An unworthy sequel, but it could have been worse
Final Fantasy X-2 is the first direct sequel in the Final Fantasy series. In this review I'll assume you know a little about the mighty Final Fantasy series of RPGs, because if you don't, you should play them but for sure not start with this game ! (if this is your case you must without a doubt check for older games in the series, they are absolutely awesome despite their age and are way better than this). Now for Final Fantasy veterans, let's continue...
Back when that game were released, I haven't finished FFX yet so I wouldn't rush on it anyway, and everyone who played that games told me how badly it sucked. Most people seemed to badly hate this game, so I considered it wasn't worth playing, after all I loved FFX and I didn't want to ruin that. (although reviews on the net doesn't look as bad as what most of my friends said).
But a few years later, after I finished FFX a second time, I was still curious enough to play the game (copies are a lot cheaper than when the game was released). I basically played the game to see how bad it was. But I was almost surprised to see it's not *that* bad. It's definitely by far not as good as previous FF games, but I never excepted it to, and maybe that's why I don't hate that game as much as most people do.
Anyway when it comes to the good points, I should mention the battle system is pretty interesting, ATB system is back (CTB was very good in FFX, but ATB was also very good in FF4-9), for people that doesn't know what this means, there is again a time meter for all of your characters that fills with time and allow you to do an action when it's full.
The job system from FF3 and FF5 is back too (for those who have played them), but this time it's slightly different, and you can change jobs (called vetishperes) during battle, which is cool (the drawback is that being used to this makes FF3 and FF5 harder...)
The jobs you get are a mostly classical jobs (*insert color here* mage, fighter, thief), and a few brand new jobs too. Also, black and white mages can't attack physically at all, which encourages job switching during battle.
While Final Fantasy X was extremely linear (and in fact I liked it that way), Final Fantasy X-2 claims to be unlinear. In fact I'd say it's half unlinear, as the game take places in 5 acts, and you still have to do them in order. But you're not forced to do all available missions, and you can do them in any order. That's cool, but the price for that is a flat storyline (see below).
The graphics are pretty good too, and detailed (although way too much ripped of FFX). A couple of music songs found in the game are really good.
The most interesting thing to do in a RPG, among with battles and story, is to discover a new world. Unfortunately FFX-2 sets up in a world the player already knows (unless he has never played FFX, which isn't likely the case). So there is few really new to discover of course there is brand new dungeons, and some places have really changed (Kilika comes to mind), but aside of that you'll be disappointed how unexciting it is to go through the exact same places again but just with a different goal.
As much as the story is unlinear, it's really flat, boring and almost pathetic. You take the control of Yuna, Rikku (from FFX) and Paine (*not* from FFX). As you should probably known if you finished FFX, Tidus has disappeared as he was a dream all along, and of course, Yuna who loved him is not very happy about that (this is understandable). 2 years later, Yuna finds a sphere (remember those sphere in FFX that can hold videos ? They are back here.) with a guy that looks like Tidus. She somehow joins with Rikku, her brother Brother and the unknown Pain to form a group called the Gullwings in order to go sphere hunting.
At the same time Spira seems to go into war again as there is political parties that fight against each other aggressively. Your goal : To find Tidus! In fact I didn't understand the story, I feel like I completely missed something here (maybe this is due to the fact I didn't play the game very frequently (to to it not be attractive enough), so I forgot some parts of it).
Considering how the stories of previous Final Fantasy games were awesomely awesome (in fact is was their #1 selling point), this is kind of degrading to them to give them a sequel like that. Sure, a bad story doesn't make a bad game (gameplay is more relevant), but it will make you less likely to turn on the PS2 with the game in question when you're bored. I sometimes almost found myself thinking "oh no, I should play FFX-2 half an hour before doing my homework". This is backwards as it would supposed to be.
The graphics are detailed, but not only all backgrounds and characters are from FFX (only Yuna, Rikku have their models changed, and a few new characters have appeared like Paine and some others), but almost all enemies and boss are just ripped off FFX. They made little effort here, but in the end it ends up all right because latter places to discover didn't exist in FFX, and later bosses aren't from FFX.
Although a couple of pieces of music are really good (title screen theme is awesome), most of the music heard in that game is complete crap. The battle music is disastrous, and most other songs tends to try being that modern pop style which is annoying to hear.
Again how awesome the music of previous Final Fantasy games is, it's really a scandal they couldn't give anything better here. Sure Uematsu
(composer of FF1-9 and half of FF10) isn't at square any longer, but who cares ? The ambient style of FFX was different, but good too, and there is plenty of good video game music composers around (the music of most non-FF Squaresoft games aren't by Uematsu at all, and still are very good if not even better).
The ATB system seems to slow down terribly when your characters are wounded, which is NOT good, since you'd want to heal them as quickly as possible. Sometimes the bosses can attack 5 times while one of your girl only attack 1 time, which is unfair. Even with that the game is easy except some later bosses which can be annoying. I still had to look at some online FAQs to be able beat the last boss.
Also Brother seems to seriously hangs on Yuna (in addition to being incredibly stupid), but they are cousins aren't they ? Does Squaresoft promote incest or does they just not remember relations between their own characters ? This is terribly bad.
The Bottom Line
I played Final Fantasy X-2 basically to see how bad it is, and in fact I ended up being surprised because it's not all that bad. But definitely it's not a must-have hit like almost all Final Fantasies released prior to this, and it's merely an average game at best. It's playable, but definitely not great at all.
Also, the length is shorter than in FFX, playing FFX takes about 35-40 hours, while this games only lasts 25-30 hours (depending on how much sidequests you do, I guess I did a good 70% of them personally, but I haven't checked any walkthrough). Ironically, playing FF7, 8 or 9 on the "old" PS1 would take about 80-100 hours for each. Square seems to release shorter and shorter games. For me it's not that much an issue, as I wouldn't want to play FFX-2 for much longer anyway, and if I want truely awesome games I know I shouldn't buy them from Square anymore, yes, time has changed.
But while it definitely isn't a very good game, it's not the worst of Final Fantasy series as some people says. I personally find that at least Final Fantasy II
for the NES (that most people haven't played, or not on the NES at least) is far worse, so FFX-2 is at least the second worse of the series, which isn't that bad. '2' should really a cursed number for games.
Even if you are a fan of FFX and haven't played this yet, I'd suggest playing FFX again once more, it'd be just as much fun and you don't have to buy an additional game. If you are very curious and see a copy for cheap, I'd say go for it, but be warned that the story is crappy and uninteresting, that most things are ripped from FFX and that only the battle system is any good.
If you decide to not play this game, I can't say you really missed anything.