Review by LordShibas

"Not one of my favorite Final Fantasy games, but it's not too bad"

With so many Final Fantasy games out there, people are bound to have favorites and those which they do not like at all. I highly treasure Final Fantasy VI, VII, and VIII, but Final Fantasy II, III, and V were not much to my liking. Having now played Final Fantasy X, I can say that Final Fantasy X falls somewhere in between these games as a Final Fantasy game that I'm kind of indifferent about. Final Fantasy X is a game that I really, really wanted to love, but it is plagued with so many problems that it's hard to fully enjoy.

Final Fantasy X was Square Enix's first Final Fantasy game on the PS2, and they have adapted to the hardware quite well. A visual feast awaits anyone who dares to enter the land of Spira. However, Final Fantasy X is proof that visuals alone do not make a game great. When all of the other aspects of the game convene, I felt like this game just didn't measure up to some of the better Final Fantasy games out there, and I consider it to be a middle of the road Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy X follows the story of a boy named Tidus that is from the town of Zanarkand. He is a revered Blitzball player, and he apparently dabbles in swordplay from time to time. In the opening scene, Zanarkand is attacked by a monstrous force known only as “Sin.” The town gets destroyed, and Tidus is somehow sent 1000 years into the future. This is kind of where things start, and it's now Tidus's job to get acquainted with his new life, and find out exactly what Sin is, and devise a plan to destroy it.

Along the way, Tidus meets up with a summoner named Yuna, who is on a pilgrimage to lend a hand in the extermination of Sin. She is accompanied by several “Guardians,” that watch over and protect her. Tidus begins traveling with them, and becomes an unofficial Guardian for Yuna.

Yuna's Guardians will make up the majority of your party. They consist of an energetic, blitzball playing island boy named Wakka, a dark, callous magic caster named Lulu, and a seldom heard beastman named Kimahri. Other party members will join you later on, but this is kind of your default party, once things get going.

Of all of the characters, I found Lulu to be the only character that I liked, and I think I mainly liked her because she poked fun at the other characters during the game. Tidus is a decent main character in the end, but for the first half of the game, he feels more like a secondary character than anything else. It gets kind of annoying and tedious following around this group of ragtag goofballs.

Yuna's pilgrimage leads you to specific areas and locations in the game, and I think the extreme linear nature of the game kind of hurts the overall experience. If this was just a regular RPG, then it might be acceptable, but taking away almost all of your abilities to explore your surroundings in a Final Fantasy game is somewhat taboo. It's kind of contradictory to what the series stands for. The game breaks down in a more casual “get from point A to point B” kind of style. While the layout of the game may seem straight forward and casual, there is nothing casual about the amount of random battles in Final Fantasy X.

I may be overreacting, but I would go as far as saying that Final Fantasy X has more random battles than any other RPG I have ever played, including old school Final Fantasy games. Getting from point A to point B seems simple at first, but when you factor in the fact that you will be getting into random battles every three steps it really makes things arduous and time consuming.

Yes, there are a lot of random battles in this game, luckily, the battle system in Final Fantasy X is pretty good, and even though it has its drawbacks, it's one of the better aspects of the game.

You can have up to three active party members in your group at any given time, and all of your party members are always on standby. When it's your turn to fight, you can hit the L1 button to bring up a list of your characters in your reserves. By selecting one of them, they will immediately replace your selected character and are ready for their turn. It's a fun little boost to the otherwise standard, turn based battles. Being able to swap characters is not the only thing that has changed.

Each character now has a specific monster type that they are capable of dealing great damage to. For example, Wakka is great at taking out flying enemies, Auron and Kimahri are good at piercing enemies with tough exteriors, and Lulu has strong elemental magics that need to be properly utilized in order for her to lay waste to her enemies. There is much more to this system than the aforementioned, but it's kind of hard to explain if you have not played the game.

There are a few downsides to the battles. With these new character proficiencies comes a lot of similar enemies. You will be fighting lots of elementals with blatant elemental weaknesses, re-skinned creatures with the same weaknesses, and there are only a handful of different enemies in any given area. It also doesn't allow you to immediately tamper with the system very much, and you are sort of forced to play the game a certain way if you want to be successful. Whether you look at the battle system in a positive light or a negative light, it's something new for the series, and I thought it was done pretty well, but it definitely could have used some tweaking.

Since I'm talking about the new battle system, I feel the need to explain the new leveling system and the Sphere Grid. Square Enix has completely abolished the contemporary RPG leveling system, and your characters now gain “Sphere levels.” Each Sphere Level that your character gains allows that character to move one space on the Sphere Grid. The Sphere Grid is a huge mesh of character power ups that are laid out like a giant board game type menu. You gain different types of spheres from fallen enemies, and when you move on the Sphere Grid you can activate adjacent nodes for small power ups. It's a very clever way to level up your characters, and it also adds some customization for you to play around with.

The downside to the Sphere Grid system is the immense amount of time you will be spending there. Since you have so many characters in your party, one will almost surely gain a sphere level during any given battle. So after most battles, you will need to enter the Sphere Grid to get new abilities and power ups. It gets kind of old after a while, and I found myself longing for a less impudent leveling method about ten hours into the game. As with the regular battle system in Final Fantasy X, the Sphere Grid is a nice change of pace, but it no doubt could use some tweaking, to cut back on the micromanagement.

Final Fantasy X is the first Final Fantasy game to have a substantial amount of voice acting for the characters, and while I applaud Square Enix's first effort for the Final Fantasy series, it's kind of hit and miss. Tidus sounds good, but he can be annoying at times, and Yuna sometimes sounds like her voice actor is spouting off lines with a gun to her head. Other characters, like Seymour (who I hated with a passion), had a voice that didn't seem to match the character at all. He sounded far too pleasant and collected IMO.

To go along with the voice acting, Square Enix adds some facial expressions to the characters which are also hit and miss. Sometimes the moods of the characters are properly conveyed, and sometimes they just don't match up at all. On many occasions, Tidus will be having a verbal quarrel with someone, and he will be upset, but he looks like he's smiling. It's just creepy at times, and I was waiting for the scene where Tidus's head twisted off, but it never happened.

There is one final thing that I'd like to comment on, and that is the lack of an area map. Final Fantasy X gives you two maps. One is an overview of the entire world, which is worthless, and the other is a small map in the upper left hand corner of your immediate surroundings. Not having an area map can make navigating around a bit confusing at times, and I don't see why Square Enix didn't include one in the game.

Conclusion

Leering at Final Fantasy X with malicious intent will give you plenty to complain about. The game has major pacing problems, the story takes about ten hours to even figure out what the hell it's trying to do, and some of the characters will make you want to throw them into a big, goopy pile of Sin, but Final Fantasy X seems more experimental than anything else. I don't know if any subsequent Final Fantasy games build off of the systems that Final Fantasy X puts in place, but I could really see great things in the future if the Sphere Grid was properly unfurled.

I know there are lots of people that love this game, but I feel like it needed more time in development. In saying that, I can't rank Final Fantasy X up there with my favorite Final Fantasy games of all time, but it has a unique style which begs to be noticed, and I commend Square Enix for taking the path less traveled with Final Fantasy X.

Final Fantasy X is really cheap these days, and I think it's a game that any Final Fantasy fan should play. It may not be your cup of tea, but it's worth checking out for the battle system and Sphere Grid alone. Non-Final Fantasy fans may want to stay away from this one.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/10

Game Release: Final Fantasy X (US, 12/17/01)


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