Surviving Final Fantasy X-2: Episode 2 - Why Is There A Massaging Minigame? WHY?!

Author's Note: Here's a link to Part One

Part 14: I Have Many Regrets, So Many Regrets

Here's your friendly reminder of how fucked the faces look in the HD Remaster
Here's your friendly reminder of how fucked the faces look in the HD Remaster

I feel much better today than I did when we last talked. I was on my deathbed then. I could, in fact, DIE if I played the previous five hours of Final Fantasy X-2. It would have been a fitting and poetic end to my life, but I survived because the “Paine Train” does not stop. In a way, I feel I was not meant to expire peacefully. I can only imagine this game was designed to torture me with every fiber of its being until I am a wretched puddle of self-hate and filth.

I’ll be honest, the second chunk of Final Fantasy X-2 wasn’t my worst video game experience. It wasn't even my worst Final Fantasy experience. Chapter two's final sequence was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, the first four hours are the biggest pile of shit I have ever seen my entire life. When you even those two out, I guess you could argue the second chapter was unexpectedly mediocre. It barely avoids being a complete disaster but fails in every other regard.

I would like to have fun as well.
I would like to have fun as well.

One of my fundamental issues with Final Fantasy X-2 stems from the structure of its narrative. Each chapter launches with a novel premise to get the story rolling. For the better part of six hours, Yuna's hope of once again seeing Tidus is all we have. It is a nebulous premise, but it's there and easy enough to understand. Another point to the game's credit is its surprising bookends. At the end of chapter one, I wanted to see what became of the Gullwings after plundering the "Awesome Sphere." Upon the conclusion of chapter two, I wanted to investigate what was causing the return of the Aeons.

Final Fantasy X-2 does not lack exciting plot points. It has plenty. My problem is it juxtaposes from one anecdote to another with vapid nothingness. The Gullwings rarely interact with other sphere hunters, despite the game positing it as a burgeoning industry. After presenting issues with the Awesome Sphere, the game transitions to a concert scene. Following a fight with Bahamut, YRP performs errands for old friends. What momentum the game has, it wastes with inconsistent storytelling, aimless fetch quests, and inscrutable minigames. It is a problem the game never shirks away. Even when the story crafts compelling set pieces there is a narrative sword of Damocles hanging ominously in the periphery.

What's the worse that could happen? Oh, I regret saying that already....
What's the worse that could happen? Oh, I regret saying that already....

Part 15: Just As Things Were Getting Interesting, The Story Stops Dead In Its Tracks

For the sake of posterity, let me get one thing about Final Fantasy X-2 straight. The reason Yuna is on this adventure is she believes Tidus is wandering the landscape of Spira. Why can't the game be bothered to outright state this to the audience? We instead get several desultory soliloquies about how much Yuna misses Tidus. Worse yet, Yuna meanders for what feels like an eternity and does not proactively progress the events of the story. The same could be said about the overall narrative. For fuck's sake, the game lacks a clearly defined villain until chapter four!

And what grown adult writes shit like this?
And what grown adult writes shit like this?

So let's look at the story. After a brief celebration of sorts, the Gullwings watch the contents of the Awesome Sphere. The orb, much like every orb before it, shows grainy and assy looking closed-circuit television footage. The footage this time around depicts a Tidus looking doppelgänger interacting with a monstrous robot. Right off the bat, the game sabotages its story. I know it's not Tidus, you know it's not Tidus, and no reasonable human being would believe the person in the footage is Tidus. But the story needs you to play along with Yuna's naiveté far longer than it should. The doppelgänger neither looks nor sounds like Tidus, so why does it stick with this premise for as long as it does?

I will concede my previous point is more of a nitpick rather than a legitimate criticism. What I refuse to excuse is how the game cannot be bothered to build upon the mystery of fake Tidus UNTIL CHAPTER THREE! At no point do we witness Yuna furthering an investigation on this doppelgänger, and new developments are provided through convenience. In one scenario, Lulu shares an orb with footage of a dickwad who looks like Tidus. Yuna does NOTHING in response to this footage, and the game juxtaposes to aimless faffing about.

This pacing is WEAK SAUCE!
This pacing is WEAK SAUCE!

Start-stop storytelling kills whatever goodwill I have for the novel ideas Final Fantasy X-2 presents. By the time Shuyin finally becomes a factor, I have already wallowed in hours of mindless minigames and several disparate subplots. None of this would have been an issue if the game connected its many plotlines within a narrative frame. How does Paine's mysterious backstory connect with Yuna's quest to see Tidus? What is all this fussing about Vegnagun meant to convey? How does the civil war between New Yevon and the Youth League relate to anything?

Part 16: 90% Of The Story Is A Colossal Waste Of Your Time

The Gullwings finish duping the two most prominent factions in post-Sin Spira, and the story goes nowhere for hours. Remember that horrible monster from the video? No one from the Gullwings bothers to follow-up on what that may be. What's the deal with Doppelgänger Tidus? He's dropped like a sack of potatoes until chapter four. Anything which would have added stakes or urgency to the plot is immediately forgotten. Instead, the story cobbles together a meandering concert scene on the deck of the Celsius. I wish I were joking.

WHY DO YOU NO LONGER GIVE A SHIT ABOUT FINDING THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE!
WHY DO YOU NO LONGER GIVE A SHIT ABOUT FINDING THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE!

Brother, whose infatuation with Yuna knows no bounds, demands Yuna dance because his "sanity depends on it." Yuna agrees and suddenly forgets the reason she joined the Gullwings. The love of her life may be wandering the outskirts of Spira, but she inexplicably does not give a shit. For a character the game wants you to believe is an altruist, Yuna's moral compass is scattershot. She's willing to steal a sphere because it might have footage of Tidus, but encouraging tourism in Zanarkand is untenable.

Can we talk about Brother's crush for Yuna? Who thought that was a good idea? Correct me if I am wrong, but Brother is Rikku's brother. I recall Final Fantasy X making this point abundantly clear. And if Rikku is Yuna's cousin, this makes Brother Yuna's first cousin. Why are there incestual themes in a Final Fantasy game? Did no one think this through?

Incestual themes played for comedic value, mind you.
Incestual themes played for comedic value, mind you.

Going back to my main issues with Final Fantasy X-2, I hate how the story uses Yuna. Yuna oscillates between a variety of emotional states at the drop of a hat. In this scenario, Yuna goes from complaining about the weapon in the video, fawning over fake Tidus, questioning who Lenne is, and saying silly shit! I can never claim Final Fantasy X-2 doesn't depict honest emotions, but it transitions to each of its emotional states at a breakneck pace. The consequence is no one scene can adequately resonate. The concert on the Celsius isn't allowed to provide the characters with "breathing room," because Yuna needs to shout angrily into the air. Which leads me to my next point:

Part 17: Yuna's Characterization Doesn't Make Sense

Humor a brief thought experiment for my sake. What words best describe Yuna in Final Fantasy X? The first two words that come to my mind are "altruist" and "selfish." I would even hazard to say "naïve," but Yuna matures over the course of the story and shakes away her rose-colored glasses by the game's final act. In the end, Yuna was a character who perfectly exemplified the themes of Final Fantasy X. She was a character willing to sacrifice her well-being in a devastated world looking for hope.

While the
While the "real" Yuna please stand up?

Over the course of two years, Yuna undergoes a massive and dramatic personality change. The Yuna we see in Final Fantasy X-2 is selfish, self-entitled, and materialistic. Yuna also goes from being diplomatic and deliberative to being impulsively violent. Her White Mage's staff has been retired for guns, and when confronted with a challenge she resorts to violence first. Other aspects of her characterization feel "off." Instead of sharing the collective history of Spira, she seeks to plunder it and sell it for profit. When the Awesome Sphere is no longer useful to her, Yuna's immediate reaction is to pawn it to one of Spira's factions.

Back to the concert scene on the Celsius. Here we see the primary cast relaxing and having a good time. Then, Yuna ends their private party when she becomes frustrated at the prospect of Tidus eloping with another woman. It has been literal HOURS since we last saw the Awesome Sphere, but the game painfully lays out Yuna's frustrations have been brewing since. This scene highlights two additional problems with X-2's characterization of Yuna. First, she's possessive. Tidus is HER MAN, and the sheer mentioning of another female name has her in a tizzy.

Maybe all that J-pop has gone to your head, Yuna.
Maybe all that J-pop has gone to your head, Yuna.

Second, she is incredibly materialistic. Remember the ruins of Zanarkand? Those ruins are hers, and hers alone! The game's mechanics worsen this issue further. Yuna's eyes widen at the sheer mentioning of new dresses and Garment Grids. The game requires this concession because the dresssphere system is all it has going for it. If Yuna doesn't give a shit, then why should we? But this comes at a significant cost. Our female cast gaining empowerment by acquiring physical goods isn't just problematic, it unpins everything we already know about the ethos of Final Fantasy X.

I guess these niggling issues prevent me from viewing this game as empowering for women. Sure, the cast is entirely female, but beyond that, the characters are held back by Square's outdated pre-conceptions of what women think and feel. The motions of the story are rarely in the hands of our protagonist. Major plot pieces are handed to Yuna out of convenience. And if the game honestly cared about framing Yuna as a source of empowerment it would have spent less time showing her fretting about Lenne, and more time contextualizing her character transformation.

Then all of the sudden, X-2 develops some
Then all of the sudden, X-2 develops some "grit!"

Part 18: So Much Wasted Potential

I have a few glowing takeaways from Final Fantasy X-2's story. The most prominent stems from the dream sequence Yuna experiences after the concert. Tidus and Yuna run through a series of corridors before being shot by several guards. It is one of the few times the game piques the interest of its audience by subverting their nostalgia. The game presents a series of visuals which look and feel right, but you know something is "wrong." There's only one issue....

What does the story do with this unique premise? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! No shit, Lenne isn't mentioned again until the conclusion of chapter three! After Yuna wakes up, the game promptly juxtaposes to a banal moral dilemma which proves pointless to the progression of the story. Never have I ever felt a game's simplicity as painfully as I did when presented my two choices for who to give the "Awesome Sphere." Even Rikku has the sense to say what is on everyone's mind!

Who would have guessed Rikku of all people would be the voice of reason!
Who would have guessed Rikku of all people would be the voice of reason!

I see what the game was trying to do here, and that's why it pains me to place it on a dye and smack it. Presenting the player with an early judgment call is intriguing. When the game asks you to pick between New Yevon and the Youth League, you feel as uncomfortable as Yuna. You don't know either camp all that well, and each is lead by extremists whose motives are unknown. To the game's credit, it makes good on the consequences of your choice. Your journey becomes harder during different sequences depending on your preference.

But why is this choice so stunningly superficial? The game painfully begs you to select the Youth League. New Yevon wants religious dogma to guide the future of Spira, and the Youth League supports technology and free access to information. What's there to debate? The game casts the Youth League's leader, Nooj, as untrustworthy out of narrative necessity. Nothing leading up to this point frames him as being deceitful. To add insult to injury, having the audacity to side with New Yevon prevents you from seeing the "true" ending.

Also, Nooj's character model is DUMB! It is Nomura at his worst.
Also, Nooj's character model is DUMB! It is Nomura at his worst.

What should be an authentic moral dilemma is impaired by X-2's superficiality. It is a clash between "conservatives" and "liberals" with as much tact and craft as a forum thread debating birth-control or unionization. It attempts to use case studies on how Spira is split between two dominant factions, but even here it stumbles. Dona and Barthello are on opposite sides, but the game never surfaces how this wedge impacts their relationship. They have differences, they bicker, and that's it. There are exciting concepts worth exploring, but Final Fantasy X-2 stubbornly refuses to engage in higher orders of thinking.

Part 19: Side Quest Nonsense - Everything Makes Me Feel Empty Inside

Final Fantasy X-2 has a dark secret. The "elephant in the room" is over sixty percent of the game is mindless filler. These sequences attempt to justify their existence by showing off a smattering of familiar faces from Final Fantasy X. With a story as un-guided and erratic as Final Fantasy X-2, pandering fanservice is NOT a panacea. There are massive "dragons" worth slaying in Final Fantasy X-2, but it is more concerned with idle thumb twiddling.

I'm in a world populated by shit!
I'm in a world populated by shit!

I still interacted with the side quests more than I will admit. My journey into boredom started in Besaid where a clown named "Beclem" challenged Yuna to a shooting gallery. The minigame here is so simple it isn't worth mourning. Monsters appear on the screen, and you shoot them. Depending on your score, Yuna is awarded different rewards for her efforts. It's just one example of Final Fantasy X-2's structural shortcomings. What I want to talk about is Beclem.

I mentioned it in the previous episode, but it is worth repeating. It makes no sense there are as many people mad dogging Yuna as there are in Final Fantasy X-2. I get the game wants to instill the player with a sense of obligation, but Beclem's no-nonsense posturing is beyond moronic. The story wants you to understand there's a new generation who wishes to trash the practices of the past, but it bludgeons you over the head with its simplicity. It's also another case of the story wanting to have its cake and eat it. The game can't have the world worshiping Yuna as a celebrity and then questioning her necessity without realizing there's an anachronism.

But who cares? Here's more fanservice to distract you from these shortcomings.
But who cares? Here's more fanservice to distract you from these shortcomings.

I swear to God, every time X-2 realizes its pacing is ebbing, it carelessly exploits your nostalgia. With Shelinda's interview, the game puts the pointlessness of the story under a brighter spotlight. Shelinda interviews Yuna about her stance regarding New Yevon and the Youth League. The airless and hollow words of Shelinda underscore the inconsequential nature of our previous dilemma. Multiple characters brush off the conflict between the two factions as "no big deal." These words fly contrary to the story framing the two camps as being one step away from war.

I know I am guilty of "back seat writing" on this blog series. Who am I, an amateur blogger of all things, to tell veteran writers what to include in their scripts? But what I do not understand is why so many plot points in X-2 are in direct conflict with one another. Here, characters are seen lounging around as the world is itching to go to war. The game neuters the only source of drama it has going for it! In fact, the whole conflict between New Yevon and the Youth League feels like a minor inconvenience to the rest of the world.

And whoever made Sphere Break needs to get punched.
And whoever made Sphere Break needs to get punched.

Now it is time for a bit of "role-playing!" Let's stick with two dominant factions, but one has official governing powers. The other camp (i.e., the Youth League) is more of a resistance movement. In comes Vegnagun who fills the role of Sin from the previous game. I know this sounds like I'm asking for the same story in Final Fantasy X, but here's where the two factions come into play. The two factions have different and distinct approaches on how to handle this new menace, and Yuna is the one with the "final say." Perhaps we see one of the faction leaders extolling the need for Spira to "make the ultimate sacrifice," because no Final Fantasy game is complete without heavy-handed symbolism. For fuck's sake, have the in-game choices mean something, and the rest of the world invested in what is happening!

Part 20: Side Quest Nonsense - Catching Chocobos STILL Suck

A constant annoyance I have with the side quests stems from their erratic length. Some side quests are accomplished immediately upon entering a level. Others, like catching a wild Chocobo, go on excruciatingly long. Some missions subject you to bosses harder than anything in the main story, and others boil down to one-off minigames. Don't get me started on the in-game difficulty ranking system. Those ranks are such a crock of shit I do not know where to begin.

God have mercy on my soul.
God have mercy on my soul.

This mission just sucks. It sucks so much. I cannot believe I used hours of my finite existence to get Calli a Chocobo. I cannot comprehend why this took as long as it did. First, you chase after the Chocobo. Then you have to corner the Chocobo. In between, you still have to contend with the game's random encounters. Finally, the mission culminates with a battle against a Chocobo Eater, because hey, remember when you last fought this asshole? Remember Final Fantasy X? Remember how Final Fantasy X is ten times better than Final Fantasy X-2?

Then there's Tolbi... he sucks.
Then there's Tolbi... he sucks.

Every mission you spend with Tobli is a gargantuan waste of time. What does the game gain from including this pipsqueak? How do any of his errands build up the world of Spira, or progress the plot? The only sense of progression we get out of his character arc is he's a shitty business person. Why does the writing prioritize Tobli's side quests over an investigation into Vegnagun? Here I am, openly questioning why Yuna has forsaken being a High Summoner, but it instead provides a scene where we sell tickets to Tobli's concert! Where is the justice in that?

It is important to note; we aren't exploring a new world or unknown locations. Likewise, the game's lack of world-building is hard to stomach. Outside of a few exceptions, the world doesn't change because of your decisionmaking. Take for example the mystical band from the Macalania Woods. They drone about how the forest is "dying," but do we ever seen the woods deteriorate or disappear? NOPE, because the designers couldn't take the time to program a new location!

Wonderful, my favorite part of FFX was collecting butterflies.
Wonderful, my favorite part of FFX was collecting butterflies.

Part 21: Side Quest Nonsense - Fuck The Pain Away

What did I do to deserve this Hell?
What did I do to deserve this Hell?

What am I doing with my life? How has it come to this nonsense? Who thought playing matchmaker for a bunch of monkeys was worth the player's time? Did someone at Square read "Journey to the West” before production began? I'm not joking! There's an entire level which boils down to you setting up monkeys to fuck! That's the plot. Someone wrote this trash and thought it was a good idea.

The nonsensical nature of the ordeal is one thing, but how long it takes to complete is another. The design team maximizes the time wasted on this godforsaken minigame. The monkeys are spread across six rooms, and there are loading screens to boot. There's no world building to be had. You're just stuck trying to get a dozen monkeys to fuck. Other levels fared none better. If you take the time to explore the Thunder Plains, you'll find a dejected Cid lamenting his business efforts in Zanarkand. What does this have to do with fake Tidus, Vegnagun, or the war between New Yevon and the Youth League? The world will never know!

Here's more fanservice to hold you over!
Here's more fanservice to hold you over!

Final Fantasy X-2's deep cuts are enervating. Does the game honestly think it can just toss a bunch of named characters from Final Fantasy X and expect a positive reaction? You can't just roll characters like Clasko or Calli in my direction and hope I give a damn! That might work for Wakka or Lulu, but for everyone else, there needs to be scaffolding. By not taking this necessary step, X-2 makes its characters feel less like real people, and more like Skinner Boxes. The only characters you have reason to care about are the ones with quests and rewards.

There's not much to talk about regarding Clasko's dungeon crawl. He wants to open a Chocobo pen in the former home of the monster arena. Boom, done, let's all move on with our lives! There is, however, one niggling issue Clasko's side quest brings up. Final Fantasy X-2's dungeons are DOG SHIT! Say what you will about the cloister puzzles, and those were their own circle of Hell, but at least they each had a distinct look and feel. X-2's dungeons are cookie-cutter rubbish I'd expect out of a level generator. I shit you not, I have seen better and more dynamic dungeons from GameMaker!

When will my dreams come true? Someone hold me.
When will my dreams come true? Someone hold me.

So, let's play a game. Down below I have pulled screenshots from four of Final Fantasy X-2's dungeons. My task is for you to guess the source of the pictures. For example, if you think image #1 came from Mt. Gagazet, you would say that for your answer. Before you ask, no, none of the images are repeats of the same location. Each image is from an entirely different dungeon.

Answers: Bevelle, Djose Temple, the Calm Lands, and the Thunder Plains

This design choice is beyond problematic. First off, a majority of Final Fantasy X-2 occurs in regions previously seen in Final Fantasy X. Some of the levels are the same, and others are palette swaps of familiar environments. These dungeons comprise a majority of your time outside of recognizable surroundings. The fact they are the same monotonously drab environments detracts from what little sense of discovery the game has going for it. There's nothing to be uncovered in these dungeons. They are insultingly linear with no wiggle room for exploration. Much like the rest of the game, you have a feeling they were included to pad out the game's length.

There's one last point I would like to make about X-2's reliance on minigames and sidequests. Few of these side quests provide opportunities to experiment with the game's combat mechanics. Random encounters and the occasional boss battle are the only sources of experience points in the optional missions. The minigames and side quests do not draw you into the core mechanics; they instead isolate you from them. Passing side quests often is more about luck than having a diversified balance of dresses or garment grids.

Isaaru knows me better than I know myself.
Isaaru knows me better than I know myself.

Part 22: How Low Can You Go? Can You Go Down Low?

Let's jump back into the dogshit this game tries to pass off as a story. Predictably, I handed off the Awesome Sphere to the Youth League. The story had the common courtesy to provide Nooj with characterization and a platform based on reason. Plus, you end up spending more time at Mushroom Rock Road, instead of Bevelle. Besides, as Rikku put it, New Yevon has "Yevon" in its name, enough said.

Leblanc with the DEEP CUTS in Final Fantasy X-2!
Leblanc with the DEEP CUTS in Final Fantasy X-2!

Where do I even start? Who forgot to lock the doors to the Celsius? Did no one think about stowing the spheres in a safe? How did Leblanc know where to find the sphere she wanted? Either way, Yuna and company need to sneak into Leblanc's chateau without Leblanc noticing. To make this happen, we need to "steal" three female uniforms from Leblanc's goons.

"Frivolous" doesn't even begin to describe the game's arbitrary parameters. We have fought countless goons, and more still, but are not able to use their uniforms. Instead, the party needs to catch three specific suits the designers programmed for the sake of this sequence. There's another fundamental issue I have with this mission. Our task marks the one occasion where the Gullwings are pigeonholed into an espionage scenario. In all future scenes, YRP burst into situations guns a blazing. I have a hard time believing the same team that storms the headquarters of New Yevon, views Leblanc's chateau as a high-risk environment.

I don't know about you, but I attack others to fill a growing empty void in my soul.
I don't know about you, but I attack others to fill a growing empty void in my soul.

The uniform stealing missions suck. One of these tasks is without a doubt the biggest pile of shit I have ever seen in a video game. Speaking of which, let's start with that! For my first uniform, I ferried my party to Mount Gagazet. The silver lining comes from our interactions with Kimahri. Kimahri is now the chieftain of the Ronso and is attempting to tow a fine line between reconciliation and reparation. His citizens are pining for revenge against the Guado for their prior support of Seymour. Kimahri is desperately attempting to avoid further bloodshed between the two races.

I want to spend a few minutes discussing the screencap above. Kimahri employs the Gullwings to put an end to Leblanc's Syndicate desecrating Mt. Gagazet. Kimahri has a hunch Leblanc's goons are up to no good on their holy site and begs Yuna to put an end to their blasphemy. That's the reason he allows YRP to enter the mountaintop. Likewise, Kimahri spent his life defending Yuna with every fiber of his being. The man practically raised Yuna since she was a child. Yuna OWES Kimahri her word; it's the least she could do. With that out of the way, let's talk about the worst scene in Final Fantasy X-2.

Kimahri deserves better; you deserve better; I deserve better.
Kimahri deserves better; you deserve better; I deserve better.

Part 23: Are You There God? It's Me, Chris.

Have I mentioned how the shoehorned platforming bits control like GARBAGE? Each ledge or platform is indistinguishable from random details in the foreground and background. The climbing animation is slow and unresponsive, and the platforming feels like another "padding" technique. Square's design team wanted these stages to inspire player exploration, but for me, the result was the opposite. Given how kludgy they felt, I tried to blow through them as fast as possible.

Could you go at least ten minutes without subjecting me to your sass, Rikku?
Could you go at least ten minutes without subjecting me to your sass, Rikku?

Before you ask, I climbed the mountain. I get the scene I am about to grouse about is entirely avoidable. I understand I could have chased after the "She Goon" instead of reaching the mountaintop. I get it. But the game told me to climb the mountain when the mission started and had multiple reminders of this aim. Additionally, X-2 is emblazoned with warnings of your completion percentage. What I am saying is, Final Fantasy X-2 is guilty of "entrapment." It begs the player to uncover every "goodie" hidden in its many crevices.

After climbing the mountain, YRP finds themselves in a precarious position. They immediately fall into a hot spring and scare away the She Goons they were trying to plunder. In what I can only assume is an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, they put on their swimsuits and relax in the hot spring. Because someone at Square is a pervert, the scene culminates with the characters comparing each other's busts. Furthermore, the swimsuits are MORE modest than 80% of the dresses.

Fuck you, fuck off, and go fuck yourself!
Fuck you, fuck off, and go fuck yourself!

Yuna was asked to put an end to Leblanc's goons fucking around on Mt. Gagazet. YRP was asked to do this because the activities of the goons insulted the religious practices of the Ronso. But Yuna thinks it’s FINE to do precisely what Kimahri asked her team to stop. KIMAHRI TRUSTED YUNA! At no point did Kimahri inform us we could partake in the restorative waters of Mt. Gagazet. Likewise, THEY HAVE A MISSION TO COMPLETE! Why aren't the characters chasing after the She Goons they need to rob?

Because BOOBIES!
Because BOOBIES!

Final Fantasy games draw some of their storytelling tropes from anime, but this is the most brazen example. The "onsen scene" is a well-known trope in animes far and wide. What I want to make clear is this does not excuse its inclusion in Final Fantasy X-2. This scene is disturbing voyeurism. And I swear to God, if one of you chimes in with "BUT THE AGE OF CONSENT IN JAPAN IS..." I will burst out of your computer screen and yell loudly in your face. Their age is only part of the problem. I hate the camera's ogling of their bodies. I hate how the game is exploiting the male gaze. Finally, I despise the game for not using my time efficiently.

And what does this all lead to in the end? A boss battle against Ormi and two She Goons? FUCK THAT! The intent of the designers is insultingly blatant. We never see those swimsuits again, nor do we discover any vital information about the characters. The tone of the story is already so scattershot that a scene like this feels especially wasteful. What happened to the themes of sacrifice and substance abuse from Final Fantasy X? In what universe do these two games share the same lineage?

This fucking dialogue really is something else.
This fucking dialogue really is something else.

Part 24: The Ass Band Will Play A Song Of Farts To Celebrate Your Failure

I want to make something crystal clear. I am not opposed to the characters having fun on a light-hearted adventure. What I object to is the characters spending hours of my time lounging around when there are bigger fish to fry. Every step of the way, the characters treat getting the goon outfits as a vacation. If the characters do not feel like they are under any threat, why do I give a shit?

For example, when you face off against Logos at Bikanel Desert he's more concerned about cracking jokes than he is about smoking YRP. If the game is framing every boss battle as a "joke," how am I supposed to take it seriously? Even worse is how this tonal dissonance is repeated in all three sequences. YRP scope out a location. YRP identify some She Goons. YRP chase after the goons. YRP fight the goons. YRP fight a boss. The scene ends. It's the laziest storytelling I have seen in a high-profile video game.

Just shoot me. I want to die.
Just shoot me. I want to die.

Speaking of cutting corners, let's talk about the bosses in chapter two. If you wanted another example of how half-assed the design of X-2 is, let's run down every boss battle:

  • The Chocobo Eater (OPTIONAL) - Mi'hen High Road
  • Elma (OPTIONAL/Only if you pick New Yevon) - Mushroom Rock Road
  • Ormi - Mt. Gagazet
  • Ormi/Logos - Mushroom Rock Road
  • Logos - Bikanel Desert
  • Leblanc/Ormi/Logos - Leblanc's Chateau
  • Percepts Guard - Bevelle
  • Georapella (OPTIONAL) - Bevelle
  • Baralai* - Bevelle
  • Dark Bahamut - Bevelle

Answer this question: why does Yuna fight Ormi, Logos, and Leblanc FOUR TIMES in episode two? To compound this issue further, the designers couldn't be bothered to use these battles to surface new information about Leblanc's crew. They use the same attacks and commands since Luca. Furthermore, notice how I bolded Baralai. He is the ONLY required boss battle, in this ENTIRE CHAPTER, who isn't from Final Fantasy X! What a waste of my goddamned time!

WHY DOES EVERYONE IN THIS GAME SUCK?! WHY?!?!?!?!
WHY DOES EVERYONE IN THIS GAME SUCK?! WHY?!?!?!?!

But at least Final Fantasy X-2 has a few interesting mechanics going in its favor, right? Well, let's talk about that. I see and understand the appeal of the dress combat system. What I do not understand is why the developers included the "Special Dresspheres" when they obviously break the game. When you activate these dresses, any semblance of difficulty crumbles away. There are only a few enemies in the game which have counter-measures for these character classes, and the game gives you a Garment Grid which expedites the process of unlocking them in combat. On top of that, each special dress can buff its attacks well beyond the limits of the standard classes.

So Final Fantasy X-2 is an aimless travelogue with practically no story, a mind-numbing amount of fanservice, bullshit minigames, and no form of difficulty. If you wanted to know why I'm cynical about this game, the previous sentence gives it away. By including what is ostensibly a "get the hell out of Dodge" button, the game subverts what little engagement I got out of mastering its mechanics. And let's be honest, it's not as if the standard dresspheres AREN'T mechanically broken by themselves. Character classes such as "Lady Luck," "Dark Knight," and "White Mage" each can absolve you of any barriers to your progress.

And Paine's Special Dressphere IS FUCKING TERRIBLE! WHAT AM I EVEN LOOKING AT?
And Paine's Special Dressphere IS FUCKING TERRIBLE! WHAT AM I EVEN LOOKING AT?

Part 25: Final Fantasy X-2 Decides To Say "Fuck You" To Its Audience

After what seemed like an eternity, YRP adorned themselves with a trio of She Goon outfits. Rather than go over the mission objective, the characters whine how "ugly" and "uncomfortable" the outfits are. Again, the characters treat our mission as if it is a fun vacation, and still, the game absolves itself of any sense of risk. How does the game respond to my lack of engagement? By including one of the WORST MINIGAMES IN VIDEO GAME HISTORY!

Welcome to the mouth of madness!
Welcome to the mouth of madness!

A little context for those not "in the know." When YRP enter Leblanc's chateau, Yuna is directed to perform a task. Having conversed with Nooj, Leblanc demands a massage. Oh, and for the record, Leblanc's dialogue when talking about Nooj sucks. It's bad. It's always bad. But that pales compared to the shit show that is the massaging minigame. Not only is it a shitty version of Minesweeper, but it's the grossest shit I have seen in a video game. Leblanc moans and animates in an orgasmic manner, and every part of this minigame feels like a pervert designed it. Do we glean any critical information about Leblanc or what she was up to during Final Fantasy X? NOPE! Is this minigame ever seen again? No, BUT THANK GOODNESS!

I hate this. I hate myself. I hate the people who made this.
I hate this. I hate myself. I hate the people who made this.

Yuna reconvenes with her party and sleuths into the basement of Leblanc's home. It is at this point I blew a gasket. After everyone complains how uncomfortable the uniforms are, they take them off. Within minutes of doing this, Ormi and Logos catch our band of misfits. The hours I spent getting those uniforms is flushed down the toilet in one fell swoop.

Final Fantasy X-2 is mocking me. I spent three hours getting them those uniforms. Three levels; three hours; three outfits. Then what do they do? THEY TOSS THEM AWAY LIKE TRASH! The game WASTED hours of my time on a fetch quest, and couldn't be bothered to honor my time. Guess what the culmination of this trainwreck of a scene ends up being? Another boss battle with Ormi, Logos, and Leblanc! Do Ormi, Logos, and Leblanc change up their moves? OF COURSE THEY DON'T!

THIS GAME IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!
THIS GAME IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!

After Leblanc hands over the broken sphere, she presents the other half. When Yuna combines the two halves, we watch another grainy CCTV clip of the sinister robot we saw FIVE HOURS AGO! FUCK IT; I'm done! We will talk about storming Bevelle and the first half of chapter three next time!

I have no mouth, and I must scream.
I have no mouth, and I must scream.

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