Sheila's take on Square's slap it up and call it a day game. Did she get around to fully finishing the game? No. Does that make her review any less valid? With this game? Hell no!
"Hisashiburi da ne." A long time has passed since I played FFX. While revisiting those places ingame, what I felt was mirrored in Yuna's constant narrations of Spira. FFX-2 Yuna refreshed my memories of what happened in the past, the same way FFX did with Tidus. The introduction had the same tone of excitement and confusion, starting in the busy city of Luca. The scenerio team sucessfully incorporated the parallels into the script, but then they must have seen the FMV and were disgusted with themselves, because the quality of the introduction is not reflected in the rest of the game. Colorful clothes and locations aside, X-2 is nothing like FFX.
X-2 boldly ignores the established worldly conventions, characters, and themes of FFX. This is a story where female players are supposed to easily associate themselves with the heroines. Instead, players of all genders resented the game for telling them that this is how male game developers think females act. Everyone has something they can't stand about X-2's story and above it all, one fault reigns supreme: "They messed up the characters." From Lulu and Wakka's unnecessary 'hooking up', to Aniki's new incestual infatuation with his cousin, to the dumbing-down of Rikku. Above all, everyone can't stand the new and improved Yuna whose lack of direction is masked by tacky cheerleading routines. X-2 Yuna's solemn inner reflections and sudden outbursts don't fool anyone into sympathizing with her 180 degree change in personality. The outfits and fanservice are just the icing on the cake. "It's been two years, they're legal now." says the defending fanboy.
Players should avoid taking the scraps of storyline far too seriously. It's inevitable for the thinking gamer to end up pondering why everything is not making good sense. What I am saying is for you to not think. Just do. Follow the highlighted instructions. Smile when you are finished. Cry when the characters do. Say "awww" when they hug. Swoon over the metrosexual males. Pine for an outfit just like your favorite dressphere. Because that is what this game wants you, as their non-thinking audience to do. Pick a character and an outfit or two, then like it. The game doesn't even try to be subtle. It knows you are already sold.
Image is X-2's selling point. The game sytem centers around gathering and displaying multitudes of crazy costumes. What do we honestly think came first; the dresses or the minigames? I have played many games containing cutcenes with cliched spoken dialogues but X-2's dialogues deserve an Oscar for sheer fluff. X-2's cutscenes, which conveniently displayed the costumes take up most of the gameplay time.
Trying to break away from the pink simplicity of most Barbie games, X-2 made a disappointing attempt at platforming. Players can actually get trapped on the multi-platform maps. The maps are so small that random battles will happen frequently, even while in mid-air. Worse yet, is the mini Mission system where one can get frustrated with simply trying to figure out which events they have flagged. I hope the 'International' version fixes this. Some needed improvements include better integration of the fixed camera angles, and clear signs pointing out where one can jump or fall.
Playing X-2 takes minimal thought and skill. There's no fear of making mistakes, nor is there fear of losing battles. One has the freedom to play around with job settings, unlike FFX's permanent sphere board. The Result Plate system determines how one can choose from different dresses and there is minor strategy in dress sphere placement. Although players can choose what abilities they will master using exp from battles, the game automatically learns abilities on its own. In other words, one can go through this game without ever entering the menu and by pressing only one button repeatedly.
More simple than the average kindergarten aptitude test are the minigames of X-2. Like most of the game, some minigames can be skipped altogether. The logic behind some evades me, like learning the Al Bhed language (something that we learnt in FFX). The game reminds us that playing FFX is not a requirement. Each time something from FFX is explained, the audience (and even Yuna) is treated as though they either heard it for the first time, or they have hard of hearing.
X-2's heroines are known as YuRiPa. Yuna is "the Tidus" of the game, having picked up some of Tidus' slang ("ssu" at the end of a sentence) she constantly reminds the player of him. Yuna's default gunner outfit is a tribute to Tidus/Jecht in many ways; the Abes symbol and the skirt symbolizing blue ocean waves (Tidus' design theme). Although Yuna's design and character have changed, her voice actor didn't change with it. X-2 Yuna is more playful and expressive, something the old Yuna's voice cannot express with consistency. Since the Yuna voice isn't her real voice, it's understandable that trying to sound young and girlish took up most of her resources.
Since Yuna and Paine combined aren't enough pep, Rikku had to make up for it. She easily will be the most liked character because she's as one dimensional as it gets. She is ten times more sunny, loud mouthed and hyperactive than she was in FFX. Thankfully her voice actor delivers better than before. Both Yuna and Rikku have some personal tag-lines that were also re-recorded, it felt like a fighting game sequel to hear their familiar battle lines. Despite the greatness that is Rikku, her role in X-2 is subservient to Yuna. The spunk that made her popular in FFX is now gone, what we are left with is a shell sporting bikinis and hipsters.
Newcomer Paine is the epitome of "tough woman with sword" archetype. She was surely conjured up for the lack of Auron and Lulu in the active party. For the players who don't like flowers and lace, Paine is someone they are supposed to automatically 'associate' with. No doubt about it, there's Auron in her design. The history of training and knowing the sword, the smug and gruff voice, the same cocky lines, the battle attitude, and how she often is found keeping to herself. However, don't think if someone liked Auron they will automatically like Paine. The character designer tried too hard to make Paine the typical cool character (literally, her profile even said that she is "COOL"). A player can predict her behaviour and speech, down to the way her voice actor delivers her lines in a manly fashion. Not many surprises with her, which was expected.
One of X-2's noteworthy achievements in annoying players was through the music. Brought to you from the loonies who produced the crummy soundtrack for the crummy game known as The Bouncer. Two distinctive sets of music are found throughout the game. One half is the cheesy, bow-chicka-bow 70s tracks, and techno-ish tracks for fast paced action themes. This half is mostly junk. The other half, the chill side of the soundtrack had some decent tracks. The groovy Zanarkand and piano Besaid are crowd favorites. In the end, the suck music outweighed the good. Don't fret, no 'girly' soundtrack would be complete without the obligatory vocal theme. X-2 gets one in the form of over-produced jpop that makes Britney Spears' meaningless lyrics look sincere in comparison.
Much of the X-2 world is an abbreviated version of FFX's world. The option to roam (if only a little bit) the city areas of FFX's locations more than previously possible is a welcome addition. It is rather odd, however, to find objects like NPCs at exactly the same place they were in FFX. Equally odd are the ingame character movements. Disturbingly unusual is more like it. NPCs are seemingly breakdancing to the music or trying to hold their balance. They're moving like freaks. Battle animations and stances are slightly more lifelike. Whatever it is, the FFX-2 world and people inhabiting it don't seem to naturally belong, the way they did in FFX.
The transition from FMV to ingame is less noticeable than ever. Due to the totally different rendering style on faces, one notices the change only when there's a closeup. It's a disappointment that some character designs were left untouched when they really needed it most, like Lulu (for reasons revealed in the game). Wakka's ingame graphics were also the same, he isn't a "punipuni" like Rikku has been saying since the FFX-2 trailer in FFX International.
At the time X-2 was developed, Square needed money for previous losses. As much as I hate to admit it, X-2 did the job of making that money. Multitudes of people who didn't play FFX nor even dared to import FFX jumped at the opportunity to import and play X-2. They knew it was an inferior product that didn't cost much to make but they didn't care. Seeing the costumes and finding out "why _____ is doing _____" was a much higher priority.
Female players might feel embarrased playing this in a setting where others can watch. The situations and camera angles are more wannabe-sexualized than FFX. However, being a girl who can look past all the frills, I see how X-2 tries to play out fantasies us girls had when we were young: having no parents in charge, going on a fun trip with friends, and having a really cool place to hang out.
I wouldn't recommend buying the game unless the "100%" experience is a personal priority of some kind. Renting it for a weekend would do just fine. Just remember my advice and don't think too hard. Trying to make sense of the game's storyline and pointing out the inconsistencies will lead nowhere. Try not to forget the most important fact that was obvious from the start: FFX-2 was made long after FFX. FFX-2 was not originally part of the grand scheme of things. This game is about money.
Just like alcohol shouldn't be needed to enjoy someone else's company, players shouldn't have to dumb themselves down in order to reach any level of enjoyment. I still lament over the hours I spent on this game. I just wish one thing was changed; that the characters actually said Tidus' name. Players shouldn't have been able to rename him in FFX to begin with! I can't help but be annoyed by the ridiculous dialogues evading the need to say it.
Title: Final Fantasy X2
Final Fantasy X2