A much more light-hearted adventure than Final Fantasy fans are used to.
For better or worse, Final Fantasy X-2 is linked both practically and spirituality to its predecessor. If you want to play X-2 on Switch, you’ll have to purchase Final Fantasy X as well and we’ve got an opinion on whether that’s a purchase worth considering here. To play it as a standalone game just doesn’t make sense. X-2 truly is a victory lap as it explores the world of Spira after the fallout of the destruction of Sin. As light and fun as it is, without prior knowledge of the characters and events of Final Fantasy X, the experience rings hollow and not even the wonderful dress-sphere system is able to save it.
Final Fantasy X-2 picks up right after the events that led to the destruction of Sin and the disappearance of the main protagonist, Tidus. The world of Spira is adjusting to life during the Eternal Calm and its citizens are forging new ways forward during this time of peace. The heroes of this tale are the Gullwings; a group of sphere-hunters that include the former High Summoner Yuna, the Al Bhed daughter of Cid, Rikku, and the ever mysterious newcomer, Paine. Travelling around Spira thanks to an airship, the trio visit familiar locations collecting spheres for income with the secondary goal of discovering the fate of Tidus, who just happens to be Yuna’s love interest from Final Fantasy X.
The more playful atmosphere is a welcome feeling after making it through the religion-heavy experience of Final Fantasy X. Again an existential threat to Spira threatens the peace, but for the most part the Gullwings have a whole lot of fun dealing with the threat. This is no better exemplified than through the main antagonists, the Leblanc Syndicate, a rival group of sphere-hunters that share a lot of similarities with Team Rocket of Pokémon fame. The dialogue is light and goofy, with a fair share of both funny and cringe-worthy jokes.
The hunt for spheres takes the Gullwings to all corners of Spira, visiting new and familiar locations alike. Places like Besaid Island and Mt. Gagazet re-introduce past protagonists like Wakka, Lulu, and Kimahri and provide insight into their lives post-Sin. If you still remember the characters and care about their well being, it’s a nice addition, but otherwise the context is completely absent. Unfortunately, a variety of nonsensical puzzles occasionally interrupt progression. Keep a guide handy, as you could easily spend hours fumbling around trying to find what should be a simple solution. For example, one mission requires infiltration and extraction of the Leblanc Syndicate main base. On the way out, a spiked wall will attempt to crush the heroes and the only way to disarm it is to push three buttons. Two of those buttons are clearly visible, the third however requires you to purposefully walk into the spiked wall, seemingly to your doom, only to trigger a video which shows the heroes dodge it at the last second and jump to an unreachable ledge which houses the final button. Without a guide, the only way you would be able to proceed is by willfully trying to end your suffering.
The most notable feature, and the best reason to play Final Fantasy X-2, is the wonderfully-designed Garment Grid and dress-sphere combat system. Dress-spheres work like the job system, applying different roles to each character depending on how they dress. At any given time, each member of the trio can be a Warrior, Black Mage, Songstress, or a number of other classes. The range of job classes provides a highly customizable avenue to play as you see fit.
Garment Grids indicate the number of dress-spheres a character can carry into battle and provide different stat buffs and abilities that can be equipped. A number of different Grids are found throughout Spira and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Healing grids provide advanced recovery techniques while defence grids provide additional protection against attacks. The Garment Grids also vary in the number of dress-spheres they can equip.
The downside to the grid system is that new abilities are unlocked through repeated use of specific dress-spheres, which discourages experimentation. One other noticeable issue is the overpowered special dress-sphere that can be used once all dress-spheres have been activated in a single-battle. Yuna’s special dress-sphere is the Floral Fallal, an incredibly powerful dress with strong attacks and potent recovery abilities. Though it is a whole lot of fun to activate, it’s easy to start using it a crutch instead of developing different viable strategies.
In a lot of ways, Final Fantasy X-2 could be considered the superior title to Final Fantasy X. The battle system has more variety, the tone is more upbeat and fun, but without the context of the events that occur in the first game, the story just won’t make a lot of sense. I definitely recommend exploring Spira during what should be the eternal calm, but not until after you’ve actually defeated Sin.