Review by Garbol Shora

"A complex system that is so simple yet so astoundingly innovative that not one person should have a PS2 without 'Final Fantasy X'..."

Synopsis
'Final Fantasy X' thoroughly covers everything with so much detail and precision, that Square just may set another milestone to the already prolific series.

With Square's success, one can imagine that it is quite probable that a game of such superiority would be made by this company. With each successive sequel, the depth and originality keeps on getting better. If one commented that any specific one Final Fantasy that spanned from PS to PS2 stood out from the rest due to its innovative work, they would be incorrect. Each of Square's Final Fantasy becomes one step closer to achieving the perfect RPG. Final Fantasy VII brought in the most amazing 3D artwork combined with intelligent battle system. Proceeding after, Final Fantasy VIII created a relentlessly powerful cinematic experience, easily becoming the most graphically dazzling visual on the PSone. Final Fantasy IX brought in the first four-character battle system since Final Fantasy VII... and now, Final Fantasy X combines many of these predecessors into, perhaps, the most prolific and highly-acclaimed combination of astonishing design and one step, if not several steps forward to a higher, richer, better RPG.

It succeeds in every single aspect of gameplay. A complex system that, in truth, is so simple and yet, so astoundingly innovative that not one person should have a PS2 without such a flawless, absolute masterpiece that surpasses every single conception of an RPG we have had thus far.

Gameplay Elements:
Once again, Final Fantasy's main battle system changes once more. From Final Fantasy IX, it takes a step down from the '4 character battle alignment'. However, this is made up with a small ability that would change the impression of RPGs for quite some time. The traditional, 'pick 3, stick with 3' conception is eliminated from Final Fantasy X, with very good reason. While every RPG of its kind to date, displayed 3 - 4 characters that could never be swapped until reaching a certain point, Final Fantasy X allows character swapping during the battle. This means, a character can 'temporarily leave battle' in exchange for a character that is waiting to 'enter the battle'. This idea has never been utilized in RPG gaming with such simplicity and promise, that it is almost believed that this trend will continue to follow. This strategy of 'swapping characters' amidst battle, makes boss battles and monsters battles so much more helpful, and gaining experience points for all characters has never been so tolerable. Needless trips back and forth from certain areas have indefinitely been reduced with the ability to simply change characters... wherever you are! This strategy, however, does not instantly mean that this game is easy. By no means, this game is not a walk in the park. This game while with the ability to swap characters, does not grant any extra attack turns or of that sort, but simply allows gamers to use every character's skills when they are best suited in battle. While gamers do get the advantage point of character usage, it is confident to say that bosses can easily perform wipe-out techniques that could cause heavy damage to all characters. Swapping in wrong characters at the wrong time can cause consequences as well, considering that the game makes even physical attack styles unique, along with the expected elemental styles. This, introduces the second original aspect to the otherwise near perfect, if not already perfect enough gameplay!

Enemies are now not all linear equally physical monsters that simply look the same. Enemies now have not only gained elemental properties, but physical speed, defense, evasion and strength techniques that require specific styles of attacking to better suit the issue. These enemies also fit the physical image of the physical property that they inherit. For example, a mere beast dog and their species would require a character with faster attack and speed to mark their blows with efficiency. This, however, would not prove much effect to an enemy with extremely high defensive point, such as a rock-shell type beast, which is sluggish, but proves to pack quite a defensive complex. In his stead, a gamer would require a character with powerful, piercing force, which gains ability to rip through a defensive shell. Although lumber, the character with the piercing ability would better suit a match against a rock-shelled monster than any other. Birds have also made for some interesting requirements as well. Neither piercing ability nor speed can rely on a bird's evasion. In the early math, equipment such as Wakka's blitzballs (only exclusive to one character: Wakka) could aim with precision and bring the bird downwards to its death. These types of physical uniqueness brings much into the gameplay in both early and after game.

The usual elemental contrasts apply once again in the FFIX sequel, with water, fire, ice and lightning being the primary elements. FFX elements now contrast Fire and Ice and each other's weakness, and Water and Lightning, again as each other's flaw. Both concepts, are now fused into one strategic base. With the females based on magical prowess and males on physical prowess, it is always useful to bring in certain characters using the swap technique. Because of the more versatile monsters and their physical complexity, it is just as much a relief to introduce the 'swapping concept'. Some breeds of monsters come in the ability to resist every physical attack, causing less damage than it would to a typical physical monster. However, these breeds of monsters have an elemental complex, not a physical one, creating a more advantageous fight towards the females more so than with the males. This concept is done very well.

The Sphere Grid is a large spherical design that follows a path, containing little circular openings called nodes that allow activation. However, it is not one sphere that makes up this design but approximately 50 spheres connected to one another - these include little and large ones. This becomes the most integral part of Final Fantasy X. Throughout your adventure, the basic experience point system is eliminated. Instead, characters will be inheriting Sphere Levels, collecting Ability Points (AP) along the way through strategic battles that have been mentioned above. With one Sphere Level, a character can trek across one circular node in the Sphere Grid. With two S. Levels, a character can proceed in passage of two circular nodes and so on. These circular nodes play probably the most important part of FFX. Without these nodes, your characters would be as weak as they came in. With every node, a small diagram is etched into the node, representing the advantage the specific character would have once activation begins. Each node represents stat boosters and skills and with each consecutive stat booster and inherited skills, your characters slowly become stronger in that respect. However, this is not just a simple activation task. One must collect red spheres to activate such nodes. Many other variety of spheres change the gameplay in terms of leveling to unrealistic proportions in the first area. This is solved through locks, that must also be activated to traverse through different and advanced areas.

Probably another exciting addition to the Final Fantasy world, is the ability to completely control your summons, now called Aeons. By all means, favourites such as Shiva, Ifrit and Bahamut return. While all the introductions of the Aeons are beautiful in the beginning, but become boring and cumbersome later on, Square offers a toggle that turns this long-term animation off, which becomes one of the largest time savers in the game! As you can now control every aeon to some degree, the same strategic elements are now presented in the Aeon portion of the game. Because some aeons have better strength, better defense and of that sort in their profile, it is essential to select the right aeon for the battle. Better yet, now you can treat your aeons like characters, being able to boost stats and inherit better skills, the aeon ability in this game is indefinitely the best of all the Final Fantasies.

Final Fantasy X never stops, does it? Now, you can create your own shields and with roughly 490 types of armor names and just as many weaponry, it is hard not to like Final Fantasy X. Through items that you inherit by killing monsters, you can achieve better shields by customizing them to your own liking. For example, 50 of these types of items will grant you a water elemental for your weapon... things of that sort.

Now, one of the most diverse and tremendously deep sidequests are offered in this game, that could provide you with even 30 hours of endless gameplay. This sidequest is so deep in terms of gameplay, that it must deserve mention in the gameplay section more than the replayability and extras section. Recruiting a team for the Besaid Aurochs, you must create a powerful team by playing... Blitzball! Blitzball is the new rave of this game's world. Resembling Canadian Hockey, or America's Football, Blitzball is a combination of underwater swimming, soccer and basketball. A very accurate game, blitzball relies on numbers, subtraction and addition of the like to provide insight on how far a blitzball will go in terms of passing, shooting and so forth. Each recruit amongst hundreds can gain abilities to create a better advantage and has separate statistics of passing and shooting. Blitzball makes way for great and innovative game and alone can be a separate game and sidequest wise, is the largest sidequest to be offered. There is no argument to be said... FFX contains the most in-depth sidequest to date! It will be almost too difficult for Square to top what they did in FFX - but for some reason, I believe the next installment will be just as good, if not increasingly better! Plenty more sidequests come into play including races, secret battles and even fighting the ultimate boss (however not so ultimate). Any more may reveal some spoilers, but for now, it is up to you to discover all the little tidbits of RPG flavor that FFX has to offer.

Gameplay is of the highest order in this game, and with so much to cover, this RPG pretty much gives it all. FFX may not be said as the best Final Fantasy in the series, but it is most certainly debatable! 10/10

Visual Presentation:
Final Fantasy X has a visual presentation of a dream. It is so beautiful and creative, that it surpasses many PS2 titles and rivals some of the best, also. It is immediately obvious that this game was meticulously designed to create one of the most visually impressive RPGs ever. From the designs to the models, everything fits nicely into the spiritual theme of Final Fantasy X, where the feeling is more mystifying and somewhat sad in comparison to the previous installments. Best of all, though, is that the character costumes make for extremely nice eye-candy. The design is a very original work. The next game will need to surpass the graphical beauty of Final Fantasy X and will need to achieve this type of standard to show the immediate progression of Square's most prolific work ever.

The cinematics, probably the Final Fantasy that contains the most of these works, takes on a more asian face, with artwork that can easily rival the movie. While many may find it peculiar to have character's change face from an oriental to a caucasian between cinematics and cut-scenes, the artistic work of these models and CG make for enough to deserve the highest attainable score. They have achieved so much, and with the originality to create a more oriental feel to the oriental mood (such as the costumes of Yuna), it is apparent that the people at Square wanted this Final Fantasy to be more specialized towards the Japanese culture. Nonetheless, it is a wonder to watch some of these spectacular works, and one couldn't ask for a better work of art than this - for now, it's as good as it gets!

Character models are original and much more detailed than the models of FFVIII, which was considered to be a more favorable graphical experience in comparison to FFIX. While FFVIII's character models were nice and original, FFX is a gorgeous work that was most unexpected of Square. The clothes of Yuna are especially detailed, with the precision in her soft dress, and keeping colours similarly soft and calm, reflecting her personality. Lulu's costume tends to impress almost every gamer (males, of course), with her dark, apparently heavy-looking dress that falls short of any straps, with simply covering the chest area and down. Square did a very good job of making Lulu a very bitter profile, having her clothes streamed with dark belts, and her dress completely black. There being many more costume designs, Final Fantasy achieves much through the models, and makes every character's clothing give off a feeling of coldness, kindness, mystery and so forth.

The environments of Final Fantasy are probably the richest atmospheres to date. With the environments now 'moving in sync' with the character, Final Fantasy X has gamers enjoying a much better interface, with areas that are obviously placed and places where gamers can move with ease, without obstruction of view due to poor design. The areas are nicely done when both in dark and light areas, making good use of the technological capabilities of the PS2. Probably the most impressive visual in Final Fantasy may be Zanarkand, the vital area of foreshadow in the story.

Probably the lowest point of the visual presentation is the monster design. Simply not as creative as its predecessors, and while it has some monsters that are relatively similar to the previous installments - it just doesn't match up. While there are breeds and breeds of monsters, breeds just can't cut monster design by simply making variations out of it. It is not to say that they are bad, for there are some truly interesting and fun monsters that seem to mix with the environment, but most monsters are simply variations of the first ones you've seen. Overall, it is simply unimpressive to Square's high standards and what gamers expect of it. However really good, but it is nevertheless a step down from the other games.

Overall, Final Fantasy is marvelous in everything for the graphics with some repetitiveness. Calling this game a cinematic bore would be putting it beside 'The Bouncer', Square's more disappointing games. This, however, is one of the best graphical showpiece that boasts tons of gameplay of the PS2 library alongside some of the other PS2 wonders: Grand Theft Auto III, Gran Turismo A-Spec and Devil May Cry. It would easily fit into these major graphic supremes and achieve just as much as these titles, although not without its minimal faults. 10/10

Audio Presentation:
Nobuo Uematsu and his fellow music composers do it again, creating the largest variety of memorable music. The music of Final Fantasy has always been memorable and truly diverse, despite anything other people comment on it. Nobuo Uematsu, as did with the FFVIII intro, creates a song that makes people humming for quite awhile. A special work worth mentioning being 'To Zanarkand', a soft and mystifying piano piece that progresses relatively slowly, but the simple note placements are what creates tremendous feel. The themes of characters return once more, and once more, there are unmemorable songs. But it is not to worry, for Nobuo Uematsu creates so much for every title, that you're bound to find something you like.

However, it is not correct to simply say that Nobuo Uematsu was the only mastermind behind the work of the audio presentation. Two other composers also aided in creating some pieces. Though it is obvious that it greatly differs from Nobuo Uematsu's virtuosity and while some of them are relatively annoying, the audio presentation is top notch. Still, Nobuo Uematsu creates and composes better, richer and much more mature pieces through every title that he works for!

Ta-da! Music isn't the only thing that enters the Final Fantasy world... now they speak! Amazing, no? Now, the question of the matter is, will they speak well? Well, believe it or not, Final Fantasy has a very respectable and excellent crew of voices, with pretty much the typical voice you would expect of that specific character. Particularly Lulu's coldness, Yuna's softness, Kimahri's gruffness and Auron's abruptness are the best works of the voices. Tidus' whining could've toned down a bit for the better. Wakka and Seymour were respectable in terms of acting, but still - sometimes they forced the voices, while not as much as Tidus. Still, for a first attempt, the voices were excellent, and while it was extremely frustrating seeing the mouths take on one of Jackie Chan's english dubbed chinese movies, it was still tolerable. Audio-wise, Final Fantasy still retains its excellence, and as long as Nobuo Uematsu administrates the music department, everything will keep going as smoothly as ever!

Square always makes music a top priority. Even the movie, despite the most shallow storyline and character development, still kept its music beautiful. Final Fantasy X is no exception, and with its variety of music and most often excellent voice acting, Final Fantasy X makes for one of the most interesting listening experience as well. 9/10

Story and Composition:
A very linear plot in comparison to every other Final Fantasy title, Final Fantasy X starts off with a mysterious foreshadow of the main character's past, where his homeland, Zanarkand is battered in ruins. This causes much disturbance on Tidus' part, as he chances upon a strange and interesting land that is controlled by Yu-Yevon, a highly respected 'god'-like entity that the people worship for aid and guidance.

The story is good... but needs to be refined slightly. While there are great twists and plot turns, it usually turns out that the plot turns usually find their way back to the linear basics. Character development, in the other hand, is well done and despite Tidus' constant whining and jabbering, it is nonetheless a development of his character. As was mentioned in the Visual Presentation, the clothes reflect the personalities relatively well. Rikku's bright personality shows through from her orange, bouncy ensemble and her most hilarious victory pose. Although the character's lack as much involvement as FFIX's story, they are very original and development takes on a new meaning, with meticulous character growth, you literally feel the gradual changes of the characters misconception. This, revolving around Tidus, shows best on Tidus, as he realizes that his whiney complaints are too a much smaller degree in comparison to the large and vast world that is ahead. This type of development and growth has always been in Final Fantasy, and FFX truly represents this very well - one of the strongest points in the Story and Composition.

Making for one of the more somber stories, Square has again worked another original masterpiece, and creates brilliance amidst the linear storytelling. In truth, the character growth throughout can top some good movies in release, and the storyline unfolds well, if not slightly predictable. 8/10

Replayability and Extras:
Much of the extras lies in the Blitzball game (for more insight, look in the Gameplay Elements). This is no ordinary extra... it is a completely new game, and it is worth mentioning that it is the deepest sidequest if not the most fun in the Final Fantasy series.

Other than that, many more unlocking things are given, and considering the sheer endless amount of hours in this game, you'll be staying awake and endlessly trying to achieve perfection. This game can easily reach 150 hours and oh boy, it has. Replaying this game... well, unless nothing was unlocked the first run-through, there isn't much reason to replay this vast and extremely large RPG. But in these terms, RPG games are in a fairly disadvantaged situation, and in this respect, Final Fantasy X delivers the goods. 7/10

Conclusion
To put it bluntly, no PS2 should be without this exceptional title, and nearly everything in the game is flawless. With 150 hours of gameplay and graphics and sounds that leave nothing to be desired, Final Fantasy X makes for one of the deepest games to date, and can be considered one of the deepest games of the RPG genre.

What may be its greatest downfall, is the drastic changes that was made to the final installment. This is in many ways, good and bad. Many of the 'Final Fantasy' veterans may simply despise and dismiss this game as a horrible disaster, changing RPG elements for the worse. Yes, many things have changed, as it is more linear, more story-telling and much more dialogue. But we should understand, that how exactly can gaming evolve without these crucial steps to create better games. It is obvious that Square is the only company that forces RPG to newer limits, be it good or bad. They have taken many risks to further improve the RPG experience. Why linger in the past when one can proceed forward to create a more realistic RPG experience? Final Fantasy X seems to be that step that may turn off just as many fans as it has already attracted.

To say that Final Fantasy X is the best RPG would simply be an opinionated comment, but by all means, it is certainly a very debatable argument. Because of the innovative system with excellent tutorials that introduce the beginner gamers, this game is a complete game and many will be sure to look forward to the next installment that Square pops out.

How it all adds up!
(average is determined through importance of the criteria)
Gameplay Elements: 10/10
Visual Presentation: 10/10
Audio Presentation: 9/10
Story and Composition: 8/10
Replayability and Extras: 7/10
Final Score: 9


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/08/02, Updated 02/09/03


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