At first I wasn't excited at the prospect of having a mission-based game. After all, this was what the Legend of Mana was like, and I never got around to finishing that game. But FF X-2's different because it's 1) the first sequel to a Final Fantasy installment, 2) its graphics were a hell lot better than the Legend of Mana, and 3) it's a Final Fantasy game. 'Nuff said.
As far as I'm concerned, Square can get away with virtually anything where Final Fantasy is concerned. And they have. This installment was released amidst a series of Final Fantasy firsts. There was a merger with Disney, when they produced Kingdom Hearts. There was FF11, which jumped into that whole online gaming craze. There was a rebirth of FF Tactics. There was FF Chronicles on GameCube. And of course, there was FF X-2. Indeed, Square appears to have the Midas touch. Of course, it's to be expected that some games sell less better than others. And FF X-2's not one of them.
As I've mentioned earier, FF X-2 is the first sequel to a Final Fantasy installment. While Final Fantasy games are independent from each other, save for some common elements like chocobos and moogles and Cids, among others, FF X-2 picks up where FF X left off. Notably, this happened during a time when sequels were hot and everybody eyed them as a fantastic way to make more money out of great series. But I do think Square had a valid reason for making a sequel out of FF X. That game set milestones of its own in terms of shattering endings.
But now Sin is gone and Spira can enjoy the Eternal Calm. The survivors of the last pilgrimage picked up what was left of their lives and moved on. Rikku became a sphere-hunter with her brother (who's really called Brother by everybody else). Kimahri became the elder of the Ronsos on Mt. Gagazet. Wakka and Lulu returned to Besaid, got married, and are expecting their first child.
Yuna went home to Besaid too, trying to live a mostly normal life. She learned how to swim and hold her breath underwater for long periods of time. And she continued to practice her whistle. Yuna still painfully remembers the price they had to pay in order to have the Eternal Calm. It was still hard for her to move on.
Then one day, Rikku came for a visit and gave Yuna a sphere. It came from Kimahri, who found it on Mt. Gagazet and figured Yuna might be interested. The sphere was very blurry, but it showed someone with amazing likeness to Tidus. Yuna knew then that she had to look for more evidence of what happened in the scene that she saw in the sphere. Then perhaps she could finally get closure and move on with her life. Naturally, Rikku was only too happy to help her out and started by making sure that Yuna shed her goody-two-shoes look in favor of a more daring look. And yes, it didn't seem possible, but Rikku's wearing less clothes in FF X-2 than she was in FF X.
Yuna's old weapons, the aeons, were gone. So now she learned the craft of being a gunner. She joined Rikku and Brother on the Celsius. She also met new faces, such as Buddy--although Buddy had to remind her that he was on the Celsius when they boarded it during their pilgrimage. There's Shinra, an Al Bhed kid who's a genius at technology. Unfortunately, whenever anybody asks him stuff he doesn't know, he responds in a small voice, "I'm just a kid." And last, there's also Paine. She's quite withdrawn, especially in comparison to Rikku. She's an expert at wielding a sword, but it was unclear to everybody on board why she decided to become a sphere hunter. Because that's what everybody on the Celsius does. They scour Spira for spheres and fetch them. There were not the only ones too.
Sphere-hunting became a popular sport in Spira, and often Yuna, Rikku, and Paine had to deal with other sphere hunters. One of them was LeBlanc and her posse, consisting of Logos and Ormi. And actually, the gameplay began when LeBlanc stole Yuna's dressphere, impersonated her, and threw a concert. Yeah. That cool video of Yuna singing and dancing "Real Emotion" really wasn't Yuna :P
And then Yuna, Rikku, and Paine soon found themselves embroiled in politics. Spira is now split into the New Yevon faction, lead by Baralai from Bevelle, and the Youth League faction, lead by Nooj from Mushroom Rock (gosh, Mushroom Rock sounded less glamorous than Bevelle). And Gippal, an influential machina specialist in Djose who claimed to be neutral, seemed to be involved in some kind of political conspiracy with the two leaders.
As Yuna, Rikku, and Paine collected more spheres, things got curiouser and curiouser. They became less positive that the person in the sphere is not whom they initially thought. They slowly learned of another summoner who lived a thousand years ago--a summoner executed with her guardian, who wanted nothing more than to protect her and prevent her from going on a suicide mission. And slowly, Yuna, Rikku, and Paine learned that this guardian died bitterly knowing that he was never able to save his summoner. Over the centuries, his anger and hate solidified and took on a life of his own. And he wanted nothing more than to take vengeance on the world.
Going through each section of the game at specific time gives you a certain percentage, and the entire game is worth 100%. If you get 100%, you will get the Perfect Ending after you defeat the final boss. The very basic is the common ending, which isn't that exciting because it doesn't show Tidus. The slightly better one is the Good Ending, where you get to see Tidus. In the Perfect Ending, you see the common ending, the Good Ending, and an additional scene with Tidus and Yuna in Zanarkand. I was told there's another ending as well, where Tidus appears in the Farplane and embraces Yuna but doesn't go with her. Never got that one. And of course, there's the bad ending, which you'll see when you die during the final battles. I'll let you figure that out for yourself :P Save often.
So to get 100% in the game, you really can't go willy nilly all over the place and do whatever you please. It sounds too anal, but it actually makes for a great game with high replay value. When you finish a game, you can have a new game+ (like Chrono Cross) and start the game over with all the items and dresspheres you acquired from your previous games. You also retain the percentage you previously got, so you can then take other routes to add to your percentage. Actually, yeah, you can go willy nilly in this game. Just don't expect to get 100% complete in one try. It took me three plays to get 100%, but that's just because I really didn't get around to having a walkthrough in front of me until the third game :D
This game uses dresspheres, which allows characters to change jobs even in the middle of battles. With the dresspheres, you can change their specialties, their weapons, and even their vital stats. It's also cool how they got to change outfits also, considering that this game has great resolution and you can appreciate the way the outfits are designed :D Other than that, I think FF X-2 has elements that are similar to previous FFs. Of course, there are no summoned monsters that are within the characters' control. FF X made sure of that.
The soundtrack is great. At first, it was kind of weird because the whole thing reeked of Charlie's Angels. You know, empowered women. Actually, a lot of gamers remarked that FF X-2 is more of a chick game. I disagree, but that's another matter entirely. Anyway, the soundtrack is great. Probably the most well-known of the FF X-2 music are "Real Emotion" and "1000 Words" by Koda Kumi. I played the American version, so these songs were translated to English and sang by Jade from Sweetbox. Took some getting used to because I was used to the Japanese version, but the English "1000 Words" grew on me. There were music in the soundtrack that are somber but very pretty, and I could listen to them for a long time. One of them is "Eternity- Memory of Lightwaves," which is the very first song you'll hear in the game, when the Start Game option is displayed. It's something I'd like to put on loop and listen to for the entire day ^_^
Similar to anime, I think the hallmark of a good videogame is to keep you rooted to your seat and your eyes glued to the TV. There really should be a rating system that goes something like "You won't be able to go to the bathroom for--a) can go anytime, b) one to three hours, c) four to six hours, d) six to eight hours, e) never." And great videogames must be classified as (e). Hmm. Not bad. There may be someting promising here...
It's true that the dresspheres and the missons take some getting used to, but the game more than makes up for it in terms of countless things that you can discover even if you already finished the game. I haven't watched a third of the scenes in the game when I finished it the first time around. Come to think of it, I never played a game three times before. Well, if you count out FF Legend II, but back then, we had nothing but a GameBoy and that was the only turn-based RPG we had. Then I played FF VII twice. I would probably play FF VIII a second time if only Square would stop releasing these games. Not that I want them to.
Notably, this game can be played without playing FF X. But I recommend playing FF X first so you can appreciate this even more. Interestingly, nobody in FF X-2 ever mentioned Tidus' name. Hmm. Anyway, this is a must-have, even if you're not a Final Fantasy fan. Go. Play it. Now. Don't forget to see what you're supposed to see in the Farplane scene.