"On the one hand, it is made by Square Enix and says FF in the title. The dressphere system sounded like a really cool variation on the various FF games that have included job classes (FF1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and Tactics to name some.) I was intrigued. On the other hand, FFX-2 looked a whole lot like ''Let's play dress-up!'' and Yuna's new costume made me skeptical. I absolutely could not picture the uncertain, apologetic Lady Summoner running around a la Lara Croft, and I really wanted to know how Square Enix was justifying the transformation."
There are a lot of things that I look for when I'm trying to decide if I want to purchase a particular role-playing game. The base factors that tend to influence my decision include playability, replay value, depth of characterization, likelihood of a good plot, and simply whether or not the game looks interesting to me.
However, I'm honest enough to admit that I'm a fangirl. Anything with Final Fantasy in the title is enough to skew me in favour of a game, although it is by no means a guarantee that I will purchase the game.
Given the criteria listed above, and the information available on Final Fantasy X-2 prior to its release, I was extremely torn on whether or not to purchase the game. On the one hand, it is made by Square Enix and says FF in the title. The dressphere system sounded like a really cool variation on the various FF games that have included job classes (FF1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and Tactics to name some.) I was intrigued. On the other hand, FFX-2 looked a whole lot like ''Let's play dress-up!'' and Yuna's new costume made me skeptical. I absolutely could not picture the uncertain, apologetic Lady Summoner running around a la Lara Croft, and I really wanted to know how in hell Square Enix was justifying the transformation.
Obviously, since I'm reviewing the game, I did end up buying it. My reactions, upon having played through the game once, are about as mixed as they were when I was making the decision on whether or not to buy it.
First, let me say that Americans playing Final Fantasy X-2 have one key and significant problem. In Japan and Europe, Squaresoft released a version of Final Fantasy X called FFX International. This version included some souped up bosses and sidequests, and was never released in America. No big deal; so we missed out on some fights, oooh scary. However, FFX International also included a 15-minute-long movie called Final Fantasy X: Another Story.
Without spoiling anything, I will simply say that this video provides a crucial link between the two games, summarizing the two years that came between. Yet, it was not released with FFX-2 in America. People who are curious can find it around the Internet at various sites like RPGamer.com, but by and large, if you didn't know about it you'd be very confused when you started FFX-2. It provides a critical bridge between Yuna at the end of FFX--a battered but resolute survivor of things no one should have to endure--and Yuna at the beginning of FFX-2, a far more confident and active woman than you would have expected two years earlier. The game gives hints as you move through, just in case you didn't see the movie, but I feel the game experience would have been enhanced had someone had the bright idea to include the Another Story movie for those of us who didn't get it the first time round.
That's my first major gripe. My second is the characters who are included. Again I'll avoid spoilers, but much of the cast of FFX has been reduced to a supporting role, leaving Yuna, Rikku, and a new character, Paine. First of all, I despised both Yuna and Rikku in the previous game, so my personal likes and dislikes colour my perception of this game. I fully recognize that this game exists to be fanservice in the way of revealing costumes and bouncing body parts, and I've no objection to either of these things, but they could've picked characters with brains, such as Lulu. Also, since many of the characters are re-used from FFX, little attention and time is devoted to characterization.
The plot is....the best word I can come up with is ''lame.'' FFX-2 is a game of massive side-quests (more on that later), and the main plot reflects this fact by being simple enough to have been designed by a five-year-old. I expected this, but it was still a disappointing fact. The graphics, however, are quite well done--very much in a league with Final Fantasy X, of course. Many environments (not to mention characters) are recycled from the previous game, which makes for fun discoveries as you flit through the game and remember things from FFX. It's also nice to already know how the path goes in certain areas.
I am of divided opinion on the matter of gameplay. On the negative side, there's the whole circle-button issue. Prior to the game's release, Square Enix made a big deal about how you could use the circle button to climb and jump in order to explore, and made it sound like this would be a critical part of the game. I was anticipating a fun action-like game with all the traditional RPG elements. I was very disappointed. The circle-button tricks are necessary in some parts of the game, but nowhere near as integral to the gameplay as the promos made it seem.
The second negative--and it's a huge one--is the mission-based nature of the game. It's divided into five chapters, each of which has a certain number of missions. Now, I pride myself on being good at Final Fantasy games. I understand the way they work. But the game gives you a completion percentage based on the plot points you can dig up. First run through, without touching a strategy guide, I got %65 completion. %65. The best figure I've heard for someone playing through without a strategy guide is %92. This fact drives me insane. I should not, ever, NEED a strategy guide to find all the nifty things in a game. And you need %100 to get the best ending, which means you have to play through at LEAST twice.
Now the pros of gameplay. The dressphere system is intense and interesting. Each dressphere contains a character class, and is inserted into a Garment Grid. The equipped dressphere affects a character's stats (Warrior dressphere raises strength, for example, while White Mage dressphere raises magic). Garment Grids have varying numbers of slots for Dresspheres, and different abilites--one allows you to use Dark Knight abilities even when using other dresspheres, while another boosts your Defense by 20 points. In battle, you can switch your Dressphere to any sphere equipped on your grid that is adjacent to your current sphere. It sounds complicated, but you quickly get used to it. Over the course of a normal game, you can master about three dresspheres per character, which is really more than enough.
Battle moves extremely quickly, with an interesting balance between ATB and turn-based. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, FFX-2 makes use of the idea of ''charge time'', wherein it takes a certain amount of time to cast a spell or use an item. The last action a character took will affect how long it takes her ATB gauge to refill, and a character's class can also affect this.
The final thing I will gripe about is the music. You have to understand, I learned to love RPG's with Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IV. I adore Nobuo Uematsu. Mitsuda is also excellent, as are some other game composers whose names escape me right now. The composer for FFX-2 does not even remotely begin to approach being in the same class. The music is bland and boring, or worse yet, outright terrible. I wanted to strangle the singer of ''Real Emotion.'' For that reason alone, I am deeply displeased with this game.
Still, for all its flaws, it was kind of a fun game in some respects. However, aspects of it were just too nitpicky and time consuming--a curse that afflicts the current generation of games far more than it ought. I don't consider the money wasted, but it will never make my top 10 list.
Staff review by Lassarina Aoibhell (February 19, 2004)
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