Now here is a game I spent way too much time playing, but in a good way. I played Final Fantasy X right when it was released, but I didn’t have my own game, so when X-2 came out I was really excited about it. An all girl team! Hurray! A friend’s family got it for me for Christmas 2003 and I played it for hours upon hours, then new game plus for hours and hours. What X-2 lacks in character development (in comparison to X) it makes up for in insane levels of fun. Part X was very heavy and drawn out, a lumbering giant which really sucked you in, but that felt slow and intentional, as if every laborious step was calculated to draw you in a little more. X-2 lacks the intense character development that X has, but it’s a lot more fun to play, drawing you in to the game in a completely different way from its counterpart.
I think a lot of gamers tend to think of X-2 as “Final Fantasy X for Girls!” which makes me want to vomit with rage and some other assorted emotions. They consider it “lighter” or “fluffier” because only inhuman monsters didn’t tear up at the end of part X whereas, at the end of X-2, you aren’t weeping uncontrollably. I hear a lot of sexism directed at the three playable characters and I have to wonder: what the hell? Finally a game wherein you can only play as women, where the women don’t have obscenely large breasts, where they fight and win, and still with the sexism. I’ve had to play through dozens of games as a man, so I’m really not understanding the aggression that seems to stem from men being forced to play as women. I’m sure some people don’t even notice, which is good, but other people seem to only be able to cope with their female characters by objectifying them. Boys, it’s time to get over it. Even with all the great things the game has done in the department of gender equality there are still some serious issues. For example, Lulu is pregnant in the game, but she remains rail thin well into the last trimester and through the birth. Another thing which I have a problem with and other people probably don’t notice is, while the three women save the world, they retire at the end and the three men end up being the leaders. Maybe I’m reading too much into the line, “I’m going home!” but I don’t think so, after all, I’ve been highly trained in reading into things. Those are my only two real problems though, which is a million times better than most games, making X-2 fairly progressive in my eyes.
The villains, The LeBlanc Syndicate, are Team Rocket-esque, which is genius. Then there’s a darker parallel plot that continues the story from part X, but it’s not constantly hanging over you like it was in X. Plot, for X-2, just moves things along, which is all a plot really does anyway, instead of being a dark cloud constantly casting ominous shadows about the game. I’m not saying that the game has a genius plot, but the plot is really fun, with the exception of a few annoying songs. I think many people might be looking for a continuation of part X instead of what X-2 really is, the story of Yuna, the sad girl from X, finally getting to live a life of her own. There’s closure and many references to X but I think X-2’s lightness is the perfect balance to the gravity of X. If you want to play X again, then replay X, I think it’s pretty genius that they made X-2 the way they did.
The best thing in the game for me, by far, was the addition of Dress Spheres to the battle system. Instead of classes or weapons, characters have costumes that they get their abilities from. I’m still unlocking every move on every costume, though the European only version (FFX-2/Last Mission) and the Mascot spheres still elude me. Irritating! I’m very tempted to buy a European PS2 and a copy of the game for it just because that’s how stupidly addicted I am to the damn thing. (Update: I’m told the 2014 re-release will be this upgraded version,yay!) Here is my review of the various costumes, because they’re almost certainly the only reason I’ve put 200 hours into this game. Also, I’m insane about graphics, so there’s another reason for this whole final section. Please, don’t feel obligated to keep reading, since I mostly ramble, though there are probably one or two interesting things down there somewhere.
Alchemist: I’m not going to lie to you, the Alchemist dress sphere never appealed to me much, but I hear it’s quite useful if you take the time to unlock everything. I tried to do this last in my second play though and just didn’t have the patience to master it or its secret: mix. I know there are a lot of people who love this sphere, but I just couldn’t get into it. Sidenote: Are the huge shoulder things perhaps a nod to their video game character fore mother, Samus Aran? Hmm.
Berserker: Perhaps the best dress sphere, ever. I think this is my favorite set, though my preference constantly changes. The movements are surreal enough to be obviously unreal, but they are grounded in some kind of natural movement, which I think makes the attacks look great. The transformation sequences and end poses are adorable, too. The auto counter features at the end of each costume makes them brilliant, the only thing lacking is a little defense, which means I can’t have an all Berserker team, a pity.
Black Mage: Cutest witches, ever! I love this dress sphere and I love Yuna’s the most out of the three. This is the first sphere I had Yuna work with, too. Mages always seem to be my most powerful characters, and once you unlock the whole costume, that’s true of these mages, too. Also this dress sphere subverts the dominant paradigm of the ugly female witch – take that, the dominant paradigm! Rikku’s costume is my least favorite of the three, but I think Rikku is the least black magey of the three characters, so it’s kind of appropriate, in a way. The one thing I will say is that the game puts a lot, maybe even most, of its work on character development into the costumes, which I really appreciate. If you can’t handle subtlety you’ll probably like the game a lot less for this very reason.
Dark Knight: The Dark Knight quite literally brings the hurt. That being said, I’m not really into the hurt. The costumes are completely metal, as are the cut scenes, and I have to give it a nod for quality. Still, it’s just not my bag.
Festival Goer (Omatsurishi): Festival Goer (or Omatsurishi in Japan) is a bonus costume for the European FFX-2/Final Mission release and allegedly uses New Year Festival theme attacks. Yuna’s costume (above) represents someone attending the festival, while Rikku and Paine’s costumes (not shown) represent attractions, such as a vendor (Paine) and a game (Rikku). They were allegedly designed by a child as a part of a competition. Sounds pretty interesting, so I’ve love to play with it some time, but I can’t go throwing money around on new Playstations and another copy of the game, so I can’t say what it’s like in person. I will say that I think it’s fairly bogus that this version of the game never got a US release.
Floral Falla: When I first saw this dress sphere I couldn’t believe it, I was amazed. The character art really doesn’t show it because the beauty of the costume lies in its movement. This was the first special dress sphere that I completed the moves on and by the end it was just a tank. Perhaps surprising for something that looks like a petunia, but I love feminine things that just level the battle field. Like those snuggly Lilties from Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – true them.
Full Throttle: This probably looks like the most bizarre special dress sphere of the three, but the visual impact when it’s animated is stunning. It’s so goth industrial metal insanity it’s just Paine all over, it’s such a great dress sphere that it actually adds to Paine’s characterization in the game by its mere existence, which is really saying something. The fact that it kicks piles of butt is just a bonus, really.
Gun Mage: Paine was the first and longest running Gun Mage I had on my team, and of course she has the most Blue Bullet moves. I really only like the costume on Paine, I mean, look at those pants! Madness! I like the variety of moves that the Gun Mage gets and the way you have the hunt out the special moves, but since I’d only use it with Paine I don’t really use it all that much because there are a lot of dress spheres I like better for her.
Gunner: The Gunner is Yuna’s standard costume, the one in all the cut scenes, basically. Really, I’m not into it, and even though it’s useful, I don’t buy the FAQ party line that you simply cannot beat the game without using the Gunner. I think it’s a nod to the presumed male majority of gamers who have come to expect guns in video games, and I think that’s pretty tired. At least they have the Gun Mage as a counterpart to this dress sphere. When Paine is the gunner, and I think her costume is the best of the three, at the end of battles she will occasionally say, “Turned on?” which at first bothered me. Then I began to wonder if it wasn’t a bit sarcastic, a bit of a jab a men who are turned on when women wield the gun, a traditionally phallic symbol and male weapon of choice. Something to ponder.
Lady Luck: At first I was a bit put off by the Lady Luck dress sphere, but it grew on me. It’s just a fun dress sphere to work with and, when you unlock it, you end up with double experience that’s hard to say no to. I think the cards are pretty adorable, especially since Rikku looks so dorky when she’s getting ready to attack. That you attack with a slot machine and various numbers of huge dice is just amusing. In the end I find the Lady Luck dress sphere very funny, even if I do get a Dud on the slot machine way too often.
Machina Maw: Aww! Rikku is so adorable in Machina Maw, this dress sphere is really her, too. It’s a tough adorable little machine that really surprises you. Also, while Paine and Yuna are both vertically oriented in their special dress spheres, Rikku lays on top of Machina Maw most of the time, which is kind of clever. It also allows for occasional feet kicks to punctuate, oh say, scrapping Angra Mainyu, which is always fun.
Mascot: Alright, I have a confession to make, I never unlocked this dress sphere. The shame! The horror! … To do it you have to do that whole Rin Travel Agency thing and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So boring! I was planning on unlocking it in New Game Plus but then I didn’t sell all of Tobli’s tickets the exact right way, then saved, so I was like “Forget it!” I hear it’s only the best costume ever, which watching Gene’s team pretty much confirmed; this pains me, but I’m learning to live without the Mascot sphere somehow.
Psychic Fighter: Sadly this dress sphere, also know as Saikikka, was only in the European version of the game as well. Double sadly, these blue background were the only ones I could find of the costumes. So, how New Wave does Paine look? I can only imagine that this is a great dress sphere, I mean, just look at it! Some people say the Last Mission release was superfluous, but nuts to them, a dress sphere this adorable begs a special re-release. Now port it, darn you!
Samurai: Ah, the Samurai. I think the flames on the swords are a bit tacky, but I have to admit that it’s a pretty cool dress sphere. They hit hard, the attacks look neat, the transformations are great, and you have to love those helmets. I think that, if the Dark Knight and Samurai were combined, it would have made for a really amazing dress sphere, but that’s just idle speculation, of course.
Songstress: I have yet to get Magical Dances Vol. 1 but I still think that this dress sphere has its moments. Since getting this dress sphere back kicks off the game you would think it would be more important and/or useful and much less annoying. Alas, their little songs are just torture since none of the singers seem to be able to carry a tune. Rikku’s costume, happily, is the height of cuteness, so when I’m in the mood for this dress sphere I use her. Paine’s Elvis-esque costume just looks stiff and Yuna’s in this costume for a lot of cut scenes, so it’s not really too fun to use. Oddly enough, I really have to be in the mood for this dress sphere.
Thief: Rikku’s standard costume is also Paine absolute worst, at least to me. I don’t think that Paine’s thief costume could look more horrid if they tried, which is a shame, since Paine has some of the best costumes in the game. Seriously, what is that? Socks with high heels and some kind of wedgie making contraption layered on top of Spandex biking shorts that, on top of it all, have giant holes in them? The horror! That aside (somehow) I love having a Thief on my team because I hoard items like there’s no tomorrow. A good Thief is also a must-have if you’re going to use an Alchemist.
Trainer: Animals! When I realized this dress sphere was in the game all the others died to me just a little. Just look at them! Animals! Kogero (Yuna) and Flurry (Paine) are just too great, and the fact that each animal gets different moves delights me. I’m not too into Rikku’s part of this dress sphere, even if her costume is great, because the monkey didn’t get moves that were really up my ally. Still, the costumes and the animals are all beautifully coordinated to each character’s personality in a way that I don’t think the other costumes really come near. If this was the only special dress sphere I found I would be completely content. When all is said and done I will probably have three trainers on my team.
Warrior: Warrior is Paine’s stock dress sphere, and it was a good enough dress sphere on it’s own. I hit things, they fell down, but at the end of the day the Warrior dress sphere didn’t give me a reason to come back to it, so I didn’t. Also, as a side note, Paine’s costume looks like it came from a completely different dress sphere than Rikku and Yuna’s. Anyone else get that feel about it?
White Mage: Hurray! I love the White Mage and it’s for absolutely no reason. There must be something aesthetically appealing about these costumes to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on what. I really love being in battles and healing and healing to the point that no one is really getting hurt at all. It’s second only to crushing them with massive damage before they get a chance to move, but some times I’m in the mood for Regen, what can I say?
Thank you to Kimisuzu and vga518 for helping me update the Festival Goer information and Koneko for finding better Psychic DS images for me!
Images of dress spheres are from Simply Final Fantasy (site defunct), and they got them from Creative Uncut, with the exception of the Psychic dress sphere, which is from Final Fantasy Compendium … regardless they were heavily edited by myself (ie: putting them into sets). If you want to use my version of the images feel free, I really don’t mind.
Update from December 2013: Cannot wait for the re-release of this. I will be playing it again!