Review by Arkrex
"This is my story... of their story"
Have you ever been touched by a video game? I have. Many times. Usually the breaking point occurs when someone - whom you develop strong feelings for - meets an untimely demise. I don't mean to be a spoilsport, but Final Fantasy X tugged at more heartstrings than every other video game I have played, all combined. Tidus is a star blitzball player and Yuna, a fledgling summoner. The two were raised in entirely different backgrounds, yet at the conclusion of this beautiful tale, I could not see a more perfect match. This is my story... of their story.
Final Fantasy X was the first PlayStation 2 Final Fantasy game. The PlayStation 1 trio was met with unprecedented worldwide success and so, it was no surprise that this tenth instalment carried an unbelievable amount of hype as it made its grand entrance. With the power of the Emotion Engine, Squaresoft was able to do away with the pre-rendered backgrounds of the past, ushering in a new era of sprawling, full-3D landscapes. I no longer had to squint to blend in the polygonal models with the photographic-quality scenery; Final Fantasy X provided a visually cohesive world to explore.
The main characters looked great; so too did the many, MANY non-playable characters scattered all over the various regions of Spira one of the finest virtual hotspots in recent history. When I first saw Tidus in his strapping blue and yellow blitzball uniform that tightly hugged his perfectly chiselled chest, I thought that he was quite possibly the most sexually-disorientated RPG lead I had come across. But man - after watching the intense opening sequence where the biggest, effing monster you could ever imagine utterly decimates the Zanarkand metropolis, I totally forgot about how dodgy our protagonist looked. As Tidus matured as a character, I soon grew to appreciate his queer dress sense, though. Same thing with practically all the other characters in the game - Lulu and her bulky black magic garb that showed off some killer cleavage; Auron who wore some funky specs that really didn't gel well with his ronin outfit; and Kimahri, a proud warrior belonging to the Ronso tribe with a tad too much jewellery hanging off his hulking frame. At first, the cast looked extremely un-Final Fantasy like, but as the story dived further in I learned to appreciate that their diverse costumes reflected their unique cultural backgrounds.
It may come as a shock to some, but Final Fantasy X really nailed a fantasy world which closely mirrors our own one. Every district you pass through is home to many very different types of people, and it's not just a cosmetic thing either. The Ronsos are honourable warriors to the very end; the Guados are a deceptive race of malformed beings; even the humans themselves have conflicting ideals and beliefs with respect to customs and religion, depending on where exactly they hail from. Yevon is the guiding principle in the world of Spira. Remember that BFM? (Big eFfing Monster, in case you forgot.) It is said that because of the misdeeds that the Spiran community committed in the past (wars over petty things), the people of today must now atone for their sins; that BFM I was talking about is their burden to carry. How unfair is that? Should future generations have to live with their ancestors' mistakes, eternally doomed to a never-ending vicious cycle? Tidus and the rest of them don't think so, and this is where they start their epic journey to close this tainted chapter in Spira's history book, forever.
If it seems like I have overkilled on the story a bit much thus far, I apologise. The thing is, if anything warrants a ten out of ten in this latest Final Fantasy episode, it is the compelling narrative - spoken word for word by some top-notch voice actors. Of course, I am referring to the Japanese seiyu; the American talent' that was recruited is laughable, to put it lightly. But I digress. Outside of the well-crafted chronicle seeped in incredibly rich lore, the gameplay isn't all that different to what we've seen over the long-spanning progression of this revered franchise.
Yeah, you know it. Random battles, again. Was it that much of a surprise?
The evolutionary twist that the battle system takes is that it no longer is played out in quasi real-time. The newly-branded Conditional Turn-based Battle system (cf. Active Time Battle) works exactly as advertised; you can take your own sweet time to figure out your course of action and depending on those actions, it will affect when others will get their turn in the spotlight. For example, you attack the enemy. He/she/it will stand still to receive your hit and (in most early circumstances) it will then retaliate. There are special attacks (costing MP) that can physically delay an enemy's movement, thus resulting in their turn cropping up later than usual. There are the typical time-manipulation spells, haste and slow, which can speed up or slow down friend or foe. Using items usually results in quicker recovery as opposed to summoning a gigantic Aeon to do your bidding. One interesting change is that you can now take direct control of these powerful beasts, but not only are they slow on the turn-based side of things, later on they become pitifully weak compared to the uber party you can develop via the highly customisable (International/PAL versions only!) sphere grid your new means of levelling up.
While the turn-based nature does offer a slightly higher degree of strategy compared to the last few efforts (note that with the classic Active Time Battle systems, you could place it on Wait mode' which virtually replicates the same idea), fights are still rather predictable. Apart from a couple of very cheap boss fights (make good use of the frequent save point folks), this is yet another relatively easy RPG to complete. And you should play and finish it. The story is that good. Nobuo Uematsu is once again the leading composer, backed by some great assisting musicians; the result is one of the most moving, heartfelt soundtracks among all the Final Fantasy games. That says a heck of a lot right there. From the melancholic To Zanarkand to the lovely trails of Suteki Da Ne, to the gentle finger-picking strings of Tidus' Theme - these are some of the most memorable pieces that have graced this musician's battered ears.
It's a shame that the battle strategies have been toned down after the rejuvenating Final Fantasy IX brought some great ideas to the table (only three characters at a time now; overdrive abilities are broken; fast-paced highly-refined quasi real-time action is done away with, etc. etc.), but RPG fans will still enjoy what's here. Breaking the traditional 9999 HP and damage limit definitely rocks hard. The scene-stealers, however, are the characters and the vast world they inhabit; their interactions, and their trials and tribulations which come together to deliver a masterfully created storyline that will forever remain in my heart. I'm tired. Do yourself a favour and just play this game already!
VERDICT 9.0/10 Long story short, this is one of the most captivating interactive tales you'll ever see.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/16/07
Game Release: Final Fantasy X International (JP, 01/31/02)
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