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Final Fantasy X-2 PlayStation 2

Published by Electronic Arts Ltd.
Developed by Square Enix Co., Ltd.
Released: 20th February 2004
Price: £39.99

In a break with tradition Final Fantasy X-2 is the first game in the series to actually be a sequel. The previous installments have all been isolated stories with their own unique worlds and characters. So why have Square Enix broke with tradition? Well I guess only they know that but fans of Final Fantasy X will relish the opportunity to return to the world of Spira and see some of the key characters again from that version. Maybe it's about time the series released a few sequels? After all who wouldn't want a sequel to games such as Final Fantasy VII? Anyway enough questions let's get on with the review.

Final Fantasy X-2, as you already know, is a sequel to Final Fantasy X. This time though the central character is not Tidus, it's Yuna and this is a different Yuna to the one that appeared in Final Fantasy X. Two years have passed by since Sin was defeated. Yuna was heading for a relaxing, peaceful existence until Rikku pays her a visit and shows her a movie sphere (a small sphere which has a certain event captured forever like a short video clip and they are scattered all over Spira) of what appears to show Tidus being taken prisoner. A major peculiarity with Final Fantasy X-2 is that Tidus is never called by name and is always referred to as 'him' which is very strange.* Anyway Yuna is disturbed at this and Rikku suggests that they look for more clues and so Yuna becomes a sphere collector in the hope of eventually finding 'him'.

As sphere collectors Yuna, Rikku and Paine fly around on the airship named Celsius with fellow companions Buddy, Brother and Shinra. Collectively they are known as the Gullwings. Their main rivals in collecting spheres are the Leblanc Syndicate which consists of Leblanc and her henchmen Logos and Ormi. The Leblanc Syndicate are a bunch of bunglers and in many ways remind me of Team Rocket from the Pokemon TV show. The game is split up into a series of chapters which themselves are split up into a series of missions. Not all the missions are compulsory and you are free to take the missions you want as they become available. This lack of linearity is a breath of fresh air in a series that is noted for it's linearity. The missions each have a difficulty rating so you'll have a fair idea of how much of a challenge they are going to offer. Some of the missions are simply there just to fill out the story and don't move the game along. An example being that at the start of the game you control Rikku and Paine and you appear to be in a battle with Yuna. One of the early missions you can undertake explains that who you really battled was an imposter. I actually appreciated this change of style but those who were expecting the game to be firmly in the mould of previous games will be in for a surprise.

Final Fantasy X-2 has had a major overhaul in some areas of the game play. The battle system sees a return to the Active Time Battle (ATB) system which makes the battles simply fly along, quicker in fact than in any other Final Fantasy game that I've played. If you don't allocate your actions quickly enough then you'll come under attack from your enemies. There are rewards for inputting your chosen attack quickly though and by having characters attack the same target close together you can form chain attacks for greater damage. Whilst I really enjoyed Final Fantasy X it did irritate me that some battles would last around 30 minutes and this short and snappy battle system prevents those seemingly endless battles from occurring. You'll also notice that Yuna can jump and climb in various places which is nice to see but it hardly adds a lot to the gameplay.

The Sphere grid system from Final Fantasy X has been replaced by the Dressphere system. Dresspheres are a special type of sphere that you'll find during the course of the game and when they are equipped, they will give the character in question special abilities. Essentially then dresspheres are swappable classes. A character will become more efficient (and new skills will be learned) with a dressphere the more they use them. The main dresspheres are gunner, thief, warrior, songstress, white mage and black mage. Dresspheres can be changed mid-battle if so desired. As the name implies changing a dressphere will result in a costume change for the character in question during a battle, which is interesting to say the least. The dresspheres have to be placed on what's known as a garment grid. There are various garment grids in the game and they all offer different abilities and bonuses.

The biggest disappointment with Final Fantasy X-2 is with the graphics. That's not because they are poor in anyway though, in fact like Final Fantasy X they are quite impressive. The only trouble is that they are exactly the same as in Final Fantasy X as many of the locations have simply been re-used. I understand that the game is set in the world of Spira and the game can't look drastically different but still I think an attempt could have been made in introducing new locations and not the exact same spots as appeared in the first game. The main reason for simply re-using what was already created was probably to save time and money but those looking to see different aspects of Spira might feel a little short changed. Controlling three female characters also gave the developers the opportunity to make things a little more sexy and some of the costumes are a little revealing, particularly the one that Leblanc wears. In some areas you'll notice that certain details just 'pop-up' which is disappointing to see. The mission close to the beginning of the game (where Yuna is giving out balloons) is a prime example of this when the flags on the building simply 'pop-up'. What I did appreciate though was the improved menus which makes the game much easier to understand than any previous Final Fantasy game.

Generally speaking the game is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. There are some omissions but they are not that important. During a battle Yuna, Rikku and Paine will occasionally make a comment and these comments are not subtitled. Also talking to Shinra whilst onboard the Celsius will give you access to all kinds of information. This information is all in text but when you look at Shinra's Dossiers (which allows you to view a profile of key characters that you've met in the game) the characters will make comments that are not subtitled. These omissions are not essential though and they don't provide any additional information. The main body of speech in the game is subtitled and there are even conversations that are exclusively in text so you'll be absolutely fine with these. The tutorial sections that can be accessed through Shinra are all delivered exclusively in text so again you'll have no problems in taking advantage of all the information that is on offer.

It's rather difficult to assess Final Fantasy X-2. In some areas the game is more refined than Final Fantasy X and in some areas the game seems to lack that special Final Fantasy ingredient that's just too difficult to put into words. The battles have a much better pace to them and the menus are much clearer to understand. If you're looking for the traditional Final Fantasy experience you may, at first, feel inclined to be disappointed but stick with it because it's still a great game. You're looking at around 50 hours gameplay which seems a little short until you realise that there are multiple endings, which will make you want to replay the game at least 3 or 4 times before you've had enough. Best of all if you finish the game completing less than 100% of it you can go back and just do what you've missed ,which is a very nice touch indeed. In short then the first 'sequel' in the Final Fantasy series is a definite success.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
There may have been doubters who thought that a sequel would not have worked but they had no cause to worry as Final Fantasy X-2 is an excellent game. It's probably not the finest in the series to date but it's hugely enjoyable and head and shoulders above a lot of titles out there. The huge replay value is also worthy of note.

Deaf Gamers comment:
There are some omissions but on the whole it's fine for deaf gamers.

*Actually it's not strange at all. Thanks must go to Rebecca Old who pointed out that:

'One of the reasons of this is that, in Final Fantasy X, you are given the chance to sign a blitzball at the very start of the game, you can input your name so that when you save, it doesn't say "Tidus" but whatever you entered ... because of this, they never call him by name at all, in case you called him something else'.