So what exactly do you do after saving the world after a millennium of fear and despair? When Evil is vanquished, and the sunset has been ridden into, how do Our Heroes keep themselves occupied? After oodles of games in the Final Fantasy universe, Square Enix finally gives us a true sequel that answers that very question.
As the title suggests, Final Fantasy X-2 returns us to Spira, the world detailed in the 10th Final Fantasy title. Without giving too much away, the dreaded Sin, scourge of Spira, was defeated by High Summoner Yuna and her entourage of Guardians. A time of Calm settled across the land, and the people of Spira suddenly found themselves free from the shadow that had been covering them for generations. Fast forward two years, and Spira enters a time of rebuilding, trying to make sense of their new world. Out of a job as High Summoner, Yuna teams up with her old Guardian Rikku and a new friend, Paine. They become Sphere Hunters, tracking down the ancient recording devices spread throughout Spira, trying to learn some of the history of the world from a time before the coming of Sin. In their travels, the group finds a very interesting sphere which seems to show someone very dear to Yuna, imprisoned and in obvious trouble. And so Yuna and her gang take off to track down the origins of this mysterious sphere, and hopefully rescue their friend.
Veterans of Final Fantasy X will notice that, while there are plenty of similarities to the original, Final Fantasy X-2 makes a number of notable changes. Instead of the troop of playable characters, FFX-2 focuses entirely on just three characters, Yuna, Rikku and Paine. This isn’t nearly as limiting as it seems, however, due to the introduction (or re-introduction, for old school Final Fantasy players) of a job system for character development. Scattered throughout Spira are “Dressspheres”, special spheres that allow the characters to gain abilities of a particular class, from the familiar Thief, White Mage, or Warrior to the more exotic Songstress, Berserker, or Alchemist. Each Dresssphere has an assortment of abilities that can be learned by each character as they gain experience with that particular class. Since there are about a dozen Dressspheres to find, and given that each character needs to learn the abilities of each sphere individually, there is quite a surprising bit of room for customization. In addition to the “normal” Dressspheres, there are special “uber” Dresspheres for each of the characters, which act a bit like the Summons from the previous title. Of course, because this is a Final Fantasy title, there is even an “uber uber” Dresssphere for each of the girls, which takes quite a bit of extra work (and most likely the help of a walkthrough guide) to acquire. These jobs can be changed on the fly during combat, allowing for some complex battle strategies.
Speaking of combat, fighting carries on more or less similarly to the original. Using a default “Active Time Battle”, combat carries on in real time, meaning that even while commands are being input via the many menus, the enemies continue to act. Each character has a certain warm-up time for each action, and there is also a bit of wait time between actions, so the fights don’t tend to get too insanely complex. Thankfully, there’s an option to cause the game to pause during menu interface, for those of us with less-than-stellar reflexes. Besides the Active Time Battle mode and the constant changing of jobs (and, consequently, clothes), fights progress much like the previous title, with over-the-top attack and spell effects, strange powers unleashed from both sides, and some impressive graphics holding it all together.
And the graphics are very impressive throughout the game. From the opening high-quality video to the combat screens to the landscape itself, FFX-2 just looks good. Granted, it doesn’t look a lot better than its predecessor, but that was quite an impressive-looking game already. Much of the landscape is recycled from Final Fantasy X, however, so there isn’t a lot of new material to look at. Many of the sounds are also recycled from the previous game, but again that’s not a bad thing. The voice acting is top-notch, even when the dialogue felt a little thin. It feels very much like we’re once again visiting the same world we left a few years ago.
FFX-2 is a lot less linear than Final Fantasy X, which makes for quite a different feel. After a quick introductory mission, the characters literally have the option to go just about everywhere. There may not always be something vital to accomplish when they get to a particular place, but they’re still free to visit. Because of this freedom, a feeling of aimless wandering can develop, especially in the initial chapters of the game when the story is just kicking in. The game unfolds via a series of missions, some of which are vital to the plot, many of which are just there to deepen the overall story of the recovery of Spira. While this lack of direction may be a bit off-putting for some, I found this type of storytelling rather refreshing, giving a feeling of true story discovery, rather than ramming plot down my throat. The game can be completed by undertaking only a handful of the available missions, although this would mean missing much of the narrative. There is actually some incentive to do everything, since the game tracks the “Percent Complete”. It’s possible, but extremely unlikely, that one can see 100% of the game in a single run. To facilitate this, FFX-2 has the wonderful “New Game +” mode, allowing players to restart the game after completion, carrying over most of the items and Dressspheres collected from previous plays. The Percent Completion also carries over, allowing for players to take different tracks (and reach that coveted 100% mark). Of course there’s a reward for players diligent enough to cover every square inch of the game…
In addition to fighting and exploring, FFX-2 has a plethora of mini-games to help eat away the hours. Blitzball makes a return in a slightly altered form, and a new game, Sphere Break, has replaced Tetra Master as the collection game of choice. Besides these undertakings, there are oodles of other things to keep players busy. There’s an arcade-y shooting match, several games of chance, chocobo farming, memory games, and even a dance simulator. Most of the games are at least mildly entertaining, and most offer up some pretty nice rewards. Thankfully, however, very few of them are actually necessary for completion of the game, even the 100% mark. Which means players that truly need to do everything are free to do so, but those of us with a bit less patience can still enjoy the game and not really miss all that much.
Final Fantasy X-2 is a solid sequel to a very good game, and is a strong game in its own right. The story of the rebuilding of Spria and the examination of the continued lives of its people is a very good one. And the free-form, mission-based method of telling that story just sat very well with me. Weighing in around 30-40 hours of play, not counting the “New Game +” feature, FFX-2 lasts long enough to feel it’s worth the price of admission. While some may not like the slightly corny characterizations, or the “Charlie’s Angels” feel that leaks out occasionally, most will find FFX-2 a solid RPG worthy of gracing their screen.
An enjoyable return to the world of Spira. A bit more lighthearted than the original, and a touch more corny, but still quite a bit of fun.