My Real Emotion: A Reassessment of Final Fantasy X-2

Final Fantasy X-2 is probably one of the most hated Final Fantasy games, and to me, that is a tragedy. I have been considering my own position on the game, and this is my reevaluation of the game after playing the HD Remaster on the PS3.1

To understand my stance on Final Fantasy X-2, let’s go back into my history with the game. As a giant fan of Final Fantasy X, including having a username and email address associated with a major character, I was stoked when Square announced a direct sequel to the game–something that hadn’t been done for a mainline title yet. The year was 2003. I was in high school, and Square gave me an unapologetically feminine game starring Yuna and Rikku from the previous game, in addition to a newcomer, Paine.

There was dancing, JPop, tons of fun outfits, and the return of a tragic love story that has yet to leave me since 2001. As a teenage girl who was extremely into gaming from a young age, I was happy to play a game that was so fun and feminine, and it felt like it was thanking me for being a fan of the series. With a battle system that is so customizable and exciting, in addition to a good story about embracing who you are even after tragedy, I wholeheartedly loved Final Fantasy X-2. I bought figurines, I commissioned plushies, and I even had a friend who gave me a handmade X-2 book for my 16th birthday. I was full in on X-2.

My love of the game continued until around college. At this time though, I realized how much people disliked X-2. 2 I heard people talk about how it was the worst Final Fantasy ever, how it was a mistake, and honestly, I too adopted that rhetoric for myself. I actively made fun of Final Fantasy X-2. I actively told multiple people that it was a joke. I laughed at it and questioned why Square would make a sequel. I essentially abandoned teenage Anne in her love of an unapologetically feminine game.3 This piece is my way of reconciling my own feelings of the game and trying to make up for it all.

So WHY do people hate Final Fantasy X-2 so much?

Let’s talk about that though. Why was Final Fantasy X-2 so universally hated by people? If you look at the Metacritic for the game the critic reviews are generally good at an average of 85. If you look at the user reviews, however, it sits at a 6.6 with 405 reviews. It increasingly becomes obvious that the issue with these gamers is that it is a feminine game.

There is even a review that asks:

its[sic] way to[sic] feminine. Where are the men? Where are the pirates? Where is the red meat?

It continues with another:

Simply put, I felt like I was watching my Final Fantasy series being mashed with some horrible chick flick drivel. I mean, you have to go throw a concert in the Thunder Plains. A CONCERT! What’s next? Help Yuna go pick out that fabulous prom dress she has always dreamed about or perhaps we should go try go try [sic] and find the elusive red lipstick that was stolen by the Al Bhed! Aside from the girlish atmosphere, the game also suffered from sub-par music and rather horrible voice acting.

And another:

This game should be called Final Fantasy: Barbie. Its[sic] so feminine, I can’t believe so many GUYS are giving it the praise it DOES NOT deserve. Horrible game.

You bet those reviews are, Rikku.

Men as gamers do not want to play as women who sing, dance, or dress in different outfits, apparently. They don’t want pink or bright colors. Even if you traditionally consider these women as sexy, it wasn’t enough for them since there was such a strong female message. Yuna even stands up to the new (male) leaders of Spira at one point, blatantly telling them that their plan sucks. Yuna is a different Yuna than the one people are used to in X, and I do think that ruffled feathers a bit.4 A few reviews complained about “bikini-clad girls,” and it is not difficult to find messages on GameFAQs calling these girls sluts because of their new attire. While yes, I admit that some of the fan service is weird, the plethora of outfits and the variety of how the girls present themselves becomes more of a feminist message than a “hey, look at Yuna’s butt” one.

But why is it bad to play as women? Why is it necessarily a bad thing to have different outfits?5 Why is it bad that there is Jpop and dancing when usually Square fans enjoy Jpop?6 It’s like the Rogue One and Episode VII situation all over again–if you put a woman in the lead, some men automatically seem to shut down instead of trying to enjoy the story and gameplay. They see it as an affront, a feminist agenda, and they discount it. Final Fantasy X-2 should not be discounted, period.

Let’s talk some good stuff about X-2

Final Fantasy X-2 does a lot right. The battle system, I’d argue, is one of the best in Final Fantasy series. It can be extremely intricate if you give it a shot, and with 19 different dress spheres/job classes, you can actively change the flow of a battle. There are also dress sphere grids, which can be used to hold your dress spheres and give additional skills or boosts to your main three characters. It’s an active battle system, which makes battles feel a lot more fast paced. The loss of aeons is also okay, as you have ultimate dress spheres for each character that functions much like an aeon would.

As mentioned before, the story is all about handling loss and change. While at first it can come across as a light-hearted, strange change from X, it rapidly becomes clear that the game wants you to understand how Spira, as well as Yuna, are dealing with the loss of everything they held dear. The answer is honestly…not well. While some of the mini games and side quests can be lighthearted, this is welcome in a story that is quite emotional. You need some sort of balance in order to not be overwhelmed.

Final Fantasy X-2 additionally treats some of the playable characters of X better than X did, even though they’re only non-playable characters in X-2. Kimahri gets better character development within the mission stories of X-2 than he did in the entirety of X. In the first game, he was a bodyguard character with only a small side story of development when you got to Mt. Gagazet. However, X-2 had an overarching story with him throughout the chapters at Mt. Gagazet as a new leader and his issues dealing with leadership and the young Ronso’s reactions to him.

Wakka is much more likable (and less racist) than he was in X, and his arc in X-2 with the birth of his child and struggles with his lack of a parental example after the loss of his parents and his brother. Wakka becomes extremely likable within X-2, which is more than I can say for the original game.

You also get more insight into the other former summoners and what they have dealt with after the blow of the loss of their religion and life missions. You get love stories and family feuds. They’re all extremely well done, and Square honestly did a great job of demonstrating how people were handling the entire change of their ways of life, including the end of a centuries long threat, the end of their religion, and the loss of loved ones along the way.

It’s also worth mentioning that being feminine is not a bad thing. As someone who has played games since she was quite small, I’m overly used to playing as somebody who is not like me. I’m used to playing as men, both hyper masculine and not. It is not a bad thing to play a game that has a main character that is not the same gender as you are. Discounting the game just because of its femininity is doing yourself and the game a disservice.

So this is my reconciliation with Final Fantasy X-2.

Yes, it is a good game. Its femininity does not make it bad, much as my femininity does not make me bad. It is a fun game to play with an in depth story, lots of side missions, a non-linear gameplay, and interesting characters whom are both men and women.7 High school Anne Ladyem, you were right. This game is and was worthy of praise, and adult Anne Ladyem is here to give it. This is her story, and she made it a good one.

  1. Yes, that was 2014, and it is now 2017. I wanted to write it now. Fight me!
  2. Understatement of the year right here, and we aren’t even two months in!
  3. Am I easily impressionable? Yeah. I have issues with acceptance. Sue me.
  4. Although I say this, I still think that in both games, Yuna is a strong female lead. She is just less self sacrificing of her own happiness in X-2, which in my opinion is totally okay after all she gave for Spira.
  5. Final Fantasy V did it first, and nobody gives it crap.
  6. Looking at you, “Simple and Clean”
  7. There are a lot of dudes in this game, y’all.

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