Final fantasy X-2: A “girly” game about moving on.
So in my last post I really quickly summed up X-2 without gushing my heart over the game due to being burned out by gushing over legend of mana. I plan to change that now.
Starting out FFx2 is considered by most to be very feminine, due to the rather Charlies angel first half, and the lack luster political drama second half. It has bright colors, cheesy plot twists, pushes a concert as saving the day a bit to much, and is all in all a flawed diamond. But why do people love this game?
Plot wise it bring closure to Yuna and the gang and showed that even after Sin they were still heroes at heart. Just because Sin is gone doesn’t mean any of them stopped being who they are and each of the old cast have moved on from warriors to leaders in their own right. In gameplay you lose the large cast of characters in almost set classes, cutting down the playable crew to three, the trade off is you have 14 (16 in HD) classes to choose from with a max of six classes you can switch to in the middle of battle. With Speical Dresspheres that act like summon beasts of old, giving you many tools to fight through Fiends and fellow Sphere hunters as you search for riches and a good time.
At this point it should be noted that X2 is a very deep game, but sadly does not balance itself to match. I’ll discuss gameplay first then narrative. So spoiler tagin the next section
In gameplay as stated before you have our three leadig ladies. Y: Yuna, R: Riku, and P: Paine. They are sphere hunters, ala treasure hunters. In battle they are aided by the Garment Grid and Drespheres, which allow them to tap into the power of the memories inside spheres. Along for the ride are the Albed crew of Buddy, Shinra, (YES THAT SHINRA) and Brother. They are so so.
X2 is a Active battle time turn based rpg, you know like almost every final fantasy. You have your class, a garment grid with your classes loaded into, and two accessories. The Garment grids give different buffs with each node you pass as you change class in battle to make the player want to change classes mid battle. Of the 16 classes you gain the ability through gear to have the skills of six classes on at any time. These classes are Black Mage, White Mage, Dark Knight, Warrior, Samurai(The best), and Berserker. This lets you build up things like a Gun Mage (I E Blue mage) Samurai, and so on.
X2 is sadly a game where as I said balance is a big issue. Your options in battle are massive but most don’t really need them, and those that do are almost all designed to be beaten by a certain trick or just mind numbingly cheap. The HD mix fixes this with a fiend arena that has new enemies of different levels of challenge as well as the ability to refight most bosses. The game is balanced to just skip all the side stuff which is a big no no for plot and like more than half the game’s content.
As I said Hd adds a fix to it but to really enjoy late game story mode you should have your characters around level 35-45 range when facing the final boss.Its really low I know but damage is based on level, and post game demands you be level 99, so yea, I suggest to fight the final boss a that range on an alt save then go back and do post game.
As for your gals, magic got nerfed quite a bit in this game, which is pretty sad. A Gunmage is the best magic class as Black mage cannot use Flare or Ultima without changing jobs mid battle to active a skill node with the ability in it. All Black mage needed was one non elemental skill that did decent damage, sadly the importance of elemental abuse ends around chapter three when you get Dark knight, Alchemist and Samurai. Gun Mage and the Yuna exclusive Festival both have better magic skills than the Black mage but black mage is one of the earliest dresspheres, and one of the earliest ways to steal mp, boost magic damage, and hit multiple targets.
I know I’m more ragging on the gameplay then bringing up the positives but basically I’d fill in “everything else” on combat. The choices you can make turn each girl into any role you could need , as stats are locked based on level across the board with the exception of the three character unique classes of Mascot, Trainer, and Festival. These jobs offer Jack of all trade skills different for each character and above average stats, however by post game only Mascot can dish out damage so the other two will be phased out for more utility based dresspheres. The game is based with team set up in mind, as a team that doesn’t mesh well will fail, even if you are fairly well leveled for the post game. A common rule is Support/Healer, A Heavy hitter and a utility class. Dark Knight, Alchemist, and a Lady Luck or Songstress fit this set up nicely among others. Though with some skills on slots you could make Lady luck, Gun mage, Physic a powerful but very low defense team. Because changing jobs do not take a turn you should set up your girls to be able to change their role if battle calls for a different out look to win.
Now onto Plot!
This game is at its core about five things. Identity, Forgiveness, Moving on from the past, the effects of the past on the future, and finally that appearances are not all there is to a person or situation.
Our lovely Lasses show each of these, though Riku is sadly the least fleshed out. In this game Yuna has a bit of Identity Crisis as we learn through her what the difference between “Yuna” and “high summoner Yuna” is. Is she a hero, or just a girl who wants to have fun? With Panie the theme of Identity is more on her revealing hers. She is the “cold bad ass” character and as the story progresses she opens up, revealing her past, how it takes part in the current plot and forgives both herself and the crimson squad. With Riku we learn Cid’s children had a falling out after with daddy after taking out Sin and basically both her and Brother are n their own for the first time and learning what that means.
In contrast to our girls we have the crimson squad, the “Leaders” of the new Spira. Baralai, a young quiet man who rarely speaks but is quick to act, and the leader of “New Yevon.,” a group that seeks to keep the peaceful teachings of Yevon alive but purge the hatred and secrets of the old Yevon cult. Nooj the oldest of the three and the most battle torn. He seemed to be missing some limbs and walks with a cane. He is the leader of the “Youth League” movement that is spreading through Spira. This movement is about finding the past through the collection of spheres and using that truth to free Spria of illusions to move. And lastly we have Gibiel. He is Ruka as a man. Joking aside he is basically the goofy light hearted character of the three to balance out the darker moods.
In the guys they are basically a more depressing version of our girls. Paine to Nooj, Baralai to Yuna and Gibiel to Riku.With just these elements we have two sets of characters go on an arc of forgiveness and repentance which our lead antagonist Shunyin represents the other side of the coin.
Our male cast is just starting the healing process, while our leading ladies by game’s end are all healed from the pasts they rejected for different reasons, and can inspire those around them to heal. Shunyin however is pretty much depressin and petty rage made manifest. Here’s the thing with this guy, he is easy to write off as a whiner, and well to be honest he is. However he is also the central conflict itself in the external and internal sense.
Spoilers at this point.
In the Crimson Sphere sidequest we learn that Shunyin is the ghost of a Blitzball player that the Fayth later used to make Tidus. His girlfriend was a high summoner and songstress named Len. So right off the bat we have the star crossed lovers who are opposite sides of the Machina war from 1000 years ago. This reflects how Tidus and Yuna were basically a modern version of Len and Shunyin, or if you wanna be rude, Len and Shunyin were made to contrast Yuna and Tidus.
Shunyin in his rage at figuring out that Len would go to the front lines, breaks into Bevelle, the capital of the force against Zanerarkkan and steals Vegnagun, our big monster of doom for this game. He is however gunned down when Len follows him and demands him to stop, hoping her people will go easy on him. They both are murdered in front of the colossi by a barrage of bullets, and the last thing we see for living Shunyin is him reaching to a departed Len before his life ends.
Now we find out later, somehow, his pyrephies ( I.E memories/soul) were locked in a cave under the Mushroom road that happened to be one of the places closest to the Farplane. Basically this cave relived those memories of his death for over a thousand years, causing the ghost to degrade into a beast of rage. The crimson squad is led into the cave for a set up one of the leaders of Yevon during the joint operation in FFX as another scapecoat. In this time however, they find a Shunyin and the whole squad is murdered by the ghost minus our three men who one of them ends up possessed by Shunyin thus letting him out.
At this point, the Crimson squad+Paine are free from Yevon, but have not found out who they are and as such wander around Spira at this point, with Nooj acting more and more cold as time goes on. All this is going on while the cast of FFX is dealing with Sin in the year before. In the end, the four decide to name Nooj their captin and the ship they sail is the world. Nooj instead shoots Panie and the otehrs. Shunyin had been breaking down Nooj’s spirit as he takes control of the body. Nooj manages to seal Shunyin back into himself and at this point Starts the Youth league.
The Crimson Sphere sidequest covers moments of the team in the past and seeing the scene where Panie is shot, though we don’t see him fire the gun. It ALSO covers the most important scene in the game. And the best boss fight.
In chapter 3, You can easily miss a scene where you have to go all the way back to the final boss of chapter two’s room to basically learn EVERYTHING. The Crimson Squad members meet in the core of Bevelle. Here Baralai demands to know what Nooj is planning and why all those years ago he shot Panie and others, and thus broke their trust. In this scene we also learn the nature of Vegnagun and how it is more than just a machine, but while being unable to perceive anything as friendly but it’s driver, the creature has a sense of self preservation and digs itself into the farplane.
Yes I said digs.
In x2 we are given a location to the far plane, and it’s the core of Spira. Not sure how I feel on this to be honest, as some part of me finds it makes it more common, but really it just falls in line with Greek versions of the under world. In a world of magic, memories of the living go to the core to exist and then be recycled to make new life and new memories. However those same memories grow resentful if they remain on the surface as the living memories interact with them and transform them into fiends.
In FFX we saw Seymor become a fiend as time went on from his Unsent self, while Auron did not, and held his humanity, though he was unsent much longer than our blue haired baddie. Shunyin acts like fiend, and has traits of one, but in the end simply never had the will to transform. He is unable to even physically interact outside a body until the final boss, in the Farplane itself, which has been shown in FFX to be able to manifest phyerephies in a more physical sense with summons, and how characters can gain things from the farplane.
Nooj reveals he desired to destroy and claim Vegnagun back in chapter two. However Vegnagun sensed this and ran away. Nooj also reveals he can have two different desires at once because Nooj isn’t alone inside himself. We find out here that though Shun yin is still nameless at this point, the beast is able to break into any mind filled with hate and despair. While hope and love make their heart stronger and able to resist him. Shunyin leaves Nooj’s body and goes into Baralai for the rest of the game.
After a disappointing boss fight, the girls discuss what they saw and Riku pressures Paine to spill, however Yuna counters that she shouldn’t be forced to reveal her past if she feels she isn’t ready. From there you see Paine smile as she considers.
My biggest issue with the game is this scene. It should not be skippable. Where it is in the plot is perfect, and in general is a powerful though exposition heavy scene. It sets up the second half of the game, the reason why Baralai is suddenly evil and missing and why Nooj and Gippeil are gone for most of the game.
You can easily miss it as the only hint is given if you choose to go to Bevelle right before the end of chapter 3. The text about the area will change saying someone saw Gippiel. and going there reveals Gippiel going into Bevelle. You follow him and get this.
The crimson squad all grow from this scene as the game progresses and they learn to heal and trust again, as the speech at the end shows. Sadly we don’t see this growth for Nooj but hey at least we see something.
Now let’s talk about Shunyin.
Shunyin in the end is basically a child like monster who is unable to forgive the world for his crime and wants to see everything burn because he died. Even in death the only thing that matters to him is Len. His love is damn near toxic but we never get to see a non evil Shunyin to see why Len liked his ass.
He does not face the past, but instead lives it daily.
He does not forgive himself or others and wants to harm others.
The future is meaningless to him.
His Identity is lost even to him as his rage has become all that is left of him.
And lastly he makes almost his whole plan in the background, thus appearing nonthreatening.
See on a first play through it is really easy to miss the scenes where Shunyin starts to build up, as again they are tied to the crimson sphere side quest. But he hits all the points I think are important to the plot and I’ve said all their is for him. But how does he reflect to Yuna? Well to answer that, think about how does Yuna win again. She lets Len’s love heal Shunyin at the end and release him from his anger.
In Spoony’s review for FFx2 he gets on Yuna HARSHLY for her plan, but I’m gonna copy paste her speech here. Afterwards I’ll explain why I love it and how it reflects her growth through two games. For context Nooj has a bumb set inside his body, he plans to shoot Baralai so Shunyin will repossess him, and then he will commit suicide. Yuna replies with this.
“I don’t like your plan. It sucks. Your plan is awful. Think
about it. It’s no different than what we did two years ago. We destroyed
our own allies. We destroyed the aeons who had fought together with us,
at our side. We didn’t have a choice then. We believed that was the
only way we could save Spira. Do you know what it felt like to watch
them die? Right before my eyes? It was the only thing we could do. It
was the only choice we had. I gave in, I accepted, I believed. I allowed
it to be true. I thought I’d be able to go through with it without ever
doubting myself. But I… it hurt so much.”
Bahamut: Forgive us.
Yuna: Everyone was so happy.
“Great job, Yuna. You did it. You saved us all.” There were too many
smiles to count. And I know that I was smiling too. But now… when I look
back… The people who should be here aren’t. The ones who should be
smiling with me aren’t here.
Jecht: We had no choice.
Yuna: “We had no choice.”
Always “we had no choice.” Those are the magic words. We repeat them to
ourselves again and again. But you know… The magic never worked! The
only we’re left with is regret.
Jecht: Yuna… I’m sorry.
Yuna: No. I don’t want this
anymore. I don’t want friends to die… or fade away. I don’t want battles
where we have to lose in order to win.
To anyone who says, and yes Spoony is on this list, that Yuna here is being silly or girly or dub because her plan is to use love to beat the hate monster, before I go over why I think this works we have to admit, Nooj’s plan does not take into account you can’t destroy phyrpephies. We never know if this plan would work, and in all honestly, most likely wouldn’t. Shunyin would be dazed for awhile sure, but Vegnagun would still be around, and while they could dismantle it while he is dazed you still have a vengeance spirit floating around in the aether, and if it does take him out, what is the cost? One life? Two at most? Why use the plan that costs lives as your first choice?
Yuna went through this already, she gave up the Fayth, you the player, had to kill them one by one. And in this journey we did it again. Shuyin has shown he can control multiple people at once, as when in the Den of Woe you have to fight Riku and Paine one at a time as Yuna. Yuna has time and time again had to sacrifice others to save the day. She knows this, and she HATES it. To her, her biggest weakness was needing to sacrifice others to win. Yuna grew up on the ideal SHE would be Spira’s sacrifice. This is why they fight Yunallesca in the first place. Yuna knew from the start that she would die, and accepted it ages ago, but she never accepted anyone else dying with or for her. She never accepts the idea that someone else would die for her, not because she wants to die, but because she believes it to be the wrong choice if someone must die.
Yuna faced off against the hope her whole life was built upon because she felt that a false hope wasn’t good enough. She felt a false hope for a tempaory peace is not enough for Spira. She didn’t resign to defeating Sin only for it to return, she made Sin’s battle more personal. In this moment she decided that Sin will not come back, as she will erase Sin. She will be hope, because Spira deserved it.
She, Yuna was reminded of how the Fayth begged her for their death. How when the final battle came, she had to watch as Yu Yevon took her protectors from her, and it was her hands that ended them. One by one, the Aeons which watched over her were killed and went silent. And during all this, she knew Tidus would end. She knew saving Spira meant losing Tidus, at least in some part. And what else could she do? She was running out of time and out of options. She let it be true, She let Yu Yevon rob her. And in the end, the Fayth are sorry. They are ashamed and in this game beg for forgiveness, which she gives.
Her regret made her run from a world that she was the hero to, which to her she felt she had not become. In this scene she shows she became that hero once more and a greater one. There was no Legacy to look up too, no one pointing her at the problem and saying she has to solve it. The world expects her to save it, but it never asked her to. She jumps head first into a problem she can solve because she is there and to her, that is all that matters.
She stopped being “High Summoner Yuna” and understood who Yuna is.
She forgives everyone and herself, which enables them all to heal.
There’s no question she moved on at this point.
Her future vision has colored every choice our lovely lady made to be the hero she is,
And finally while many say she looks weak, it is her heart that was her strongest tool.
She opened her heart and let Lenne‘s love heal Shunyin. Through out the whole game she is deciding if the conflict is hers to deal with or if she is simply doing so because it is expected of her. By the end as I’ve already said, she has found herself and remade herself to be a protector. This was Yuna’s story and in the end it is after you see the world, after you let her live in Spira without being required to be placed on the altar to die that she grows and is ready to leave the adventuring quest to find what Home is to her.
And That’s it from me. Yes I know I skipped Panie and Riku but bleh, This is long enough as is. I might revisit this tommorrow to talk about Panie and Riku and how the two are focused on Identity and appearances.