Part 2: Episode 1 - Bored of These Things: The Two TorialsEpisode 1 - Bored of These Things: The Two Torials
The game opens with an FMV. The establishing shots tell us we're at the Blitzball stadium in Luca. It's a neat parallel to the first cinematic of the prequel. It's like poetry. But it's also aggressively J-pop, so those with weaker constitutions can just read the screenshots for the important bits.
Video: Opening FMV
An unconscious security guard gets dragged out of frame as an unfamiliar figure runs off into the distance. Then Rikku in a bikini steps into the shot.
It's showtime, girls.
The usual blitzball equipment is missing from the stadium, replaced by hover platforms, electric guitars, and a drumming buddha. Yuna stands on a holographic platform in the center, in her outfit from the prequel. The lights come on, she steps forward...
...and turns into a pop singer. Okay.
The game, at least, is quick to assure us that yes, this is really out of character, and no, this isn't the real Yuna. I'll rag on the game later on for over-explaining itself, but here I approve. It's like a trust exercise, and the game catches us before we fall on our implausible characterization.
Meanwhile, Rikku manages to lay out a grown-ass man with her bare fists. Shameful.
The new girl takes out a couple more guards with a flying roundhouse kick while a helpful intro screen identifies her as Paine. The two of them commandeer a hover platform and swoop onto the stage, and the cinematic ends.
During this whole sequence, the stage is blanketed with fancy blur effects that make it difficult to find a still shot that doesn't look like ass. NotYuna has summoned some minions, and the exchange of taunts ends with a transition into our first combat!
We don't get any real tutorials in our first couple of fights, but they're still important to get us used to the flow of combat. X-2 returns to the land of ATB and directly addresses the most frustrating flaw in FF9's battle system by allowing multiple actions to resolve graphically at the same time. There's a lot of little rules for determining which actions are compatible; melee attackers can't hit each other simultaneously, you can't attack while being targeted by a spell or certain other abilities with a charge time, and so on. But the general feel of combat is frenetic, and it takes some getting used to. If you're arriving at this game straight from the prequel, your sense of strategy is going to go out the window for a while.
Even in a New Game +, there's not much interesting to do this first time out. Rikku and Paine are stuck in their default jobs, mashing attack. We can get a bit of a damage boost by timing their attacks to land in short succession, creating a Chain combo, but the timing can be really finicky. NotYuna slips her minions party drugs at the start of the battle that grant Haste and Regen, so taking them down first is the only strategy of note. Once they're gone, she just plinks at us with Thunder spells.
We win the fight, but NotYuna escapes with the help of some pyrotechnics and flees to the dock. Rikku and Paine run after her, but somehow the huge crowd of screaming fans doesn't think to run after her too.
We get our first opportunity to run around now, and chase the impostor toward the center dock. More minions appear from all directions and run after us, and running into them triggers a really easy battle. Really, this whole segment rides on the effectiveness of their in medias res, because the actual gameplay part of the first twenty minutes of game is pretty dull.
Off to the side, there's what seems to be someone in a giant Moogle suit. Interacting with it fully restores the party somehow. We continue to the center dock, where...
You're too slow, little girl.
These two jerks block us off. Ordinarily we might be able to take them, but the tall guy has guns, and this is a cutscene, so those things are dangerous.
Rikku and Paine get herded out onto the dock, but it looks like reinforcements have arrived! The game obscures her face, but we know this is Yuna because we had to look at the box art to put the game in the PS2. She fires her guns at Laurel and Hardy, but this is a cutscene, so they're not actually dangerous.
We're treated to a very short FMV where Yuna somersaults over the pair, giving up her advantageous combat position for the sake of looking awesome, and her partners pose beside her.
So it's going to be that kind of game. The ridiculousness of this Charlie's Angels moment aside, we have a stark contrast in tone to the prequel; the world has changed enough that people are free to take flamboyant risks, and it's all in good fun.
This is the first semi-serious fight of the game, and we start to see how difficult it's going to be to manage the ATB with three allies and multiple enemies. The guy with guns, Logos, attacks very often, and since he's got ranged weapons, he can reset his target's attack animations freely, which messes up your timing for combos. Ormi, the shield guy, isn't as dangerous, but once Logos faints, he powers up his attack and tosses his shield at you like a discus.
Video: Yuna's Entrance and Boss: Ormi and Logos
Beating up the lieutenants forces NotYuna to step in.
You give us back Yunie's Garment Grid right now!
The Garment Grid is part of the new Job system, and we'll see how it works in a moment. It's also a stylistic difference from the prequel, which largely divorced the game mechanics from the plot; outside of the tutorial, nobody in FFX wandered around talking about the Sphere Grid, while in this game, the Garment Grid and Dresspheres are integral to the storyline.
The impostor tosses this Garment Grid back at such an angle that the animators didn't have to model it, then transforms into a truly ridiculous outfit and starts another boss battle.
This time it's a tutorial for the Dressphere system. Jobs in X-2 are magically empowered outfits generated by the Garment Grid, and all characters can perform magical girl transformations to switch jobs in combat. We start out with the most basic of grids and four job spheres; Warrior, Thief, Gunner, and Songstress.
The battle forces us to switch Yuna from Gunner to Songstress, then locks her in that job and tells us to use status effects to disable the impostor, Leblanc. Unfortunately, Leblanc uses both physical attacks and her Thunder spell, and we can only disable one at a time. Thankfully, she's not really dangerous either way.
Once defeated, Leblanc runs off... but Yuna can't stop dancing. She's freaked out at first, but slowly realizes it isn't dangerous and starts to laugh. I think the voice actor did a pretty good job selling it.
Video: The Rhythm Gets Yuna
X-2 has a mission-based structure, and we'll see this screen every time we finish one. Usually it'll be followed by a rewards screen where we get items, money, or exp. In this intro sequence, the usual rewards screen following each battle was suppressed to keep the action moving, so we don't actually get our earnings from the random battles until this point.
Afterwards, Yuna jumps in with some narration.
My body just started dancing by itself. I didn't know what was going on. I was... frightened. Then, while I was dancing, something happened...
The trio gets picked up by this airship that looks like a lobster had sex with a motorcycle. This establishing shot plays pretty much every time you return to the airship from a mission.
The emotions of the person recorded in the sphere pass to the user.
Isn't that dangerous?
I'm just a kid.
Suddenly, everyone's attention is grabbed by an alarm! Brother and Buddy rush to their seats.
And we're left to control Yuna. Next time: we explore our ride and find out who all these people are!