She Said: Final Fantasy X-2

I like this game.

Certis is prodding me in the back, so I guess thatÂ's not quite enough. Okay, I like this game because it is a glorious and perfect sequel to FFX, itÂ's dynamic and fun, and Yuna can jump now and the girls are so damn cute it makes me want to giggle everytime they do their little victory dance thingie at the end of a fight.

Can I go play it again now?

Dammit.I have to give a disclaimer, here – IÂ'm o­nly about 20 hours into the game at this point, and things have o­nly really started to roll o­n the main plot. IÂ'll give a fuller account of my game experience when I finish up, but Certis thought that you all might appreciate a little heads-up o­n what I think so far.

Final Fantasy X-2 is the sequel to the bestselling Final Fantasy X, a game which some FF fans have called Â"better than FF7.Â" Final Fantasy is almost a genre unto itself in the gaming world, an RPG that defines RPGs, and new installments in the series are mostly compared to previous o­nes, rather than other series or games. FFX-2, by virtue of being a sequel, has broken the FF mold. ItÂ's the first FF game to follow the characters and plotlines from a previous FF. Apparently, we just canÂ't get enough of Yuna and the gang.

The gang arenÂ't all here – Rikku, the chipmunk-like Al Bhed girl, is back, having persuaded Yuna to cast off her solemn and ceremony-filled life (not to mention her shapeless Summoner robes) and join Rikku in sphere-hunting. ItÂ's not clear what spheres are, really – some are movies, some are outfits – but everybody wants Â"˜em. Along with Rikku and Yuna is Paine, a grey-haired, growly-voiced chick who is quite obviously filling the role of the Girl With a Shadowed Past.

 

This is the first FF game where you cannot customize your party. YouÂ're stuck with the three girls, no swapping. But the unique combat system holds the key to this apparently inflexible party – costume changes! As every woman knows, a new outfit can make you feel like a whole different person. Or at least, enable you to wield a big ass sword. A lot of the spheres that the girls find are dresspheres, unlocking another outfit for them to wear into the fray. Each outfit carries with it different skills – White Mage is healing and buffing magics, Warrior is the aforementioned big ass sword, and Gunner is, unsurprisingly, guns. (That Square, what a bunch of imaginative namers.) Each of the girls also has a unique dressphere that lets them fight o­n their own, with special attacks and a really personalized ensemble. The more the girl wears a certain outfit, the more abilities of that outfit she unlocks. Experience points earned during a fight go toward learning the abilities of the outfit you wore during that fight.

These dresspheres are plugged into garment grids, which hold a certain number of spheres for access during combat. Each grid carries with it attributes – better defense, higher strength – that can compliment the dressphere that the girls are using. Each girl can equip a different grid, or they can all use the same o­ne. o­nly by cycling through all the spheres o­n the grid during the course of o­ne fight can the girl access her unique dressphere – kinda like trying o­n everything in your closet before a date. The grids are each designed differently, with Â"gatesÂ" between the dresspheres that also carry attributes. If you have Gunner in o­ne corner and White Mage in another, a gate between them gives you a boost of some kind when you change from o­ne outfit to the other in the course of a fight. Properly placing the dresspheres o­n the garment grids can really help your fighting strategy.

The fights are in real time – take too long to decide o­n an attack and the enemy gets a couple hits o­n you without retaliation. This makes for fast-paced and exciting combat, and the learning curve is steep but short. You can get by with just selecting the first option for quite awhile, until you get more used to the finer nuances of accessorizing and so o­n. Unlike most groups of teenage girls, Yuna and the gang get by more easily when they donÂ't dress alike. IÂ've designated Rikku as support, dressing her in White Mage and Thief mostly, Paine as the heavy hitter with Warrior, Gunner and Gun Mage, and Yuna, sweet Yuna, gets to wield the Black Arts.

 

Speaking of Yuna, donÂ't expect to see any of those virginal Summoner-type robes. When she decided to have some fun for a change, she meant it. There is plenty of fan service here, from the bellybutton plunge of her Gunner cleavage to the Sailor Moon-esque animations of the outfit changes. A large part of the appeal of this game is how damn CUTE the girls are. Rikku and Yuna giggle their way through sphere hunting like preteens in a mall, and Paine trails behind, as brooding and pouty as a Calvin Klein model. After all of YunaÂ's soul-wrenching angst, itÂ's fun to see her pose like a CharlieÂ's Angel or throw o­n a miniskirt and hold a rock concert o­n the deck of the airship.

Of course thereÂ's an airship. ThereÂ's always an airship.

You can get around Spira in two ways – the Airship, which can drop you at any open-air save point, or by running. Locations are reasonably close, and the landscapes beautifully rendered, so running is less of a pain in the ass than it might be. The ever-present Random Battle is still a standby of the FF series – you canÂ't go anywhere without tripping over fiends, it seems. IÂ'm still learning the nuances of fashion in the service of violence, so I tend to run most places. All the locations from FFX are present, most of them changed in subtle but fundamental ways. Most interesting is what they did with Zanarkand, though I wonÂ't go into spoiler territory. As previously mentioned, Yuna jumps and climbs now, giving the environments a much deeper and more interactive quality. No jumping puzzles, relax. Simply hold down the Â"OÂ" button when she comes to an edge and sheÂ'll lithely take care of the rest.

As far as gripes go, I have o­nly a few.  A couple time while fighting in areas where trees were predominant, the camera slid up into the foliage and my view was obscured.  Also, some camera angles during battle seem to cause the picture to go a bit fuzzy, as though the image was doubled.  And the very first time I tried to change Rikku into her special dressphere, the game completely froze.  Hasn't happened since, but it was a nasty shock at the time - I lost about two hours of play.  Hoochie was unhappy. 

All and all, it's been a long time since IÂ've enjoyed a game as much as IÂ'm enjoying this o­ne. The best part is that I know there are hours and hours of fun left – IÂ'm just a bit over a quarter of the way through. The FF series certainly gives value for the money in that department, and FFX-2 is a very open-ended game. There are pointers to lead you along the plot, but you can pretty much do as you please most of the time. There are plenty of side games and extras – IÂ've been concentrating o­n the main plot so far, so IÂ'm not that experienced in them. But IÂ've played a couple games of chance, and run the GunnerÂ's Gauntlet (I did miserably), and caught a chocobo (it just wouldnÂ't be FF without chocobos!)

Base line: Go and buy it. Still not convinced? IÂ'll come back when IÂ'm done and tell you again.

- hoochie

Comments

I never thought I'd see a game that makes me want to investigate something called "dresspheres". Why couldn't they just call them "bikinispheres"? That be far less threatening of my sexuality.

Cool review, Hoochie. Doesn't sound like there's much not to like about the game. I'll admit, though, I can't tell you how panicky I get when I hear something like:

"I'm only about 20 hours into the game at this point, and things have only really started to roll on the main plot."

I love a nice big RPG, but here's the problem I have. I never get a block of time (or a series of smaller blocks) that would allow me to complete a game like this. I play and play and play, and as long as I keep playing, I can keep track of all of the plot developments, my list of errands, and tasks. But as soon as I take a week off or something, I don't even bother playing again because I know I'm going to spend the first 45 minutes just figuring out where I was. Perhaps Square can implement a "When we last left our heroes" feature that would summarize the story up to the point you saved. Either that or start releasing these behemoths in smaller chapters. For instance, Final Fantasy X: Chapter 1 would be a nice 10-15 hour episode and would be followed by the next chapter after two or three weeks. And instead of a $50 price tag, they could drop them each to $12-15. They could sell the first episode in a multi-DVD case and then just sell the following chapters in cheaper packaging. Of course, like most of my "ideas", I can't really imagine how it would benefit the company at all...just me. So perhaps I should stop whining and just learn to game like a man...or, in this case...a woman.

I'll admit, though, I can't tell you how panicky I get when I hear something like:

"I'm only about 20 hours into the game at this point, and things have only really started to roll on the main plot."

FFX was the exact same way.

I seem to recall playing an RPG that followed the chapter-based subscription model: Siege of Avalon.

I further recall that it wasn't much good, mind you. But at least it was granular enough to enjoy. The last RPG that I actually completed was Wizardry 8, and I shudder to think how many hours of my life I spent at it... and now I'm considering doing it again over summer; I must be insane.

One of the reasons I haven't finished Morrowind is because of that very issue. Sometimes there can be TOO much going on to handle.

Yup, and sometimes journals really don't fix the problem. While they are more convenient than dragging out a notebook and pen every time you boot up the game, seeing a long list of incomplete tasks on serves to overwhelm me. I suppose when we finally get to the point of buying and downloading games directly to our consoles, the chapter-based concept would be a little more viable. I'd love to play games like most people watch TV. I can imagine looking forward to Tuesday nights when the next chapter of Final Fantasy XX-2 gets released, giving us another 5 or 6 hours of content for the week. Everyone would be playing through the game together. Forums would be filled with players discussing the latest episode. Eventually world hunger will have been replaced by world peace. All in the name of gaming!

So back to FFX-2. How much "clicking around to find stuff" is there vs. plot vs. fighting. My wife tends to throw the controller at me for the fighting parts, and instead wants to do the hunting around (clicking on every surface, don't ask me why she likes this but 3D Myst is her fav game...) and plot stuff is still what she likes.

Inquiring husband who likes to get his wife gaming and we just finished RoTK would like to know....

thanks

There's not much of random clicking at all, other than finding places to climb/jump. Items are traditionally placed in easily-spotted chests along the way, and switches or whatnot are also quite easily seen. There is a ton and a half of plot stuff, and lots of games and side quests that don't involve fighting at all.

She might like it.

Thanks for the review, Hoochie.

Sounds interesting. But my initial impressions were a bit disturbing. Disturbing because after looking at the screen shots and hearing you describe the combat as "accessorizing" after which you "giggle" like a "preteen" girl - it was sounding a bit like DOA volleyball with fighting and a story.

But I guess all RPG's are about accessorizing to one degree or another. And the revealing outfits probably make more sense in the context of this game as opposed to a classical fantasy RPG ---where female warriors typically wear only a few square inches of protective armour. Probably not an issue for most guys... but I know it annoys Mrs. Wumpus.

Okay, I'll stop rambling. Sounds like an interesting and unique combat system. I might finally have to pick up a Final Fantasy title. Would FFX and X-2 be a good place to start?

Would FFX and X-2 be a good place to start?

As good as any, it looks like XII will follow a similar look and feel so it wouldn't hurt. Depending on your level of graphics whoreness you might want to consider Final Fantasy VII (PSOne or PC if you can find it) as many consider it to be one of the best Final Fantasy games ever released.

Aside from X and X-2 they are all stand-alone games with nothing connecting them so you can start anywhere you wish in the series.