"FFX - a game that shines brighter than the rest."

Final Fantasy X - an exercise in awe. Square has, almost exactly a year after their last installment, released the highly anticipated latest game in their revolutionary series. As always, FFX promises to set new standards, and as always, it delivers. But, before we begin, I must tell you this: this game is not all it’s cracked up to be. While FFX has it’s moments, it also has it’s disappointments. Will the two cancel each other out? Read on...

Graphics = 9/10: I’m sure that by now, you’ve certainly heard of the amazing graphics that Final Fantasy X offers, and it does, quite indisputably. The graphics are, for the most part, some of the best I’ve ever seen. But there is always a downside. Square obviously has worked hard on the main characters - Tidus, Wakka, Lulu, Yuna, Kimahri, Auron, Rikku - but the other characters that you will encounter along the way end up looking flat faced and down-graded. Lucil, for instance, has an interesting character design, but her face looks barely molded, as if the model was pasted onto her default form. The clothes look painted onto the body rather than worn, as well, and this goes for most of the characters that you will encounter. Basically, the NPCs look as if they would have been revolutionary - five years ago. Aside from the characters, the environments are splendid, and one really does garner a sort of amazement at moving throughout them. In the Calm Lands, the high grass, actually sways in the wind, and it’s pulled off without looking the least bit fake. In the opening of the game (and all movies pertaining to the setting thereafter), we see a city called Zanarkand - Tidus’ hometown. This is quite possibly the most beautiful environment ever envisioned in a game or otherwise - the city is fully lit up against a dark skyline, and the feeling of wonder never wears off.

Sound = 10/10: As always, we are presented with an amazing soundtrack. I find myself wanting to listen to the music that plays in the numerous areas over and over - while some of the themes seem recycled, they are presented to us in an entirely new manner. There are themes that one cannot get out of their head, such as the Underwater Ruins theme, or Hopeless Desire. The sound adds an air of excellence to the environments, and the themes will stick in your head long after you’re done listening to them. As for the sound effects, they are on par with what has been expected of Square. Lightning sounds like lightning; fire sounds like fire; etc. Nothing particularly brilliant, here. The voice-overs, though, will leave you either gagging or phasing out. Tidus seems to constantly talk too fast, and I found myself wanted to hit something every time that Rikku had a long voice-over. Kimahri’s voice and dialogue is a cliche’ and a half, and Yuna’s long melodramatic pauses more often come off as tedious and annoying. Auron’s voice, though, shines, and Wakka’s is unique and appealing. While some of the NPCs have despicable voices, you’ll rarely hear the same one twice, and it is tolerable.

Gameplay = 10/10: The gameplay is the shining example of how innovative FFX truly is. The battles, while in past games have been tedious and frustrating, are very fun and imaginative this time around. You don’t find yourself wanting to throw the controller across the room every time you get drawn into a random battle in this game. and leveling up does not take hours on end. As a matter of fact, thanks to the absolutely genius sphere grid system, leveling up is hardly ever necessary. After every couple battles, you can move your character along on the sphere grid to teach him or her a new ability or raise a statistic, depending on which path you choose to take the character down. For instance, if you want more than one black magic user, you can take Kimahri down Lulu’s path, having him learn Fire, Water, Thunder, etc. as a normal character would. And the paths aren’t limited either - it is not absolutely necessary to take Rikku down the thieves path (though it is recommended), or to take Yuna down the white magic path. You can have a lot of mixing and matching, and it greatly enhances the games replay value.

Story = 7/10: This is the part of the game where Square seems to have fallen through. Keep in mind that when I say story, I mean script. The plot itself is not as original as one might think; the bare bones of the story are this: a young hero finds himself in a strange land where he comes across a group of people who are to aid him in saving the world from a nearly unstoppable force. It sounds like the plot of every Final Fantasy in recent memory. But that’s not so much the trouble - there is no true character depth to anyone, except for perhaps Auron and Kimahri. We know that Lulu and Wakka are with Yuna from the outset of the game, and that they are guardians, but from the point on we don’t learn a great deal. In past FF games, most characters have had their own exploration sequences, where they find parts of themselves that they didn’t know were there. For instance, in Final Fantasy VII, Barrett is forced to visit his old town, which he has inadvertently allowed to be nearly destroyed. In FFVIII, Selphie visits her old school. In IX, we get to see where Eiko lives and what has happened to her village. But in X, that rarely happens, and I found myself wondering why Lulu and Wakka (those two in particular) had decided to help out Yuna. We have to take what we’re given for granted. The game was also very linear, and while that’s not always a bad thing, it leaves a restrictive feeling to the game. “Oh, you forgot that Al Bhed primer a few areas back? You’re just gonna have to go on and see if you can pick it up later, or backtrack for two hours...”

Presentation = 9/10: The game is solid, and everything is pretty self-explanatory from the outset. You don’t need the instructions at all, because it’s pretty thoroughly explained how to use something when the opportunity comes up. The battle system is excellent, and it glues everything in the game together very nicely.

Replay Value = 7/10: Most people will argue that RPG’s have little to no replay value, but for RPG fans, that is not always the case. Some may feel a moment of nostalgia, or perhaps an impulse to begin the game anew, and it really can be worth your time. Playing through a second time, you may discover things you missed the first time around, etc. This game has tons of mini-games and quite a few secrets to unlock after you’ve beaten it the first time (well, technically, you can get these secrets the first time through, but most people will prefer to beat the game as soon as they get to the final area). The games can also be quite fun once you get the hang of them, and are definitely worth a replay whether you’ve beaten the game or not.

Overall = 8/10: While everything in this game reeks of professionalism, I could not find myself getting past the story, and since the story is such a major part of an RPG, it brought my final score down a point or two. If you’ve not played this game yet, then I strongly urge you to go buy it - it has it’s flaws, but they are few and far between, and this game is worth your money.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/27/02, Updated 01/27/02


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