Once upon a time, I was playing Final Fantasy VII for the very first time. It was 1997, and I was upwards of ten hours into the game. I had explored every inch of this monstrous metropolis known as Midgar, dominated and controlled by the evil corporation of Shinra. It was my quest (or so I thought) to stop Shinra from literally sucking the life force from the planet, when suddenly it became clear that my party and I were to have to leave Midgar for the first time to chase down a man in a black cape, a man known as Sephiroth, and before I had ever even seen his face, I had learned to fear him. To my astonishment, when I left Midgar, it became apparent to me that not only was Midgar not the only place I had to go to in this game, but it was merely a dot on an enormous world map! It was then that I understood exactly why this game was being described as "epic." Since then, I've been consistently enthralled and compelled by all of the Final Fantasy games, from its humble beginnings on NES to its mastery on PS2.
And then came this debacle of a game. Final Fantasy X-2 not only took everything I loved about the series and threw it out the window, but it veritably raped everything I loved about the original. People who disagree with me will probably say that this game doesn't appeal to me because it's "different." No. Final Fantasy VIII was different. Different is one thing -- morphing an epic tradition into some sort of quasi-Sailor Moon/Charlie's Angels parody that makes me lose faith in my favorite genre is quite another.
The premise of the story for X-2 is two years have passed since Yuna and her guardians vanquished Sin and Yu Yevon. Since the eternal calm has set in, she has led a relaxed life, (which apparently involved throwing out the dress and staff for hot pants and a pair of guns, not to mention the whole becoming a pop star thing) and it comes to her attention that Rikku, who is now a sphere hunter, has found a sphere that shows a clip of someone who seems to resemble Tidus in some sort of trouble. Thus, Yuna joins the gullwings, which is Rikku's team of sphere hunters, and the quest to find Tidus begins.
First of all, I'd like to point out that there is no real story to this game. There are subtle hints most of the time hiding in the background somewhere that a story might come into being sometime over the course of the game, which is the only reason I kept playing this game, really, but these unfortunately only remain as not much more than subtle hints until the end of chapter three, and by then you're pretty much done with the game. Everything that was epic and compelling about the previous installments of the Final Fantasy's is lost here in a muddle of girl power and uninteresting psuedo-politics that I couldn't have cared less about. The character that I grew to love in Final Fantasy X, Yuna, now has been rendered to be completely devoid of character. Sure, she's cute and happy now, but who cares? There is no conflict, no intrigue in her character. Her only desire seems to be to find Tidus and to help people (neither of which are substantially developed in this game), but rather than being the character who was built on self-sacrifice for the good of others like in the last one, she instead comes off as a brat who usually doesn't have much to say other than something along the lines of "why do I have to do this?!" Rikku's her dumb self, unsurprisingly, and Paine is just a female version of Auron except not half as cool and not a tenth as interesting. There are a few new characters who you do want to learn about, such as Nooj, Gippal, and Baralai, who are three of the leaders in the new Spira, but their backstory is minimal when compared to character giants such as Terra, Celes, Aeris, or Cloud. Characters like Buddy, or Brother, or whatever his name was wanted to make me cry. I wanted to take the composer who had replaced Mr. Uematsu and beat him out back with a stick, and every time Yuna, Rikku, and Paine would pose and cheer themselves on, I absolutely cringed. By the time the end of the story rolled around, I didn't really care what was happening next.
To be fair, there are a few good points to this game. The battle system has undergone some major revision, and the revision was for the better. The beloved jobs system of Final Fantasy V are back again, and this time they are mixed with the sphere grid of X and an extremely fast-paced upgrade of the active time battle system. The graphics are slightly better than its predecessor, which means that the graphics are phenomenal considering how amazing they were in X. Most of the missions -are- fun, but the whole game in itself was too sugar-coated, too easy, and too short (I had the game beat in fifteen hours). If I wanted just pure fun, I would've played GTA III. Final Fantasy stands above all the other franchises because it's always been about more than just the fun involved with the battles. I have to admit that this is probably a love it/hate it type of game, but for my part, the closer and closer I got to the end, the more and more apparent it became to me that this game truly was the monumental disappointment that I was fearing it would be the second I first saw Yuna singing a pop song that reeked of Japanese excess in the introduction FMV. I wish I could've felt otherwise, but I didn't. I sincerely hope XII won't turn out the same way.
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