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Review: Final Fantasy X-2

Posted Jan-28 2007 by ron
For PS2, minor cosmetic problems on PS3


Final Fantasy X-2 will never be invited to the family gathering. It's the far tip of the embarassing branch, with the bad breath, strange sense of humor (involving forks) and shameful ties to a political party.

Chances are that, if you have a general affinity to the Final Fantasy series but have not played FF X-2 yet, no matter how sternly you are talked to, you will not believe how unfitting this whole game experience is until you buy it, boot it up and let the most embarassing unskippable five-minute intro of your life hit you like a diesel train. To protect your sanity you'd flee into delusion such as "But that's just the intro, I'm sure the game itself is just alright", and while that's not actually correct, it is an understandable first reaction.

Some embarassing FF X-2 cover art

Hi handsome, my name is Yuna! My hobbies are J-pop, dressing up and staring off into the distance. I've been looking for a quiet guy to accompany and adore me as I let myself drift along a wondrous path.
Wanna snatch me?

Now this has happened to me as well. I have been warned repeatedly and thoroughly, but eventually convinced myself that "It can't be that bad". And after the intro I thought "Ach, that was just the intro". Oh well.
Final Fantasy X-2 frankly does an extraordinary number of things wrong with its content and structure, but that's not how you start discussing a game. We'll suspend the wrath and focus on the good stuff first: the abstract mechanics. The potential.

A strong foundation

First of all, this is still very much a Final Fantasy game. You'll explore vast outdoors, visit towns, plow through dungeons full of random encounters, you'll attack, cast firaga, ride chocobos, watch jaw-dropping CGI cut-scenes, deliberately get caught in enemies' special attacks to make them your own blue magic, you'll shrug off deaths with the flick of a phoenix down, you'll grind levels to be able to beat optional bosses, and in the end you will save many lives. But then, despite the proven base formula, and despite much reuse of assets and designs from FF X, X-2 is significantly evolved.

On the game system level, Final Fantasy X-2 really is the ultimate classic FF. It builds upon and refines FF X tech and gameplay, but also blends in many aspects from older parts of the series. It's not only the natural evolution of the ATB system, it also reconciles lessons learned from the Sphere Grid, it brings back the concept of extracting skills from equipment (last seen in FF IX) and it effortlessly transplants the job system seen in some of the older (2D) Final Fantasy games into the current strain. It is the logical and healthy consequence of all the FFs before it, but at the same time the more radical changes seen in Final Fantasy XII – which discards the random encounters, the separated battle screen and the manually driven turn based nature of combat – are also the logical consequence of FF X-2. It is made obvious here that classic FF gameplay is a dead end. FF X-2 demonstrates with eloquence just how thin the formula has been getting. But we're getting way ahead of things.

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