^ Warning: this guy is a dick.

I’m still slogging my way through FFX2. I still have mixed feelings about this game. There is a massive difficulty spike at the end of Chapter 2 that lasts into Chapter 3, to the point that regular monsters in most areas are capable of spamming special attacks and killing you. It’s a really weird step up in difficulty but I suppose characteristic of JRPGs from 12 years ago, which is what this is.

My post here is about just one boss that I encountered last night, about halfway through Chapter 3: Dark Yojimbo. Yojimbo was an aeon in FFX (aeons are powerful spirits you can summon to help you in battle), but for storyline reasons, you have to battle them in FFX2. I got through the battle eventually, but it was a right pain in the neck. Again, it is indicative of the age of the game, but I think you can make some broader points about game design from this as well.

You encounter Dark Yojimbo at the end of a mission where you have to rescue a bunch of annoying survivors from a cave. I say annoying because they have various stipulations–like certain survivors won’t accompany you if you have more than five survivors already following you, and so on. This means that you have to make multiple trips to round everyone up. Of course, you have the usual incessant random battles, and certain survivors are ‘hiding’, which just means they are completely concealed behind scenery and you have to run around blindly pressing X to find them. So yeah… pretty annoying. Plus, there is no natural save point between this section and the fight with Yojimbo. So, you have to leave the area and the mission, save, then return and run back. Is this tiresome to read? It’s tiresome to play.

This is made worse by the fact you are almost guaranteed to get killed by Yojimbo the first time you fight him. His special attack, Zanmato, reduces the entire party’s health and mana to 1, which means each character can be killed by a single physical attack. He has a dog which can attack you, which you can’t target, so there are two enemies which can hit you. He can also poison you, meaning yes, you can also be killed by a single tick of poison. He has around 20,000 HP, and my characters do about 100-300 damage per hit, so you can’t burst him down. Your powered-up hero forms are pretty ineffective because you need all three characters there to provide enough healing and to revive each other. Eugh.

Anyway, after getting my ass handed to me, I managed to save the game the second time I rescued the survivors, meaning at least I wouldn’t have to do that again and could focus on taking down the boss. I had to look up tactics online, and there is a particular technique you’re supposed to follow. This involves spamming Mega-Potions after Yojimbo casts Zanmato. I only had one though, and I’ve done pretty much everything so far (45% completion and I’m not halfway through the game yet). Turns out you need the Alchemist dress-sphere for this (don’t ask), which somehow I managed to miss. So, without that, this is what you have to do:

Equip all characters with a null-poison accessory (1 of 2 accessory slots). Fortunately I have three, one each.
Equip all characters with an accessory that boosts them when they have low HP (2 of 2 slots). I used SOS Regen, SOS Haste, and SOS Protect.
Equip all characters with a Garment Grid that allows them to automatically cast Protect. This also required you to instantly switch Dress-sphere (like a combat stance) at the beginning of battle.
Equip one character with White Mage stance, one as Dark Knight. The other is optional (I chose Thief for its high attack priority).
During combat, every time Yojimbo casts Zanmato, you have to start spamming Pray with your White Mage to get your HP up before he attacks.
HOPE that you won’t get physically attacked three times after he casts Zanmato. Seriously, you can spend the entire time between Zanmatos just getting your team to revive each other. I must have used 20-30 Phoenix Downs (revive potions) during the fight.
Hit him with normal attacks when you get the chance. As I said, on average these did 300 damage for my Dark Knight, and 150 damage for my Thief. Let’s say 100 attacks in total.

Eventually I took him down. I saved immediately afterwards, and checked the time of the save. It was 31 minutes since my last save, which had been immediately before the fight. The fight took me 30 minutes. That’s not counting several failures which were 5-20 minutes each. Bear in mind, this is a quasi-optional boss fight and is not even halfway through the game. Does this remind you of anything? To me, it felt like fighting a raid boss in an MMORPG, which is something you would do with 10-20 other people. To require this level of preparation in a single-player console game strikes me as absurd.

Is it any wonder Final Fantasy and the Japanese RPG genre has been on the decline for the last decade? I’m playing Tales of Graces at the moment, which I absolutely love, and I have to say that one of the things the Tales franchise has got right in recent years is removing a lot of the needless frustration from JRPGs. They focus on fun and complex combat, beautiful environments, and great characters, and that’s enough. The challenge is there if you seek it out but all this nonsense I’ve described above is dispensed with.

You know, I used to like Yojimbo. This will only make sense to anyone who’s played FFX, but bear with me: I recruited him towards the end of FFX so I could use Zanmato to kill Dark Valefor, who had like a million HP and who I had to kill in order to get the aeon Anima which in turn I needed to get the Magus Sisters. Without all that I could never have completed the game. So, I thought Yojimbo and his Zanmato attack were pretty damn cool. Now I never want to see either of them again.

Stay tuned for more FFX-2 updates! Or, you know, read one of those millions of Fallout 4 blogs. This will probably turn into one of those after Christmas so why wait?