Review by LegendaryFrog

"Truly a cinematic experience, and a great game."

When a game series makes the jump to one generation to the next, you expect certain things. The jump to the NES to the SNES gave square more freedom to tell a story with more lines of text and better quality music. With the PSX you where immersed in computer generated movies. But some would argue that while technology got better, then gameplay suffered. That’s a matter of opinion I suppose. But the change from the PSX to the PS2 is just a significant as the ones preceding it.

GRAPHICS (10/10)

I had the honor of playing FFX right after Resident Evil for the Nintendo Gamecube. Resident Evil, simply put, has the best character models ever. So when I saw a friggin’ corner on the character’s sleeve, I screamed bloody murder. After the shock of the corner, I realized what RE just spoiled me. Character models are detailed with nice textures and great hair effects.

Lip syncing is hit and miss. Maybe it’s because they didn’t bother changing them from the Japanese version, but words just don’t match with lips sometimes. But on occasion it’s to par with Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64. Almost all the scenes with Seymour are like this. Other times it’s almost there... but not quite Secondary characters don’t have the movements like the main ones do, so it’s like your watching a wooden puppet. Near the end of the game there is a important character with the wooden mouth, and it makes you wonder why Square didn’t animated her like the others.

In a Final Fantasy first, everything is 3D. (There are only about 4 or 5 pre rendered backgrounds in the game.) It’s very (very) detailed and very nicely animated. No complaints here.

With the 3d Environments comes a very cinematic feel. No longer do you watch two character talk from a distance, each moving their hands while you read text. Characters will move around, interact, and the camera will act appropriately. It’s like your watching a movie.... which takes us to:

GAMEPLAY AND DESIGN (7/10)

First off, FFX suffers the “Final Fantasy curse of being a game you watch” deal. In the first several hours you simply walk form point A to point B to watch a little movie sequence. Every once and awhile you’ll fight a boss. This occurs though out the game, but it gets better. After all the characters are introduced and the plot gets moving you spend more and more time fighting and exploring. But you always end up watching the thing for 5 minutes at a time.

And that’s what the heart Final Fantasy is.... a story. You can’t have a story if you don’t tell it. FFX is the next step in the FF series: A complete cinematic experience with RPG elements.

On to the gameplay parts.

The Overworld is gone. No more Overworld. Bye bye Overwolrd! Is this a good thing? Depends.... I guess. The Overworld in other games added to the exploration... FFX is VERY linear.

Weapons and Armor do not have number values this time around. Every weapon and armor in the game doesn’t increase your stats one bit.... but it does have bonuses. For weapons they include skills like “Strength 5%” (which is the closest thing to power boosting you get) or “Dark Strike” which might inflict Darkness on a monster, and so on and so on. Armors have element protections, MP and HP bonuses and such. Later in the game you can customize weapons to your liking, given you have the proper items. (better get Stealing!)

The Battle system is the best yet. The Active Time Battles are GONE thank God... you can no spend all the time you want to attack, and there is a set order. And in a neat feature there is a menu that lists the attacking order which becomes very handy. You can even switch characters at will with no penalty. Meaning if you suddenly need magic you can bring in Lulu without running away from battle or loosing a turn. On another good note, saving points automatically heal your party. Goodbye Tents!

Each character has a Overdrive bar that fills up when you take damage. When it fills up you can do your special move. There are also other ways to fill the bar as you proceed though the game.

Summons play a greater yet reduced role. When Yuna summons, you control the Aeon (the name of the summons) like a member of the party. Most Aeon aren’t super powerful and usually only have the same about of HP as your fighter characters. But when the Overdrive bar fills up then unleash their trademark super moves like (damn sexy) Shiva’s Diamond Dust and Bahomet’s Mega Flare. And of course there are cool band new summons, like Ixion the electric unicorn.

FFX’s biggest flaw gameplay wise is the leveling up system. To put it frankly... it’s nothing special. It tries to be original but it ends up being a repetitive and tedious system that makes the player feel important.

After each battle, a player receives Spheres and AP points. Once you get enough AP points, you gain a Sphere Level. You can then go to the Sphere Grind and move your player across the board 1 square. The Sphere Grid is a ENORMUS series of spirals and passages, with Nodes scattered about. A player uses the Spheres to active Nodes, and the character gains that power. You use then to boost HP, MP, Magic, Defense, Magic Defense, Strength, Luck, Evasion and Agility. Each character has special Nodes within their spirals, Like “Flee”, “Cure”, “Fire” and “Gil Toss.”

The problem with this is the character basically follows a set course. Activating a node is like the question “Are you SURE you want to level up?” Of course I do! Once and awhile there is a little offshoot, where a player can gain more of something, but it doesn’t go anywhere. It just delays you a little. There are no branching paths, so Yuna will always be weak physically and Aruron will always be slow. No matter what. It’s not until you reach the end of your spiral you can enter someone else’s spiral. But by the time you get to that point, and considering you didn’t spend hours and hours and hours leveling up, your at the end of the game.

Overall the Sphere System is poor and just interrupts you from playing the game. It’s like a perminate Materia (FF7) that the game predetermines. It’s plain old leveling up, but you get asked a question before hand and your allowed to upgrade manually.

MUSIC (8/10)

FFX’s music is perhaps not to scale with any of the PSX titles, only offering a handful of truly memorable tunes. However I think there is a good cause for this. If your listening to a conversation, then you don’t want music to get in the way. But that doesn’t excuse the lack of a “Cosmo Canyon” or “(FF9) Cid’s Theme.”

Some of the best music is: ‘To Zanarken”, “Other World”, “Isn’t it Wonderful?” and “Mount Gagazat.” The rest is nice by all means, but just kind of there. The Battle theme is good but lacks the traditional “Battle Theme intro” (personal gripe!) The other battle themes are good as well.

The inclusion of voice actors had alot of people scared... but don’t worry. It’s some of the best your gonna get. It’s not perfect, but as a whole it’s solid. Characters like Auron, Wakka, Kimahri and Jehct are wonderful. Lulu and Rikku get the job dune. Tidus takes awhile to get used to, but it fits the characters. Yuna... is...well... Yuna. Dry and emotionless most of the time. I tend to think it fits the character, but more feeling could have gone into her lines.

Most of the secondary characters are well enough. And Introducing... One liners! Us Ice to defeat a monster and Lulu might utter “Cool off!” Flee from battle and hear “I won’t go so easy on you next time!” Ack. Others are quite cool, like Auron’s “Enough” and Tidus saying “I have a bad feeling about this” when you encounter a Tonberry.

STORY (9/10)

“Listen to my story.... it might be our last chance.”

Here’s the most important part of a RPG: The story. Without one, why bother playing? FFX’s story is great storytelling... made even better with the most realistic FF characters to date mixed with the cinematic feel of the game.

FFX is like a fish out of water story, with the main hero Tidus being taken away from his home of Zanarken by a being called Sin. He ends up in Spira... a world very different form his own and terrorized by Sin. The game is told like a narrative by Tidus, which adds to it greatly. Because it is his story, so he should tell it.

All of party members are introduced early on, and each one is unique and likable.

Tidus is your average teenager. Yuna is serious and sad.... yet cheerful. Lulu is your stern big sister type. Wakka your happy sports/serious about religion guy. Auron your bad ass. Kimahri you silent guardian (and he’s a beast man!) Rikku your cute Final Fantasy happy spunky girl (tm), but not annoying.

Tidus is perhaps the greatest FF hero (to me personally) because he’s so real. He has flaws: he whiny, kinda selfish.... but a good guy. He also hates his father... and he has a understandable reason to. Not very attractive in the CG movies though :) Rikku on the other hand....

FFX also lacks a standout point... like in Invasion of Balamb From FF8 or the Opera from FF6.. Like the voice acting, the game is memorable as a whole. There are no points where the story is bogged down to much. (like FF8)

I have to take a moment to mention Lulu’s magic dolls. Lulu uses magic with a little Moogle plushie. (Kupo!) Thier are plenty of other dolls that will press nastalga buttons as well....

REPLAY (7/10)

Depends on weather you enjoy replaying RPGs. I tend to wait a few months before replaying them. You won’t get a any different party stats because of the flawed Sphere System. Alot of secrets too. Blizball might keep you entertained if you find enjoyment out of it.... I didn’t.

GRIPES

The Sphere System and plain lack of control at times. Very linear. Lacks a standout area of the game.

OVERALL (9/10)

It was hard to rate this game because I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy. I might have griped about the Shpere System... but it’s not a bad system. FF8 was bogged down by it’s Junctioning System, FFX is not. It’s truly an experience and that’s all I can say. The story is top notch, the characters very likable.... hard complain about the voices and music because their very good. The high point of the series? That depends on your views of past FF. I would say yes. But it’s not fair to rate a series of games with 10 installments... each one stands on it’s own merits.

FFX is just another masterpiece... Plain and simple.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/18/02, Updated 11/09/02


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