Final Fantasy X-2 First Impressions
It's... not Final Fantasy X. Even moreso than I thought, or I've just forgotten a LOT about X. I'd always thought of X-2 as the game that was Square's attempt to get FF-level sales, with only half FF-level work. Keep most of the same world, characters, items, engine, but add on new situations. But even at fewer than 4 hours, I see so much changed.
A big example is battle. I thought for sure they'd just reuse FFX's stable of enemies, but unless I've just forgotten a lot about half of them I've seen seem new. Also, X's slower, strategic, "see who's turn it is in 5 moves" system is completely gone. Instead there's an Active Time Battle system like FFs IV-IX, but more active. Things generally seem to be quicker, and can actually be happening at the same time. If in quick succession you tell someone to steal from an enemy, and have another character attack that enemy, it's possible character 2 will have killed the enemy while character 1 is on her way to steal from it.
Movement outside of battle is different too, though more in a negative way I think. Now you'll occasionally use the O button to pull yourself onto ledges, or make a jump. Timing a jump poorly may mean you end up walking over the edge, so you'll need to climb back up, take a few steps back, and try to run and jump again. This wouldn't be so annoying if there still weren't the same old random battles that could pop up in the middle of this.
The sphere grid system as we know it is gone. In its place is a job system most similar to FF Tactics (which itself was similar to the job system of FF V). Though you only have three main characters, each can switch between classes and earn AP towards new moves of your choice out of whichever are displayed. The big difference in this game is that a character can change their class in the middle of battle. Here's where a miniature sphere grid comes into play; you put the classes onto these minor grids, and a character can switch to any classes that are connected to the class they currently are. Different grids have different shapes, or sometimes give temporary stat bonuses if you pass through a certain line. Thus far the classes I have access to are Gunner, Warrior, Thief, Songstress (combination Dancer/Bard), White Mage, and Black Mage.
The music is also completely different. I was totally looking forward to stopping by Besaid Island to listen to one of my favorite FFX tracks, but... nope. Gone gone gone.
The biggest change from FFX, though, is just the feel. In FFX you're a group in a world that's repeatedly being shat upon, without an easy solution in sight. Thus far in FFX-2 I'm seeing a world that's taking a deep breath for the first time in a long time. The journey is not about saving the world (at least yet), but about having an interesting time hunting out and trying to learn the secrets of spheres that are located throughout the world. Rikku is as cheerful and cutesy-annoying as ever, but now Yuna's more willing to play along. Sometimes a little TOO cheerful. I do, though, quite enjoy some of the outside references used for occasional voice snippets in battle, like Songstress Yuna saying "Eyes on ME!" or Rikku upon entering battle with several serpents going "Snake, snake, SNAKE!!"
Perhaps I'm overanalyzing the meta-tude, but I can't help but think that an FF fan's initial reaction to the game might be similar to the game characters' attitude towards Zanarkand. They seem totally cheesed that this place that was so sacrosanct to them has become full of tourists hoping floodlights get installed. As a guy who enjoys seeing things shaken up but has also been a Final Fantasy nerd for nearly half my life, I feel pulled in different directions.