Review by ChronoMantra
"Shall I compare thee to a masterpiece?"
As time continues to plod on, and gamers continue to further their collection of items, we very rarely see a continual amount of quality produced within one series. Some could even surmise that the gaming industry itself has been geared toward graphical enhancements (due to the modern day ''wars'' between consoles), rather than quality and the overall appeasement of it's fans.
In Final Fantasy X lies a stark counter-example to this claim...
For the past three years, Squaresoft has kept their heads buried in the masterpiece that is the latest installment to this wondrous RPG series. Inside every aspect of the world of FF10, we see details that have gone unmatched by every other Playstation 2 game release thus far. In doing this, Square has generated a game that not only raises the mark for graphical achievements (not just in RPGs, mind you), but pleases fans of the series, both veterans and newcomers alike. As we explore just what makes FF10 so noticeably amazing, reflect back upon games of the past, and just what has defined the term ''amazing'' for this series.
It may as well go that the first area for reviewal be the most trivial. Yes, as expected the graphics are spell-binding. Whereas in Metal Gear Solid 2, we were provided with bland, grey and black environments, Final Fantasy X produces a rainbow of PS2 capabilities, which strikes the player at the very opening sequence, and grabs his attention right up until ''The End'' is splashed across the screen. Don't expect to be given anything less than a lush world to traverse in the setting of Spira.
Along with Sakaguchi and Amano, Nobuo Uematsu is given the utmost praise for remaining with the series throughout it's entire 14 year history, while at the same time producing exceptional tracks for gamers to enjoy during their travels. Final Fantasy X is no exception for Uematsu, although this time, he's got a bit of help. Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu team up with the veteran to create a moving, inspirational (albeit diverse) soundtrack. No less than 70 tracks were produced for the game to accompany the various heroes, heroines, and villains, and situations throughout the game. Although praise can be given, a significant amount of criticism is present as well. The aforementioned diversity can be welcomed, or rejected, depending on the player's point of view. For the first time since the series' inception, heavy metal has made it's way into the soundtrack, and, although the song(s) are rather well-composed for their genre, a certain few may not welcome such a drastic change to this fantasy series.
For those who jumped on the Final Fantasy bandwagon with VII (myself included), the following (and preceding) games' story lines are usually compared to this epic tale. Suffice to say, FF10 may not measure up to VII in this department, but it still holds it's own comparatively well. This time around, we are given the plight of 18 year old Tidus, a star blitzball player, who is unwillingly thrust from his technologically advanced city of Zanarkand, to the religiously adherent and turbulent world of Spira. Spira's turbulence results from the malevolent mammoth creature, born from Spira's past sacrilegious use of technology, known as Sin. There, Tidus meets with Yuna and her three guardians, Wakka, Lulu, and Kimahri, right at the start of Yuna's pilgrimage to defeat Sin. Along the way, they meet several new friends (and defeat several fiends), in their quest to rid Spira of this terrible force. In terms of originality, the premise will leave most unsatisfied, however it isn't the premise which merits this quality. Final Fantasy X contains a larger amount of plot twists than any other preceding FF, save for VII. By the end of the game, many will be scratching their heads in light of the many events that took place over the course of the game.
Similarly, the ending of Final Fantasy X produces a large amount of ambiguity for players. Since an explanation would violate GameFaqs regulations, it can easily be said that a contemplation afterwards is more than necessary in order to determine all that has happened, when it happened, and why it happened.
Final Fantasy X's real area in the spotlight is the gameplay. Never (not even in VII) in the series have battles been this exhilarating, and downright fun. Square opted to leave random battles in, which is the only real qualm I have, but rather than reuse a system from previous FFs, they've chosen to revamp the various systems regarding it. The Active Time Battle System, seen in previous Final Fantasies, has been tossed out, and replaced by the favored turn-based system. A bar in the top-right hand corner of the screen indicates which character (or enemy) is next on the attacking front. This gives gamers time to prepare and fully plan out their strategy, making battles easier, and ultimately, more enjoyable. In addition, the player is given the option to switch characters in and out of battle simply by the touch of a button; pressing L1 activates a menu of characters that are not currently participating in the fight. From their, select whichever character you wish to enter. This welcome addition allows for all seven party members (rather than the previous 3 member party selection) to actively level up, and likewise, be useful
In terms of leveling up, Final Fantasy X has totally scrapped their previous methods, and chosen a system which allows for a maximum amount of freedom. The Sphere Grid is a gigantic board composed of hundreds of nodes, all joined by interconnecting paths. On these nodes lie a multitude of abilities, strength-ups, magic-ups, defense-ups, luck-ups, etc. A character that participates (this is defined by performing only one action) in battle receives AP at the end (provided him/her is still alive). Upon reaching a necessary amount, the character in question receives a Sphere Level. Each sphere level can be used to move either one space forward, or four spaces backwards. To activate a node, characters use spheres that they also gain from the successful completion of a battle. Various spheres correspond to the selection of each node, with the four primary choices being power, mana, ability, and speed. At the start, the characters are locked into their own paths, however as time progresses, lvl. lock spheres can be obtained to break out of these pathways and have each character learn another's abilities.
Mini-games are present here as well, and are even necessary in order to unlock each character's ultimate weapon. Complete with chocobo racing, hidden aeons, a monster training facility, the infamous Ultima and Omega weapons, and an engaging underwater sport (one that could be repackaged and sold separately), Final Fantasy X delivers over 40 hours of completely optional material to participate in.
As with past FFs, 10 will take a considerably LONG amount of time to master. The story line portion of the game will require about 40 hours, depending on the player, however in order to maximize characters and item collection, Final Fantasy X will take no less than 140 hours to complete. Add that to the fact that some may desire a replay, and you have a fun romp that will amount to much more than a simple weekend play.
The years come and go, and the time will come again when yet another installment to the Final Fantasy series has arrived. Until this time comes, gamers across the world will peruse the current object of interest, and both criticize and praise it for what it has become. Square shows no current signs of faltering in the RPG world, and until the next Final Fantasy, FF10 will continue to remain as the prime example of their success and determination to produce what many ultimately desire:
a good game...
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/13/02, Updated 01/13/02
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