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Final Fantasy X-2 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Final Fantasy X-2 (PlayStation 2) review

"After the events in FFX, life resumed peacefully, with the threat of the extraordinarily hideous Sin gone. The setting is once again Spira and regions such as Zanarkand, Besaid, and Luca, albeit with several changes. The most noticeable one is that Spira is no longer the gloomy, almost claustrophobic world it once was where everybody was pessimistic and whining about their fate. People are now more cheerful, and it is immediately obvious Sin is nothing more than a souvenir now. To prove this eve..."

After the events in FFX, life resumed peacefully, with the threat of the extraordinarily hideous Sin gone. The setting is once again Spira and regions such as Zanarkand, Besaid, and Luca, albeit with several changes. The most noticeable one is that Spira is no longer the gloomy, almost claustrophobic world it once was where everybody was pessimistic and whining about their fate. People are now more cheerful, and it is immediately obvious Sin is nothing more than a souvenir now. To prove this even further, high summoners now belong to the past, and generally regarded as utterly useless. This brings me to the main protagonist of X-2, which is none other than Yuna, who played such an important role in defeating Sin. However, this is not the quite Yuna we are accustomed to, as she has undergone a drastic set of changes.

For starters, Yuna is no longer the best summoner around and instead now professes to be a sphere hunter, whereby her task consists in hunting for…spheres. She’s no longer a totally uninteresting girl, but is instead blessed with personality and charm, as opposed to the cliched character that she was in FFX. Yuna can also now use guns a la Dante (Devil May Cry), and overall manages to evolve into a good main character throughout the course of the game. Accompanying her is the annoying Rikku, who managed to get even more irritating since the previous adventure, something I never thought possible given how she was already a real douche-bag in FFX. I swear Rikku just has to be one of the worst playable characters Square created for Final Fantasy. FFX-2 also introduces Paine, the only newcomer in your party, who’s thankfully a fine character and makes up for Rikku’s lameness. She manages to avoid all the stereotypes that usually plague female characters in such games. Paine actually manages to steal the spotlight from Yuna at times with her calmer attitude and her reluctance to talk about her past. Paine also actually does have a good background story, as opposed to the entirely useless Rikku.

And those three girls constitute your entire party. Yes, folks; FFX-2 has only 3 playable characters, which is a drastic change from the big teams one had to manage in previous games. Of course, we get to interact with a lot of non-playable characters, some of which are old buddies such as the eccentric Wakka, Lulu the bimbo, and the sullen, third-person aficionado Kimahri, but the YRP (Yuna-Rikku-Paine) team is the entire controllable party. Of course, supporting characters still guide you on your trip, and there are now three of those, Brother, Buddy, and Shinra. The latter’s name will very probably send shivers down the spines of thousands of Final Fantasy fans. While some of you may feel the extremely small roster size should have a negative effect on the game play, rest assured that nothing like that happened. After all, this is Square we’re talking about, and Square does know how to come up with solid game play.

FFX-2 thus introduces the Dress Sphere system, which takes its roots from the job system in Final Fantasy V, and tweaks it a lot. By equipping dress spheres, each character gains access to different abilities. Such abilities range from the usual healing ones to black magic, as well as physical-oriented techniques and some more unique ones. Your characters can thus move from being a White Mage to a Black Mage, without omitting other roles such as the ever-popular Thief or the Dark Knight, who wields a huge sword a la Sephiroth. The system used in FFX-2 alone makes the game extremely interesting in how a character can equip only one dress sphere at a time. Fortunately, it is possible to change spheres during battles, and this causes the characters to actually change outfits too. Knowing when to use the right abilities is crucial during battles, and this makes for very strategic encounters with the handful of fiends waiting for you throughout your epic quest.

In addition, battles now take place in active time, which means you are doomed to making your choice quickly unless you want to be beaten to a pulp by the monsters. Square took things even further by giving gamers the possibility to have the YRP team members strike in quick succession, thereby resulting in a neat combo, which ultimately leads to more damaging attacks. Because of this, planning your attacks ahead takes a whole new meaning. No other Final Fantasy game can boast to have such an intuitive battle system, and Square’s effort here deserves to be emphasized. The battle system alone makes some of the game’s most glaring flaws less annoying and thus less prone to prevent you from thoroughly enjoying the game.

Previous Final Fantasy games were always linear and never offered the ability to actually choose your path. FFX-2 boasts a sublime difference in how you now get to choose between missions. As per typical RPG standards, a multitude of optional side-quests also presents itself for you to choose from, and these are quite varied. Unfortunately, the fact that you can skip parts of the game also comes as a disadvantage since this means you will fail to comprehend the whole story. Although your adventure starts out innocently enough with a story that may seem shallow, things however get more complicated throughout the game, and FFX-2 does have a very solid story. Thus, if you want to understand the whole plot, you have no choice but to complete each and every mission even though some of those may not particularly enthrall you. This is made even worse by the fact that some missions can be downright boring and too much of a hassle for you to really bother about them.

Consequently, one can tackle the game from two perspectives: either just choose some missions without bothering about the story, or explore every nook and cranny of the game to unveil the whole plot. Mini-games are as usual present, as is the case in all Final Fantasy titles. The infamous Blitzball has however been altered to a mere shadow of its former self. You can now only manage your team, and have absolutely no control on the matches. Thankfully, FFX-2 boasts Sphere Break, a new mini-game which is almost as exciting as Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad. Sphere Break is an addictive game revolving around coins whereby you need to satisfy certain mathematical conditions. It’s one of those mini-games that will only appeal to certain gamers, but should you fall in this category, you’ll no doubt spend a lot of time on it, which is what eventually happened to me.

It is fortunate that Final Fantasy X-2 happens to be so stellar as far as game play is concerned because its visuals are extremely disappointing. Most of the backgrounds and character models have obviously been lifted from FFX itself. That’s not a problem per se, and actually is the wisest decision since one can’t just expect Spira to have changed a lot during such a short time. However, the new backgrounds and designs are worse, and look as if they were slapped together hurriedly. I don’t know how Square managed to pull such a stunt (maybe they were concentrating on Final Fantasy XI more), but FFX-2’s new designs range from merely average to downright horrible. Taking this in consideration, it almost comes as a relief that the vast majority was taken from FFX, whose graphics thankfully are better.

It however remains to be stated that the quality of certain new cut-scenes and models is absolutely horrible. Much of it is reminiscent of the graphics used in the legendary Final Fantasy VII, but while these were acceptable back then, they do not work here. It is very obvious not much consideration was given to this title’s visuals, as the developers just rushed through things. This is even more deplorable given this is Final Fantasy, a series that is known for always striving for quality. I’m not saying all is bad though, as there are a couple of cut-scenes that arguably rank among the best Square has produced so far.

Originally, I thought the crappy graphics would be the biggest flaw in FFX-2. Then, as I played through it, the truth dawned on me: this game has the worst music I’ve ever heard in a Final Fantasy game. This is not the work of Nobuo Uematsu, who composed such magnificent scores for the previous games. We are thus left with themes that fail to be on par with the breathtaking music that Final Fantasy has so long been associated with. Most of the music is unfitting of the game, as they fail to really connect to the new Spira and the game’s events. The only new notable track is the battle theme, but even this fails to compare to sumptuous previous pieces, such as FFVII’s Still More Fighting, or FFVIII’s Force Your Way.

The voice acting in Final Fantasy X was a mixed bag with some good parts, some bad parts, and atrocious lip synching. FFX-2 is somewhat worse overall. The voice talents used are most of the time horrible. Fortunately, Paine the newcomer manages to impress. She actually has that Auron-like calm, yet authoritative touch to her. Other characters like Shinra, the whiz-kid, and Maechen, who acts as a reminder of FFX’s more gripping mood, also enjoy good voices that fit them. However, several others are just bad and get extremely annoying after some time. Rikku’s antics are as exaggerated as ever, and are only matched in eccentricity by her older brother, conspicuously named Brother. Lip-synching definitely got worse though, and FFX-2 definitely sports the worst one could ever imagine. If you’ve grown accustomed to more notable efforts from titles such as Metal Gear Solid 2 or Devil May Cry, be warned that you will never ever see even somewhat accurate synching in FFX-2. I could ramble forever on how it is a complete failure, but even thinking about it suffices to make me cringe.

In spite of these glaring flaws, I however found myself gradually overlooking those and instead wanting to uncover even more secrets. Final Fantasy X-2 may be a game that has been hastily created while everybody was waiting for FFXI, but it is nevertheless an excellent addition to what has grown into one of the most successful and longest franchises in the video game industry. Its uniqueness and the plethora of ways in which it departs from Square’s typical role-playing games make it a wholly commendable effort. It is very fun, and acts as a good time-waster should you be looking for a title that does not involve extremely complicated plots and where you can skip much of the game. If, however, you are more into longer games that will keep you hooked up and are of the type that will try to obtain everything, then Final Fantasy X-2 is still the game you should pick. It all depends on what you want, and as impossible as this may seem, Square’s first Final Fantasy sequel fits both roles perfectly. Truly remarkable.

siegfried's avatar
Community review by siegfried (July 08, 2005)

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