Yes its very late, blame Black Lagoon, MGSV, and Moving. Anyway, is X-2 a continuation of the amazing X? or does it fall in to the trap of Sequel never being as good as the first? Let us find out.
The First Ever Direct Final Fantasy Sequel
Previously, every single entry in the Final Fantasy series had been different worlds and stories with no true connection between them, barring certain iconic characters (chocobos, moogles, there being a Cid). That is no longer the case with the release of Final Fantasy X-2, the first game to revisit the world and characters of a mainline Final Fantasy title. X-2 puts us back in the world of Spira, however rather than filling the shoes of Tidus, players take control of Yuna, now acting as a Sphere Hunter, someone who hunts for ancient spheres (video recordings).
Presentation Verse is Same As The First (Mostly)
Being a direct sequel, coming out hot on the heels of the first, 2 years after X, which these days is a pretty damn quick turnaround compared to modern FF’s release schedule. To be honest I don’t even know if the differences I might talk about are real. For all I know it could just be tricks of my imagination. Most of the areas and generic NPC models are recycled. There are some new areas and models, but it all fits within the same art style as the original. Visually the newest content lies within the fact that X-2 utilizes the job system and allows mid battle switching. Each job has a unique intro/outro and each of the three party members have individual variations on their outfit for any particular job. The various job outfits look great and you’ll probably switch in and out of everyone, even those you don’t use, to see the transition scenes. Some of them are a little fanservice-y, but as we’ll get into later, there’s a reason you could call this Fan Service: The game, but as we’ll also get into later, don’t let that deter you from seeing all the game has to offer. Audio wise the soundtrack isn’t nearly as memorable, but then again X was my favorite so I guess that’s to be expected. The voice acting has seen some improvement, this is most likely a combination of experience gleaned from X, Yuna’s voice actor isn’t quite so stilted, which also fits with how she’s changed after the events of X. All of the other major players put in good performances and there’s really not any complaints to be had. Hypello weave back and forth between endearing and annoying, but otherwise it all works out.
There Are Tonal Problems, But Underneath Are Some Interesting Stories
If you’ve only heard about FFX-2, you’ve probably heard a lot of people swear off every playing it because it’s too “girly, ridiculous, unserious” etc. I’ve heard people say they watched the opening cutscene and instantly turn it off, never to play again (and spoiler: that’s not actually yuna nor was the pop star act even her idea). But to do so would be a disservice to the interesting nuggets buried within. FFX-2 isn’t a single straightforward plot, though there is a classical save the world tale weaved within. Rather it’s episodic side quest focused set up is just as much concerned with telling the story of a Spira free of Sin, as it is exploring the main conflict the story sets up. At the time of its release FFX-2 was a bit unique, prior, we never really got to see the long term effects of the various incidents that occur in the course of a Final Fantasy game. The eradication of the big harbinger of death and destruction has popped the top off of Spira and all the repressed desires and feelings of the population has erupted. As you explore Spira with Yuna and the Gullwings, you’ll see people once guarded and solemn, congnant of the fact that sin could kill them at any time, engaging in frivolous pursuits once unthought of. People are traveling, experiencing entertainment, tourism, and in general just having a good time. Of course, such massive shifts in society come at a cost.
Spira isn’t the only thing changing, Yuna herself has got more than just a new look, she’s changed herself. It’s here that the criticism is made that Yuna’s character is too drastically changed. However I feel there are two logical reasons why Yuna’s change in personality works. Firstly is that Yuna’s more upbeat character is obviously a direct result of Tidus’ influence. He was upbeat, cheery, childish, selfish, and along with Jecht and Auron, helped save Spira from Sin because of it, she’s trying to emulate the man she loves. Unfortunately the best example of this is found in The Eternal Calm short which until the HD edition was never officially released in NA. In it when torn between Riku’s desire for her to go off journeying to find the origins of a mysterious sphere seemingly showing Tidus, and Wakka’s desire for her to stay and do her duties as High Summoner, basically be a responsible inspiration of the people. Yuna has been content with her idyllic life so far, but she remembers Tidus words about it being pointless to be all grown up if that means never saying what you feel and never changing anything. So Yuna decides there isn’t anything wrong with wanting more, and leaves on her journey. The second reason is that as things begin to heat up, you realize that it’s more of a facade than a true change in Yuna’s core being. As others try to drag her into the political brawl brewing, she tries to stay true to her new selfish desires to put Yuna first, that it’s not her problem, she’s a sphere hunter now, not a hero. But as things become more dire her indecision about her role in Spira grows. At first she’s willing to allow the other major players to take care of it, but as it becomes apparent only she and the gullwings can save the world, selfless hero Yuna is in full effect.
Those who have played X know that the central government/religion Yevon is...basically a bit fucked. This has created a vacuum that two groups seek to fill. On one side is New Yevon, they’re a more conservative group which seeks to walk into the new sinless world at a measured pace, slowly helping the masses adjust, while protecting them from lost knowledge that may cause a repeat of mistakes. On the other side rests the Youth League. The more radical of the two, it seeks a world free of Yevons secrets, and free access to what Yevon would withhold, diving in head first to the new world. In the midst of the upheaval, a large mechanical weapon developed 1000 years ago for use in the war that bred sin activates and disappears. Connected via events they don’t understand, the leaders of the two opposed factions (and the leader of the Al Bhed Machine Faction) and Yuna must solve the mystery of Vegnagun while keeping Spira from tearing itself apart from political upheaval. You know what? this is all good shit, it really is. What drags X-2 back isn’t the ingredients of the stew, but rather the specific mix, the concentration of parts. If X-2 had reduced the more light hearted nonconsequential side stories, and fleshed the main tale out a bit more, it’d have been an amazing tale. That’s not to say some of them aren’t interesting, or that the thematic breaks for a bit of fun isn’t important, it’s just that I can see the greatness, and wish it were a little more fleshed out, that the world (re)building was more expertly weaved into the main plot, rather than sectioned out. But you know what? even if all you’ve seen, and all I’ve told you turns you off the game, I’d still say check it out. Why? well because…
Final Fantasy X-2 Is The Definitive ATB and Job System Experience
This ain’t your granny’s ATB system, in FFX-2 you are living fast and potentially dying young. What I’m trying to say is battle in FFX-2 moves QUICK. This is probably the first and only FF where I would strongly advise setting the ATB mode to Wait (doesn’t progress when you’re in magic/item/targeting menus) otherwise you’ll be getting bitch slapped while trying to use a potion. But it works because the system rewards good timing. Attacks can stun lock opponents and chaining attacks increases damage, so one method is to use a bunch of rapid fire attacks to try and maximize your offence and delay the boss’s attack. This can be very important if you trying to buy your White Mage time to get her curaga spell off. Speaking of spells, all spells and abilities have charge times of various lengths. I didn’t like this in earlier FF’s but again, battle in X-2 moves so fast that I actually don’t mind it at all. If anything it gives you a bit of time to take stock of the battle’s current situation or as with stunning enemies, create strategic timing. The Dark Knight job specializes in sacrificing HP to do damage, but if you time your healing correctly, you can effectively null the advantage a strong hitting enemy may have targeting your DRK after self inflicted wounds (although DRK’s defenses are so high it usually doesn’t matter, DRK is OP as fuck). Compared to FFIX, whose snail paced ATB allowed for plenty of sandwich making opportunities, FFX-2’s brisk ATB is refreshing.
X-2’s implementation of the Job system takes a page from X’s book and implements a quick switch method that allows you to fluidly respond to changing battle conditions by changing to the right job at the right time. Although it’s not quite that simple. Jobs in X-2 are represented as Dresspheres which must be slotted into a Garment Grid. GG’s come in different shapes and sizes and can have innate abilities. During battle you can only switch to adjacent dresspheres connected via a white line. As an added incentive to be smart about GG choice and dressphere placement, GGs have Gates, which when activated via changing jobs via a certain path, can infer buffs and powerful abilities. Honestly these aren’t really necessary, I can’t say I’ve ever bothered with planning out gates, I usually just pay attention to passive GG bonuses, and which grids offer easy access to however many dresspheres any part member specializes in (usually 2 or 3 at most). But if you’re a min maxer or enjoy going above and beyond to bring the pain, you’ll find a GG you like. Overall the job system in X-2 feels much faster (noticing a pattern?) and allows for more synergy between the jobs and between each party member. At best previous Job systems would allow a character to take some form of ability/passive from a secondary job, but often it wasn’t all that much of a choice, physical dps took a dps passive (usually 2 handed or Dual Wield) and magic classes just took whatever magic type they didn’t have innately. Due to being unable to change your job within a battle, this meant that if your choices weren’t very good for the fight you found yourself in, well tough shit. The ability to easier change tactics main battle makes support jobs, like the Songstress, much more viable, especially because when it turns out those don’t work, the songstress can then change instead of being dead weight. With smart Accessory, GG, and gate activation, you can easily 180 from physical/magical damage to magical/physical damage, and change the levels of support the party provides.
The most practical example I can offer centers around just how much healing you need. White Mages are awesome when they’re needed, and kind of useless when they aren’t (in X-2 WHM don’t even have a basic attack command). So instead of just standing around with her hands in her pocket, I switch Rikku from WHM to Alchemist, which is still a good healing class due to it’s buffed items and infinite stocks (but these require charge times and a shitload of AP to learn), but with powerful items and/or accessories/GGs/Gates to buff her strength, can still put out decent damage. If you want to add a little interparty synergy to the mix, have a Yuna and Paine equip berserker and Howl (double HP), top them off, then go full damage (say Black Mage or Samurai) since you’ve now got a big enough HP buffer to not die before you can switch. If I had one complaint about the Job system, it mostly lies within the balancing of jobs. While I would say every job can be fun to use, and the base game certainly beaten with any decent combo, as time and AP certain classes just become better than anything else. as previously stated, Dark Knights are just ridiculous. High defenses, high HP, and their darkness ability always does amazing damage, even to high defense or m.defense enemies (it may bypass defense actually). Alchemists also become the prefered healer due to infinite Mega Potions meaning party wide 2k heals on a regular basis. If you really want to cheese the game two DRK’s and an alchemist will pretty much destroy any late game enemy or boss with little danger to yourself. But I always feel that such methods destroy the spirit of the game, so while I do use a DRK/Alchemist, I do try to switch it up for fun.
Story Flawed, Combat Strong, FFX-2 Isn’t For Everyone, But Don’t Dismiss This Book Due To Its Cover
Many times I’ve heard refusal to touch X-2 based upon it’s much publicized flippant use of characters that once partook in a very grim and serious world and journey. This to me is a shame, because even though those people might still dislike the game even after giving it a good go, I know somewhere someone has merely looked upon the game as beauty being only on the surface, and ended up missing out on something they may in fact love. Yes the game could use a little less fanservice, and a little more seriousness, but goddamn X-2 is just so much FUN to play that even though X-2 for me is the obviously inferior of the X entries, I still can’t imagine a world in which I knee jerked away from ever playing it. Now there’s one final thing I haven’t touched on and that’s the endings. Some may feel the good/perfect endings contradict/ruin the somber ending of X. Within me, despite my best efforts to murder him, lies an optimist, and I see it less of a contradiction and more of a contrast. Whereas FFX says that despite your best efforts, sometimes you can’t have everything, FFX-2 says that sometimes you can. Both X and X-2 deal with the idea that it’s okay to want more, childishness be damned. There isn’t really a reason why X says no and X-2 says yes, but that in itself can be a statement. Sometimes shit works out, sometimes it doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily need a rhyme or reason either way. After saving the world from terror and annihilation twice, Yuna does get it all, and the optimist in me loves it. In the end, I say give it a go, considering it comes bundled with X in the HD rerelease, you really have no reason not to.
Next Up, Another First For The Series, Final Fantasy’s First Ever MMO: Final Fantasy XI
mmo’s are such quick and easy plays, I can’t imagine why anyone would think I would do it /sarcasm. Yes I put myself through several months of FFXI to bring you a fresh eye on the ridiculously old yet still running MMO. Is FF the chocolate to some MMO peanut butter? The answer will...not joking probably surprise you.