Most long time Final Fantasy fans probably agree that the next must have title in the franchise is the HD update of FFX and FFX-2.
The pathetic sales of Lightning Returns in Japan, which will likely be repeated in the west, have the once vaunted franchise back in the headlines. As I find myself looking forward to the March release of the HD overhauls I also can't help but look back on the degradation of the series accomplished by Square Enix over the course of the last generation.
While pondering this a thought bubbled up from that decomposing soup, taking the form of a question I would like to pose to you all. Upon release of the HD updates, will Final Fantasy X-2 be redeemed by history?
X-2 was the first Final Fantasy effort after the merger between Squaresoft and Enix that would later irritate fans to no end. At the time the game was unprecedented. Many will point to numerous spinoffs of Final Fantasy VII like Dirge of Cerberus but never had a numbered title had another number tacked onto it and been billed as the first full sequel to an FF game.
In the end, nobody actually took it as a full sequel though. Even with 100% completion and the ultimate good ending it didn't add a great deal to the story of FFX that couldn't have been gleaned from watching past the end credits of that game. It was considered another spinoff because it didn't really stand up to full FF standards.
There was a lot of “girl power” and Charlies Angels type stuff going on along with heaps of fan service and a less than epic plot. It was no surprise people complained and kind of wrote it off. Things have changed though haven't they? Final Fantasy XIII removed most franchise staples and turned off a lot of fans, XIII-2 tried to address those issues but ultimately came out disconnected and quite insulting on the story end of things. All indications are that Lightning Returns will continue the downward trend into something mostly unrecognizable by fans. So now that X-2 will be coming out again alongside its predecessor perhaps it won't seem so bad as it did back then.
Historically Final Fantasy has always had some goofy stuff in it (remember Don Corneo?) so maybe gamers will look right past the girl power aspect and see the great aspects of the game. Maybe they will see what was definitely the most highly evolved form of the Active Time Battle mechanic, which by the way allows management of all party members while still being very exciting. There's a very fluid class system in the dress spheres that allows for more strategic combat approaches than we've seen this generation. The side quests are more interesting and rewarding than collecting fragments a la XIII-2.
Spira is a cohesive game world with its own history and peoples instead of a set of disconnected generic areas unrelated to one another and separated by time rifts that make ones eyeballs roll in their head. The world is populated with interesting characters including old friends as opposed to the highly limited use of NPCs in both XIII titles. You'll also have the benefit of visiting the many, very different towns surrounded by areas of exploration which have been sorely lacking of late. It also has non-linear gameplay which seems to be all the rage these days.
While X-2 wouldn't have won any awards for its story at the time, I think that it is definitely a step up from what we have been treated to lately. After the events of FFX we catch up with Yuna who is trying to find her place in a changed world and gets wrapped up in an age old mystery when she finds a sphere that appears to depict former protagonist Tidus. Tracking down the truth draws her and her comrades into the complex political struggles of rising factions vying for power in the new Spira as threats to peace arise from all angles.
It has been awhile since I played it, but I'm looking forward to going through it with new eyes. While I still think Final Fantasy X was a much better, more classical entry, after what fans have been through lately I think there is a good chance that even a fluffier sequel like X-2 can be embraced by the public and redeemed by history as a damn good game.
Related Game(s): Final Fantasy X HD, Final Fantasy X-2 HD