Review by chandlerbing

"A fantastic experience as Final Fantasy hits the PS2!"

Review of PAL version of Final Fantasy X

The tenth installment in the popular RPG series finally make it to PAL shores, almost a year since the original Japanese release and six months since the American release. So what can we expect from Square to compensate for PAL countries being the last places to get many of the masterpieces made available elsewhere? Well, the PAL release will be based upon the the Japanese release of Final Fantasy X International version meaning that we can get the extras not available to the original Japanese version and American version.

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Gameplay
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/Basic Story line/

You take control of the fate of Tidus, a young Blitzball player for the Zanarkand Abes as he finds his hometown invaded by a mysterious force called ''Sin'' and sucked into an era different to his own, 1000 years into the future in fact. And this is the start of his story as you guide him towards understanding the meaning of his teleportation and the danger that the world faces... The story on the whole is really good as it explores and delves into the character's minds into how they respond to the threat facing the world of Spira. Questions are posed and only when you go through the game do you find out the answers and they are never really obvious.

/Rid of the old, in with the new/

For Final Fantasy X, Squaresoft have pulled out all the stops to make sure that the game does not follow exactly like the previous Final Fantasy games. One of the most notable points is that the level-up system and experience system that had been in all the previous games in the series has been scrapped. Instead, players can use the newly introduced Sphere Grid in order to upgrade their characters however they want. You use the Sphere Grid to move characters around the grid to gain access to and increase character statistics (Strength, defense, magic and so on) as well as distributing skills and special attacks for them. With this system, the player is allowed much, much more flexibility than the past Final Fantasy game to develop the characters they are controlling.

/Battle system/

The Active Time Battle system has also been scrapped. Battles are now completely turn-based and there is a bar on the screen that shows whose turn is coming up (both allies and foes) so it allows you to make more strategic movements as to how to deal with the enemy and anticipate what the enemy might do. Also in battles, there is a maximum of 3 characters being on-screen but you can swap with the off-screen characters so essentially you can use ANY character in battle at any time. Very useful and very convenient. And for the first time ever, you can control the summoning creatures themselves as soon as Yuna summons them. This injects new life into an old concept because it allows you to have more control into what they do rather than sit around and watch a lengthy sequence that plagued Final Fantasy VII. The option to shorten aeon sequences shows that Square really are listening and responding to criticism on the negative aspects of their games.

/Controls/

As always, controls are easy to use in directing characters around the world of Final Fantasy X. In every screen, there is also a map that helps makes things easier for the player as to which direction they are supposed to be heading. New players to the series will find this feature helpful and veterans of the series would see it more as a convenient feature.

/Mini-games/

As before, there is a whole host of mini-games in the world of Final Fantasy X. The biggest one which is the Blitzball tournament games allows you to participate in a fictional sport that is both challenging and rewarding. Learning lots of techniques and winning lots of cool items has never been so much fun and certainly makes a nice change from the two card games in Final Fantasy VIII and IX. Another mini-game involves you capturing monsters from around the world for the monster arena in which hybrids and new TOUGH creations can be made for you to battle them. This certainly adds a new edge to mini-games throughout the history of Final Fantasy because a lot of the arena monsters are more difficult than the monsters you face normally and you can consider yourself a master if you manage to beat the toughest of the toughest!

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Graphics
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Amazing FMVs and clear, solid backgrounds and art makes Final Fantasy X a winner in this department. Facial details and body movement are much more detailed and realistic than in the past Final Fantasy games. The blurring effect when entering battles may strain your eyes a bit but this is just a minor complaint.

Some people may complain about the big borders and yes, the borders are big but really, this shouldn't affect your enjoyment of the game as a whole. Keep playing and eventually you will just forget about the borders.

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Music/Voice acting
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Pure class music from the melancholic ''To Zanarkand'' to the in-your-face blast of ''Other World'', the soundtrack to this game is varied and is of pure quality. The music fits the various moods that the game sets. Notable mention must go to the song ''Sutuki De Ne'' sung by Rikki, it easily matches the quality of ''Eyes on Me'' and ''Melodies of Life'' from Final Fantasy VIII and IX respectively.

The voice acting is generally excellent especially considering this is Square's first venture into using voice acting to the Final Fantasy series (not including the movie). Tidus's voice has a youthful, full-of-energy quality to it that fits his character well but Yuna's voice is questionable but still decent nevertheless. Special mention goes to the voice of Wakka with an accent that shines in his voice and his personality as a (slightly) bumbling but faithful companion to the party.

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Length/Difficulty
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A point that essentially varies with everybody. On your first game, you may find around 45 hours of gameplay without doing the optional stuff but if you do the optional mini-quests, expect over 80 hours of fun and enjoyment. Take the latter route, it's more rewarding rather than rushing the game to try and beat it in the shortest time available.

Difficulty also varies with different people. I have to applaud Square varying quite a few of the boss battles to add a bit of variation to them. For example, for one boss, you may need to push the boss back inland in order to prevent it from knocking your party over the edge. In another case, you may need to steer the airship away from a boss in order to dodge its breath attack. All this adds a different edge as to how you approach a certain boss or not and making use of these kinds of factors are important in deciding how difficult a boss can be. The real difficulty in the game lies with the Dark Aeons and the super tough boss that makes the final boss look like a wimp. These dark aeons can often DESTROY your party straight away and beating them requires an extremely highly developed characters with high statistics. As well as this, there are the arena monsters that are often as difficult as the dark aeons themselves.
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Overall
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Final Fantasy X is a game that does not disappoint. The story possesses and tackles many different themes such as religion, friendship, love and of life and existence. These issues are mature and sensitively tackled making it as strong a story as the previous Final Fantasy games. The game's difficulty lies with your own interpretation and to your own means of level-up your characters' stats and skills and the amount of customization in the game from upgrading your weapons, characters and aeons allows a much more flexibility for the player than ever before. The game allows many hours of fun and the mini-games themselves can take up even more hours beside the main quest.

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Rent or Buy
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Final Fantasy fans should have no second thoughts about getting hold of this modern classic. And anyone who has not got a Playstation 2 now has a reason to get hold of one, for this game. For any first-time RPG gamers, Final Fantasy X is an ideal introduction to the genre as there are elements that are introduced in the game to help the new player along. Buy this game by any means!

PROS

- Based on the international version of Final Fantasy X.
- Interesting story line with a lot of depth and plot twists.
- Plenty of new tweaks that makes the game more accessible than ever!
- The new Sphere Grid system allows for player's own development of the characters.
- Controlling and developing Aeons for the first time allows more player involvement.
- Fantastic soundtrack and the voices reflect character personalities well.
- Virtually no load times means quick and fast play.

CONS

- Characterization is not always complete.
- Questionable conversion.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/20/02, Updated 10/20/02


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