[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/ffx2/cover.jpg[/floatleft]There is something to be said about a time tested formula. Fans of the prestigious Final Fantasy series have come to expect relatively the same game with a different setting and story line from one title to the next. Of course Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft) does not disappoint as we have over ten titles to showcase their excellent work. Since information first leaked out about the first ever Final Fantasy sequel, you could just tell something would be different with Final Fantasy X2. Continuing the storyline from Final Fantasy X, FF X2 once more pits our characters in the world of Spira. As you play through the game many old friends, locales, and baddies will make reappearances sending you to a trip down memory lane. However this game is not about the old, it’s about the new. A new attitude, new game play, new battle system, and a whole new aura. Final Fantasy X2 is an experience all its own.
Upon watching even the opening movie you will know that, yes, a whole lot has changed. The melancholy aura that ruled over Final Fantasy X is no longer there. Spira is a bustling new world searching for itself once more. Gone are the days where death lingers in the mind of everyone, and Square Enix makes sure you can tell. The locales, while remaining the same are now full of life. And your characters, well they scream attention.
Yuna, Rikku, and new girl Paine are the new A Team. They are an energetic group of sphere hunters traveling the world searching for adventure, they are the Gullwings. Yuna of course is your main character, and the story has her searching for information concerning whatever happened to “Him”. The game makes a passive reference to who could be Tidus (Him), as Yuna joins the sphere hunter gang in order find more clues on his whereabouts. The full of life Rikku of course is her motivation as Yuna still needs a little pushing out the door. New girl Pain is your stereotypical “lone wolf” gothic girl with a hidden past. The diverse personalities of the group make each character stand out beautifully, as this truly is a story about relationships with friends.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/ffx2/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright][heading]Girls, tighten your scrunchies[/heading]
A new game means new directions and Square Enix has taken liberties on both game play and exploring. Yuna is a representative of the team (which I like better as opposed to having them follow you around like Final Fantasy 8) as such you lead Yuna around the gorgeous landscapes. What’s new however is that Yuna can now react with the landscapes. She can jump, climb, and hop along to find her way through puzzles, or even get to that hard to reach treasure chest. While this was a much talked about feature before the game was released its not like you think. I was under the impression you could control her in true Lara Croft platform fashion. I was wrong; you are only able to have her react. It works very similar to Final Fantasy mini games, the ones where you must press the “O” button at the right time. Yuna only jumps when she reaches a ledge. Failure to press it at the right time has her just stumble, making you back up and try it again. It’s more of an after thought really; however the game puts it to good use with races over terrain and such.
FF X2 brings with it a non linear storyline as well. Certain hotspots are found by the Gullwings and you are given a choice as to which place you want to go and the difficulty of the stage. The game is broken into missions, as you will have to perform objectives to move along the story. This is a far cry from the walking around from town to town that we are used to.
The battle system is hyperactive. The new concept is that of constant action. The user not making quick decisions will lead to a severe butt whooping by the fiends you meet along the way. Gone as well is the extremely helpful “queue listings” that Final Fantasy X had, what that means is you will no longer see whose turn is next. You simply input your actions and then a small bar counts down the time till the character takes the action. Of course for spells or special attacks the bar has a charge time. Simple attacks or item actions are almost instantaneous. Once you get a handle on how particular fiends go about their battle plan you can make a rough game plan on how to tackle your opponents with a healthy mix of charge and instant actions.
The biggest addition to game play is the dress spheres. Dress spheres act as jobs did in previous incarnations of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy Tactics. You can switch your dress sphere mid battle. The three girls can make for any combination of the classes available from the strong “Warrior”, the sharp shooting “Gunner”, the healer “White Mage”, the powerful magician “Black Mage” among a myriad of other classes available. If you are ambushed by a fiend that has a strong defense against full frontal attacks you can simply switch your dress sphere to a better class such as “Black Mage” and utilize that class’s black magic abilities to pound your enemy into submission. With each dress sphere comes all sorts of class abilities and of course, a new look for that character.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/ffx2/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Items play a smaller role in equipping this time around. You cannot get better weapons and such as the girls come equipped with the weapon of the class they happen to be at that moment. You are able to equip items that give your particular class abilities. This way even though you are in “Thief” dress sphere and are unable to cast magic your items will let you cast a few black magic spells. This is best to have on your “tanks” so that they may be able to do both magical and attack damage to your opponent. Items also give you bonuses such as more HP, MP, or even defenses or total resistances to certain attack types or status ailments. Garment grids are chosen for all the characters or each character can chose her own. Garment grids are a layout of how your dress spheres are placed. You can only move one space at a time during battle so positioning your dress spheres on your garment grid is invaluable. Some garment grids do not offer enough space for every single dress sphere you have, however some do have “gates” that offer boosts to a dress sphere if you pass through them while changing outfits during battle. This may all sound complex, but you will fly through it in no time flat. Advanced players may even plan ahead as to how they want to specialize their characters, which will add a unique customization to the game.
[heading]Spira is as beautiful as ever[/heading]
Final Fantasy X was the first Final Fantasy game to utilize the power of the next generation consoles. As it stands Final Fantasy X is an art project with its lavish usage of colors, sound, and landscapes. The Caribbean-Eastern setting that the designers made Spira as is still there in its gorgeous atmosphere. The Final Fantasy Team once again brings us original character design, just like we can always count on them to do.
This game is truly inspired in its graphical touches, from even the smallest details to the elaborate costume design. Tropical ambience or the echoes of cavernous dungeon crawls will bring you into the settings fantastically as the sounds of Final Fantasy X2 are perfectly placed. From Leblanc’s outfit being inspired by famous fashion designers, to the new characters inspired by futuristic anime design, show that a great deal of time went into the creation of the game’s look and feel. As an artist myself I look to past greats for inspiration. Something tells me that there will be designers of the future that will reference this game and its previous edition as their muse.
[heading]Pickle is a fan boy, but this game really does rock[/heading]
Yes I am a Final Fantasy freak, but there is a reason why. Final Fantasy brings out the best in RPGs. It brings out the best in story telling, the best in game play, simply the best in video games. Final Fantasy X2 is no exception. This is one game that no matter the review fans will flock to video game stores to purchase it and keep it in their library. If you have never tried a Final Fantasy game (if you haven’t, did you stumble to this site by accident?) then give this particular version a shot. FF X2 is a more action packed and happy go lucky game than its family. I would say a great starting point if you want to dive into the series. This game gets my fullest recommendation. I will be playing FFX2 for years to come, like I do my entire Final Fantasy collection. And yes, the girls look hot too. Yeeesh, I know you were thinking that.