Normally on the Backlog I reminisce about how awesome some old game is, but this week, with Final Fantasy XIII-2 only days away, I need to make a shocking confession: I don’t care for Final Fantasy games. I played a bunch of them in the days of the original PlayStation but always quit long before I finished the story. Still, I keep buying the things for some reason, always convinced that the latest game will be the one that reverses my dislike of the franchise. On my game shelf are copies of the three big installments on the Playstation 2, Final Fantasy X, X-2, and XII (Which apparently isn’t the same thing as X-2). I fired up some ancient game saves and took another look around the land of Spira for the first time in nine years to see if the franchise could lure me in again.
Ten years ago I had played around a dozen hours of Final Fantasy X before deciding that I wasn’t actually having fun. All I remember is having a massive crush on the female lead Yuna, hating some sort of underwater soccer minigame, and trudging my way through an endless series of random battles.
When I started up FFX again I was quickly reminded of all the things I genuinely do appreciate about the franchise, the music is wonderful, the world is interesting, and I could stare into Yuna’s mismatched eyes for hours. But only for around a dozen hours before I become dreadfully bored.
After getting re-acquainted with the cast, I almost immediately hit a series of random fights. I could only take a few steps before finding myself ambushed by annoying little enemies who were easily crushed. Genuine challenge is only for boss monsters, the other fifty hours of the game boil down to:
Default Attack on Default Target.
As with all the other Final Fantasy games, I could pretty much just close my eyes and hammer the “X” button on my dual shock controller to get through most of the game. I had options for shaking this up a little; my characters had access to special “Overdrive” attacks that made it even easier to wipe the floor with my puny opponents. Another little twist to the combat formula is how Yuna (Lovely lovely Yuna) plays differently than Summoners in the previous games. When she conjures an “Aeon” it replaces the entire party, then proceeds to stomp the enemies. Again, this provides variety, but not any actual sense of a challenge.
At any save point in the game you have the option of playing a minigame called Blitzball, the underwater soccer thing. Early on in the game was a segment where you had to play a Blitzball game to progress. For old times sake I started a Blitzball match and immediately vowed to throw this damned game into my microwave.
Final Fantasy X is everything I hate about the series, and I’m astonished that I’ve kept it around for so long. The reason I’ve hung onto it is that I also have an old copy of Final Fantasy X-2. I had been holding on to my copy of X just so I could finish it before trying X-2.
It turns out that I actually enjoy Final Fantasy X-2. In fact I like it so much that I’ve resolved to stick with it without even bothering to finish its predecessor.
X-2 takes the world and characters of Final Fantasy X, but offers a very light-hearted, silly, girly take on saving the world. The FF games generally take themselves too seriously, so it’s a refreshing change of pace to see a game about three over-dressed girls saving the world. There’s more action, a faster pace, there’s a jump button, and the whiny hero from the last game is gone. Best of all, this time around the focus is on Yuna.
There are only three playable characters: Yuna, and a couple of girls who aren’t Yuna. Instead of having a specific class, they can each switch roles by using the “Garment Grid” which is a lot like playing dress-up with three Barbie dolls, only each time you change their clothes, they get kick-ass super powers. When you dress Rikku as a gunslinger, she becomes one. Dress Paine like a cat-girl, and she has berserker cat powers. All of this can be switched in the middle of combat, adding tactical decisions to the boring “Default attack, Default Target” system.
The Garment Grid and Dressphere reminded me a lot of the Job system in Final Fantasy Tactics. The funny thing is, I love the FF Tactics games. That’s why I ended up pulling Final Fantasy XII out of the bargain bin at Gamestop.
Another impulse buy – but I was certain that this would be the one to hold my interest because it’s set in the world of Ivalice, the same setting as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance!
Unfortunately, this game got rid of the fast-pace and silliness of FF X-2. Instead we’re right back to “Default Attack on Default Target”. But with FFXII it gets worse, players can issue commands that will make the characters continue attacking the same target with the same attack, without any player interaction!
Despite the way that it regresses somewhat in gameplay, I’m very happy to be back in Ivalice. I sunk over a hundred hours into this world back in the days of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, so I do have fond remembrances of building my Viera into a Red Mage, and dropping meteors with my Nu Mou Alchemist.
FFXII was also a late generation PlayStation 2 game; it came out just a few months before the PS3 released, so it holds up very well technologically, even supporting widescreen format (Though not actual HD graphics).
I’m willing to stick it out with FFXII due to the familiar setting, but it’ll have to wait a while on my Backlog because Final Fantasy X-2 is doing the better job of holding my attention thanks to gameplay that’s completely different from the rest of the series. Final Fantasy X on the other hand is currently smoldering inside my waffle iron.
Join me again on The Backlog next week when I explore the post-apocalyptic wasteland with a couple of classic games I should have played years ago.
Charles is a proud contributor to Default Prime, as well as the Xbox/ PC Department Lead at Player Affinity, a reviewer for The Indie Game Magazine, and a Special Agent at the U.S. Department of Electronic Entertainment.
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