Review by Psycho Penguin
"Perfect for what it was intended to be."
The Final Fantasy series has been out for many years now, spanning many different platforms, and it has turned into one of the most beloved and revered video game series to ever grace the planet. It has certainly become one of my favorite game series, if not my favorite, and has become a series that all role playing games wish to become one day. Every game has been hyped and for the most part always delivers. Amazing that such a last gasp effort from a guy about to be broke turned into the most popular video gaming series in the history of video games, huh?
About a year or so ago, Squaresoft made the announcement that changed the face of their company forever. They were going to release the most anticipated game they've probably ever released to the Playstation 2. While the choice of consoles was not a huge shock, the fact that Final Fantasy X was coming sent shockwaves into the role playing game community, and for good reason. The game seemed awesome on paper. The graphics were amazing, and the game promised awesome gameplay.
Fast forward to December 18th, 2001. The day that will live in video gaming history. The day Final Fantasy X was released, just a week before Christmas. I rushed down to the store to get my copy, went home, tore off the packaging, and played all night. Needless to say, I fell in love with the game, but like anything you ever fall in love with, you soon become annoyed with certain aspects, because you think you have the perfect package, and it turns out you don't. That's what happened here.
Don't get me wrong, I loved Final Fantasy X. I think it's a seriously awesome game that did its job perfectly. It wasn't supposed to be another ''gameplay only'' game. It was supposed to combine movie scenes and gameplay seamlessly together, and I think it did so perfectly. I think some people expected it to be a totally radical game. And it wasn't. Sure, I found some basic flaws with the game, and I don't think it's as great a game as Final Fantasy 9, or even FF5, but it's still an incredibly fun and meaningful role playing game.
The story is the most overused aspect of Final Fantasy X, in my opinion, and it is the only main weakness to a certain point. I disliked the option to skip story scenes by pausing like you could in Xenosaga. Some of the earlier movie scenes in the game are boring as hell to watch a second time, or third time, and skipping them would have been nice. Plus, several of the scenes mean nothing to the game. However, you can't skip scenes in any Final Fantasy game, and so I realize it's unfair to criticize Final Fantasy X too much in this regard.
It is fair, however, to say the storyline in FFX starts off slow, and it takes a while for it to get going. You start off as Tidus, a star blitzball player in his hometown of Zanarkand. Tonight is the big game, the one everyone has been waiting for. The game gets underway.. and suddenly Sin attacks. Sin is this big evil thing that is apparently Spira's (the continent Zanarkand resides in) punishment for their sins. Tidus and a mysterious stranger named Auron fight through waves of Sin's tentacles... and Tidus is suddenly warped into a world he doesn't know.
This is when the storyline starts to pick up. You learn lots about the characters, despite the fact the game only delves into certain aspects of each. I think Square kind of forgot to tell us about a lot of things in this game. It's like they focused on a few main storylines and forgot to clear up little details. You will start to get annoyed with how they just move onto the next storyline without clearing up the past one. Fortunately, everything comes together at the end, and you'll finally get to figure out what the hell the confusing beginning was about. I loved it, for the most part.
The game sure does look incredible, too. Graphically, this is the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy series, which has gone from deformed looking characters to realistic, lifelike human beings. The characters look awesome, despite their.. uniqueness. I guess Squaresoft had to fill the ''deformed looking character'' quota here, but I will say that they were dead on with every style they tried to convey. Battles look supremely awesome, with some of the greatest magical attacks you will ever see, and the backgrounds are superbly designed. The game simply looks great, and may be the best looking video game EVER.
Featuring some of the most amazing graphics I have ever seen, Final Fantasy X really raised the bar for all future games. From the moment I saw the opening video with the blitzball game, I was hooked. The amount of detail paid to each video is astonishing. Sometimes, you will feel like you are actually watching a real movie instead of just a FMV in a video game. Everything is detailed perfectly, and the movie scenes are definitely amazing looking, and I was thoroughly impressed to say the least.
Plus, the in-game graphics are just superb. Everything just looks incredibly realistic for an early-generation Playstation 2 title. Towns are detailed to the point that you think they are too detailed. Characters all look differently and react to your movements. Little details like dogs scratching themselves and kids playing catch and dropping the ball really add a lot to the overall flavor of the game, as well. Plus, battles look just incredible. I love the enemy designs, and the battles animate so smoothly and effortlessly. I especially appreciated how enemies sort of crumbled away when they died.
From the time you hear the opening theme to the time you hear ''Other World'' at the end, the music in Final Fantasy X will totally amaze you. It's one of the better soundtracks of all time, in my eyes. I think it starts off kind of slowly, with slow songs mostly dominating early. Once you hear some of the darker and meaner songs, you will start to appreciate the soundtrack more. ''The Advancing Men'' is one of my favorite video game songs of all time now, mainly because of the unique sound, and the fact it plays during battles, as well. ''Someday the Dream Will End'' is a more happier song, but it also plays during battles.
I love hearing great songs that play during battle as well, but don't let that fool you into thinking the battle theme isn't good. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Final Fantasy X has one of the best battle themes ever. It starts off really catchy, with a series of clashes and drum beats, and picks up from there. It never really gets too annoying, and overall sounds very nicely. The victory theme is, of course, a remix of the original Final Fantasy's victory theme, and it happens to be one of the better ones. The Final Fantasy series always tends to use the same victory theme, only slightly remixed, so I loved to hear it.
There is also a wide variety of boss themes that I happened to love, as well. The main boss theme is very dark and spooky and fits in perfectly with the feeling of the game. It definitely has a unique style to it that I felt was perfect. I also like how it usually started off before the boss battle even began, as it takes a few seconds for it to really kick into gear. Seymour also has a few amazing boss themes, and ''Challenge'' is one of the better songs in the game, mainly due to the unique beat that occurs in the middle of it. Plus, the final boss theme, ''Other World''.. words cannot describe how good it is. It's a fantastic hard rock song that really puts me into the mood to kick some final boss ass!
The voice acting is subpar, however, and is one of the weaker parts of the game. None of the voices seem to fit the characters well, except for maybe Auron and Kimhari, and most of the voices will just drive you insane. For one, when Tidus starts to laugh in one of the scenes in Luca, you will wonder what the hell the developers were smoking. The actors and actresses tended to overact a lot, especially in situations that were light hearted, and it really became annoying by the end of the game. So, no, I don't like the voice acting much at all, besides Kimahri, who of course rocked ass as always!
The game controls pretty well, as you may expect from a RPG. The battles may seem a little more complex at first, but switching characters in and out is as easy as pressing R1 and then finding the character you wish to switch for. The menu system is simple to navigate, as well, and overall you will find very little to complain about when it comes to controls. Square always does a good job with the controls in their games and this is no exception.
Now, onto the most important (and least talked about, sometimes) aspect of Final Fantasy X, gameplay. The game, fortunately, has a perfect blend of innovations and old features, so it's one of the better playing games in the entire series. First off, let me explain what's stayed the same. You still get gold for winning battles, there's still random battles, the menu system is almost the same, aeons act like GF's from Final Fantasy 8, and there's a minor job system in the game.
First, let me explain the ''job system'', as it's not really a customizable element. Each character has their own unique style, which I felt was awesome. Tidus is a sword user that can use basic magic and also can learn minor abilities. Wakka uses long-range attacks, and can learn attacks that place status effects on enemies. Lulu is the black mage of the group, while Yuna is a combination of summoner and white mage. Auron and Kimahri are the powerhouses, while Rikku is the nimble thief who can combine items together. They really do make the perfect team.
Plus, due to the new sphere grid system, they are totally customizable. Instead of leveling up normally using an experience points system, now enemies will give you AP. When you gain enough AP, you gain a sphere level. Sphere levels can be used to make moves in the sphere grid. Each character starts off in an area of the grid and can move from one space to the next, learning ablities and gaining statistics. Each player will move differently on this grid, and therefore everyone's party will be different by the end of the game. I enjoyed how you can customize your characters, but sometimes you could make a wrong turn and then end up with a weaker party. (I forgot to get Tidus Hastega, as I went down instead of up, and therefore I suffered at the end of the game).
The battle system has also undergone a transformation. It's no longer in real time, as enemies won't attack until you do. Therefore, you now get more time to choose between attacks. In the upper right hand corner, you will see a listing of who gets to go next in battle. This is important as you get to plan your attacks ahead of time. Do you have to worry about healing now or can you get off a good attack first? This isn't the only new feature, though. Trigger commands show up from time to time, and allow you to do all sorts of crazy stuff during boss fights.
But... there is one feature of the battle system that changed the most. As we all know by now, Square decided to change the gameplay so now you can switch characters in and out during battle without penalty. Have Yuna in your party against three flying enemies? No problem, just switch her out with Wakka, who can take care of flying enemies easier. I loved this, as you no longer had to worry about getting beat up by enemies you couldn't handle. Plus, it made leveling up a whole lot easier. However, it made the game easier, which I will explain later.
Also, characters get limit breaks in this game, as well. They work just like they do in Final Fantasy 7, which I was relived to see. Each character has a bar under their name, and when the bar is filled, they can unleash their limit break, which are called Overdrives in this game. Each character, of course, gets their own unique Overdrive. Tidus and Auron get basic sword attacks (that you have to carefully complete, by the way), Kimahri gets to use Blue Magic he learns from enemies, Yuna gets to summon Aeons in Overdrive mode, Lulu gets to cast several magic spells at once (depending on how fast you can move the right analog stick), Wakka gets to do slots, and Rikku gets to combine 2 items to make one awesome item.
A cool element to the Overdrives system was that you could change your style so that your Overdrive meter will fill up quickly. In Final Fantasy 7, you could only get attacked to gain points on your meter. Here, you can change your style (after fulfilling certain requirements, of course) so that you don't have to get hit. Are you killing enemies more with Auron? Change his Overdrive mode to Slayer and watch it fill up every time he kills an enemy. Everything from Healer to Defender to Attacker is a Mode, and I felt Square did an extremely awesome job with this innovative idea.
Another cool idea that was ''borrowed'' from a previous Final Fantasy game is Aeons. Unlike FF8, Aeons don't take ten hours to load (if you don't want them to), but that's not the only difference. Yuna can call upon any aeon she has, but then the aeon is in there by itself. The aeon can do many things: attack, do a special attack, use magic (each aeon has HP and MP like a character), shield (takes less damage, overdrive meter won't fill up much), or boost (takes more damage, overdrive meter fills up quickly). Plus, aeons have killer overdrive moves, and you can teach them new abilities and increase their stats throughout the game. I really loved the aeons, as well.
Also, a disappointing element was the removal of dungeons and a world map. You don't get many dungeons this time out. Nor is there a world map. Instead, you go from one place to the next with the destination always seeming to be the next place. ''We're going to Bevelle, so we can get to Zanarkand!'', for instance. The game is extremely linear because of the lack of a world map. You get an airship at the end of the game, but it doesn't help much. Plus, there are really little dungeons in the game. Most are wide open grasslands and stuff. You get temples, but you have to complete challenging puzzles in all of them (with no battles). I didn't like the temples much, but they fit in well with the storyline.
There are tons of side quests to do in Final Fantasy X, ranging from finding hidden aeons and ultimate weapons, to a Monster Arena where you can collect monsters from across the world and combine them into more powerful monsters to fight. You will never get bored with Final Fantasy X if you are the type that loves side quests, I assure you. Plus, the amount of mini games are staggering, but the lack of in-game mini games was a little disappointing. You really don't have to do any the entire game. Also, a card game was replaced with Blitzball, a disappointingly weak side game that I never got into due to the complexity.
So, Final Fantasy X definitely has the replay value.. for one game. You will want to spend so much time throughout your first quest making sure you got every item, fought every boss, etc. But when I beat it, I suddenly felt the need to not play it any more. It was remarkable. I don't want to watch all those boring story scenes at the beginning again. If Final Fantasy X had a skip story scene option, it might be more replayable, but the game doesn't have the long term appeal in my eyes regardless. It's really one of the few weak points.
Sadly, this is a very easy game to complete. Sure, the monster arena may have the MOST CHALLENING BOSSES EVAR, but it's not part of the actual game. I know a lot of people had trouble with Seymour fights and other bosses (like a certain boss late in the game that casts Zombie all the time), but I never had any problems until the end. I beat the game fairly effortlessly without doing side quests. The only problems were the final boss, and some cheating enemies who like to cast sleep and fira 100,000 times in a row. The game was not challenging to me, but I can see how it would be to others.
I am happy to report I love Final Fantasy X. It is not the perfect game. It has flaws. The story can get boring, the voices are annoying, and the game is too easy. You can take advantage of the sphere grid and completely destroy the game in no time at all. But, who cares? The game is innovative, unique, and most importantly, fun. I don't think I've had this much fun with a role playing game since Final Fantasy 9. Sure, I found a lot to complain about during the game, but I still found myself immensed with it until the end. Take off your biased old school hats and allow yourself to be immensed in the game, too. It really is a terrific game. And I'm so happy to say that.
I'm plesantly surprised, for once. Thank you, Square.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/31/01, Updated 06/22/03
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