In case you were wondering, Final Fantasy X-2 is hella fun. If you played Final Fantasy X, you know that that game’s story was less about Tidus’s efforts to stop complaining all the time, and more about Yuna’s gradual evolution from a shy and overprotected girl to a confident and assertive adult woman. Her personal growth continues in this game, as she learns to take charge of situations and have fun doing it.

Two years after the events in Final Fantasy X, Yuna is avoiding life as a celebrity (she did save the world, after all) by wandering around as a Sphere Hunter, looking for lost treasures that may give clues to historical events. The mission-based game is structured like Charlie’s Angels (three women go on jobs assigned to them by a buffoonish man), but is really more like Sailor Moon or The Powerpuff Girls in tone. Like those series, FFX-2 is all about normal girls with supernormal powers, balancing “internal” scenes in which the protagonists giggle and tease each other with “external” scenes in which they present a strong, unified front to a threatening world. It’s also very much like Sailor Moon in its elaborate, magical costume-changing sequences.

Some of the costume change animations smack of fanservice, but I’m willing to forgive that, because the Dressphere system is so enjoyable. Like the Job system in Final Fantasy Tactics, different outfits in FFX-2 give the women different abilities: the Songstress sings and dances to cause status effects, Lady Luck rolls dice or pulls slots to determine attack strength, the Dark Knight sacrifices her own HP when striking an enemy, etc. Unlike Tactics, however, you can change outfits during battle, which adds even more strategy to things. You can start Rikku out as a Thief to steal items from a monster, then change into a Gun Mage (FFX-2′s version of the Blue Mage) to learn its attack, then to a Berserker to take it out with strong physical strikes — all in the course of a single fight. It makes battles fast-paced, and the costumes are all very nicely designed and rendered.

Unfortunately, while the costumes are fabulous, other aspects of the game’s graphics are less so. Being a direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game means that Square Enix reused most of the monster and environment graphics, which suffer a bit with age (Playstation 2 games have come a long way in just two years) and with wear (environment textures are rife with tears and gaps). And of course it wouldn’t be an FF game without hours of mindless levelling. But those are minor annoyances that don’t diminish the depth of the Dressphere system and character development.

In fact, FFX-2 may be my favorite mainline FF game ever, if you consider it a mainline game, as opposed to a spinoff like Tactics or Chocobo Racing — distinctions which don’t really matter unless you’re a nerdy fanboy like me. Actually, I don’t think I qualify as a true Final Fantasy fanboy: they all seem to hate this game, using words like “embarrassing” and complaining about how it undermines the “dignity” of the series. I’m trying to figure out where this dignity was ever to be found in the convoluted plots, diablos ex machina, and trite monologues about the power of friendship that plague all Final Fantasy games. To me, FFX-2 takes the annoying, pretentious parts of FF and says “please don’t take this too seriously; just have some fun with it.” Works for me.