"Final Fantasy X is, for several reasons, the best Role Playing Game this generation has seen."

Even though there were many great Role Playing games released in the NES and SNES eras, none of them ever sparked such a popularity or played such an integral role in a console's success like the modern Final Fantasy series has. Final Fantasy VII through IX have made such a huge name for RPG's that the release of the first Final Fantasy RPG on the Playstation 2 would be very long awaited, and the bar for this game's quality would be raised much, much higher than with the previous three games.

Such was the case of Final Fantasy X. The bar was raised, and Square met the expectations perfectly. This game was handled so well, that the only way to do justice in reviewing it is to divide the game into different sections and review each one on its own. This will make your understanding of this game's pros and cons much easier.

Storyline

This part of the game was what I was most worried about at first glance, before I bought the game. It seemed like it might be too simplistic, and frankly, it is more simplistic compared to VII-IX. However, this is not to say the storyline is bad at all. In fact, this game sports the best storyline of any Final Fantasy game i've played (i've played all of them). Unlike in 7-9, where there would be times where you'd feel as if the game was stuck filling in too much extra plot holes, Final Fantasy X flows the story along smoothly.

Tidus, our hero, is a star Blitzball Player (Blitzball is the popular sport in Final Fantasy X, i'll put more detail into it later) who was mid-game when his city was attacked by a strange unknown force called Sin. During the attack, Sin sent Tidus and his father's friend, Auron, 1000 years into the future, where Tidus's father mysteriously disappeared to when Tidus was a child. It is in this new world that Tidus makes new friends in Rikku, a member of a socially outcast group called the Al Bhed, Wakka, Captain of a local Blitzball team, and Yuna, a Summoner about to begin a journey to call upon the aid of Aeons (the game's summon monsters) to help her destroy Sin. Even though Tidus seems to have a carefree and confident attitude, he seems to hold a grudge against his father for what happened in the past, and the game plays on these (as well as other characters') emotions for the betterment of the story.

Eager to uncover the mysteries of his father's mysterious disappearance, Tidus joins Yuna in her pilgrimage as one of her Guardians, to protect her on her quest across Spira (the world of the game) to summon an Aeon powerful enough to defeat Sin.

The great thing about the game's storyline is that it is about more than just a Summoner's quest, each character in the cast has their own story, and each individual story contributes to the overall plot in its own way.

Finally, there are several distinct themes to the game which could be applied to our time. The game touches on religious themes and faith, friendship, abandonment, racism and discrimination, and even love. Maybe it's not that important to you, but I always like having a storyline that I can relate to in some way.

In conclusion, if you have enjoyed the plots of previous Final Fantasy games, there is no doubt you will get into this games, it is quite easy to pick up on, yet complex in its own ways.

Graphics

This is the section of the game you'd most expect to be top-notch, and its no surprise. In every major RPG made by Square, the graphics have used the console's power greatly, and the way Final Fantasy X looks shows how both the Playstation 2's graphical engine is very powerful, as well as how talented the game designers are.

Simply put, the graphics in the game are amazing. Cinematics use human models for the sake of movement, and it really does look like real people moving on the screen you're watching them. The great thing about these Cinematics (or Cut Scenes, CG's, Movies, whatever you want to call them) is that there are not too many of them. In contemporary RPG's like Xenosaga, and even in Non-RPG's like Metal Gear Solid 2, overusage of Cinematics leads the player into often putting the control down for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time just to watch the plot thicken. Such is not the case for Final Fantasy X. In fact, actual Cinematics in the game are not that common. For most of the game, Square has used in-game Cinematics (meaning, you're playing/moving while the Cinematic is taking place, or its very short and doesn't use human models) to further progress the story and characters. This is a plus because the player is not forced to wait for a Cinematic to load every 5 minutes just to see more story progression.

The best part about the graphics in the game are, without a doubt, the character designs. I have never, in any game, seen a cast of characters that looked so visually realistic as I have in Final Fantasy X. Close attention has been paid to facial and costume designs, and they look visually stunning. It is so well detailed that you can see wrinkles and creases form in clothes as people move, and you can see movement on their clothes even as your character performs actions in battle. It is so real that any of these characters could be passed off as a real person. Even the non-human characters (check out Kimahri, he's such a wondefully designed character) look stunningly realistic. Enemies and bosses are wondefully detailed too, to the way they attack, down to their speaking patterns and costume designs. Some enemies may be of a similar species, but other than that comparison, no enemies look the same. Lets not forget the Aeons, or Summons, of the game. These are designed as well as any of the enemies of the game...their movement and attack patters are great. All I can say about their Overdrives, though, is that they're wondefully detailed, and just plain cool to watch. I'll let you see for yourself.

Special attention should be given to the graphics during battle, because they are just as impressive as in-game. Camera angles couldn't be more perfect, and they move well with the character as they move on the battlefield, attack enemies, perform special techniques, etc. Every magic spell and physical attack has its distinct look, which is very important in an RPG. Though regular physical attacks are all the same, it can sometimes change with the enemy. Overdrives, the games version of Limit Breaks or special attacks, looks spectacular, each in their own way. All in all, the graphics in battle look wonderful.

The lighting effects in the game are another amazing aspect. The dark night of Tidus' Zanarkand in the beginning of the game is done well, and it certainly sets a certain atmosphere for the place that you're at. For example, bright lights with rays of sunshine and clouds are used in beaches, and it really feels like you're on a tropical island. Several times in the game, you'll be treated to sunsets, which look awesome.

Sound

This is another great aspect of Final Fantasy X. Though Nobuo Uematsu, the guru of music in just about every Final Fantasy game you can name, didn't do the soundtrack for this game, it doesn't matter much.

There are quite a few fantastic tracks that move along with the game in a very smooth and timely manner. The battle theme, the song you hear the most, is pretty catchy, and as usual in Final Fantasy games, sets the tone for a battle pretty well with an exciting, fast paced rhythm. The boss theme is very cool, as it has a more dark tone to it, yet still moves fast paced. These battle tracks are a great plus to the game, as having a bad battle theme (like in Chrono Cross) can get repetitive when battle's become numerous.

Each city and place you go to in Spira has its own theme song to it, and that is great for avoiding the monotony when a game uses the same or similar/remixed versions of the same song for different parts of the game. The best part is that the songs match the place you're at perfectly: Besaid, a tropical island, has a slow, soft tune which resembles a calm atmosphere, whereas you have a deep dark cave that has mysterious, dark rhythms to it. All in all, the songs in this game may seem a little different style than previous games, thanks to a different conductor, but it pays off beautifully because it so well matches the game.

Battle System and Leveling Up

The battle system in Final Fantasy X follows a more strategic path than past games, and it works well. Since battles in this game are generally longer than in Final Fantasy VII-IX, you'll be employing the use of your brain a lot more to defeat the tougher foes.

The great thing about the battle system is the ability to switch between characters in your party, allowing the opportunity for all of them to gain experience. By tapping the L1 Button, a player can switch a character with another character not in play, and have them use an action on the same turn. Another plus is that there is a bar on the top right part of the screen which shows who will be able to perform an action and in what order they can do it in.

Overdrives, this game's version of Limit Breaks, are special moves that can be used when a person's Overdrive bar is filled. Overdrive bars can be raised according to the type set you use: certain types allow it to move up when you get attacked, when you attack, or when you heal a character. Overdrives are an excellent addition to the battle system and allow your character to do something a little cooler than just sit and use regular attacks or magic spells. Summons also provide a vacation from monotonous battling. Whenever Yuna is in the party, she can Summon an Aeon, and the rest of the party leaves the battlefield, and the Aeon itself does the battling. To put it shortly, each Aeon is its own character that can be leveled up and used to beat down the enemy. They even have Overdrives themselves!

The worst part about this game is that the Battles are run by Random Encounter. It certainly doesn't detract from the rest of the game's high points, but random battles can and most likely WILL get annoying, particularly when you dont want them to.

Leveling up in Final Fantasy X is a little different than most. Instead of getting straight experience from battles, you get Sphere Points, and when you go up a Sphere Level, your character is allowed to progress along the Sphere Grid, a huge map that houses different abilities each character can learn. As well as learning new abilities from the grid, a character can use different spheres found from beating enemies to increase the stats of that character. Very innovating, and it allows for you to choose your own path to follow in terms of building up your character.

Replayability

Many people place replayability as an important aspect of RPG's, and Final Fantasy X has plenty of it to offer. In the game, you can play Blitzball, the popular sport (its basically Rugby meets Soccer, but underwater) and build up your own team. The great part about this is that there are hundreds of different players with their own different strengths in the Arena. Playing Blitzball can be rewarding, as it reaps rewards each time you win a tournament, or a season.

Besides Blitzball, Final Fantasy X offers the opportunity to use a certain weapon to catch monsters and return them to a Monster Arena, where the Arena breeds different types by combining different monsters. This is great for leveling up, getting tons of new items, and facing VERY challenging enemies.

Finally, the quest for Ultimate Weapons will add hours upon hours to your game clock, and keep you coming back until you get them all. Finding these employs travelling all over Spira, playing different mini games, and defeating certain enemies. By the time I got tired of playing all the replayables in the game, I had over 100 hours on the clock.

Final Comments

There is no reason to miss out on Final Fantasy X, it is a great addition to a Playstation 2 collection, and it is the most epic RPG of the new generation of consoles. At this point I can't even find an RPG that comes close to comparing to everything FFX has achieved, and I doubt I will. This game just offers too much to ignore. As an added plus, this game is on the Greatest Hits list, and costs around 25 bucks these days.

Overall Grade: 10.0


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/04


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