January 20, 2011

Final Fantasy – X’s & 2’s

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Nathan White @ 4:58 pm

Final Fantasy X2
The recent announcement of Final Fantasy XIII-2 has franchise fans aflutter with the feeling you only get when you know a Final Fantasy title is several months away rather than several years.

Aside from the potential of delivering a title that ascends the divisions Final Fantasy XIII created among fans and critics, XIII-2 will also be only the third main series sequel in Final Fantasy’s storied 20+ year history – after 2007’s DS release Final Fantasy XII – Revenant Wings, and undeniably the most polarizing game in the franchise’s history, Final Fantasy X-2.

The announcement this week also makes talking about Final Fantasy X-2 wonderfully topically again, an opportunity I’ll eagerly exploit.

Final Fantasy X2
Released just two years after Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 was the first direct sequel in franchise history. Despite being warmly received by critics, it is remembered as a misstep in the annals of Final Fantasy history. Many Final Fantasy fans wrote off Final Fantasy X-2 as a cash-in on the massive success of Final Fantasy X. While it was most definitely an attempt to stretch the assets created and the money spent developing Final Fantasy X, it was none-the-less filled with original ideas and a rich story that is surprisingly self-contained.

At first glance X-2 can easily appear as juvenile fan service, short on substance and depth, but that really is the brilliance of the game. Final Fantasy X-2’s best feature, the compelling story, is almost entirely optional. Doing a bare bones play through, X-2 can be completed in 20 hours, but in order to achieve the full experience and a 100% completion rating, 40 hours or more may be required.

In the end, depending on your level of completion, Yuna’s character arc reaches its conclusion in one of two entirely different ways. The multiple endings, another first for a Final Fantasy title, push the wanton need of the player to explore the world in increasingly greater detail, scrounging for extra percentiles to add to the overall completion score. This in turn reveals an ever-increasing depth to the game’s story and characters.

Final Fantasy X-2 takes you back into the world of Spira, now free from the overbearing religious dogma that once ruled its people. Yuna has transformed from Summoner to a celebrity sphere hunter, part of a rogue crew called the Gullwings. Consisting primarily of Al Bhed, Yuna’s cousins Rikku and Brother among them, the Gullwings traverse Spira in search of spheres, small treasures that hold both great monetary and academic value.

It is the period known as the Eternal Calm, just over two years since the defeat of Sin and the end of Final Fantasy X. Not long after Sin’s final defeat, the truth about Yevon was exposed by its priests for the purpose of allowing Spira’s populace to decide for themselves whether or not to continue following the disgraced religion.

Many inhabitants of Spira were quick to rebel against Yevon’s teachings. Aligned under the banner of the Youth League, these rebels dedicate themselves to uncovering Spira’s history by gathering spheres.

These spheres, which contain camcorder-like recordings, may hold the secrets of Spira’s past.

Growing political strife and ever escalating violence between New Yevon, a group founded to preserve the Yevon way of life and keeps its secrets hidden, and the aforementioned Youth League, threatens to tear Spira’s people apart.

You soon discover the true motive behind Yuna’s adventurous turn with the Gullwings – after Sin’s defeat she was given a sphere containing images of a young man imprisoned and begging for help. The man in the grainy sphere appears to be Tidus.

The emotional core of the story is Yuna’s search for answers, and it is masterfully dressed up on all sides by the compelling side story of a world’s rebirth, the efforts to control that world, and the ever-widening gap between politics and the people they govern.

Having an almost entirely optional story, there is a lot to miss in the game. If you miss something the first time through however, Final Fantasy X-2 has a New Game+ option that becomes available upon completing the game. The New Game+ allows you to carry over your weapons, items, and completion percentage while at the same time beginning the story over from the start. This gives you the opportunity to pick-up those lost percentage points in an effort to get the full 100% and see the “perfect” ending.

In another series first, you are given three party members at the start of the game that remain your sole playable characters all the way through. Having only Yuna, Rikku, and new comer Paine as your permanent battle party at first glance may seem restrictive, but X-2’s masterful battle mechanics quickly add ease of mind on the matter.

The Lady Luck Dress Sphere

In the most refreshing advancement since the ATB gauge revolutionized the series, Final Fantasy X-2 introduces the Dress Sphere / Garment Grid system. Throughout the game you collect Garment Grids and specialized spheres called Dress Spheres.

Each sphere contains a set of skills that each character can utilize in battle. Each Garment Grid can have two or more Dress Spheres placed upon it, and equipping these Garment Grids to your character grants you the freedom to switch between the Dress Spheres on the fly. Changing Dress Spheres during battle provides an additional layer of complexity, as moving through the Garment Grid gains various stat boosts and special abilities.

This battle mechanic, when combined with the ability to chain and coordinate your attacks for maximum efficiency and damage, results in fast paced, frantic battles and a deep level of character customization.

The fun, airy, fast paced style of story telling and game-play was initially criticized by series die-hards for deviating too far from Final Fantasy X, and the franchise as a whole. However, viewed on its own merits, X-2 stands out as an innovative and highly stylized JRPG that intentionally casts off the shackles of its predecessors.

This new lighthearted sensibility is as much about up-ending the series status quo as it is a reflection of the growth of Yuna as a character, as well as the revitalization of Spira in the era of the Eternal Calm. What Final Fantasy X-2 really delivers is a study of the processes we endure healing old wounds, as well as the violence that seems to inherently come with establishing fresh paths for the future.


  1. Nice piece Nathan. Just to nitpick a bit but this would technically be the 4th direct sequel to a main FF series game since we also got FF IV: The After Years on Wiiware.

    Comment by EdEN — January 21, 2011 @ 2:53 am

  2. Nathan and I were talking about that yesterday, decided to think of the after years more technically as an epilogue rather than a sequel.

    Comment by Jamie Love — January 21, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  3. Really? It’s a 40+ hour RPG and a direct sequel with the son of Cecil and Rosa so I could consider that a sequel, specially if Revenant Wings is considered a sequel to XII. Oh well, just bringing in my two cents hahaha.

    Comment by EdEN — January 21, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  4. Well Nathan has his own thoughts on it, my two cents is that the break of time doesn’t make it the same style of sequel as well as that it follows the descendant of characters rather than a returning character.

    Comment by Jamie Love — January 21, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  5. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. That makes sense.

    We’re also forgetting about all the FF VII games released (Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core, etc.) but that’s even a bigger headache…

    Comment by EdEN — January 21, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  6. oh man I didn’t forget, just avoided haha. It’s an interesting bit to chew on though, the FFVII stuff is pretty easy to take as spin-off / prequel. I think Square considered Advent Children a sequel to FF7 no?

    The upcoming PSP release of FF4 Complete that includes FF4 and FF4 After Years has probably played a lot in my opinion of how after years fits too.

    Comment by Jamie Love — January 21, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  7. Maybe that’s why you’re looking at After Years in a different light. But if a new FF RPG costs me $40 and provides over 40 hours of playtime then it’s a sequel to FF IV for me. My little sister loved it as well. She even downloaded the original NES FF to see how it all began.

    Comment by EdEN — January 21, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

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