Final Fantasy X-2

In 2002, Squaresoft shocked the gaming world by announcing they would be developing the very first true sequel to a Final Fantasy game, with all previous installments having had no connection plot-wise. A few installments, admittedly, left room open for continuations of their storylines, although Square picked Final Fantasy X, whose ending many believed left little room for extension, to be the lucky recipient of a sequel. What turned many off to the direct sequel, moreover, was its strong J-Pop influence and femininity, although the game nonetheless got decent reception and sold well in both Japan and America. Though not exactly a solid continuation of its predecessor, Final Fantasy X-2 is nonetheless an enjoyable title.

Final Fantasy X-2 takes place two years after its predecessor, with Yuna having retired from being a summoner and living peacefully in Besaid. One day, however, her friend Rikku shows her a sphere showing a recording with a man who bears resemblance to her lost love. Thus, Yuna joins a group of sphere hunters led by Rikku’s brother known as the Gullwings (with a mysterious female warrior, Paine, joining Yuna and Rikku, as well), embarking on a quest to uncover the truth of the sphere recording and discover some surprises in Spira’s history.

Final Fantasy X-2 marks the return of Active Time Battles, which prove to be faster than their previous incarnations in the series and even the fights of its prequel (although players can still adjust battle speed). Active and Wait modes return, as well, with all action of battle progressing as players navigate the battle menus in the former mode, and the action of battle stopping within submenus in the latter mode. One difference from previous Active Time Battles is that Yuna, Rikku, and Paine can chain their attacks together against enemies, delaying the execution of their moves; this works for enemies, as well.

Final Fantasy X-2 also marks the return of changeable character classes, absent from the series since Final Fantasy V. Classes come in the form of Dresspheres, which players can place into various Garment Grids that the three protagonists can equip, and can have innate effects such as increased stats and availability of certain spells. Moreover, the girls can change classes in the middle of battle, and depending on the paths they take across their Garment Grids while changing classes, bonuses such as temporary stat increases can occur.

Just about any command aside from normal attacking requires a charge time before execution (yes, this includes items, though a certain class can use items more quickly), although mastering certain abilities through the acquisition of AP can reduce such times. Moreover, classes such as White Mage and Black Mage can’t use normal attacks, although they do have a few free skills such as the former’s Pray, which restores a tiny amount of HP to all party members. The girls immediately gain new abilities in the middle of battle, with experience (normal leveling up returns), money, and the occasional item(s) gained after a victory.

Most normal fights in Final Fantasy X-2 are fairly easy, although some bosses, not to mention some of the late sidequests, can be fairly difficult at times. Still, the class system is perhaps one of the best to appear in the current generation of RPGs, and alongside the quickness of most battles makes for a solid combat system. There are only a few minor shortcomings, such as the action of battle not pausing while players navigate Garment Grids in combat, even on Wait Mode, but otherwise, the battle system is probably the biggest draw to the game.

Interaction in Final Fantasy X-2 is spotless for the most part, aside from a somewhat overly-flashy menu system, with the translation being well above average, as well. The game also utilizes a mission system with five chapters, and is a bit less linear than its predecessor, for those who love to crow about linearity in today’s RPGs, and save points fully recover your party. Not much to complain about here, except maybe for the inability at times to skip cutscenes (although there are a few players can skip).

Final Fantasy X-2 retains plenty of features from its predecessor to make it feel like a direct sequel, such as the world of Spira, the visuals, many locations, many characters, and so forth, although the class system is still fairly inventive, and somewhat helps the first direct Final Fantasy sequel feel fresh.

The story, unfortunately, is probably the weakest part of the game. Though it’s interesting to see how Spira’s changed since Final Fantasy X, the player spends much of the game performing random missions and revisiting old locales in Spira, although the spheres the girls find in their adventure add a bit of extra backstory, even if some of it is a bit corny. The conflict between the Youth League and New Yevon is fairly underdone, as well, and there is, of course, the overall girly nature of the game. In the end, the story isn’t nearly as much of a reason to play Final Fantasy X-2 as it was to play its predecessor.

Final Fantasy X-2, though, doesn’t rehash its predecessor’s music, this time settling for a largely generic pop soundtrack, although there are a few decent, even catchy, pieces. The piano pieces on the title screen and at some places throughout the game, not to mention the theme songs, “Real Emotion” and “1000 Words,” are probably the high points of the music. The voice acting is fairly decent, moreover, and overall, while Final Fantasy X-2 mightn’t have the best aural presentation of the series, it still serves its purpose.

The visuals are largely the same as they were in Final Fantasy X, albeit with more realistic shadows in battle for your party and enemies. The FMVs, not to mention the Dressphere transformations in battle, are the high points of the graphics, which, in spite of heavy recycling and a slight bit of laziness on part of the programmers (for instance, a certain character who’s allegedly nine months pregnant looks exactly the same as she did in the first game), still hold up nicely even today.

Finally, players can possibly rush through the game in as little as fifteen hours, although taking the time to do everything and get 100% completion can very well take up to around seventy-five hours, with a New Game Plus allowing for additional playthroughs. While not the best direct RPG sequel out there, Final Fantasy X-2 is still a solid title in its own right, with its battle system being its biggest draw. If you enjoyed Final Fantasy X and think that Yuna wearing skimpy clothing and being a pop-star is blasphemous, its sequel will probably scar you for life; on the other hand, if you enjoyed Final Fantasy X, are looking for a fun, light-hearted game, and don’t mind the high estrogen content, it should be right up your alley.

The Good:
+Fun battle and Dressphere systems.
+Great control.
+Funny translation.
+Good theme songs.
+Nice graphics.

The Bad:
-Estrogen content will turn off some players.
-Story doesn't add much new to predecessor.
-Music can be hit-or-miss.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 15-30+ Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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