped to. Or look at Alchemist, a powerful DressSphere that can mix deadly items to use on the enemy and can also learn to use powerful curing items without deducting from your inventory at the expense of having steep AP costs.
More over, each girl’s fashion differs from what DressSphere they are wearing, meaning that each dress has its own distinct look to it. What’s most intriguing about this system is the fact that you can switch DressSpheres on the fly during battle, a huge strategic opening for when boss battles get a little out of hand. Even though you’ll just have to have each girl master two or three DressSpheres in order to be in good shape towards beating the game, it’s a system that is too fun to be hating it for it’s simplicity.
The physics of battling have also changed greatly from FFX. Random encounters are still the basis of fighting here, but the format has been converted straight to an Active Time engine that will catch all stragglers from FFX’s slower battle system off guard. This enables X-2 to almost have a real-time feel to it, meaning that your characters can quickly attack before the boss unleashes his attack that takes considerably more time to power up. You can even strategize your attack so that when each girl attacks, they end up in another spot on the battlefield-- a feature that could maneuver you to a point on the battlefield that is out of a fiend’s range. It’s a feature simply implemented to increase the ‘flow’ of the engine, and while it does have some neat strategic elements to it, it’s a pity that you don’t have more control over the girls.
Despite the obvious metamorphosis the atmosphere has gone through, the aesthetics of X-2 have notably changed since FFX. While the environs are still lush in details and color, a few more additional elements could have been included to make X-2 comparable to today's standards. The towns and locales of FFX have returned and are identical to what they looked like in the past adventure, camera perspectives and all. However, the small amount of dungeons that have been added to X-2 are drab in layout and appearance as if they were modeled hastily in an old Unreal engine. Nonetheless, the noticeably detailed character models are full of attitude and color, with each girl partaking in a new style with each change of a DressSphere.
On the other hand, the music could not have changed any more than what was found in FFX. Unlike the visuals, the music is new in all the areas of the game. Matching the feel of the game, the themes are more up beat with an industrial-techno touch to them. In fact, I was disappointed by the fact that they seem a little too extreme for the title. While I did enjoy some of the tracks of this game (reminiscent of the awesome soundtrack in FFX), I could've help but wonder if I had left the Tekken Tag Tournament, a title full of synthetic techno music, soundtrack playing in the background while playing the game. All kidding aside, the soundtrack comes as a mixed bag that seems to be a hit or miss throughout the game.
Final Fantasy X-2 is one of those rare RPG titles where it will delight the modest gamers with its fun atmosphere and intuitive battle system, yet will still please the most hardcore of RPG fans with its deep mission system and equally ambitious battle system. RPG fans should pick up this title immediately. –Shin (1/13/04)
Community review by shinnokxz (January 13, 2004)
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