Review by Version 2
"The first Final Fantasy for the Playstation 2."
It’s been a while since I’ve played a good Final Fantasy game. Coincidentally, the game (Final Fantasy Tactics) was not very ‘Final Fantasy’ and ignored by most. With some of Final Fantasy Tactic’s strategic charm and Square’s magic, it’s safe to say the first Playstation 2 Final Fantasy is a success.
The story revolves around the protagonist Tidus, a Blitzball (think football) player from Zanarkand. Transported by the annihilation-bearing Sin into the mysterious land of Spira, he joins up with the summoner Yuna, Blitzball player Wakka, legendary icon Auron, Lulu, Kihmari, and Rikku. The core plot revolves around Yuna’s pilgrimage to receive the Final Aeon and defeat Sin. Like any good Final Fantasy, the story is a lot more complex than that. The plot twists aren’t really twists; you’re always told the truth. However, the surprise comes from assumptions Squaresoft intended for you to make. For most of us laymen, the story will only make sense the second time through, with you smiling in the company of a sly knowledge at references to the story you overlooked. The ended isn’t just fed to you in Final Fantasy X; you’re allowed to draw your own conclusions as to what happened. It gets you really thinking about the game, which is exactly what Squaresoft wanted.
The puzzles have taken a back seat in Final Fantasy X, but the ones that do consist in the game are mediocre. It’s fundamentally a jigsaw puzzle: Find a piece of the puzzle and figure out where it goes. This is done by means of, surprise surprise, spheres. You’ll push columns about to recover a certain sphere, place it in another column, then push that one on the marked section of the floor, and get a new sphere. Each Cloister of Trials (what the puzzles are called) reward you with a new guardian and a hidden item that you don’t have to get to advance. However, you’ll have to collect each of the additional items to unlock one of the game’s more powerful Aeons.
One of the best things about Final Fantasy X is the graphics. No, scratch that, each thing is it’s own masterpiece. Nevertheless, though, the graphics are particularly noteworthy. When a character speaks, you can see their tongue and teeth. Hell, Square probably rendered every tooth. Characters blink, fingers move…It’s really quite amazing, especially that this is the first Playstation 2 based Final Fantasy. The only thing keeping this from CG-perfect (even though I could of mistakenly sworn it was CG several times) is the jaggies and the way the character models tremble. Fortunately, the former is barely noticeable and the latter doesn’t detract from Squaresoft’s attention to detail. A minor annoyance is the way Square swaps character models in and out of rendered movies. Since they only do this on predominantly important parts, you’re left with the ugly Tidus and his block hands on a few occasions.
Many people’s complaints centered on Final Fantasy X’s voice acting, a new to the series. I, however, found it enjoyable on the larger scale. Your antagonist has a haughty, superfluous voice that the role required; Auron has the relaxed attitude of a lion or other predator, and Wakka a tropical, Jamaican accent. However, Tidus mostly comes off as nasally and annoying. It would have been infinitely better if he sounded the same as to when he was narrating the story.
Final Fantasy X’s music is, in my opinion, the best out of any Final Fantasy game. Of course, that’s to be expected since it’s on the Playstation 2, but I feel as if Square achieved it’s goal and hurtled above and beyond it. From the sentimental Zanarkand theme to the ominous Hymn of the Fayth, and then to the techno-loaded boss music, each song fulfills it’s vital part in the game, bringing mood and atmosphere. Despite a journey expanding over 20 hours, the music still manages to stay fresh and first-class.
With each new Final Fantasy, Square has been developing and improving the battle system. I, personally, feel that Final Fantasy X’s is the pinnacle. Gone are the active-time battles of old, replaced with a more tactical way of handing out ass kickings. On the right side of the screen is a list of who goes when. Instead of simply hoping your ATB gauge fills up quick enough, you can plan and plot ahead. The freshness does not end there! Over-drives (Think limit breaks) can be saved for later, so you can prepare for that big boss battle you knows going to happen when you cross that bridge. This game’s summoned monsters, Aeons, replace your characters when you beckon them to stay and fight. In prior Final Fantasies, an Aeon would simply be summoned to do it’s overdrive and be dismissed. Each Aeon has it’s own advantages and disadvantages, much like your characters. Shiva, Ixion, and Ifrit can all be healed using their corresponding magics, which gives them strategic bonuses. For the most part, unfortunately, they’ll just use their overdrive and leave, since their strength is directly proportional to Yuna’s.
Additionally, you can change characters in battle. No longer are you stuck with no means to resurrect your fallen team members because you’ve run out of Phoenix Downs; just have Yuna waddle her fanny in and cast Full-Life, then leave. You’ll be alternating between characters frequently, since most bosses require specific tactics. You may need to use physical attacks to force the enemy to open himself (or herself) to specific magics, and then bring Lulu in for the closing ceremony.
Weapons no longer increase in ‘strength’, so to speak, which makes sense. Why would one slab of steal be stronger than the one before it? Instead, abilities are assigned to weapons with various attributes, such as Counterattack or Waterstrike. Luckily, you’ll be able to customize your weapons later on, if you have the prerequisite item, to suit your personal tastes and whims of fancy. For magicians Yuna and Lulu, you could create Magic Defense and Attack boosting equipment, with Silence ward. Warriors like Auron would appreciate Counterattack and Strength +10%, but, like I said before, it’s all up to you. It’s even possible to make armor that nullifies all magic attacks (except Holy) if you so want.
The ability to personalize is enhanced further by Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid. You gain ‘Sphere Levels’ by actively participating in a battle. Those Sphere Levels can be used to move you along the Sphere Grid, as if playing a board game. You’ll use spheres acquired during your journeys to activate nodes that increase HP, Magic, Defense, and so forth. Providentially, you’ll fine these spheres in hoards. Each character starts out on predetermined portion of the same Sphere Grid, and can eventually move onto another character’s section as you advance. The exception is Kihmari, who begins smack dab in the middle. As you progress, you’ll find special spheres that allow you to learn any other character’s ability or skill, move back to any place you’ve already been, or go anywhere anyone’s previously been. Some believe this leads to every character being the same, which is ridiculous. Only by spending excessive amounts of time on the Sphere Grid can the all the characters be remotely alike. And by excessive I mean an additional 20 hours by the intended methods at least.
Last, but not least, are the side quests. Thankfully, they’re not laughably easy, but…they’re kind of hard. Okay, really hard. To attain Tidus’ Ultimate Weapon, you need to win a Chocobo race with a time of 0:00:00. Lulu’s revolves around dodging lightning 200 times, and Wakka’s is obtained by playing Blitzball. If being forcefully raped is your kind of thing, then the Monster Arena’s perfect for you. The owner will create monsters from the specimens you bring in, constructing demons that make Sephiroth look like Boy George by comparison. In the rare chance that you beat these monstrosities, you’ll receive very rare and prestigious items.
Alas, you can only do the side quests at in close proximity to the closing stages of the game. Until then, the game will be extremely linear, since there’s no world map to venture about upon. The airship that allows the aforementioned access doesn’t even conduct like the airships of old. Since Squaresoft didn’t want a world map, feeling it would subtract from the game’s realism, you’ll simply select from a list of locations (some of which you’ll have to find by imputing a password) you’ll travel to the desired location.
To buy or rent?
Okay, just seeing if you’d fall for it. You should buy it, of course! Final Fantasy X might be a selective taste, but if you’ve enjoyed other Squaresoft RPGs, then chances are that you’d enjoy Final Fantasy X. Despite it’s (very) few shortcomings, Final Fantasy X represents a Squaresoft trend that I wouldn’t mind seeing repeated. Of course, with my luck, they’ll make the next Final Fantasy star Yuna and Rikku in mini-skirts and double handguns…
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/02/02, Updated 11/02/02
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