Status: Finished with 91% completion
Most Intriguing Idea: Save the world with cute outfits!
Best Design Decision: Flattened world structure
Worst Design Decision: Sidequestitis
Final Fantasy X-2 is a decent game, but it feels like a huge misfire nonetheless. I can understand why many fans of Final Fantasy X hated the sequel — although it keeps many of the characters and most of the levels from the first game, it’s so radically different in its tone, mechanics, and overall philosophy that it almost seems designed to give lovers of the first game the finger. If I picked up X-2 hoping for more of what I liked about FFX, I would be seriously disappointed. The opening concert scene might have been enough for anyone invested in the idea of Yuna as she appeared in X to toss a controller in rage.
X-2 has some problems in its own right. This version of ATBS has a strange concept of queuing and doesn’t deal with simultaneity well, making it difficult to follow exactly what’s going on, and leading to strange, unsatisfying cases where all three girls just stand still for up to a minute when the action gauges unambiguously indicate that they should be doing something. There are way too many different status effects, some poorly differentiated both visually and in their mechanical import, and the pace of battle is sometimes too fast (and the various symbols too unclear) to read the situation. Although the game allows the player to instantly switch jobs in mid-fight (one of the few ways that X-2 is mechanically reminiscent of X) this rarely felt necessary or even helpful except in a few very limited spots. Consequently I never saw the “overdrive” outfits, and I rarely even found myself in a battle that was long enough to give me a chance of setting up their use.
The larger structural problem is that X-2 feels like it’s dominated by its sidequests and minigames, of which there are so very, very many. Worse, very few of them are any good at all. The few new dungeons are repetitive and visually boring, the vast majority of minigames are simply irritating or dull, and the whole blistering array of them makes the game feel unfocused and sloppy in its structure. This is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that almost the whole world is accessible from the beginning of the game, although I feel that Yuna’s ability to go anywhere at any time is great both for setting the story up as a caper and for emphasizing the freedom afforded by the new world Yuna & co. created at the end of the previous game.
I’m not a huge fan of the story, either. Although it has an interesting core, a lot of the peripheral stuff is a mess, from the Roketto-dan silliness of the LeBlanc syndicate to Kimahri’s general uselessness to Brother’s incestuous obsession with Yuna (dude, she’s your cousin). There’s a male-gaze aspect to the game that also makes it seem more than a bit creepy at times. Even the core story suffers because to a large extent it isn’t even really about Yuna, but rather about other characters who are remote from the player’s experience, making it difficult to grasp the emotional angles. Getting the good ending, let alone the best ending, involves a lot of FAQ-baiting nonsense, for reasons that don’t feel clear — Yuna establishes her desire to reunite with Tidus just by setting out on this journey, so it escapes me why she needs some whistles on the Farplane to prove it.
All that said, and whew, there’s quite a bit negative up there, I don’t actually hate X-2. It extends Yuna’s story in a satisfying way, and despite its dumber moments it has real respect for both the characters and the world that the first game created. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s worth playing.
Verdict: Cautiously recommended.
About the Port: The work is noticeably poorer here than for FFX, with jarringly jagged textures and several weird glitches. X-2 also has many fewer FMV cutscenes to benefit from the HD upgrade. On the other hand, I am a lot less certain about the prospects of this game coming to streaming services in the future.