Review by Etrurianmage
"Game of the Decade? Seriously? ...I can't look at you right now, Gamefaqs."
Where to begin on a game such as this....where to even begin. I have played few games that I feel are so horrendously flawed and unworthy of even existing as Final Fantasy X. The mere fact that this game has a few passable qualities and decent moments is all that prevents me from delivering upon it the 1/10 that I would so dearly love to shell out in retribution for the thirty hours of my life that this game has stolen. With that thirty hours, I could have done anything! Like find a game that doesn't make me want to beat my head against a brick wall! Alright, I might be getting a little harsh here, but I really, really resent this game and the mass praise that it has somehow managed to receive. I urge you, the reader, to spare yourself the twenty bucks and hours of your life that you're apparently considering wasting on this game.
To be fair, the first few hours or so of this game are tolerable enough. The first thing that the player realizes upon starting up Final Fantasy X is the beautiful, immersive world. The game features fantastic cutscenes that rival, and often even conquer the best of what graphics today (2010) are able to produce. The art direction, animation, realistic look, everything about the cutscenes is very notable. The second thing that the player notices, is the stupid beyond description main character. This sounds like less of a problem than it really is. Throughout the game, you are subjected to his androgynous design, stupid voice, constant complaining, irritating angst, and pointless inner monologues. It seems as though with Tidus, they were doing everything they could to make the worst, most annoying protagonist imaginable so as to ensure that the player is unable to feel even the slightest hint of relation to the cast, and in turn, connection with the world. Everything he does through the first several hours, and much of what he does beyond that, is a total joke. But enough about first impressions, on to the (horrendously bad) core of the game.
After about twenty minutes of actual importance that provokes some interest from the player, the pace slows to a crawl for pretty much the entire rest of the game to come, especially the first ten hours or so. Within this time, the player can acquaint themselves with the new design of Final Fantasy. Probably the most noteworthy change is the return to a turn-based battle system, with options beyond those which were provided in the NES FF games (the last entries to use such a system.) Also very handy was the addition of a vertical bar to the right of the screen, showing the player the order of character actions in the current battle. While I must note that the bar has occasionally failed to factor certain conditions, effectively destroying my strategy for a particular battle, this is overall a fantastic addition that has allowed for a greater level of accessibility than was previously available. That's not at all to say that the battle system doesn't have its problems though. However, I will rant about those later within the review. At first, the new battle system seems enjoyable and well-designed. This holds up for about ten hours, although that would be cut to a mere two or three if the game wasn't so clustered with pointless cutscenes and forced distractions. But to be fair, these distractions do serve a purpose in keeping the player from actually getting in depth with the game and realizing how awful it really is-saving them from the utter disgust that is Final Fantasy X at its core for at least a few hours. I think the one mercy that this game granted me was that it fooled me into thinking that I was having fun for a while-though closer inspection realized that I was only in anticipation of a level of quality gameplay that never came. Pity.
As noted, these first ten hours are a massive exercise in patience. All of the problems I mentioned with Tidus' character become painfully apparent in the game's overabundance of long cutscenes and needless dialogue. If you at all enjoyed the down-to-Earth atmospheric approach of SNES/PS1 Final Fantasy games, you are going to be massively disappointed here. Rather than something of a serious war story, the game's plot revolves around Tidus the watersports prettyboy and friends roaming the countryside to acquire Aeons (summons) and destroy a giant monster that's somehow supposed to convey some very bad nihilist undertones in the game's story. While this new plot is arguably more non-cliche than previous offerings, I'd gladly take another dose of the same old story than be forced to follow this garbage.
Another of my major problems appears at about this point. Some time early on, you are forced to do these annoying, needlessly abstract sphere puzzles. There is no logic to these things. Seriously, it's basically a round of trial and error. So you can either waste hours of your life somehow trying to force some logic into this needlessly metaphysical concept of gameplay, or you can resort to Gamefaqs and use a walkthrough to hold your hand throughout these idiotic puzzles at several points throughout the game. Speaking of hand-holding...
This game is linear. Not like streamlined. I mean linear. As in, there is practically no concept of choice, customization, player creativity, anything. Up until right before the final boss, you will play exactly how Square wants you to play. Character expansion is done through the sphere grid. While a nice addition that allows you to see tangible results to your characters' growth, there is practically no room for customization. The only such instances come as additional branches, which are almost always a bad idea, and crossing over into other characters' development tracks, for which there is practically no reason unless you desire to essentially have two of the same person (which is a bad idea given that game heavily depends on character individuality.) So basically, there's no reason at all to do anything but follow a straight path. Even the world design is just that-a path from Point A to Point B, with no real accessibility to anything in between. I'm one for making things simple and adhering to a good central path, but there comes a point where the line between streamlining and linearity becomes apparent. And as I have said before, this game falls on the wrong side of that line.
Now for my major problem-the battle system. Remember how I said it started out well enough? Well a whole bunch of problems accumulate to destroy any possible semblance of entertainment. At first, your strategy is a mix of character roles to defeat certain enemies, it's not fancy, but it's certainly enjoyable enough. However, the game does not bother to evolve this system at all throughout the length of the game. Other Final Fantasies would have situational abilities, so as to allow changing strategies to keep the player interested over the course of the game. Not Final Fantasy X! With this game, you get to fight palette swap enemies and use the same strategy for 80% of the game's battles. IT'S NOT FUN. Even the bosses have only one trick that will make the fight winnable, further encouraging the notion that FFX is a linear, hand-holding game with only one accepted way of playing. It's so bad that early on, characters will even yell at you every time you try to do something different for experience or development purposes. Yeah. The company that pioneered the console RPG is now yelling at you for trying new strategies in their game. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
What's more, these battles are slow and tedious beyond description. Several actions take a good few seconds longer than needed, adding time to their earlier FF counterparts. I know this sounds like a minor gripe, but when all of this wasted time is stockpiled, the end result is a needlessly slow and mind-numbing battle system. Also, several character actions that serve no practical purpose will often be made only so that the character in question can gain experience from having participated in the battle. Having to swap out a character, take a needless action, wait for your turn again, and then change to a more practical character, is a major annoyance. I understand that this kind of perfectionism isn't really necessary, but the player's intuition is to develop each character as much as possible. So ultimately, they will often do this tedious swap anyway out of their desire to ensure the additional experience. It would have made far more sense to establish a system in which practicality and entertainment are not in contrast with one another.
The overall verdict upon Final Fantasy X is this: Don't buy it. Don't rent it. Don't borrow it. Don't steal it. Don't watch somebody play it. Don't stand in a room with it. Don't think about it. Don't acknowledge its existence. And certainly don't play it. There is a little to like about this game, I'll concede. But overall the game is just so full of problems even beyond the scope of what I could fit in this review (unskippable cutscenes, blitzball, and useless weapon customization are three in particular that I couldn't fit in with the rest of my ranting, for reasons of concision) that it's not worth the space it takes up. If you find a copy of this game laying on the street, burn it. You'll make the world a better place.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/10, Updated 11/30/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy X (US, 12/17/01)
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