Welcome to the second installment of Fashion Fantasy! Each month, I’m going to be looking at the style and fashion in a particular game, looking at some of the outfits and garments that are interesting to me, breaking them down, and talking about them! You can check out the previous installment, where we explored Final Fantasy XII‘s fashion, right over here!
This month we’re going to be looking at Square Enix’s Final Fantasy X-2. Released in 2003/4 as a sequel to Final Fantasy X and then remastered in 2013/2014, this game is a lot more pop, campy and carefree than its predecessor — which earned it a lot of detractors, but it feels as though it’s been readily reclaimed and accepted by a lot of fans. One of said fans is Todd Harper, a games and media scholar focusing on games as culture and communication, whomst I’ve invited to give me some insight into some of the style and fashion in the game!
This post will include some spoilers for the events of Final Fantasy X and X-2, so only continue if you’re alright with that! Let’s begin!
Final Fantasy X-2 is set two years after Final Fantasy X, and a lot has changed since our first foray into the world of Spira — tonally, the game shifts from a sunny-but-sombre pilgrimage story and over to a more loose, forward-looking almost sci-fi adventure. This is very evident in terms of the outfits that the characters in the game wear — a deliberate choice, according to an interview with the developers — and nowhere is this more evident than in the change in Yuna’s wardrobe. Where previously she dressed quite demurely, she now wears something more form-fitting and fun, reflecting the change to a more positive, optimistic attitude towards a future that seems brighter.
One of the new game mechanics in Final Fantasy X-2 involves the use of Garment Grids and Dresspheres, which allow the playable characters to change their skillsets — and their outfits. Style and fashion’s actually woven into the way the game is played, making it doubly interesting to take a deeper look at the clothing that define these familiar Final Fantasy roles.
Yuna, Rikku and Paine each wear different but stylistically similar outfits for each dressphere. Across all dresspheres, there are a few trends:
- Yuna’s palette tends to include red, blue and purple.
- Paine’s palette tends to include dark purple, white and black.
- Rikku’s palette tends to include orange and cyan.
- Yuna’s outfits are often more flowy or drapey.
- Paine’s outfits often have her wearing trousers.
- Rikku’s outfits are more form-fitting or show more skin.
Anecdotally, and in reference to what I said above about this title being somewhat unfairly maligned, I notice most of the people who are into Final Fantasy X-2 tend to be women and queer folk. This seems appropriate, considering how a game focusing on three women protagonists, with wardrobe changes and magical girl transformation sequences, seems like exactly the kind of thing a lot of dude gamers would decry. This is something of an unfortunate trend in gamers’ responses to Final Fantasy games — in the Fashion Fantasy analysis of Final Fantasy XII, I mentioned there was a similar attitude of distaste for Vaan’s appearance too.
The character designer for Final Fantasy X-2 is Tetsuya Nomura, but many of the outfits in the game — including the dressphere outfits — were designed by Tetsu Tsukamoto, who has previously worked on the monster design for other Final Fantasy titles.
There are obviously a lot of outfits in the game, and even each of the dressphere outfits have three styles each (one each for Yuna, Rikku and Paine), so Todd and I aren’t going to cover all of them — only the ones we found particularly remarkable! Apologies if we missed your fave out!
Mitch: The Black Mage outfits are amazing, hands down — although I’m obviously pretty biased towards anything witchy. The big chunky sleeves, the sleek silhouette, the hats that even come with accessories — amazing. They’re a pretty significant departure from the Black Mages we’ve seen in previous Final Fantasy titles, but they’re very appropriate to this new world that is reaching for the future and focusing on just having fun for the first time in literal millennia. The scale-looking sleeves look utterly amazing, and the pointy witch shoes are a nice touch. Yuna’s is my favourite look here — purple and red look great together, and the whole outfit is typically witchy enough that it could stand on its own as a good character costume.
Todd: It would be very easy to write off Gun Mage as “yet another too-complicated Nomura design” but I love the hell out of it. I would very much describe Gun Mage as “what if you turned a lava lamp into an outfit.” Of the three girls I’m maybe the least fond of Rikku’s version, but the bronze and navy color scheme of Paine’s (the checkerboard trousers! The metallic shade of the bronze giving it a ‘riveted’ look!) is very much My Shit, and Yuna’s completely nonsense opera gloves with the flared wrists so that it looks like she’s holding a tommy gun with a drum magazine instead of whatever the hell the Gun Mage gun is, is just charming. The Gun Mage dress’s major ability is the series staple of Blue Magic — learning the abilities of enemies — and this very much looks like the outfit of someone who can weather your spell, give a quick little smile, and go: “Oh, so that’s how that works” before firing it back in your face.
Mitch: I really love these looks as well. It would’ve been very easy to go standard Blue Mage with this dressphere — and judging by the early concept art, they almost went in this kind of direction, with an outfit using fur and what might be animal skins, as well as a traditional takuhatsugasa, to give it a sense of the using the hides of the fiends they hunt. Perhaps they thought that might be a little too similar to the Berserker dressphere, because instead, they gave us this high-fashion-in-Zanarkand futuristic elfin gun-witch, which is beauuutiful. I like that the silhouette of the Gun Mage outfit riffs on the Gunner outfit, too — the draped skirt here stands in for the left leg covering of the Gunner. The wee details along the edge of the skirts are great, too — Yuna’s has a nice neat hemline, Rikku’s is a little more spiky, and Paine’s is straight up tattered.
Todd: The Lady Luck outfit for all three girls has absolutely no fucks left to give and I’m here for it. They’re going into combat armed with playing cards and with massive holes cut out of your outfit for maximum skin showage, but if you listen to the combat barks the girls have in this dress, they clearly do not give a damn (Yuna’s elongated, sly “Game over, man. Game. Over!” when you win a fight with her in Lady Luck is a personal favorite). I actually think it’s Rikku who makes out (pun unintended) like a bandit here, with her fishnets and garters that are more implied than stated. I also appreciate that the theme of Paine having the distinct outfit because she’s That Fucking Futch continues in a subtle way, here: the femme-ness of these slinky Vegas dealer gowns cannot be stopped, but her cards’ suit is diamonds, as opposed to spades for Yuna and Rikku.
Mitch: While I’m not overly fond of the aesthetic here on a personal level (especially in terms of the colour combinations), I think you have to respect the Renaissance Faire realness that YRP are bringing. These are full, floor-length dresses as well, which sets them apart from other dressy dresspheres that have cutaways and slits down the side, so it’s nice that there’s a more modest dress in the game as well (not that there’s anything wrong with immodesty, of course). Paine’s long falconer’s gloves are especially great (because of COURSE Paine has falconer’s gloves), and while I could do without the straps criss-crossing all over the various garments, it does give it that very Spiran feel.
Mitch: You just know that a poster of this dressphere is gonna be on the bedroom walls of every young Al Bhed growing up after this. The Trainer dressphere was Medieval Re-enactor, and now we’re going into Steampunk. Once again, similar to the Gun Mage, we have the return of the half-skirt calling back to the Gunner dressphere too. I love all the colour combinations here, but especially Rikku’s. You don’t often get to see action heroes wearing bright colours like this, and the outfit is all the better for it.
Mitch: The Berserker dressphere is pretty decent — I’m not super into it (although I feel like I should be, considering how much I love faux fur), but I can appreciate how well-put-together it is. You can make out stitches on the furs and hides that the characters are wearing, and the mix of animal print, horns and claws make it look pretty distinctive.
Todd: While I don’t have much to say about this dressphere in total — like most FFX-2 outfits, I like it, but this one doesn’t stand out completely — I want to say that Rikku’s “chest-binding bandage wrap” top is really rad? I think it’s the most distinctive look of the three. I also want to shout out the weapons in this dressphere, especially since for Paine’s they really went for “what is a riff on Paine’s default model sword that fits this?” and the result is this blood red shotel/scimitar rather than her straight-bladed, single-edged sword. Also, Rikku is clearly using Auron’s default weapon from FFX, and I want to believe that he’s looking down at her from the Farplane going “Get it, girl.”
Mitch: The colour choices for the Samurai dressphere seem unusual to me, and I can’t quite place what they might be in reference to, if anything — and coupled with the brown armour, they just don’t jel for me. That said, props to Paine’s amazing trousers in this; even though logically I feel like I should dislike seeing green, purple and orange put together, the way they’re flared and the creases that are in them just makes them look amazing. Rikku’s look is the standout for me as well though, all the colours go well together and she totally rocks the “feisty apprentice” attitude. Another thing about the weapons is that they’re all big, heavy blades which are all as long as each of their wielders are tall — often when it comes to samurai in games, they tend to have the very quick, art-of-the-draw iaido techniques with slender swords, but the weapons for this dressphere all feel slow, heavy and brutal, which sets this dressphere apart from the Warrior.
Mitch: I love the Dark Knight for the sheer melodramatic over-the-top gothiness of it — doubly so because it massively clashes with the stylistic appearance of the rest of the game. Outside of Paine’s default outfit, you don’t actually see a lot of all-black outfits in the game (I guess they had to save up for Final Fantasy XV…), which tells you that the Dark Knight isn’t your morbid, gloomy Dark Souls deathseeker — it’s a bold, campy Disney villain revelling in their own devilishness. The headgear for each of these looks is great — they feel very idiosyncratic and full of flair, which is great for an exaggerated fallen paladin feel.
Todd: I think Festivalist deserves some special mention here because it’s one of the rare dresspheres where all three girls have a very distinct look. Paine’s happi coat and tabi look is very cool; I kind of expect to see her get up on a taiko drum and go wild banging out sick festival beats? As with many of Paine’s outfits, too, this is just hard enough to give her that butch edge, but soft enough to keep her in enjoyably futch territory. Yuna’s yukata isn’t necessarily exciting, but it is a classic look, and the RBG pattern on her obi is really adorable. Plus she attacks with her shoes, and I think that cute little bow to the phrase “kick up your heels” made me love this all the more. Poor Rikku’s kimono is also a little eh, but the fucking goldfish. “Nobody expects the goldfish!” she crows in combat, and she’s right. She’s so right.
Mitch: While I’m not altogether fond of this dressphere generally (although everything Todd said does make me appreciate it more), I am so extremely here for the fact that these outfits were (according to the Final Fantasy Wikia) based on drawings that an 8-year-old fan of the game submitted to a dress-designing competition. That’s just the nicest thing ever.
Mitch: The Psychic dressphere is probably my favourite, partly for the fact that, in Spira, where the formalwear tends towards religious and ecclesiastical, of course formalwear from our world is going to look strange and modern and a little weird, which is perfect for a Psychic. I love that it’s also an excuse to give Yuna what is basically a sailor fuku, but updated and more mature — made better by the fact that Yuna’s animation for changing into her outfit includes her pulling off Sailor Moon’s “In the name of the Moon, I’ll punish you!” hand gesture. I’m fond of the colour schemes of navy blue, white and dark pink as well — they’re a little more sombre than other dresspheres, but it suits the weirdness of the Psychic. As a wee aside: Paine’s Psychic getup puts me in mind of Switch from The Matrix — she also wore a bright white pantsuit and was also Ambiguously Queer, so I’m very here for it.
Todd: Spherechanges in FFX-2 are very obviously magical girl henshin sequences, and I love the Psychic dress because they just Went In on that whole idea. “What if they were magical girls?” And this is the result. Yuna and Rikku’s outfits have that “what if a student seifuku, but really fancy and magically elaborate?” look that most good, old-school magical girl costumes have. Meanwhile, Paine’s outfit as this blinding white take on a gakuran is also very classy, fitting her “what if Paine was in the butch version” overall theme; it makes her look like their Tuxedo Mask. And honestly how can you not love the masks? I like to imagine that they’ve got some super-advanced magical Google Glass/AR bullshit going on in those things where Yuna is watching SpiraTube videos of her own concert while blasting people to dust with the power of her mind.
Mitch: Leblanc’s outfit is just fucking amazing. It’s pure Musou-game over-the-top style for the sake of style, and I love it. I do like that, despite the exaggerated style, the outfit still has recognisably Spiran touches: the criss-crossed lace calls to mind similar designs (like the Summoner Dona’s outfit, and the sides of Luzzu’s trousers). I also like that Leblanc’s outfit is meant to be the Lady Luck dressphere despite not being explicitly stated as such — YRP have the Spade, Club and Diamond on their chests, and Leblanc has the Heart.
Todd: Dressphere: Stolen. Minions: dressed. Tits: out. And I am forcibly escorted from the Yuna concert. Spiran clothing is based on Ryukyu island and Okinawan traditional designs in the original FFX, and Leblanc’s outfit feels like what would happen if a wealthy white lady decided to move to Okinawa, saw one of those outfits, and shouted “I must have one!” before getting something custom made for her in Milan. Which, frankly, sounds like the sort of thing Leblanc herself would do. To be honest I think what I love about this outfit, beyond the joyous asymmetricality of her top, is that it is the kind of clothing that no one could wear unless they had absolute levels of confidence. This sort of “what if my boobs were literally on display, and I’m wearing a high collar straight from of a pulp-era science fiction novel’s portrayal of a spacefaring evil queen” look cannot be carried off by the meek, that’s for sure.
Leblanc Syndicate Goons
Mitch: I love love love the designs for the Goons, especially the shrouds with the Leblanc icon that they wear in front of their faces (not entirely dissimilar to the imp masks from Okami). The female Goon designs are great, because they’re very sleek and elegant and kind of Bayonetta-esque in a way. Ordinarily I have no time for the colour green in any outfit whatsoever (it always makes me think of sickness and grossness), but the design of the male Goons makes me completely fine with overlooking colour choice. The ropes around the shoulders kind of remind me of those that are worn by kabuki actors (I think they’re called chikara or nio daisuki?) which gives a nice element of literal theatricality to them: pretty appropriate considering they’re the minions of the single most extra antagonist in the game (although, considering Shuyin got so pissed off he decided he’s going to fire off a 1,000 year old Chekhov’s Gun, I guess everyone’s pretty extra in FFX-2, really).
Todd: I feel like Mitch has covered most of what I would say here, but I would basically add that the Japanese touches and flavors on this otherwise stock fantasy/sci-fi goon outfit really make the Leblanc Syndicate feel like what would happen if a bunch of queer people with a lot of free time and money suddenly said one day “What if we were the Yakuza?!” Live the dream, expendable minions. Live the dream.
That’s all for our second installment of Fashion Fantasy! Final Fantasy X-2 is a campy fashion smorgasbord that I hope straightworld one day re-evaluates and grows to love as much as queerworld does. A big thank you again to Todd Harper for casting his critical eye over these lewks as well!
Next month we’ll be looking at the style and fashion of another game — if you have suggestions for games to take a look at in future, or if you’ve got some thoughts on any of the outfits covered (or passed over!), tweet me on Twitter!