Review by Kimari
"A decade later, 'Final Fantasy X' leaves its mark"
What mark is that, exactly?
Final Fantasy X was released nearly a decade ago (it will be its ten-year anniversary next month). Since then, we've seen three installments of the main series, as well as numerous spin-offs that were largely ignored by myself. I've always been a fan of the original Final Fantasy series and found very little need or desire to venture outside of it.
But I found it appropriate to go back and give FFX a second look on the eve of its ten-year anniversary, especially since I've played some of the Final Fantasy games since then. Unfortunately, the series itself has taken a nosedive. FFX, in fact, featured a shift, one that has become more radical in each successive entry. Was FFX the last great Final Fantasy game? Unfortunately, it may have been.
In with the new
As the first Final Fantasy game on the PS2, us fans expected some grand changes. First of all, there was the voice acting. Some games get voices right, while others don't get them at all. For the most part, FFX provides solid and sometimes stellar voice acting. Actually, it is the two main characters, Tidus and Yuna, who don't quite fit in with the rest of the cast. They are good, but I found Tidus, for example, a bit too obnoxious at times. Still, it didn't degrade the game in any way. Characters like Auron and Lulu more than made up for them.
Gone was the way of traditionally leveling up your characters. Instead, FFX introduced the Sphere Grid system, which quickly became addicting. As you defeat enemies, you gain AP, which you can then spend on the Sphere Grid to move your character around and gain new abilities and stat points, such as health or mana. At first, your character begins on a set path (except Kimahri). However, later on in the game, you can branch out and take each character a number of different ways, which really puts character customization in the player's hands. Would I have liked to see this happen a bit earlier? Yeah, probably, which is why Kimahri's lack of static path is pretty interesting. I've always been a sucker for leveling up characters, but the Sphere Grid was a nice substitution.
The Sphere Grid extends to how you conduct your party in battles. Each character has their own set of unique abilities, such as Yuna starting with healing magic, or Wakka causing status ailments to monsters. However, who's to say Auron, the strongest physical attacker of them all, can't heal the group? Eventually, you can do that, if you wish. You aren't locked into one style of play for each character for long.
Perhaps the greatest change in FFX was the lack of a traditional world map, which had become a staple of the series. Instead, you pretty much make a beeline from one point of the map to the other, stopping by towns, temples, and other locations to continue your quest. I have mixed feelings about this. I did like the world map in the other games, as it opened everything up and gave a grand sense of scale. At the same time, it was nice to have that sense of travel throughout an entire world in FFX. I mean, a memorable place such as the Thunder Plains could have been omitted had their been a world map, for example. But with this method of travel comes a flaw, and that is the game becoming linear at times. Now, no one could have predicted how linear a certain later game in the series would become, but players such as myself just weren't used to being only able to move forward or backward on the map.
....and the old as well
Something that separates Final Fantasy from other series is the story and characters. Actually, I would probably say that certain characters are more memorable than the games themselves. FFX has a few solid characters, and maybe a couple that transcend the game itself. Auron is definitely my favorite. Lulu is another. Seymour, a major villain, is rather forgettable in the long run. Tidus and Yuna have fairly good character development, but there are also some moments that almost make them embarrassing to watch. I can't knock these characters too much, as they were the first fully-voiced characters in Final Fantasy history, and for the most part, Square succeeded in delivering people we'd remember and care about.
As for the story, I can't say it's one of my favorites. For most of the game, you and your ragtag band of warriors protect Yuna as she travels around the world, Spira, to defeat Sin. The overall story moves very little for much of the middle portions of the game. It's only until the last third or so when things get dicey. At the very least, along the way, characters are developed well, and by the end there are very few of them that you could say you don't know very well. I must admit that the story itself isn't one of the game's selling points. It's not bad, but it's definitely not something I remember the game for.
Making a return after several games that used the Active Time Battle system was turn-based combat. Personally, I like active combat. That said, I didn't mind the turn-based combat at all. The pace was fairly even throughout all fights, be it regular foes or bosses. It also lends itself to a few difficult boss battles late in the game, including one which, at least at the time, I found to be one of the most aggravating in Final Fantasy history. Without giving too much away, it is a female character who has three different forms when you fight her.
The ultimate question here is this: does FFX stand the test of time?
The answer is yes, but the reason is unfortunate. Now, FFX is a fantastic game in its own right. It has memorable characters, solid graphics, an ultimately engaging Sphere Grid system, and some addicting mini-games (Blitzball is one of the series' best).
But the reason it stands the test of time is because, as of right now, it is one of the last great Final Fantasy games. The series is on a quick downward spiral. After this came the online FFXI, which I never cared to play. FFXII, a game I haven't written a review for, was fun but doesn't exactly fit in the Final Fantasy name. Then came FFXIII, which was.....well, I'll say "different". I've lost a lot of faith in the series, especially since FFXIV is an MMORPG, like FFXI, that has gotten terrible reviews. Square desperately needs to return to their roots, as now they are just trashing the once-outstanding pinnacle of RPG series.
As for FFX itself, yes, this game is still great today. A few things hold it back from being truly excellent, but not enough for me to say "don't buy it". It may not be the best Final Fantasy game, but it is one of the top games on the PS2. If you still have a PS2 (which I know many people do) and don't have this game, for whatever reason, I suggest looking around for it, even if RPG's aren't exactly your cup of tea.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/29/11
Game Release: Final Fantasy X (US, 12/17/01)
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