The Let's Play Archive

Final Fantasy X-2

by BrainWeasel

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Original Thread: It's Showtime, Girls! In Defense of FFX-2



Final Fantasy X-2 is an odd duck. It's the first direct sequel in the FF series, the first FF with no male playable characters, and the first with significantly non-linear gameplay. Opinions on the game tend to be strong ones; for every person who praises the freedom of the sandbox elements or calls the combat system a triumphant return to form, there's someone who dismisses the characters as one-dimensional, the reuse of art assets as lazy, and the dress-up elements as irredeemably emasculating. It's also the first FF released in America after Square's merger with Enix, so a lot of fans were ready to jump on it as a litmus test for what the future would hold for their precious franchise.

There's a lot to this game that I like. Yuna's characterization, and the completion of her two-game arc, develops her character without erasing or betraying her growth in the prequel, and the plot resists the usual sequel urge to retread old ground, instead exploring the metaphysics of the universe with an old-school sci-fi hook that was very effective at drawing me in. But if you asked me to rate the game overall, I can't quite bring myself to call it Good without qualifiers. And I can sum up why with a single image:

Here's my pet theory; the dev team for X-2 suffered from a lack of confidence. The project had about half the time and manpower as the prequel, and, while the designers had some really good ideas, they were making some serious alterations to a very successful formula with their failing company's most popular franchise. They were working outside their comfort zone, and they were terrified that their success or failure would be used by the entire world to judge the long-term viability of their company. And they blinked.

Their solution was a shotgun approach, filling the game with as many and as varied ideas as they could imagine. Minigames, sidequests, treasure hunts, procedurally generated dungeons, fanservice, references and inside jokes, all in the hope that something in there will appeal to you personally and you'll walk away remembering the game fondly. And then they added a secret ending, a completion percentage, and a New Game + to make sure you played all of it, maximizing the chance of you finding that one redeeming feature. But just as too many chefs spoil the broth, one chef cooking for too many people at once will inevitably screw something up, freak out under the pressure, and resignedly reach for the microwave mac & cheese. The quality of X-2's fluff rarely peaks above mediocre and often dips down into amateur, and so much of it feels like pointless padding to frustrate completionists.

What you're supposed to do is play the game three or four times, gradually exploring everything the game has to offer, and there's enough Gotcha! events that the casual player won't reach 100% any other way. First time through, you just beat the game; second time through, you track down all the obvious hints the game leaves you; third and subsequent times, you scour the entire game world with a fine-toothed comb looking for that missing 0.2%.

I don't have that kind of patience. I went to GameFAQs, found a 100% completion walkthrough, and finished the whole damn thing in one cycle. Then I put the game away and didn't intend to pick it up again.

But recently I was waxing philosophical with some other creative nerds on the topic of what each Final Fantasy game did best, and I found I had a surprising amount of good things to say about this game. I began to wonder; was an editor all X-2 needed? If we strip away the extraneous bullshit but keep the rewards for putting up with that bullshit, how much better would the game experience be?

Well, it turns out I have the perfect tool for exploring that question. I'll be loading up my 100% end-game save and brushing off my pruning shears, going through the parts of the game I think actually deserve to be played and editing out while briefly mocking the parts that don't. I'll also be putting my deconstructionist hat on and occasionally delving into some of the clever stuff I didn't quite appreciate about the game while I was distracted by flowcharts. Whether you never bothered to play the game, or, like me, you're looking for a little catharsis, I hope you'll join me in giving Final Fantasy X-2 the fairest shake it could ever possibly hope for.

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