There Are Reasons Why Each Final Fantasy Stands Alone
Nov 1, 2009
When the Final Fantasy series was started the idea for the first game was for it to be Square's Swan Song to begin with. When it proved successful there was a Final Fantasy II and that's where the tradition of making each Final Fantasy its own standalone game began. Each game in the series would be its own self-contained adventure. The tradition went like this for years. When Final Fantasy X became a smash hit in 2002, the first thought that apparently came to mind for some peole was that there needed to be a sequel. Indeed, Final Fantasy X wasn't exactly a bad candidate. Mostly because after the credits there was a bit of ambiguity as to what happened to the titles main character. In 2003, shortly after Squaresoft merged with Enix to create Square-Enix, Final Fantasy X-2 dropped down as quite a surprise.
A sequel to a Final Fantasy title seemed like any Final Fantasy fan's dream come true. Especially Final Fantasy X which is among the most popular in the series. Final Fantasy X was the first to get the sequel treatment. Final Fantasy VII received two sequels (Dirge of Cerberus the game and Advent Children the movie) and a prequel later on down the line, Final Fantasy XII got a sequel as well on the DS called Reverent Wings and Final Fantasy IV is set to have its own sequel in the near future. All this sounds great, but it sort of destroys this image of each Final Fantasy adventure being self contained. It seems even worse because each of the above Final Fantasy games mentioned never needed a sequel, much less had a big opening for one in the first place. Final Fantasy X-2 seems to be the best example of this.
Two years after the Eternal Calm and Sin has been destroyed forever, a new type of past time called Sphere Hunting has become quite popular in Spira. Yuna along with Rikku and Paine (Paine being a completely brand new character) are part of a band of Sphere Hunters called the Gullwings. The game begins by immediately letting you know it isn't exactly Final Fantasy X. Where as Final Fantasy X was far more dramatic, heartfelt and epic in nature, Final Fantasy X-2 goes in the complete opposite direction. Everything about it is upbeat and happy. The game opens with a pop concert where Yuna is singing. Except it isn't her, it's actually an imposter named Leblanc who has stolen Yuna's garmet grid. Along with Rikku and Paine, Yuna retrieves it. The opening moment seems to be there more so for letting you know that the adventure you're in store for is nothing like the previous adventure at all. Not only are you treated to J-Pop in the beginning, but you also have to wonder if you're really playing a Final Fantasy game... or some cheesy knock off of Charlie's Angels. It's a little hard to swallow, especially for those who were captivated by the story in the original Final Fantasy X. But then again, it's not like X-2 needs to actually be Final Fantasy X.
Things have changed, but have also stayed the same. Yuna often thinks of Tidus (Final Fantasy X's protagonist) and wonders if there's ever a chance she might see him again. When she and her allies find a sphere that has him in the message they wonder if it's really him. The adventure then becomes more about uncovering the secrets of the Sphere she's just seen. The story isn't epic, and doesn't tackle a whole lot of themes in the manner that the Final Fantasy series is known to do, but most of all, you'll find yourself not participating too much in it.
Final Fantasy X was a pretty linear game. There was nothing much to do off the beaten path, but the adventure was still fun and time consuming. Once more, Final Fantasy X-2 does a 180. Rather than being a linear storyline and game, it's more open ended. On the airship you get to choose a destination to go to. There are hotspots to let you know something is going on or when there's story to undertake, but for the most part, Final Fantasy X-2 lets you do whatever you want and go wherever you want to go. There aren't a whole lot of new locations in the game. In fact, the majority of the place you go are places you've already been in Final Fantasy X. And they look exactly the same. These are the exact same maps you traversed before. There are a couple of added things such as new people and such, but the point is that you're not exploring a whole lot of new content like you think you would. The story is also uneven in its pacing, but mostly because you can spend so much time away from it. Final Fantasy X may have been linear but the game still gave you the feeling you were exploring. Final Fantasy X-2 is so non-linear that there's so much time you'll spend away from the story itself because you'll have to grind or because there are other secrets you'll need to explore.
As a result of how non-linear it is, most of the areas you go to have missions which you have to complete. And they're full of battles and bad guys as well as many secrets. When I say you'll spend a lot of time away from the story, I'm not kidding. There's no way you'll find yourself able to shoot straight through the first time because you'll have to explore so much. This is nice and all... if you don't care too much about story. Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't have much going for it in the story department anyway, but it's even worse when you take a break from the story. And because of the structure of the game it's also possible to play certain story segments out of order. There's a lot of exploring, but as a result the story is disorganized.
The biggest aspect of Final Fantasy X-2 that separates it from its predecessor, however, is the gameplay in and of itself. Final Fantasy X-2 gets rid of the Control Turn Based stuff from Final Fantasy X and goes back to being ATB like in previous games in the franchise. As a result battling is fast paced and crazy. It can actually be a challenge too, as unlike the first game you can't plan a strategy accordingly. Nevertheless it's a lot of fun. Until you get to the Dress Spheres.
The job system is nothing new to Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy III and V had a job system and all the Final Fantasy Tactics games use it to. Here you have dress spheres. Every character can equip a garmet grid and put dress spheres in them. These dress spheres are your jobs. There are basics like the warrior, white mage and thief, but you've also got gun wielding jobs, songstress jobs etc.. Some of these jobs are purely unique to Final Fantasy X-2. For the most part the system works. Garmet grids make sure you can't equip every job at once, but you can usually equip two or three jobs and swap between them whenever you want in battle. And this is where Final Fantasy X-2 becomes very annoying. Each time you swap jobs in the middle of the battle you have to undergo an animation watching as the girls change. Not like that you pervert, but where you see them go from one job class to another. The first time this is pretty cool, but the tenth time you have to change jobs you realize how much it interrupts the action and slows it down. Now I'm wondering if I'm playing Final Fantasy, a rip off of Charlie's Angels... or Dress up Barbie. And this is a pretty integral part of the game.
Like in previous games you can customize and mix and match. Each job has abilities you can learn by acquiring ability points. Once learned you can equip them and use them at your leisure. Thus you can have a thief that casts white magic, for example. It's a lot of fun, but you'll still have to change jobs constantly, even in the middle of battle. And Final Fantasy X-2 isn't entirely easy.
If there was any one frustrating thing about the gameplay, it would be those mini-games. They're awful. There are numerous amounts and in order to master everything that Final Fantasy X-2 has to offer you have to be able to master the mini-games. They're frustrating, however, and can feel like a test in trial and error from time to time... or even just sheer luck most of the time.
Most of this sounds fairly good. And indeed some of it is. The gameplay in Final Fantasy X-2--save for having to sit through the animations of watching the girls change--isn't so bad at all. Unfortunately most other asects of the game just aren't that appealing. At least the aspects that matter and seem Final Fantasy.
I talked about some of the cheesy Charlie's Angels bits. But there's more to Final Fantasy X-2 that detracts and can make the experience a headache. It's a fun game, but some of the bad qualities about it can pull you out of it. For one, there IS that whole J-Pop stuff. I'm not against J-Pop. I don't listen to enough music to really care, but for a story that is trying so hard to present itself as serious, Final Fantasy X-2 just doesn't do a lot in the music department. The J-Pop tunes are actually pretty annoying and a little too cutesy for a game that is trying so hard to present itself as being more serious than it is. A lot of tracks are cutesy. It isn't that they're cute or anything like that which is annoying so much as that in many situations the music just doesn't convey the feeling. When a character is in danger or something like that you'll be hearing J-Pop music that'll make you think of bunnies or something. Imagine if Lord of the Rings played a Britney Spears song (or rather just the melody of one) as Frodo and the Fellowship battle orcs. You'd be taken out of the moment just because the music doesn't feel right. Some may say my poking at the music here is nitpicky, but I deny it. Anyone who has ever played and enjoyed a JRPG knows that the soundtrack is among the most important aspects of the game. It conveys emotion that the characters can't always convey or gives us a sense of the situation we're in. If I'm in danger, the music needs to be adventurous. If a character is having a tender moment with another character it needs to be soft and romantic (if they're two characters in love, that is). If something sad is happening, the music needs to be somber. Final Fantasy X-2 fails to do this at almost every turn. I understand the game is supposed to be lighter... but Yuna isn't going on a quest to find a giant, cute and cuddly bunny or a teddy bear or something like that. It's a quest to find her lover that turns into something greater. I get it, the game is about three women. There's nothing wrong with a more feminine style game (although by the looks of what all the women wear in this game was clearly not made with female gamers in mind) but come on, Square, the era of cutesy innocent women has been over for a long time. It's admirable that Yuna, Rikku and Paine are all strong, but there is something strangely sexist about making sure the game about the man had the appropriate epic tone and the game about the woman has to be dumbed down to sunshine and butterflies.
The next thing that takes away from the enjoyment, quite considerably, is that one has to wonder how much the guys working on Final Fantasy X-2 actually knew about the previous game. There are certain characters that are acting strangely out of character or unlike the people we met in the first Final Fantasy X. For some reason Rikku rarely (almost NEVER) speaks Al Bhed... despite that in Final Fantasy X it was her native language. Yuna also feels different. Before she was a reserved, shy woman. Here she's very outgoing. You can argue that Yuna is more outgoing because she doesn't have as big a burden to carry here as she did before, but the point is that her personality is far different from what you saw in the first game. The worst part is that the characters are also much more immature than they were. In fact, many of Final Fantasy X-2's moments are immature or just plain dumb. The game tries too hard to be funny at times when it doesn't work. In particular, Yuna and Rikku, despite being two years older, seem far more immature than they used to be. Lastly, there's a character named brother. In Final Fantasy X this man didn't know much English. In two years he manages not only to learn all of his English... but seems to have forgotten that Yuna is his cousin and spends a lot of the game hitting on her and whatnot. It begs the question whether or not the guys working on this particular title knew anything about the previous game. New characters introduced hardly get any charater development or backstory at all. So what you have is a sequel where returning characters are inconsistent with who they were before and where new characters aren't fleshed out very much at all.
And now we get to Final Fantasy X-2's biggest shortcoming. The story in and of itself. The reason why the Final Fantasy games don't get a sequel is because the story is all self contained. The story in Final Fantasy X ended. It was ambiguous because of the little bonus clip after, but for the most part it was COMPLETE. The biggest problem with Final Fantasy X-2's story is that it's trying to continue a story that was already complete rather than trying to give us a new story. Sure, we're going on a different adventure, but at the heart of it all, the adventure doesn't stand alone. Unlike other games, however, Final Fantasy X-2 is a game where standing on its own two legs might've made it better. The reason that Metal Gear Solid became a saga is because each game was intentionally left open for it to happen. This is why much of the story in Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't work. Again, the bonus clip in Final Fantasy X was ambiguous, but the story in Final Fantasy X itself didn't leave itself open to a sequel. You can try and argue that it does, but that seems more like the guy who watched as Frodo saved middle earth and then said, "There should totally be a sequel to Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King..." No... there really shouldn't. The biggest problem with Final Fantasy X-2's story is that it tries so very hard to continue a story that already ended rather than having its own.
At the very least the game looks good. It doesn't look any different from Final Fantasy X, but that game looked fantastic anyway. And sure, Final Fantasy X-2 is fun, but it's really hard to look beyond the game's story and atmosphere. We understand it's supposed to be a totally different experience from the first game. It is. Yet from time to time the game is begging us to take it seriously when it's very tough to do so with all the J-Pop nature of it and the sloppy story.
This is definitely not for every Final Fantasy fan. If you want a great sequel to a good game and don't mind an addictive battle system, a great story, some adorable characters and a well made pop-ish soundtrack, then give this game a shot. If your not looking for those, then look elsewhere for your Final Fantasy needs.
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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