This game is the first direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game and it involves women in skimpy outfits. Now that that's out of the system, it is time to examine one of the most intriguing games to be developed by Square or Enix in a while. The developers have used X-2's unique status to explore new gameplay elements - but they still know their roots. Where Final Fantasy X was traditional, X-2 is experimental, and vice-versa. Together they make a nice, balanced RPG experience.
Final Fantasy X-2 takes place two years after the events of its predecessor. Spira is enjoying the fruits of the good things that happened at the end of the game, and the oppression is now as sparse as the Machina is plentiful. As for heroine Yuna, she seems to have put the bad thing that happened at the end of the game past her. So when she finds a video sphere that features Tidus, she's a bit skeptical. Nonetheless, she joins up with a group called the Gullags in order to search for spheres and "find herself." Corny, yes, but light-heartedly corny, as Square Enix promises. Yuna has dropped her intensity and has become an easy-going, practical joking gal. In fact, between her and cousin Rikku, things were getting so fun that they had to throw in Gullwag Paine to put a damper on things. There's still plenty of fun to be had, as evidenced by the music videoish opening movie. As for evil threats intent on destroying the world, who knows! That tired cliché may not be present at all in this title.
Final Fantasy X was remarkable for its rigid linearity. Players had to traverse a set path through Spira littered with long story scenes. Old areas could only be re-visited once they acquired the airship at the end of the game. This is totally turned on its head for X-2. Players have control of the airship at the start of the game, and after an initial mission, they can go anywhere they want. Well, almost, anyway. The game is mission-based; meaning it is neatly divided into easily digestible quests that can be completed at the player's leisure. There is no set order, although there is a "Story Level" meter that has to be completed to beat the game. Many of the missions have nothing to do with the story, and they are fully optional.
Other innovations include some adventure elements that have Yuna jump, run and climb around the field. Of course, nobody wants another platform game, and players can rest assured that Yuna can't fall to her death. At various times, other FF games have had elements like these, and it just helps keep the field more interactive. While not exactly innovative, X-2's mini-games trump even X's relative creative heights. This time, instead of dodging lightning bolts, YuRiPa (the more or less official term) will be giving out massages. Also, the search for Al-Bhed primers continue - but is it possible to carry over these language tools from old X saves?
The heart of the gameplay is a FF standby, however, and that is the Job System. Jobs are character classes that determine party members' abilities. There are 14 normal jobs, plus 3 special ones that are unique for each character (please see our Job List for more information.) Players add to their job repertoire by collecting "Dressspheres," which are then placed on a Garment Grid. In the field menu, jobs can be changed with impunity, but in battle, they can only be changed in the order that they appear on the Garment Grid. Changing jobs in battle results in a flashy costume change, but these can be turned off in the options menu if they get too annoying. To accommodate this system, X-2 has abandoned X's Sphere Grid experience system in favor of the classic AP (Ability Points, collected after battle) as payment towards new abilities. In addition, party members can equip up to two accessories that grant them abilities they might not necessarily have. As for regular experience for leveling up, it also makes its return in this title.
As does the Active Time Battle System (although the Wait Mode is always an option.) The battles in this game are remarkably fast, and because enemies can still (as with X) be dispatched in one or two hits, they are over very quickly. One might hope that the game has quick loading times, and that there is something to balance out the difficulty. Still, the quickness only helps the "pick-up-and-play" aspects of the game. Interestingly, the party members' ATB meters change sizes based on their job, and quicker attacks help bring about combo moves where all three members can attack a target at once. Another new battle feature, perhaps related, is that YuRiPa can change positions in the battlefield, presumably for some strategic effect.
The graphics are more and less the same, and they operate on the same engine. The textures, facial detail, and CG are all improved a tiny bit. Considering how good X looked, one can't really complain - except for the fact that the occasionally shaky camera is back as well.
It is with the music that Square Enix makes the most remarkable departure from other FF titles. First off, the soundtrack isn't ALL J-Pop: even though veteran Nobuo Uematsu didn't contribute, things haven't gone completely haywire. Regardless, wild guitars permeate several tunes, and the cheesed-up moments when Yuna herself takes the mic are already famous. Oh yes, and they reportedly changed the old victory fanfare. Fans will nonetheless be relieved to find many decent, melodic, and moody compositions among all this. Actually, many of the compositions have a humorous twinge to them, and get ready for the BEST Chocobo theme ever. And while that may not be saying much, it's impressive all the same.
For the most part, X-2 carries the burden of being a sequel nicely, but maybe the game's biggest downfall is the reuse of most of X's monsters and locations. Even though the music and dungeon design is different, the repetition might get to some RPGamers, especially those who have played through X numerous times. At least those who haven't played the predecessor won't have any difficulty with the storyline, as the developers have included means of getting re-cap information.
Although undoubtedly controversial to some, Final Fantasy X-2 is what Final Fantasy X should have been to others. Even if this new game isn't well liked, at least it doesn't demand any major emotional investment, and gives the player plenty of options on how to enjoy it. By filling in the holes in the foundation of its predecessor, X-2 once again proves the fluidity and populism of the Final Fantasy series.