The decision to make the girls change their outfits during combat by switching out dress spheres along garment grids was to help express the change of direction in X-2. Motomu Toriyama, the game's director, told IGN: "Yuna and [the] others try to live positively and the fashion reflects their state of mind. With these changes for the girls, we came up with the idea of "dressing up" and what you see in the game - dress-up system - is a result of that idea."
Even with the naming of dress spheres and garment grids, terms that evoke a vanity which detaches the heroines from selfless efforts, the outfit changes are remembered most for the transformation sequences. These were inspired by what Kitase described as "anime series featuring magic girls who have the ability to transform… that have existed for a long time in Japan."
The similarities to Devil Hunter Yokho and Sailor Moon are patent; the clothes shimmer and ripple off the ladies as the camera pans across their nubile bodies. Paine's transformation into her Lady Luck outfit - a sort of mermaid sash combined with a very revealing black bikini - sees her appear sat on the ground with one leg cocked in the air, as if posing for a photo. She then gets to her feet, spins a double ballet twirl, then bends forwards, arching her butt up and chest out. As she does so she breathlessly says (to her enemy, supposedly), "You think it's just a game? Your life is on the line".
X-2's perception of feminism - if that is what it is, a mishmash of Charlie's Angels frivolity and magical girl voyeurism - is not inspiring. I remember friends teasing me about picking up X-2 because of its girlishness, but my description of X above hardly lends itself to images of jocks high-fiving throughout. Final Fantasy has never been a masculine series, particularly in the PlayStation era when it was as much to do with telling love stories as it was with depicting excessively numerical combat. IX, as much as I love it, took the romance to a sickening fairytale extreme. Maybe this is why Final Fantasy X, so much the reversal and maturation of what came before, was such a welcome tonic.
If X-2 represented Square Enix's attempts to get women to play their game, it was misguided and redundant. If it was an attempt to capitalize on the Charlie's Angels movement, itself really just the tail end of the girl group movement of the 90s, then it was outdated and off-base.
Either way, all of this represents the mere platform for why I can never forgive Final Fantasy X-2. True, if X was music to my ears then X-2 was its X-Factor. It took the story of the cute little lady from nowhere, with her big heart and all, and then dumped her on stage in half her clothing and put a microphone in her hand. All that was missing was Louis Walsh trying to spin implausible comparisons to Dragon Quest. And if that was all it was, I could forgive it. I could even forgive the half-assed plot about political strife, all of which is ended by the narrative equivalent of a group hug.
You see, the one redeeming thing in X-2, plot-wise, is Yuna's inability to move on from Tidus. For all the disparity of her flamboyant new life she still sees Tidus in her dreams. So she drops everything when she finds a sphere containing an image of him, but ultimately her search proves fruitless. So she uses this to finally move on; "So much has happened," she says in the game's end, "I know that I'll keep changing. This is my story. It'll be a good one. It all began when I saw this sphere… of you."
And that would be just fine, except it's only one of the game's possible endings. Perform certain actions and you can unlock what fans have called the 'good' ending. In which Tidus comes back.