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The story in Final Fantasy X-2 takes place two years after the events of FFX. Yuna has been living a somewhat normal life in her hometown since the defeat of Sin, but one day Rikku arrives and shows her a video sphere that features someone that they had thought was gone forever. Yuna decides to join Rikku and a mysterious warrior known as Paine and they form a group of sphere hunters known as the Gullwings. They travel around Spira looking for valuable spheres and also to try and find out the truth about the figure that Yuna saw in the sphere. The tone of the game is much more lighthearted than previous entries in the series, but eventually the quest to find a lost friend turns into a much larger adventure that once again requires you to save the world of Spira.
One of the most interesting things about Final Fantasy X-2 is that it begins with you in control of an airship and you have the freedom to go wherever you want from the very start of the game. This is the exact opposite of the way many of the games in this series have played out, and is a rather refreshing change. The game has also morphed into a mission-based format and it is also broken into five chapters. There are important missions marked on the map as hotspots that move the story forward, and while you can actually move through the game very quickly by beating only the hotspot missions, you will miss out on a lot of story details and items. In order to get the complete story and give your characters proper leveling up, you will have to visit each area on the map at least once in each of the five chapters. You'll make a fair bit of progress from a storyline perspective no matter where you go in the game, so it is nice to be able to control the pace of how you are taking everything in. The game can be beaten in 15-20 hours if you only focus on hotspot missions, but for gamers who like to take their time and figure everything out the game clocks in at a more standard length of about 35 hours.
The missions in the game range from standard dungeon crawls to defeating all of the enemies in an area in a certain amount of time to more lighthearted missions like wandering around outside of a concert in a Moogle costume while the other members of your team investigate what is going on inside. The mission variety helps the game feel light and fun and it never feels like you are slogging through battle after battle just so you can see the ending. You are experiencing everything the world of Spira has to offer while still learning all you can about the story, and that really is an entertaining way to progress through an RPG. Many of the side missions are made up of minigames, and not all of them are fun, but the rewards are usually worth the annoyance of putting up with a card game or doing something silly like handing out balloons to little kids. Also, it is sometimes a little difficult to figure out exactly what you are supposed to be doing in some of the side missions because you aren't being pushed towards the next big cinema sequence or battle like you are in the hotspot missions. The good parts about the mission-based gameplay outweigh the bad, though, and it is definitely a nice change of pace from standard RPGs.
One of my favorite parts about Final Fantasy X was the way you could swap in new characters during battles in order to bring in fresher fighters or swap your healer in and out as you needed them. In FFX-2 you can't swap characters during battle, but you can change each characters' jobŁ in mid-battle so that new attacks and abilities will be available to you. This is done through the Dressphere and Garment Grid systems. As you play through the game you will find items called Dresspheres that allow you to change your characters from warriors to gunners to black or white mages and many more forms right in the heat of battle. Each Dressphere has different stats for attack and defense and speed so it is important to know how and when to use each one in order to be effective in battle.
To use the Dresspheres, you have to place them on Garment Grids. On the Garment Grids there are spots for Dresspheres as well as fixed spheres that give you bonuses that increase your attack or defense power and many other things in the current battle. So, lets say that you know you are probably going to switch from black mage to warrior at least once in an upcoming battle. It would be wise to put the appropriate Dresspheres on the Garment Grid in positions where you will get an attack boost when you switch from black mage to warrior so you'll be as powerful as possible. Thinking ahead like this and being clever about where you place Dresspheres on a new Garment Grid adds a lot of strategy to the game.
The combat in FFX-2 flows at an insanely fast pace, and it is amazing how fast you can jump into a battle, finish off your enemies, and be back on your way up the path. The game uses the active-time battle system that was used in many of the previous FF games, but it has been tweaked quite a bit. Aside from the noticeably faster pace, there is now a combo system in place that greatly increases the damage you can do. If you can launch your attacks within a couple of seconds of each other, a little combo indicator will pop up on the screen and you will get a big damage bonus. This combo system adds a lot of extra depth to the combat and it also does a good job of keeping you interested in the battles because you are encouraged to use more attacks than just your most powerful ones.
I think that is one of the problems Final Fantasy traditionalists have with the concept of sequels , it makes them mad that there can be new a new Final Fantasy game on the market that they don't want to play. Well, too bad for you. If you are a fan of FFX, X-2 offers the chance to experience a new story with the same great characters and features new combat and ability systems to keep everything feeling fresh. There are tons of references to specific events in FFX and it is always a thrill to return to a location that was once a disaster area thanks to Sin and find a thriving city in its place. Final Fantasy X-2 is a solid game all around and is a definite purchase for fans of FFX. If you haven't played FFX, X-2 is still a very enjoyable game, but you won't appreciate all of the little details and fan service that this game is overflowing with. Rent it or buy it, just make sure you give Final Fantasy X-2 a try.
Graphically, Final Fantasy X-2 isn't all that much better looking than FFX, but that isn't really a problem since the game still looks really fantastic compared to just about everything else on PS2. The character animation is a bit smoother and realistic and all of the characters are intricately detailed. The 36 or so Dresspheres you can find all look awesome on the girls and it is more fun than you'd probably think to play dress up with Rikku, Yuna, and Paine. The world of Spira looks pretty much the same it did before, but if you can look past the fact that all of the backgrounds and everything were reused from FFX it is still pretty easy on the eyes. As always, Square's FMV is top notch and looks absolutely gorgeous.
The sound in FFX-2 is equally well done. All of the voice actors from the first game have returned and do an excellent job. Hearing those same voices again make you feel instantly comfortable with the story and gameplay and you just want to dive into the game and have another adventure with these characters that you already fell in love with in the last game. The soundtrack is also well done and does an outstanding job of maintaining the lighthearted feel of the game.
Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't follow all of the FF rules, but the end result of this experiment is a quality game that can hold its own against the rest of the series. If you didn't enjoy Final Fantasy X, then it isn't likely that you'll enjoy X-2.
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