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A Thousand Words
For thirteen years, eleven games, and countless hours in many gamers' lives Final Fantasy has been a staple. From the simplistic pixels of Final Fantasy 1 to the graphically heralded games such as Final Fantasy X and even a feature movie, Square(now Square-Enix) has delivered action-packed stories and horribly conceived ideas along the way. Then comes Final Fantasy X-2, both reviled and awaited earnestly. Either you were for the idea of the world of Spira being continued, or you were against "Yuna Raider" as it was termed.
Abandoning the turn-based battles of yore, Square-Enix opted to work with the ATB(Active Time Battle) scheme again. Instead of allowing you time to slowly pick your strageties, you are subjected to quickly selecting your options lest you be squashed like the bug you are by the fiends(monsters) or bosses. Taking time to select magic could be a liability in this game, as sometimes four monsters outnumber your group known as the "GullWings". Let me tell you, four status-inflicting monsters on a realtime battle field is not a pleasant experience. Your choices during battle could be limited if you are not strong enough, left only to either smacking the Gull-fearing crap out of your enemies or running with your tail between your legs. Luckily, you have many outfits to choose from. What woman would leave home without her ten favorite outfits?
With classes ranging from the sword-swinging Warrior, Dark Knight, and Samurai to the unorthodox Gambler/Lady Luck and Mascot uniforms everyone is sure to find their favorite outfit. However, these are a lot more than just pretty outfits. Every class in Final Fantasy X-2 has strengths and weaknesses. Take for example the Final Fantasy staple White Mage class. In most games their defense and hitpoints are lowered and white magic spells are accessible. However, Final Fantasy X-2 takes it a step further, giving the class its own stats--lowering the Defense and raising the Magic Attack Power. Are you expecting to be able to attack with your newly clad Yuna-Healer? Better think again! The White Mage can't attack in Final Fantasy X-2. Instead it may do what is called 'Pray', which heals all of the party members for a low amount of HP, never topping a heal of more than 1,000. With these small, yet large changes every class has it's own method of battle and own way to master. With over 15 classes, and room to master every one from how to fight to gaining skills through AP; that leaves a lot of gameplay for perfectionists.
With all these changes, you'd expect Square-Enix to keep a familiar tune around. Well, you figured wrong. The classic tunes of Nobuo Uematsu are replaced with a plethora of dance-like numbers. The main Final Fantasy theme is scarce, if not completely absent from the soundtrack, leaving room for many new tracks. From the dance number "real EMOTION" you get an immediate feel that Spira is no longer the world being ravaged by Sin, but the world that allows itself to have fun, dance, and party. Much of the soundtrack is full of dance hits that aren't as strong as one would hope when listening to the soundtrack. Music lovers need not fret, the new music of Spira fits the world and stays where it belongs--in the background.
To accompany the new tunes you'll either love or hate, is the same backdrop of the previous installment. With such memorable locals as the Farplane, Thunder Plains, and Mt. Gagazet; the game is sure to spark a few memories inside anyone who played, and loved Final Fantasy X. The problem lies in the new graphics. Instead of giving gamers new and stunning graphics, the existing ones seem out of place in the beautiful world of Spira. If you've ever wondered what had lay behind the Zanarkand scenes you now get to find out. It's a dungeon with as much design as a three year old's finger painting. The only newly constructed areas that will make a lasting impression can be found almost at the very end of the game, including the last dungeons.
Though the game comes off the heels of lightening dodging in Final Fantasy X, this installment challenges the player less on storyline and more on side-games. For example, the heavily hated "Gunner's Gauntlet", which pits Yuna against an onslaught of monsters she has to target with the circle button and kill with the X. However ammo is limited, and you must beat the game to ever hope of getting spoils later. Other games to choose from promise to take up as much time as possible including: Sphere Break, a coin game with card game rules...sort of; Blitzball that's no longer played by the player, but by simulation and stats; Gunner's Gauntlet, as described above; and many more including a massage "game" in which you must guess where the recipient would like to be massaged by picking 1 out of 9 squares. However, the last game is a one shot deal so don't expect Yuna's House of Massages.
If the plethora of side-games don't appeal to you, then the main game very well may. Be warned that difficulty in this game runs along the same lines as Final Fantasy X. If you're one level shy in a battle, that one level could be the difference between destruction and victory. With so many customizable features the game can be both easy or hard for the player. From being able to master over 15 classes, getting a host of items, and working with many garmet grids this game has tons of potential for replay, some potential for difficulty, and playtime that can range from 15 hours to 150+.
To master the game, first you have to master the menu and in FFX-2 the menu couldn't get any more simple. The battle menu is very straight-forward. With the simple Attack, Skill, Skill 2, Item menu as before gamers in general won't really have a problem with finding the commands. The status menu is much of the same with everything clearly marked in easy-to-read text. The only problem the player may have is with the garmet grid, which has many symbols that look like they could be something important. However, once you read the instruction booklet you find out you have to pass through the symbols during battle to activate them. The other drawback for Final Fantasy X-2's interface is the much hated jumping. Though as simple as holding down the circle button when you approach the cliff, Yuna often finds herself teetering on the edge instead of jumping safely.
Originality oozes from every part of Final Fantasy X-2, from the battles to the story itself. The major points to touch on in Final Fantasy X-2 is its storyline progression. Breaking from the rigid nature of Final Fantasy X, the sequel takes storylines from a linear path to a much more scattered approach. Although the storyline can still be played from walking from Besaid to Zanarkand, many sidequests require your airship, which is available from the onset of the game. Another point of originality in Final Fantasy X-2 is the new approach to the class system of Final Fantasy 5. Instead of waiting until battle is over to change your class and attacks, you can now change classes while in battle... as long as they are equipped on your garmet grid.
Though many were anticipating a, "Tomb Raider meets Charlie's Angels meets the red light district," Final Fantasy X-2 proves itself a lot more worthy of the distinction of the first direct Final Fantasy sequel. The story picks up two years after the previous installment and the difference is noticed immediately. Final Fantasy X, while emotional and moving was dark and brooding. Final Fantasy X-2 is exactly the opposite for most of the game. Light and springy, and even bordering on comical, the game follows the adventures of the personality-challenged Yuna, bubbly Rikku, and newcomer Paine. Yuna once again manages to have little personality in the FFX series, however you do get a glimpse every once in a while of a forceful, defensive Yuna who will stand up for herself and her past. Rikku also returns as the same bubbly, sisterly influence for Yuna taking over some for the recently sidelined Lulu. Between the polite Yuna and the attention-challenged Rikku is the newest member of the Final Fantasy crew: Paine. A sarcastic, serious, and often deadpan character that offers a direct foil to Rikku. Paine was, without a doubt, the star of the storyline with her pointed jabs and sarcastic attitude. As for the story itself? Well, that would be spoiling. However, in this writer's opinion the first 8 hours or so are slow, often dragging along until Story Level 3 where things start to unfold, and the resolution to the plots of FFX as well as FFX-2 begin.
All in all, Final Fantasy X-2 was a disappointment at first. The new system was quite difficult once I began, however anyone should be able to handle it with a small amount of practicing. After getting used to the controls and the faster battle speeds, the player is left with a compelling story that stems from the alread -compelling story of Final Fantasy X. If you have played and liked Final Fantasy X then I suggest you head out to stores as soon as possible and make Final Fantasy X-2 part of your video game library. If you plan on introducing yourself to the world of Spira with Final Fantasy X-2, I cannot advise you pick this game up. Final Fantasy X-2 does a little bit of explaining the past but it does not carry the same impact as the first game's story. If you plan on picking up Final Fantasy X-2 without playing Final Fantasy X, I suggest you read as many FAQs on the story as possible. Ideally go pick up a copy of the newly released "Collectors" version. Play it through then buy yourself a copy of Final Fantasy X-2 so you can fully appreciate the plot of not only Final Fantasy X, but also Final Fantasy X-2.
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