"Final Fantasy X is the first RPG to premiere on the PS2, and will remain the best"

Every new Final Fantasy game brings about an entirely new experience, a fresh of breath air, and another satisfying epic journey. Calling the Final Fantasy games rehashes is ignorant, because none of them share any similarities, except the use of moogles and chocobos. What's different about Final Fantasy X is that it emphasizes more on its story, presenting gamers with one of the most rewarding experiences in the series yet.

Tidus, protagonist of Final Fantasy X, and famed blitzball player makes a desperate escape from the city he has grown up in, Zanarkand. While he was playing a game of blitzball, a monster known as sin appears from the sky, and unleashes hell to the civilians of Zanarkand. Tidus meets up with his old friend Auron, who had mysteriously disappeared just a year before. Auron guides Tidus through the crumbling city of Zanarkand, in hopes of flocking to a more secured area. However, Auron leads Tidus directly to Sin, where they're both absorbed by the massive monster. Auron then whispers words to Tidus about the journey he is about to go through.

Tidus eventually finds himself in a completely different area full of sorrow and depression. This place was called Spira. Spira received its name from Sin; the monster would come periodically, destroying cities, villages and towns. The people would rebuild, but Sin would destroy again. It's a massive spiral, which is where this new world received its name from. There are those that make an attempt to defeat Sin; the Al Bhed creates machines that are so powerful, it's believed it could destroy Sin. There are others like the famous summoners who are praised by everyone around the globe. These people are capable of summoning monsters of their own, which are referred to as Aeons. Temples are scattered throughout the world, and each temple brings upon a new Aeon to wield. These summoners eventually work their way up to tame the strongest of all Aeons, an Aeon without a name, the one thing that is capable of destroying Sin. Though through some profound way, Sin is able to recollect himself for ten years, and cause carnage once again. Ten years of peace is more than enough for these people to rest, which is why this has become a tradition.

Yuna, young summoner to the father that has wielded the final Aeon, and destroyed Sin has tamed her first Aeon. Summoners are accompanied by guardians, strong willed warriors that will protect their Summoner until the end. Yuna is accompanied by three guardians; six later on, including Tidus. Tidus persists to claim to his fellow guardians that he has come from Zanarkand, which is believed to be destroyed by Sin thousands of years ago. Throughout the journey, Tidus steadily puts together the pieces of his past; discovering a heart breaking history that will decide the fate of him, and the entire Aeon race.

The story is indeed amazing, one of the best I've ever encountered next to Final Fantasy VII, Skies of Arcadia and Metal Gear Solid. Being up with those names is a force to be reckoned with. Final Fantasy X would have still been a wonderful game even without its story. The battle system is quite addictive, thanks to its new Aeon system. Summoner Yuna is able to call upon Aeons into battle, and unlike previous installments, Aeons don't solely serve the purpose of magical attacks. Your Aeons will act as party members, all with their own set of magical attacks and overdrive abilities (more on this later). However, when one is summoned to the field, all characters will be unable to participate, so the Aeon will be fending off enemies single handedly. However, the Aeons are extremely strong in strength, and if they were able to use items, then they'd be much more serviceable than your current party.

The battle system itself borrows many elements from previous installments, while incorporating features of its own. Every character in the game carries a special responsibility that is unique to him or her; Tidus is overall in everything; Auron exceeds in physical damage; Wakka specializes in causing status effects; Rikku is able to throw items; Lulu excels in magic attacks; Kimahri varies; and Yuna is the best in healing, who is also able to summon Aeons. Some jobs here are really unique, such as Rikku's throwing items ability. In the past, certain characters were able to throw unused weapons at enemies. That option wasn't necessary, but in here, its Rikku's best way of fighting. You can even buy items that are exclusive to Rikku, the most common the grenade.

The overdrive ability was first introduced in Final Fantasy VII. When one of your characters recieve damage from the opposing force, a bar will fill up, and when it's filled, you'll be able to perform a devastating attack amongst your enemies. Though you won't simply be clicking a button, watching your character do acrobatic attacks. For example, in order for Tidus to complete an overdrive technique, he'll be required to press a certain amount of buttons in the correct order before the time runs out. For Lulu, you'll need to painfully rotate the analog sticks several times, and depending how many times you've rotated the stick, she'll attack that many times using the spell you've wanted her to use. Rikku - seeing as she specializes in throwing items - is able to fuse items together, creating a powerful item. Aeons on the other hand, have no unique way of performing their overdrive ability. A cutscene of them doing an awesome attack will play.

Some new features that were introduced here in Final Fantasy X are the swapping party members' ability, as well as the list depicting the order of turns. During battle, you'll be able to swap your characters with inactive ones, just like in Pokemon. The only difference is that your turn won't automatically be skipped because you've switched your characters. The list depicting the order of turns is also a unique feature here. Basically, a list will appear on the right hand corner of the screen, and it'll tell you whose turn is next for the next eight or so turns. Both these features give new strategy opportunities that weren't available in past installments.

Probably one of the most unique things in Final Fantasy X is the sphere grid. The sphere grid is Final Fantasy X's way of leveling up. When you've leveled up in a battle, you'll be rewarded with certain spheres that will gain you access to new areas on the sphere grid. Each character is located in a different spot on the grid. The spells and health upgrades surrounding that character carries the upgrades that fit her or him the most, like if you're leveling up Auron, you'll surely find upgrades that excel in strength and power. These upgrades are blocked off by other spheres, and the only way of unblocking them is by using the spheres you've won in battle. It's quite time consuming, though it does give the gamer freedom on what they want their characters to specifically be. Kimahri, as mentioned before varies. The reason is because his path is set in the middle, while the other characters are fixed on the sides and corners of the grid. You can choose Kimahri's path as the path of his comrades, so if you want him to be a spell caster, put him early on Lulu's path, or if you want him to exceed in physical strength, throw him towards Auron's path.

When you're mid way to the game, you'll get instantly hooked to the battle system. It's fast paced, it runs smoothly, it's well structured, and there are tons strategies you can use on different the bosses and enemies. Even though random encounters are disliked by most, you wouldn't mind fighting some battles here. Although you'd expect the battle theme would be better, because Final Fantasy games were always known for their awesome battle themes. The one here in Final Fantasy X isn't no where near as awesome as the ones in the past, but it's not so bad that it'll murder your ears. The rest of Final Fantasy X's songs are simply awesome. The entire soundtrack is on par with the likes of Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger. Don't be surprised to find yourself humming to tunes from the game, or going as far as buying the actual CD.

Like most RPG's, you can expect a dungeon full of crazy puzzles and tricks. This time, the dungeons and puzzles are separated. You'll be solving puzzles right before attaining an Aeon in one of the temples, and the dungeons will also be elsewhere. The puzzles here are much much more complicated than any RPG puzzle you've ever encountered. Describing how these puzzles work is a puzzle itself. Though I can guaranteed you that they'll be one of the most complexed puzzles you'll ever attempt to solve, and they're quite rewarding to complete. I must have used puzzles a dozen times right now, but these Trials of Ordeal – the name for the puzzles – would certainly make a great portable game if it were ever a standalone title.

Along with a game full of great puzzles is a game with great minigames. Though the minigame here isn't really mini', it's huge! Blitzball is the only source of entertainment for the people of Spira and Zanarkand, and every match is held as if it were an Olympic event. You'll eventually be allowed to play blitzball yourself against Wakka's long time rivals when he was younger. There are twelve tutorials in all, each lasting to almost about ten minutes. I personally haven't played the sport myself, because it was so boring learning even the basics, but from what I've heard from other opinions, blitzball is a great game. Those that have the patience to endure an hour of tedious learning should find blitzball an enjoyable ride. The game isn't made to be played solely for fun, because there are some required side-quests items that you can only earn through winning tournaments and season games.

Aside from the battle system, intriguing storyline, fun puzzles and a love it or hate it minigame, the graphics is what truly stands out the most. It's not how good it looks, but it's content. There's so much imagination put into the environments, a true fictional world filled with monsters in all shapes and sizes, flowers stretching out towards the sky, forests filled with beautiful fireflies, roaming peacefully throughout. The cutscenes look even better; the water never looked more gorgeous on a PS2 game, the models look extremely amazing, and the action is exhilarating.

The only issues or problems gamers will run into playing Final Fantasy X is that, well it's quite easy. During an intense battle, if one of your party members is low on health and MP points, what better to do than switch him with another character? Out comes a fresh new person who may be even stronger than the previous. The list depicting the order of turns - while a nice and innovative feature – also makes things easier. Also, Square-soft decided to skip its traditional use of the tent. Instead, save points will automatically replenish your health and MP points, for free! There's a lot of save points throughout the game. Finally, the biggest factor behind Final Fantasy X's easiness is the Aeons. They're sure as hell powerful, maybe a bit too powerful. Later on, when you've acquired the most powerful of Aeons, you're pretty much unstoppable.

Though what balances things out is that some of the later bosses are quite difficult to defeat. Can't picture how impossible it would be if things were any harder without the statements mentioned above. Still, Final Fantasy X rounds up to be a satisfying experience that is packed with mind blowing cutscenes, relaxing music, an amazing storyline, puzzles that are rewarding when figured out, and blitzball. What more could an RPG fan want?


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/14/05, Updated 03/16/05


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