Final Fantasy 10 is fondly remembered as one of the last "classical" Final Fantasy games. Boasting diverse turn-based combat, an interesting setting full of colorful characters, and one of the rare attempts at portraying a protagonist's romance as part of the main story, Final Fantasy 10 has accrued plenty of fans over the years. Less beloved is its sequel, Final Fantasy 10-2. This game is infamous for seeming confused as to what audience it's trying to appeal to. The only big positive point in the game's favor is its combat system, which brings back Final Fantasy 5's job switching with several new twists.
While that sequel is somewhat reviled, the idea of going further into a Final Fantasy 10-3 has gotten even more pushback over the years, no thanks to the Japan-only material that was intended to take place after Final Fantasy 10-2. Now, FF 10-3 is back in the public's mind, as prominent Square Enix developers recently noted that they had ideas for a potential Final Fantasy 10-3 in the distant future. There are ways to do this right, and looking to FF 10-2 for advice on what to do would be wise.
One main point of contention that Final Fantasy 10 fans have with Final Fantasy 10-2 is that it feels pandering in every wrong way. Yuna's opening concert scene is considered to set its bizarre idol group superheroine tone, quickly demonstrating that the sequel was aiming for a largely separate demographic from the first game. Most of 10-2 carries that teen pop idol atmosphere: With the Yuna, Rikku, and Paine trio donning a wide variety of costumes to help them on their goofy Saturday-morning cartoon adventures while competing with an ineffectual villain squad.
Even though the second concert scene that happens near the end of the game carries much more classical Final Fantasy gravitas and is fairly well-liked, most players jump ship before they get there.
There’s nothing wrong with lightheartedness in a Final Fantasy game, especially toward the beginning, but it’s important for a player to see some compelling plot hooks. A sequel can’t just show an old main character working out-of-character gigs for hours without any sort of hint to where the story’s going. Those who didn’t put FF 10-2 down right away often cite one of the heights of its bizarre teen pandering as the point where they stopped.
Examples such as the massage minigame between Yuna and villain squad leader Leblanc, or the hot spring scene in a sacred Ronso spring, were nothing like Final Fantasy 10. Scenes like that can work in Final Fantasy games - Final Fantasy 7’s Honeybee Inn being the standout example. Yet here, they felt thrown in. Final Fantasy 10-3 can still have some romantic goofs, but it needs to be earned, and not shoved in the player’s face without warning.
That’s a major aspect that should be left out of Final Fantasy 10-3. However, there are things from 10-2 that are worth keeping. Yuna moving past her old, reserved behavior and trying new things with her friends is fine, especially if it’s in service of keeping the Dressphere system. This and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13’s Garb system are often viewed in a negative light due to being somewhat pandering.
However, fans of Final Fantasy 10-2 will be quick to point out that this is one of the game’s best attributes. Even the lead Final Fantasy girls dressing in different outfits isn’t that bad, as many of them are references to jobs in Final Fantasy’s past. Not to mention, a new outfit being included with a new job is something that’s stayed consistent since Final Fantasy 1.
The system is a smart evolution of the job changing found in Final Fantasy 3 and Final Fantasy 5. FF 10-2 marks a return to Active-Time Battle after a brief step into fully turn-based combat in Final Fantasy 10. The battle system feels like an alternate take on Final Fantasy 13, with all three characters able to switch between a certain preset group of jobs. These jobs included their own armor and weapons, leaving only accessories up to the player.
By switching between certain jobs set in various Garment Grids, temporary upgrades would be obtained, and every job would provide more abilities after use in enough battles. Final Fantasy 10-3 wouldn't need to have this exact battle system again, but something dynamic that allows for more immediate player choice would be a good direction.
Perhaps the most important lesson that Final Fantasy 10-3 could take from Final Fantasy 10-2 is that it needs to be itself. FF 10-2 was made primarily with assets recycled from the original Final Fantasy 10. While that helped development move quickly, it also didn't do much to expand the world of Spira. The game felt like a rehash of the original title, and several of the new areas felt either tacked on or completely separate from the old ones.
The old FF 10 cast all showed up and got some subplots, but their lack of focus made it feel like cheap callbacks at times. Just by the necessity of having to be made with all new assets, a Final Fantasy 10-3 would be able to escape this feeling of repetition.
Final Fantasy 10-3 shouldn't just get rid of what doesn't work, it should focus on what does. Final Fantasy 10-2 features multiple cultural and political groups vying for power now that the Church of Yevon has formally dissolved, but all the tension there is shoved into NPC dialogue and a few side quests. Another relic from the old world is found to be a threat to Spira, and that's dealt with instead.
Potentially interesting plot hooks, and perhaps Yuna, Rikku, and Paine continuing to try and find their place in this bold new world, should get much of the focus. Since Square Enix seems enticed by the idea of bringing Tidus back to life, more development of his romance with Yuna should also be included. There's plenty of things that can be done with Final Fantasy 10, FF 10-3 just needs to choose the right ones.
Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is available on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox.