Review by Alex_

"A Boy and His Blitzball"

Final Fantasy X. Square's way of saying, ''Sorry for 'The Bouncer'.''

Without a doubt, Final Fantasy X is the crowning jewel in any PS2 owner's collection. In terms of graphics, gameplay innovations, and overall production quality, FFX is a testament to how far people are willing to go in order to make a living. It's touching, in a socialist-economic kind of way. Anyway, here we go.

THE STORY

In the oddly named Zanarkand city lives an equally oddly named boy named Tidus. Tidus is a pro-leauge Blitzball player (a kind of 3-D soccer played in a giant sphere of water), but his team's game is interrupted one evening by something large and intimidating that wrecks his town. Saved only by his father's old friend, Auron, Tidus is thrown into a new world full of people with even stranger names than himself. It is here he discovers more about the past of his dead-beat dad, Jecht, and how he is connected with the mysterious being known only as Sin. Tidus' travels take him across mountains, plains, snowy valleys, great deserts, and even underwater as he searches for the man who stole his other pant leg.

THE LOOKS

Every inch of Final Fantasy X makes FFVIII look like it was done with crayons by my little sister--and that's just the regular stuff. The FMV clips push the PS2 to the edge and back, with full voice audio all the way. Even in some of the biggest settings with tons of characters, there's barely a hint of slowdown, and the line between FMV and real-time is blurred at every corner. The new summons are also spectacular, and Square has kindly put in an option to allow us to either watch the full summon or the short version. The best part of this package.

THE MUSIC

Nobuo Uematsu returns once again, and he's back with a vengence. FFX's marvelous score is richer and more detailed than anything before--my favorites include the battle theme, the Fayth hymn, and the Blitzball theme. The orchestrated composition will be something to look for soon, with any luck.

In addition to the music, Final Fantasy X is packed with hours of voice-audio from the characters, both in the FMVs and out. This adds an incredible amount of depth to the characters, even moreso than the previous Final Fantasies. A good voice can make or break a character, and with the exception of Yuna, the cast is marvelous. I can't get enough of Wakka's accent, or how Lulu's tone is always low and soft, but not harsh. Tidus was also cast very well, with an exuberant-youth type of tone that fits him perfectly.

THE GAMEPLAY

The flesh-and-bones of every game, and Final Fantasy X delivers. The long-time lover to Final Fantasy, the ATB Battle System, has been kicked to the curb, and has been replaced with a less-defined turn-based system, making people use lots of hyphens in their sentences. Square has also kicked the number of avaliable characters in battle from four back down to three. But have no fear, boys and girls--a merest touch of the L1 button brings up a menu that will allow you to replace one character in battle with another! Pure genius! I can't TELL you how often I've wanted to do something like that in other games! This is an excellent change in overall gameplay, and I can only pray Square keeps it for FFXI.

For the most part, Magic remains the same, lumped into two categories--White and Black. White is support and healing; Black is status-change and attack. Some new spells have cropped up in this game, though--namely, the Nul-spells (yes, with one ''L''). These White spells allow for the one-time annulment of an elemental attack, and they proved to be one of my most-used spells later in the game. ''Haste'' and ''Slow'' have also been upgraded to ''Hastaga'' and ''Slowaga'' which hits all your allies or enemies, respectively. Ultima is back too, along with its little brother Flare. I haven't seen any Meteor, though. Darn.

Summons have also taken a turn for the better. In this game, Summoned Monsters--called Aeons, which is easier to say than Eidolons--are more like actual characters. Once summoned, they'll sit around and wait for you to tell them what to do, be it attack, use a special ability, or even cast spells. Ifrit, Shiva, and Bahamut all make a return from the previous Final Fantasy incarnations, and Ifrit and Bahamut both look better than ever, with Ifrit becoming more and more leonine as the games have progressed. Newcomers include Ixion the thunder horse, Valefor the ugly bird, and Yojimbo, the Aeon who attacks with rabbits. No, that's a lie. I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. The Magus Sisters are back from Final Fantasy IV, by the way. I hate them.

In addition to this, ''levels of experience'' as we know them have been given The Big Boot. It has been replaced with a Sphere Grid system of advancement, which is actually pretty neat. Instead of EXP, characters gain AP, which is, in turn, used to gain Sphere Levels. For each Sphere Level a character has, he can move one space on the Sphere Grid, much like a board game (if most board games granted people superhuman powers, of course). In addition to this, enemies drop Spheres of various influences (Power Spheres, Ability Spheres, ect.) which allow your character to increase HP, raise Strength and Defense, learn new powers, and all sorts of neat things. Of course, if you don't have a corresponding Sphere to the ability you want to learn, you're just out of luck. Fortunately, enemies drop more Spheres than you'll probably end up using, so there's little fear of running short.

Each character has his or her own ''area'' on the Sphere Grid, where all their power-ups and unique abilities are hidden and just waiting to be used. Once a character has mapped out most of his or her Sphere Grid Area, they can break into the area of another character and start using their abilities as well! This is important, as some characters can obviously function better in some areas than others. How, you ask? Well, my child, ask, and you shall receive.

Let's go with a simple example. Tidus is fast and agile, and is able to hit four-legged beasties and other assorted nasty fiends with good accuracy. Auron, on the other hand, isn't as fast, and carries a butter-cutter the size of a small nation. He can't hit small, speedy things. If he chooses to enter Tidus' area on the Sphere Grid, though, he'll have access to a bunch of Agility and Accuracy power-ups, which, when combined with his enourmous Strength power-ups, make him a force to be reckoned with.

Last (but certainly not least), Limit Breaks have returned in the guise of Overdrives, which do an amazing job of replacing the exceptionally hideous Trance garbage we saw in FFIX. Each character has his or her own Overdrive set (duh), all with varying effects. The main difference here is that most Overdrives require you to be involved with the game; no more sitting back and watching the carnage, skin puppy. You gotta be IN there, pushin` those buttons and spinnin` that stick, or you'll go nowhere fast.

THE EXTRA STUFF

Ever see the movie ''Rollerball''? It was a good movie. I hear the remake they're coming out with blows chunks, but the original was great. For those of you who have not, here's the reason I'm wasting my breath on it--Rollerball was, in this movie, the next best thing to religion. Everybody watched it, everybody loved it. It was like the WWF on rollerstakes and motorcycles, only not as stupid and contrived. Blitzball is very much like Rollerball in the sense that no matter where Tidus goes, people play it. Tidus himself was the star player of the Zanarkand Abes, who are most known for their tall black hats (think about it...). Have you ever wanted to play Blitzball?

Pick up FFX and you'll get your chance. Blitzball is a spectacular game; my only complaint would be that there's too much math involved with all the statistics and whatnot. I hate math. Still, leveling up your players is fun, and dominating those stupid Luca Goers is even more fun. Yeah, Poison Shot, huh?! Eat my Jecht Shot, Graav!! HAAA HAHAHAHAHAHA!

...uh...

Oh, chocobos are back, too. For cute!

JUDGEMENT DAY

I received this game, along with Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty for Christmas, and they have spoiled me. No game (except for the sequels of said games) could ever be as wonderful--for now, anyway--and I seriously doubt I'll play any of my older games for a good long while. If this game was a pastry, it'd be a Bavarian cream-filled donut. If it was a tree, it'd be a mighty Redwood. If it was a pizza, it'd be covered with FIVE types of cheeses, sprinkled with garlic on the crust, and covered in pepperoni that was swimming in a sparkling sea of greasy cheese...mmmm...oh, yeah...that's the stuff...

My only goal now is to find good cheats. Taking damage is for wusses.

Wakka For President.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/29/01, Updated 12/29/01


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