Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Final Fantasy X-2

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 2
Credits: 2002-2003 SquareEnix. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

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Cover Description:
Taking place two years after Yuna's fateful journey to defeat Sin, the once chaotic world "Eternal Calm." The people of Spira now shun the teachings of Yevon and have opened their arms to former foes, the Al Bhed and the use of machina. It is a time of the "Machina Revolution" where people now believe that machina is useful and beneficial, as long as it is used properly. However, even with the peaceful life they now lived, there is emptiness in Yuna's heart that is keeping her from moving on as others have. One day, Yuna obtains a mystical sphere that contains imagery of what might be the Blitzball player she thought was gone forever. Although Yuna isn't certain that it is him or if he is even alive, she's driven to seek him out. Yuna needs closure to their unexpected parting, even if only to find that she will never see him again. So begins her journey. This is Yuna's story.

Fun but Frustrating>>> by skysenshi
WARNING: For those who haven't played FFX or FFXi, please keep away from this write-up. This page is a land mine of FFX spoilers.

Two years (of Spira time) after we bawled our eyes out in Final Fantasy X, we see that "The Calm" had changed the way everyone lives. No longer do they fear going out or going after their desired futures. Sin is no longer there to take away friends and loved ones.

But then Spira has been divided into two factions: The Youth League and the New Yevon. And Yuna, along with Rikku and a new colleague, Paine, had formed the Gullwings—a group of sphere mercenaries who'll do anything for a good adventure. So…dare we take a peek at how our guys and gals are doing?


We've experienced the good stuff in FFX. Now it's time to bring our senses to greater heights. With so many new characters, as well as getting reunited with the old ones, you can't help but drool at how natural everyone acts. You even get to see Yuna sing and dance. How's that for a change of scenery? I must admit, however, that Yuna's face looks a whole lot prettier in FFX than here. And though I might think that Paine has the loveliest face of the three, her 80's punk rocker getup and that horrid horrid hairdo just don't sit well with me. Rikku is as cute as ever, of course. The only downside to this is that FFX-2 can use more FMVs.

The sounds are a fusion of techno, jazz and a whole gamut of other eclectic tastes. Very chic and classy. I might almost believe what one of my male friends said about this game being targeted towards girls with fondness for Charlie's Angels. One beautiful ballad to remember is 1,000 Words (or Sen no Kotoba in the Japanese version). The FMV where that particular song played really brought me to tears. Gotta love that warm and fuzzy feeling.

By the way, you won't be hearing the trademark Final Fantasy battle victory theme here.

Gameplay and Battle System
This is where most of my frustrations lie. See, if you wish to concentrate on the story, you'll realize that this game is rather short. Most of it is made up of side quests and the actual plot takes a back seat. There are three totally different endings and it depends on what side quests you did and didn't do. I'm ranting about this because I believe FFX-2 has a very low replay value despite having a New Game Plus feature. It isn't like a bishoujo game you can repeat over and over and not be exhausted. It isn't Chrono Cross, which has an EX mode that you can end anytime after you get your first ending. Most importantly, FFX-2 is not short like Parasite Eve. Most of the FFX-2 side quests and missions that you're required to do in order to get the Good and Perfect Endings are nuisances, to say the least. You may subject yourself to mini-games that you'd rather not be bothered with, especially as some of them are mind-numbingly tedious. You think things would be easier with the New Game Plus? Hah! If you want to get the Perfect Ending the first time around, I advise you to arm yourself FFX-2 Ultimania or a well-written strategy guide. It's nigh impossible to achieve this on your own.

Spoiler Notes for the Normal Ending: I think it's grossly unfair that Yuna kept pairing up "soul mates" during the entire game—from monkeys to amusement park heirs. She even solves a 1,000 year old love problem! And yet she ends up with nothing for herself. No Tidus. No love life. So if you don't want to grit your teeth in frustration, strive to get that Perfect Ending.

The battle system is fairly easy to comprehend. It isn't as complicated as FFX's sphere grid, wherein there are multiple rooms for errors. You could end up with one very weak-assed party member (Tidus) while the rest of them (Wakka and Auron) would do maximum damage. FFX-2 introduces the Dress Sphere. It's a concept very similar to FFV's job system. You gain several dress spheres that let you play different roles such as songstress, white mage, black mage, samurai, berserker, dark knight, alchemist and more. With this arrangement, I like the fact that you're only concentrating on Yuna, Rikku and Paine, as opposed to developing so many party members. This prevents you from drowning in too many jobs. What's even more exciting here is that you can change jobs within a battle, letting you see ultra hip transformation sequences you thought you'd only see in SailorMoon.

The downside? You literally bitchslap baddies from Chapter 1 to Chapter 5. If you thought FFX was easy, you haven't played FFX-2 just yet. The bosses are as difficult as shampooing your hair. And the traditional Omega Weapon is a regular enemy. I must've complained too much about Omega's 999,999HP in my FFXi review that the developers decided to cut us demure and delicate RPGirls some slack. Okay, so I cheesed my way from the first till the very last chapter. I probably shouldn't complain about it being too easy this time, as Square might make my life a living hell come FFXII.

Story and Characters
The good thing about doing the side quests is that you uncover some branches of the story for the people who aren't Yuna-centered. You wanna know what happened to Wakka and Lulu? Or the score between Paine and the three hotties—err, men—that dominate the Spira factions? Whatever happened to Khimari and the Ronsos? You'll meet new characters like the feisty LeBlanc and the mysterious Maechen that will definitely spice up your game time.

Yuna herself has transformed from the annoyingly submissive and perfect wallflower of FFX to a first class pop idol that makes a fool of herself from time to time. I found myself laughing over some of her antics, which almost match Rikku's. Paine's exasperated lines, uttered in bored and calm tones, are also fun to hear.

The story? Well, I do wish that they had retained the Final Fantasy tradition of having a linear ending, especially as there are many FFX gamers who just want closure. I was itching to get to the bottom of things, but I was aghast to find that I had to endure non-cloister trials only to end up with nothing on the first try.

Overall, I was actually happy with FFX-2. I was happier not worrying about getting the Good or Perfect Ending, because that meant a less stressful gaming experience. I recommend finishing this as best you can—without walkthroughs—and then just drag an obsessive-compulsive friend to do the hard work for you. Then you can watch his/her ending. Heh.

HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: Paine 76, Rikku 74, Yuna 72
RATINGS: Gameplay 7; Battle 10; Story 7; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 3

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