We've been dutifully going through Final Fantasy X-2 since the game's Japanese release last month. We've been impressed by how consistent the game is about maintaining its quirky atmosphere. The rather odd juxtaposition of solid gameplay and camp hasn't really faltered since the loopy J-pop-dance-number/battle at the game's start. The different missions you'll undertake as the sassy trio and the cinemas that propel the game's narrative forward work together to create a very distinct tone. Overall, we have to say we've been pleased by the balance that's been struck between the serious and downright silly elements we've encountered.
One of the more pleasant surprises in the game, aside from the sassy clothing Yuna, Rikku, and Paine will be donning, are the actual mechanics. The game makes some changes to the standard Final Fantasy formula by incorporating a new mission-based structure, placing a greater emphasis on platforming elements, and tweaking its predecessor's combat engine, among other things, though it still covers its bases in terms of delivering what you'd expect from a game with the Final Fantasy name. The combat engine has some quirks to master, such as the best way to time your attacks to cause the most damage, but the dress sphere system offers a surprising amount of depth and adds a unique strategy element, both in and out of combat, thanks to the abilities and effects of the different outfits. Besides the sometimes peculiar enhancements afforded by new threads, the ability to accessorize the characters' outfits proves to be a cool distraction that will likely have you longing for the right accessory to pull together your butt-kicking ensemble.
The mission-based structure of FFX-2, while obviously linear at its core, features a healthy dose of side quests and minigames to liven up the game's main set of missions. As mentioned in our previous looks at the game, the missions offer a unique selection of tasks that are tiered according to their numeric story level. Each mission features a star rating that represents its difficulty when you highlight it on the game's world map. The missions will range considerably in terms of length and what you're expected to do. At the start of the game, many are short and sweet--for example, you'll simply be required to explore a particular area or defeat a boss. As you go further into the game and take on higher-level missions, you'll be given more-involved tasks that take longer to get through. However, you'll still find quite a few short missions that help keep the pace moving at a decent clip. For example, after a stretch of long missions, you'll get a significantly shorter mission that requires you to do something like poll people on the street for their opinions or sell tickets to locals. The mission selection will also feature far more eccentric tasks to perform, such as giving massages and enjoying a brief musical performance. The balance between length and challenge in the mission selection is quite good and keeps the game from losing momentum. This also holds true when you deviate from the main set of missions and start to explore the varied side quests available to you in each story level. In addition to providing some unique challenges, the side quests can reward you with some powerful additions to your wardrobe and accessory collection that will offer some significant stat boosts. As a bonus, you'll also stumble on some minigames that should please Yuna's more obsessive fans, such as a dancing minigame.
Final Fantasy X-2's quirky charm has won us over. The game looks great, features an engaging and often funny assortment of missions, and offers an eccentric story that's populated with a host of unique characters. Final Fantasy X-2 is set to ship later this year for the PlayStation 2. Until then, be sure to check out our new media on the game.