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Great in its own right, mediocre as a Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy X-2. A sequel to Final Fantasy X, and the first sequel to a Final Fantasy game ever. Final Fantasy X left you with an ending that suggested a sequel, but no one actually expected Square Enix to do it. While many of the ideas in X-2 are great, the game slacks off in many areas and has many, almost fatal, flaws. This game seems geared toward young men in particular and features a lot of skin. However, it seems like some things are geared towards girls, with weird slang and music. This game can't make up its mind about which audience it's targeting.
The battle system feels like it wasn't quite finished. The system in X was almost perfect; it makes you wonder why they changed it to this monstrosity. The battles are turn-based but with a real time aspect. While you select attacks, enemies are beating on your characters left, right and center. This might cause many gamers to set their cursor option to 'Memory' and then the battles become an X button mash-fest. When you first enter a battle, your attack meter climbs up, depending on your level, class and speed it will be longer or shorter. Enemies can attack you the entire time you are waiting for this meter to climb, then you enter a menu and the enemies also hit you here. If you hit attack, your character will immediately attack. Spells, items and skills all have ANOTHER meter you have to wait for. Waiting for items can be especially frustrating, as your character can be killed right before you use it.
The classes (or dresspheres) were quite a novel idea, but they too don't quite work. When it's your character's turn, hit L1 to open the garment grid, which allows you to pick a sphere as long as you set them before (In the Garment grid menu). Enemies can also hit you when in this menu, so be quick in choosing. When you've selected your sphere, your character will change into it. This transformation looks cool the first few times, but becomes tiring and too long later on. It suffers from what the GFs in Final Fantasy VIII suffered from, long sequences (anywhere from 10-35 seconds long) with no way to skip them. Once you are in your sphere, you get the option of immediately selecting an action. Many spheres will not allow you to attack (White mage, black mage) and you are stuck with only doing magic, if you run out of MP you'll have to change again. This is incredibly annoying. Why can't my black mage attack? Who knows? Another problem the battle system suffers from is that magic and attacks can often miss a target.
Some enemies take a few seconds to die, and if your character happens to get their meter full while the enemy is writhing around, they will go to attack it. This often wastes a turn, and more often than not, MP. There were even a few times when my spells would hit absolutely nothing at all. This severe flaw can, and most likely will, lead you to a game over. The special garments also feel very useless from time to time. You have to change into all the dress spheres on the garment grid, then hit L1 and then R2 to change into them. Many enemies are much faster than these and you get knocked out before you even get a chance to do anything. Occasionally characters will do a combo-like attack, which will do double or triple the damage; however this occurring is very random and sometimes not even noticeable.
The menu interface is very simple, one of the simplest ones since Final Fantasy 6. They are Items, White magic (once you get the white mage dressphere), Equip, and Garment grids, Abilities, Accessories, Dresspheres and Config. Items is straightforward, it allows you to arrange and use items and to view your key items. White magic allows any of your characters to use white magic (More spells are available as you level the sphere up). Equip allows your character to equip a garment grid, a dress sphere and two accessories. Accessories are usually status effect guards or ones that add HP and/or MP. Garment grids allow you to choose what dress spheres go where, it has the option of setting the spheres automatically. This automatic setting seems to be random, not balancing any defense or offense stats.
The Abilities section allows you to set what ability your character will start learning while in that sphere. The game will automatically set these, so it's not necessary to set these unless there is one in particular you want/need to learn. You just pick which character, which sphere, then the ability you want to learn next. The dress sphere menu allows you to look at the sphere you have and the ones you are missing. This menu is not incredibly useful and could have been put someplace else, instead of in its own category. Config just allows you to change the games options, like screen position and sound options. There are a few important options in here however. Like cursor memory and wait mode. Wait mode allows you to have a little bit of time without getting attacked while your characters take their turns. Active mode should only be used by people who are really good at this game, as others will find themselves getting killed a lot. Cursor memory has your cursor go to the same attack/ability/etc. as the turn before, this is helpful when fighting enemies but not helpful during bosses.
The music leaves much to be desired. The usual composer for the Final Fantasy series, Nobuo Uematsu, was not working on this project. Some of the music is reused from X, and those are the only really good tracks. The opening song is very repetitive and very 'poppy'. Also, from time to time, a lot of the music sounds like it came straight out of a fairly low budget, porno movie. Listen closely to some of the tracks (on the airship especially) and imagine them to be porno music, it really isn't that big of a stretch. Gone is the beautiful music of the temples, replaced with an off-key techno THING. The soundtrack in X-2 is very mediocre, bordering on awful occasionally. This is one soundtrack many will want to avoid buying. The sound effects are fine, usual Final Fantasy thing. However, when it's 'Mission Time' an annoying high pitched beep is played and is painful on the ears. The voice acting is great, many of the previous actors are back to reprise their roles. The only role that seems a little off is Paine's; the actor seems too monotone or too giddy from time to time.
Originality is not very present here. With many concepts used in previous Final Fantasies all smashed together. The dress sphere idea is a little original, but sadly, it doesn't propel itself to the greatness it could have been. The idea of adding in the ability to jump around was interesting, especially for a Final Fantasy game, but sadly it is not that great. You can only jump in specific spots, not anywhere you please. Many of the ideas were re-used from X, such as healing saves that you can warp back to the airship and the world map.
The plot takes place a few years after FFX. Yuna finds a mysterious sphere that leads her to joining the Gullwings, a ragtag group of sphere hunters, in order to find out more about this sphere. The story leads you on a road of twists, turns, love and friendship. However, many of the plot points are incredibly predictable, which takes away a lot.
Many people looked forward to a continuation of FFX's ending and many had ideas for what could happen, unfortunately, a lot of the plot doesn't deliver what everyone wanted to see. But to see what happens, you'll have to play the game yourself.
The localization was done very well, with top-notch translations. Some of the jokes and phrases inside battles were a lot funnier in English than in the Japanese version. However, purists might be a little annoyed about Rikku saying 'Greased Lightning!' and other Americanized phrases. I think the Al Bhed language is exceptionally well done just as FFX's was. There is only a small amount of 'stiff' dialogue which allows the story to flow more smoothly. Menus are easy to read and tutorials are quick and to the point.
Replay value is very high if you are someone who must get everything in a game. FFX-2 has a unique save box as it tells you the percentage of the game you have completed. You don't need 100% to finish this game; however, many will want to achieve 100% completion. If you are one of these people, replay value is high to achieve this. Different endings also add in replay value, as many will want to see all the game's endings. However, after about 2 maybe 3, plays through, many will have a hard time finding anything else to do in the game.
The visuals are on par with those of Final Fantasy X's. Beautiful cut scenes and in-game sequences make the visuals in this game on a higher level than most. Unfortunately, since characters move around in battle, these graphics suffer. Sometimes suffering from severe slow down in graphic intense maps and often suffering from anti-aliasing problems. Many times graphics will look grainy or pixilated. This happens often, but won't distract the casual gamer. Fans of FFX might be disappointed however, because X sported crisp, clean graphics with these problems nearly non-existent.
The difficulty has definitely been upped from the Japanese version. The main change is level gaining. While in the Japanese version, levels were fairly simple to obtain until the low 40's-50's, the English version you only gain 1-2 levels per mission. This can lead to frustratingly difficult battles, with the only solution being hours of leveling up. Money is also scarce in the game, making you rely on things like Data sales to make some gil. This can be very irritating when you need a certain item, but it is well out of your price range.
Difficulty is also upped with the frustrating battle system and active time battles. This game is definitely not for those just starting in RPGs. Those just starting will find this game overly difficult and might be turned off from the genre all together.
Completing the game the first time can take a long time, depending on how much you explore. Many people can sit down and finish the game within a few days, while most it takes a few weeks or more. It definitely depends on how many hours and how many times a week you play the game. The best guess for average completion I can give would be around 40-60 hours. When you go on to play the 2nd, 3rd time or even more this time is greatly reduced. I found myself having beaten the game in just over 10 hours. It probably would've been shorter had I been able to skip all of the cutscenes in the game.
Overall this is a strange departure from the normal Final Fantasy formula and on many levels fails to deliver. While many will be endeared by the dress sphere idea and the story, many will want to give up due to the frustrating battle system. This is also not a game for the casual gamer who only wants to play a game for a few hours and then leave it; this is a long, sometimes grueling, game that will suck many hours out of your life. Also because of this reason, brand-new RPGers should skip this one and maybe try Final Fantasy 7 instead. Also make sure to play this AFTER beating Final Fantasy X, otherwise you will be completely and utterly lost. Worth a rent at least to give it a try, I wouldn't recommend buying this without trying it first.
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