Review by DJellybean

"Final Fantasy X is one of the few games on the Playstation 2 actually worth the $50, both in time and value."

Arguably the biggest game of the year from the biggest series in the videogame industry. Final Fantasy X takes a giant step up from it's predecessor and sets a new standard for RPGs.

Graphics
Graphically, the game is an artistic genius. The FMVs integrate so well with the game that transition is almost seamless. Bright colors and zooming camera angles only aid that remark. The characters even move their mouths when they talk, but most of the times you can easily tell that the voices were off in a lot of cases.

FMVs also take a step forward in the series, providing almost real life figures that almost represent actual actors. Every little detail has gone into them, from little trickles of water to the lining in Yuna's hair. Load times have been somewhat of an issue in the previous Final Fantasy games, but players will quickly notice how fast the game loads from the beginning. Saving no longer takes a minute and shifting from scene to scene is nearly flawless.

This is easily Square's best graphical effort yet, even though it is on a much more powerful Playstation 2 system.

Music/Sound
Final Fantasy has seldom(if ever) been a slouch in music. Final Fantasy X is no exception. However, the music is much more modern and seems to fit more into a movie than it does into a videogame. You still get the classic theme and victory theme, but a lot of the scores have a modern upbeat mood to them.

A lot of the music still sounds synthesized and a lot of the sound does too. Yet while they are not neccessarily real to life, they fit the game's overall mood. Establishing a fantasy-esque environment that was made to involve players deeper into the game. The music probably won't have you humming it inside your head or on the elevator, but it certainly doesn't bare down too much on the player.

Sound obviously has taken a very big step forward in Final Fantasy X. Voice actors were used very heavily throughout the game. Some voices fits characters nicely, while some voices were obviously reused or does not fit the character as well as it should. One obvious scene can be found in the beginning of the game, where the same voice actor was used for the children and the teenage girls. Yuna's voice sounds a little more older than Tidus' voice, but that seemed like Square's intention. What Tidus' voice needed was personality, and although his voice doesn't really fit his stature, it does an exceptional job of bringing out the character rather than trying to match the voice with the character.

The game has also adapted to a new language system called Al Bhed, and the voices for the language speak it very fluently to a point where you would almost believe it is an actual language. This part of the game is easily one of Final Fantasy X's strong points.

Replay Value
Beating the game just isn't enough for the developers of Final Fantasy X. Like previous games, Final Fantasy X is loaded with many side quests and a new mini game, blitzball. These side quests can consume as much time as another game(mostly in the action genre), ranging from 4-12 hours of extra play. This makes the $50 value worth even more, aside from the already lengthy game. It's not one of those games where you earn modes by playing the entire game over again either.

Gameplay
While some gameplay methods haven't changed, some have. The biggest difference you'll find is the ''level-up'' system. Square has borrowed a page or two from Chrono Cross, exempting to use experience points over something else. That something else is the Sphere System, a system where you move through connected sphere slots and place with certain spheres. After every battle you will earn a different sphere of sorts, along with ability points. Ability Points take the place of experience points, but they are not here to gain levels, rather gain moves or turns. The entire Sphere Grid is gigantic and resembles a game board of sorts. Each sphere slot will allow a certain sphere to be placed, and each sphere that is placed will earn that character permanent power ups, either raising strength by two points or maximum HP by 300. You can also move each player's grid into another player's grid...so to speak. Once you move the player's grid onto another you gain attributes that would accompany that character. Say move Kimahri to Tidus' grid, you would see Kimahri become a little more agile. Or move him to Lulu's grid and he becomes a little more magic based.

Overdrives are pretty much a new name for Trance or Limit Break, same concept just different names. Overdrives are performed when the player takes a significant amount of damage that fills up the yellow bar underneath the player's stats. When this bar fills up the player can choose the option to perform an Overdrive. The Overdrive can vary, from Auron's motions to Kimahri's attacks learned from different enemies. Overdrives are not only performed by the players, they can be performed by the Aeons.

Aeons, or summons, in this game have taken a different step, though it has borrowed a page from Final Fantasy VIII. Aeons, when summoned, will become controllable characters. These aeons can attack, perform unique attacks, magic, and overdrives. They function much like regular players, but they will become unusable after losing their HP, but the battle doesn't end and the player loses, you would continue on the battle without your aeons. You can recover the Aeon's HP and MP at save spheres, along with the players as well.

In battle there are only a maximum of three players at a time that can be used. However, you can switch to a new party member at any time by pressing the L1 button when your character's turn is up, and fortunately this does not consume a turn. The battle is now turned based and the screen isn't too cluttered with screens and stats. You can use the ''Help'' feature in the game by pressing Select, which will not only tell you the enemies' weaknesses and comments, but also their names and what element is effective and what is not. During battle you'll occassionally here players grunt when they take a hit or yell out quotes unique to their personality and magic. Lulu will yell ''Thirsty?'' to an opponent when she is about to cast water, or Tidus will yell ''This thing is as hard as a rock!'' when he does little ot no damage against an opponent. It sorta resembles how fighters in fighting games yell ''Final Justice!'' when they perform their attack. In battles you can also bribe your way out, paying the monster to leave peacefully, but the price is sickenly high, at gil 20x the maximum HP of the opponent. You are also able to perform Overkills, which requires a certain mimimum to finish off the opponent indefinately whether it is higher or lower than the maximum HP of the opponent. Definately a step up in the battle department overall.

After the battle you can acquire different weapons with different attributes. The unique thing about the spoils system now is that not all enemies will drop an item unique to them. Every opponent in the game can drop an equipment item that can vary on abilities added to that weapon or armor depending on the foe you conquered.

The game's difficulty isn't too much of a bother. However, the game's complex features and gameplay qualities leads to lengthy and sometimes tedious tutorials. However, it's highly important that you understand and read the tutorials, otherwise you don't stand much of a chance. It's one of those games where you must read the tutorials to understand the properties, where as in games like Final Fantasy IX you didn't really need tutorials on abilities and the weapons since you could just play it out.

Blitzball is what Square calls a ''game within a game.'' The fun factor of blitzball however isn't nearly as fun as it would seem or as you would first think. It resembles the BCS on how the BCS would determine who faces who on the national championship based on stats and computer calculations. Blitzball is the same way. It's based more on stats and math than it is on actual...well, fun. There are too many restrictions that limited the game's overall potential. You cannot just simply move your characters in water and shoot and pass. If your stats are lower than your opponents, then you are forced to cough up the ball. The game's physics is obviously flawed from the first time you play it as well. Balls and players are not suppose to move that fast in water and they do not simply drop deeper into the water when it hits a teammate after a throw that had low stats. It plays as if water wasn't a factor, rather it seemed like it was in air. The game is so tedious and amazingly fustrating that only diehards are able to enjoy it. You can choose to pass to an opponent behind you, but whenever or wherever you pass the opponent will always tip the ball and reduce the stat of the throw. HP also plays into the factor as the longer you carry the ball, the more your HP drains.

Encounters are another part of the game. When an opposing group or single player encounters you a menu opens up on whether to break to a certain opponent or not. Breaking doesn't mean trying to shake off a defender, it means taking a hit and hoping the player would hold onto the ball after the hit. Once again, this is all stat based so the higher the stats, the more you are able to endure the hit. Blitzball is atrociously tedious, and while it is an original idea, it is far from innovative and fun. Most players will opt to keep away from this game.

Voice acting plays an integral role into the game. While it can be done without, it does add a lot of personality to the game. What makes this game even more interesting is that it seems like a movie based on a book. Tidus will often tell readers what's on his mind aside from what he actually says to the others. The whole narrative approach in the voice acting really adds a lot to the game. The voice job is pretty good and doesn't overdo too much or under-achieve too little.

The whole gameplay engine of Final Fantasy X is innovative, yet retro enough to immerse veteran players. It's much like previous Final Fantasy games, a mix of the new mixed with a mix of the old. This time however, innovation outweighs the retro aspects.

Overall
This is one of the best worthwhile titles that you will ever see on the Playstation 2. The length and extras in the game and the overall feel shows how much effort was actually put into the game. It's easy to see that Square put in a lot of time into the game and it's easily one of the best (if not the best) game of the year.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/26/01, Updated 12/26/01


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