?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Thematic problems with FFX-2

Hmmm. I started to reply to this person, and realized that I might make her dislike something she loved. So I decided to ramble here and leave her in peace, even though I've said some of this before.




It saddened me that Square thought in order to appeal to women gamers -- excuse me, chicks-- we were supposed to want a game focusing on clothes, girly giggles, pop music, and Barbie dress-up. Those scenes made me want to gouge out my eyes and run screaming back to Lara Croft, where the costumes are stupid, but at least she's a smart, independent woman who takes charge, solves problems, shows initiative without waiting to be told what to do, packs large weapons, and kicks ass. Maybe I'm not a real chick: everything that makes the normal FFs cool appeals to me (interesting weapons, dramatic quests, unexpected twists of plot, complex characters, villains to pummel), and everything that was added to X-2 to appeal to my gender I find irritating.

I also found it painful to discover that Auron, Tidus, Jecht and Braska had sacrificed themselves for a world determined to turn itself into Las Vegas, with Summoners as pop stars and game show hosts, the fiends (these are our dead RELATIVES, remember?) harnessed for carnival rides, and Monkey Love desecrating the most meaningful of places, Zanarkand. While we're at it, why don't we imagine Narnia turning Aslan's Howe into a tourist trap: "Play the Stone Table Challenge: Only 10 gil to stab a stuffed lion!" The political infighting and pettiness of most of the people in X-2 were also frustrating. In FFX, one had the sense of a few corrupt leaders and a good-hearted and long-enduring populace. In FFX-2, I felt that the leaders were mostly honorable, and the people were by and large selfish or clueless brats.

It frustrated me that the strong, thoughtful character of Yuna turned into an "Okay, I'll help, but I'm going to whine a lot and feel sorry for myself!" teenager. That whole "we're just here to have FUN or make a profit, I'm not really helping people!" theme drove me nuts. The world's going to hell in a handbasket, Yuna, and you're going to steal spheres from other people in showy heists and have petty games of one-upmanship with LeBlanc? You were above that with Dona 2 years ago!

And also, yes, the tragedy of FFX was so well-crafted that I'm dubious about undoing it. Yuna spent the whole story prepared to die, and we gradually prepared ourselves to lose her at the end. Instead... someone else did. That's good storytelling, a wonderful twist of irony.

I'm not totally against the "retreiving the lost lover" storyline, which is a classic myth. Orpheus went to the underworld and struggled against its guardians to win his dead wife (of course, in the end, he failed, showing just how hard it is to overturn fate). Lúthien in Tolkien's world died and pleaded before the gods to let her lover return from death, promising to die herself (she was an Elf, immortal, Arwen's ancestor) after having a span of time alive with him. When the gods move heaven and earth to resurrect lost loves, there should be a reason for it and some weight behind it. Despite the odd "Tidus is Shuyin, only not" plotline, Yuna's quest against Vegnagun wasn't really a quest to retrieve Tidus, and his return at the end was sort of a random "hi, I'm back!" I didn't feel like Yuna had "rescued" him; it was almost like the universe just said, "oh, nevermind, here, we're tired of listening to you whine."

In spite of my frustrations, I can see the replay value of many of the side quests and the actual game mechanics.


I am playing it again and enjoying it much more the second time, discovering all the things I missed. I hit a lot more of the Crimson Squad story, a lot more of the serious stuff (I had managed to miss 90% of it, including the weird confrontation between Nooj and Baralai, so as far as I knew it was just "hey, Yuna, we've gone off to save the world, keep the people pacified with a pop song while we do the real work!" I hadn't hit any of the stuff about Shuyin possessing people.

I enjoyed Chapter 4 instead of skipping over it, peering at all the things happening around the world and (gah, peeping tom!) all the weird stuff that happened at the Hot Springs. I'm starting to get the feel for what's enjoyable in X-2, even as my feeling for what I loved about FFX is starting to become blurred and muddy, much in the way that the films of LOTR made it hard for me to remember the faces and voices I'd imagined for those characters for many years. It's much the same as LOTR in fact-- I enjoyed the films, but felt they [[EDIT: the second two, TTT and ROTK]] obscured or perverted many of the mythic themes of the books, and "broke" or denied the strength and nobility of several characters like Frodo, Théoden, and Faramir, making them more selfish, petty, and weak.

Basically, I wish X-2 were a new game, with a new set of characters, instead of an odd and (to me) ill-fitting overlay over characters, a world, and a story I loved.

 

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
dagas_isa
Jun. 23rd, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
I've thought about this a lot...
I've come to the conclusion that if FFX had to have a sequel, FFX-2 is probably the most appropriate, even though I do have some issues with the execution.

The world in FFX is very different from the world in FFX-2. Sin restricts their actions, where they can live, how far they can travel. There's really no time to do anything for fun (besides blitz) or build anything big because Sin will tear it down. FFX is a world that's essentially ruled by the dead and the past. The main characters make a sacrifice to destroy Sin, and thus return the world to the living.

The problems of FFX are shown as caused outside the outside population. Sin. Yevon. The church. The average character has to be portrayed as good in order to make the Summoners' conflict seem real. Notice how little interaction goes on with minor characters in FFX compared to FFX-2.

If nothing had changed, if all the people were as serious and somber as they were in FFX, I think that would have cheapened the sacrifices because regardless of how much was given up, no one became happy. That's what I like about FFX-2, that the people did move on and start having fun. The world they live in during FFX-2 is a world healing, a world that's meant to be enjoyed, and I'm glad that the developers portrayed it that way.

In FFX-2 there has to be problems, but now they need to arise from real people and real human failings. People who used to have the big things in FFX to determine how to live, now need to find their own way to live.

Like I said, I'm not too fond of some of the execution. Most of it is pure fanservice and needs to be treated that way. Pop songs should not be portrayed as the major way to unite people. Rikku suddenly stopped reminding me of the smart, thoughtful, if perky 15 year old in FFX and started reminding me of my 13-year-old cousin. Yuna was the same, although it's only been recently that I've seen depth in either her FFX or FFX-2 characterizations.

In the end, it's impossible to take FFX-2 on its own terms because it does build on the FFX world, but I'm glad that they didn't try to duplicate the tone and problems of the old game.
trekqueen
Jun. 23rd, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
yay welcome back *huggles* did you see the precious shadow pictures from monday? :D

anyway, I think dagas_isa made a lot of valid points but I also agree with you that the world just seemed too teeniebopish.

I also found it painful to discover that Auron, Tidus, Jecht and Braska had sacrificed themselves for a world determined to turn itself into Las Vegas, with Summoners as pop stars and game show hosts, the fiends (these are our dead RELATIVES, remember?) harnessed for carnival rides, and Monkey Love desecrating the most meaningful of places, Zanarkand. While we're at it, why don't we imagine Narnia turning Aslan's Howe into a tourist trap: "Play the Stone Table Challenge: Only 10 gil to stab a stuffed lion!" The political infighting and pettiness of most of the people in X-2 were also frustrating. In FFX, one had the sense of a few corrupt leaders and a good-hearted and long-enduring populace. In FFX-2, I felt that the leaders were mostly honorable, and the people were by and large selfish or clueless brats.



I am playing it again and enjoying it much more the second time, discovering all the things I missed. I hit a lot more of the Crimson Squad story, a lot more of the serious stuff (I had managed to miss 90% of it, including the weird confrontation between Nooj and Baralai, so as far as I knew it was just "hey, Yuna, we've gone off to save the world, keep the people pacified with a pop song while we do the real work!" I hadn't hit any of the stuff about Shuyin possessing people.


I agree with the assessment.. plus... the people of Spira seem to be a bunch of mindless dolts. In FFX Seymour wants to marry Yuna and Yuna considers it because it will make people happy, but as Auron said, it will only entertain them as a small distraction really. They also followed Yevon without question (Tidus and Auron were the only ones really to change their friend's train of thought) and as soon as Yevon was destroyed and out of the picture (aka no longer "cool") they skeedaddled and went onto the next neato thing to claim attention like groups... someone AGAIN to follow.

The leaders do everything telling people even in FFX-2 how they should be behaving. Seems quite sad actually that the people of Spira are such sheeple.
owlmoose
Jun. 23rd, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
I was going to give you a long, in-depth response, but after reading the comments it's probably more efficient to say "I agree with Dagas." Spira is less than two years past a millenium of horrorific oppression, so I think it's only natural that some giddy and immature behavior surfaces. The same thing has happened to Yuna on a more personal scale, and probably to a lesser extend Rikku (although I find her immaturity much less excusable).

I also got more depth on the Crimson Squad the second time through and had a great time watching all the little Chapter 4 scenes. I felt like I got much more perspective on Cid and Isaaru especially. And there are extra scenes that you'll now see in Chapter 5 as well, if you haven't gotten there yet.
auronlu
Jun. 24th, 2006 12:24 am (UTC)
Dagas, you're very right -- it's realistic for Spira's people to grasp for superficial, giddy pleasures, instead of trying to build a new life, new dreams, and a new world together that has all the stability without the terror of the old one. They have no idea how. Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit, too, in FFX; I recall fondly their hospitality, friendliness to Yuna along the way, and those who kept trying to protect her even when their leaders were telling them not to, and I ignored the problems with that society or put all the blame on the leaders.

My difficulty with X-2 is -- yes, this story is more realistic (at least in terms of human nature), but I liked FFX for Fantasy. What called me in the first game was dreams, was myth, was depth. "The heart has reasons which Reason doth not know" -- Pascal. I felt that FFX managed, mostly by accident, to tap into some deep strands of mythology that made it more than Tidus' whiny attempt to make "his story" or another boy-meets-girl, heroes-save-the-world tale.

In many world mythologies, there are interesting connections between dreams, death, the underworld, and memory. FFX played with all of them in some fascinating ways I'm still absorbing. There's the hero who is a dream, and the hero who is dead; there's the world of the living ruled by the dead; there's the purveyor of death who is the only thing that's eternal; there's all the spiral symbolism. This is fascinating stuff that bypasses conscious thought and goes straight for the currents in the mind that create dream imagery and recurring mythology. FFX-2 whips away the magician's curtain.

It tries to play with myths a little with Shuyin and Lenne, but it's not woven into the world, the main characters; it clashes with the everyday stuff happening "topside".

The party members in FFX were appropriately heroic for myth and tragedy, a blend of complex archetypes yet none of them clichéd. Wakka, the good-hearted everyman who's got to overcome his religious convictions to save his friends and people. Lulu, a coldly driven person who moves fire and water, literally, for the sake of friendship, and who went on two past pilgrimages to spare Yuna yet still supports her on a journey she doesn't agree with. Rikku, a loving almost little-sister who also objects to the journey on principle, yet who will go with Yuna once she sees that Yuna would not be happy otherwise (as dagas said, there was a lot of depth to her despite the "plucky teen" archetype in X, and that was lost). Kimahri, the broken and disfigured monster who keeps his oaths with loving devotion. The jock who still annoys me with his "this is MY story!" right til the end, but who is more heroic, in a way, because he's the only utterly ordinary person there, learning to swing with the punches, who finally puts a whole world and the Fayth ahead of himself. And Yuna, a gently committed soul who trains for her whole life on behalf of others, seals grief behind a smile, and at the age of-- 17? -- manages to undo a millenium's lies and find a new answer. These are compelling characters. They are a little larger than life. Paine shows some of that depth in X-2, but Yuna and Rikku don't, and I can't understand what happened to them.

I'd expect those two to take a hand in making the world a better place. Rikku, as committed as she was at 15, could have been leading her people to build a new home the way Kimahri was trying to (even if he wasn't succeeding too well). I can see Yuna deciding to live for herself instead of buying into the sacrificial virgin idea, maybe, but the giggly teen act felt forced. (I noticed her interactions with Lulu and Wakka seemed more genuine and in character, not sure why. Maybe it was the understanding between them.)

The "song saves everything" myth is one that I think might work, by the way, because it's sort of myth -- but the execution wasn't quite convincing to me. The buildup to it was a lot of giggling and Dance Dance Revolution and Tobli the Ticketmaster, which all tends to erode the mythic moment.
(Deleted comment)
auronlu
Jun. 24th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
The odd irony is that I haven't gotten Tidus "back" because I didn't use a walkthrough my first time playing.

Is it just my ignorance, or is X-2's "good ending" unusually difficult to achieve without checking a walkthrough? I mean, now that I've looked up how to do it, I see that it's not too difficult, but I'm not sure I would ever have stumbled across the two requirements one MUST do without fail to get it.

I don't mean the perfect ending -- I like the idea of an extremely challenging and nigh-impossible-to-get special ending for those crazy people who like to explore every aspect of a game and "solve" it, or (for the rest of us lazy bums) which still requires a lot of work even with a walkthrough.

It's the good ending. In an odd way, X-2 doesn't have Tidus return, unless you're such a fan that you look up online how to get him back and make a conscious choice to do it.

So maybe Square was trying to play both sides of that question.

I'm on both sides of it myself. In my research, I've found more "failed soul retrieval" myths than successful ones. In every "success story", there was a HUGE price to pay-- it was a bittersweet victory at best. Luthien becoming mortal is typical. Babylon 5 has a failed "retrieval" story arc, and a semi-successful one ("I got better") but that has a big pricetag attached.

One can pull it off, but it requires a very skillful bit of storytelling, one that acknowledges audience skepticism. I think in its execution, if X-2 was going to go that route, it needed the weight and punch of the epic/mythic tone set in FFX.
sunsetsred
Jun. 25th, 2006 12:09 am (UTC)
My favorite theory was the one I heard that the "perfect ending" with Tidus' return was just a dream Yuna had. In the final cutscene, with Tidus and Yuna in Zanarkand, the camera hardly shows the two of them together, and at the very end it zooms out with Yuna standing alone, and you cant even see Tidus in the water below.

Which leaves room for lots of Tikku fic writing ^^; But yeah. I like that one best. The logic for and everything behind bringing Tidus back at the very end was just all so contrived.
sunsetsred
Jun. 24th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
Zaaa. FFX2 sucked. I mean, I loved it, but it still sucked.

1) They added all those things to market to GIRLS?? I seriously thought it was just fanservice to get the guys to play. Unless all chicks who play video games are lesbians. o_O

2) THE ENDING. WTF. "I got a theory. I think the fayth gathered up my thoughts and put 'em together to bring me back." WTF. I've read (and written) better excuses for Tidus' coming back AT THE PIT. Seriously. I mean, there's a bit of logic to be worked out with the whole fayth/dream/etc crazy talk, and FFX-2 totally throws it all out the window. o_O

3) Okay, this is just me, because I'm part of the small Tidus/Rikku fandom, but I HATED how the writers teased Rikku fans. They even threw in a special "Next time it'll be YOUR story, Rikku!" scene, which they admit was a joke. >:O RAR KRISTEL SMASH.

4) Reusing all the old scenery and stuff... was probably inevitable but really crappy.

5) Via Infinito. I dont really have to argue that one.

There were so many other things that were wrong, but those are the ones that mainly got me. I dont even have to argue about feeling like you're playing a porn game, what with the music and cheesecake, because that's pretty much a given.

I admit, I loved the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style of actually being able to AFFECT the ending (unlike the games that implemented affection levels and then screwed you over at the end), and I loved the whole backstory with Nooj, Gippal, and Baralai. I spent an entire month getting 100% completion, because the story itself really WAS that good (up until, y'know, the end >_<). It just... wasnt FFX, and you cant expect that, but it really seemed like it was thrown together in an attempt to get as much money out of a successful franchise, and made me as a fan feel dirty for helping their evil plan work.

I liked how it was obviously a prequel to FF7 though. It's like everything Squeenix has released in the last 4 years (like the KH series) has been in preparation for all the crazy FF7 milkcow cashing.
auronlu
Jun. 25th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
Yes, the Fayth stuff in X-2 didn't make any sense to me. My theory there is that Tidus is a nice guy but doesn't know diddly squat, and he's wrong. What the real answer is I can't begin to fathom, because I don't understand why the Fayth would still be able to appear in Spira after they were Sent so cozily and comfortably in FFX.

I get the impression that gamers who like puzzle/dungeoncrawls actually enjoy Via Infinito a lot. So, well, it's there for those who like the thing.




About the Barbie Dress-up thing... most of the lesbians I know grouse about the girly costumes and stereotypes in X-2, and my old gf refused to do any sphere changes because she hates tits and ass. As for me, I require depth of character, but if I were to judge a book by its cover, Yuna's outfit in FFX had dignity, grace, and a certain airiness that expressed wonderfully who she was. Simple beauty trumps "sexy" and "cute" in my book. (Yes, I realize that Lulu is sexy, but if I hadn't found her character intriguing, the gratuitous tit-wobbles would probably have annoyed me as much as LeBlanc.)
sunsetsred
Jun. 25th, 2006 01:35 am (UTC)
*nods*

All the fanservice just seemed completely uncalled for. Maybe they were trying to make it marketable to guys and girls at the same time? I dont know why else they would need to throw in near-naked Berserker suits and Leblanc massage sessions.

I mean, there's a way to be sexy and classy at the same time. Noir manages to be sexy AND classy at the same time -- there's ZERO cheesecake in the actual anime. Heck, even Faye from Cowboy Bebop gave less brainless fanservice. lol.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner