Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Game Review: Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster (PS Vita)

Final Fantasy X-2, the 2003 sequel to the oddly popular FFX (my review here), got remastered for the Vita in 2013 so that a new generation of gamers may experience Yuna with 75% less clothing and 100% more badassery. Here's my quick review.

Plot: Yuna, her cousin Rikku, and the reticent Paine are members of the Gullwings, a group of treasure hunters who inadvertently become involved in yet another plot to save the world from destruction.

Timeline: Two years after Yuna and her Guardians brought The Calm in FFX.

***Things to Love: There are many, including:

1) The soundtrack--The game opens with an FMV concert of Yuna, Rikku, and Paine performing a J-pop single, setting the stage for the various enjoyable tracks throughout the game. The signature theme is "1,000 Words," the equivalent of FFX's "Suteki Da Ne" and FFVIII's "Eyes on Me." The battle themes are fast-paced, the dungeon beats appropriately ominous, and the boss fights suitably, er, bossy. If your jam is more chill, the FFX-2 Piano Collections is a great album.

2) The gameplay--No need to buy or craft weapons here! Players equip their team members with garment grids (for status boosts and effects) and dress spheres (for job type), leading to a huge number of customizations. So you put dress spheres on garment grids, and then equip a character with those. For example, if I wanted a character to be wicked fast and always attack first, I would put the Thief dress sphere on the Highroad Winds garment grid, which boosts speed. Then I would equip Highroad Winds on the character, and select Thief as her dress sphere. Viola! 

Dress spheres level up via Ability Points (AP), leading to some beastly tanks, like the Berseker, which can Evade & Counter all physical attacks and also regain HP constantly with Auto-Regen. This system is probably why so many gamers have replayed FFX-2 so much -- gotta have 'em all, gotta grind 'em all! I'm tempted to do a New Game+, myself...

(Itty-bitty wah-wah: Some of the dress spheres are t-a-c-k-y. I mean, a skintight neon yellow outfit for Rikku's Lady Luck? Ugh. However, this is balanced out by the awesomely designed ones, like Paine's Alchemist or Yuna's Samurai. And check out the moves on Rikku's Berserker! They clearly got a breakdancer / capoeira practitioner to do the motion-capture for that one. SO COOL.)

Lady Luck, Alchemist, Samurai
3) The combat system--It's fast-paced and over quickly, making grinding less annoying. This becomes tough when facing a particularly speedy boss (e.g. Chac in Via Infinito), but players can choose Wait Mode, where battle slows when you're scrolling through items or suchlike.

4) The lead characters--Yuna has shed her martyr attitude from FFX and is now more on board with cousin Rikku's devil-may-care, ultra-genki spirit. Paine would have been a good main character, too, since she has a good backstory and develops as a character later in the game. Plus her sardonic responses are a great counterpoint to her two companions. Rikku is mostly abs and a big smile.

5) All the math!--Sphere Break is a mini-game that's really fun and nets you nice prizes, and all it needs is basic addition skills. Meanwhile, an optional dungeon in Chapter 5 tests your adding and your memory. A refreshing break from all the fiend-bashing!

6) The pacing--So fast. Love it. Just, boom, boom, boom, all five chapters done! Obviously, going for 100% completion will slow you down, but if you're just interested in completion, this is a 25-hour game. This time, there's no convoluted plot getting in the way. It's just Yuna catching a glimpse of what she thinks is her dead boyfriend Tidus, pursuing all leads, stumbling across a world-destroying villain, and kicking its butt while also getting another concert performance in, as one does.

7) The final boss--I like my final boss fights nice and easy, and this one did not disappoint.

8) The visuals--Beautiful game. Deserves a far bigger screen than the Vita's.

***Annoying Things: Just as many, but fairly minor, such as:

1) Brother: His awful voice, ridiculous accent, and cutesy poses made me want to cunt-punt him.

2) Chac: Are you fracking kidding me with this (optional) boss??? Almost 500,000 HP, can kill my entire team in one hit? I must've spent 10 hours trying to kill this thing, failing again and again, until I finally got everyone up above level 90 and stopped saving my one Soul Spring. WORTH IT.

3) Paragon: The (again, optional) boss after Chac wiped out my party almost instantly on all of my dozen attempts, at which point I was like, "IDGAF," and just bailed.

4) No overworld: Seriously, this is the joy of JRPGs -- exploring the vast world, uncovering new areas, getting your butt kicked in spots where you shouldn't have gone because you're too underleveled. As with FFX, FFX-2 robs players of the overworld, instead just having the ship "fly" you to your desired location. Booooooo. Which brings us to...

5) Moving around: In the game, to move around the world, you have to board your ship, go to the navigator, and select a location, where you then end up beside a save point. So why not just travel from save point to save point? Because that would make too much sense, that's why. DURRR

6) The villain: Blah blah blah deprived of love of my life grrr anger will kill entire world blah BLAH BLAH WE GET IT, SHUYIN, YOU PERSONALITY-DEPRIVED ORGAN-PLAYING POORLY-DRESSED EXCUSE FOR A MAIN VILLAIN. So boring.

7) The esoteric crap: The truly great JRPGs let you explore and reward you for your curiosity. FFX-2 gives out the best secrets and prizes only to those who have game guides (or go to gaming boards). There's none of the sheer joy of poking around a newly-discovered area and getting a "Munya munya aitemu wo te in ireta!" window ("Whatever-item obtained!").

***Overall: More things to love than are annoying, plus very high replay value, so this game gets a thumbs up.

TL;DR: FFX-2 is a sequel that's better than the original.

This post brought to you by complaints about daylight savings time!

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