Review by Shotgunnova

"Lop-sided"

FFX is a lot of things: a best-seller, a fan favorite, a gaming achievement...? Well, maybe that's stretching.

[STORY]

Tidus is a star blitzball player in Zanarkand, following in his famous father's footsteps. Seemingly, out of nowhere, a huge monster floats out of the ocean and starts ravaging the glorious city with its attacks. Punishment for vanity? Wouldn't doubt it. As the terrorizing continues, Tidus finds Auron, an old friend of his father's and a man who's looked after him for the past decade. He tells the young star that the monster is Sin. After a death-defying run through Zanarkand with the spawn of Sin in their wake, Auron and Tidus are sucked into Sin. Do they get stuck in its digestive tract? Well...not quite.

Tidus ends up being saved by passing Al Bhed, a group/race of people who resurrect the ancient machines (machina) of old and use them for work and attacking purposes. Tidus meets Rikku here but eventually falls overboard as Sin passes near the boat.

Tidus lands up on Besaid Island. There he meets Yuna, a summoner about to journey out on a pilgrimage to stop Sin, and her two guardians, the close-minded Wakka and the mysterious mage, Lulu. Tidus finds out that Yuna is the daughter of the High Summoner who stopped Sin a decade before, bringing the Calm (period of Sin's inactivity) to the world. As such, the journey is considered a holy one, but that doesn't mean Tidus can't liven it up!

Eventually the party runs into Auron again. Surprise, surprise for Tidus, Auron accompanied his father on the trip to stop Sin ten years prior. Auron joins up, and the party sets out once again towards the final destination...of Zanarkand (!!)

<insert trite plot details here>

In summary, the story is not only unfolds like a teenage romance movie, but it's also a coming-of-age story for both Yuna and Tidus. Yuna forces herself closer and closer to Sin, knowing that it's possible she might not make it back; Tidus, in the meantime, tries to convince her that there could be another way, that they could salvage what they have and save the world once and for all. The other party members scoff at the idea, but Tidus eventually changes their minds with his friendly atmosphere and his leaps of faith into the unknown.

Despite the few redeeming points the story manages to conjur up, it's plagued by linearity the entire way through. The camera angles and maps ensure that the player is force-fed a game on the easiest level possible.

[CHARACTERS]

Just thinking about the game reminds me of a few things: horrible voice acting, lame stereotypes, and boring characters. The Caribbean Sea must be off the coast of Spira because, apparently, Wakka grew up there and emigrated. I'm not sure if he's supposed to be a clear-cut Jamaican or if that's how islanders sound in Square games, but all the idiosyncrasies Square plays off of ("brudda"?) are offensive; or, rather, I'd find them offensive if I could care about any of the characters at all.

That brings me to my second point of how Tidus and Yuna are the sappiest thing to happen to video games in a long time. From the much-despited laughing scene atop the Luca staircase to the incredibly unneeded underwater make-out scene, the two are so incredibly aggravating (I was going to say "stupid", too) that it can be difficult to keep that controller from launching itself at the wall.

The plot's driven by the love story, I know, but I think it really brings down the game. For all the seriousness and the themes intoned within, sticking in forced comic relief sequences seems counter-productive to anyone trying to like the game.

[GRAPHICS]

Definitely not the game's lowpoint, every aspect of the game exudes top-quality images. Boss and monster sprites look stunning, and detail is given to each so that it has qualities all its own (for instance, the "Worm" monsters all drool). Not only does this make the boss fight more interesting than simply doing number damage, but the monsters react with the hits. An improvement if there ever was one, that's indisputable, but how much do graphics really matter anyway?

I found the story to be all glamour and sparkle, but it felt very superficial and weak on subsequent playthroughs. The time spent on images consumed the time that could have been spent development of other things that would remind the player that this is a Final Fantasy title. I mean, if you're going to market the game as the graphical achievement of the century, at least put in a player-controlled airship and a world map. It's short-changing people to leave out things like that.

And whatever graphic capabilities come along, Tidus' chicken-yellow lederhosen will never look good.

[BATTLING]

Battling is turn-based, but this time the players can opt to switch themselves out for different comrades. This way, experience can be shared amongst different persons so long as they take an action in battle. This is useful in leveling up people you don't want to use (Kimahri?) and it doesn't waste that much time.

Stat- and ability-wise, the Sphere Grid allows you to customize your characters into different types. You can make a fighter a powerful mage and vice versa. As you fight different monsters, you can up your stats in whatever manner you choose, and even add in new nodes to the Grid to learn more skills.

However, this is where I have a major problem. For all the people that complained about the lack of characters' specialties that people in FF7 and FF8 lacked, FFX falls victim to the exact same thing. By mastering/maxing out the nodes you have, you turn everyone into the same person. By doing so, the only thing that would separate Tidus from Auron would be the limits.

The Sphere Grid fails critically in the unique department, even if it started out with good intentions. Maybe if the system is implemented in the years to come, each character will get specialty grids that no other character can be invited into.

[MUSIC]

All of the music is very well orchestrated for this game, but at the same time, I'm not really fond of it either. Maybe it's all the airy, piano tracks that just seem to make you breeze through the game, I don't know. Tracks you hear on the Moonflow or Macalania Woods are eerie and full of mystique, since they're coupled with gorgeous scenery to boot, but it's basically hit or miss for me. No reason except personal preference, and as much as I hate using that as an excuse, I'm going to. For as much praise that word of mouth gives it, I can't find any reason to rank it above more varied soundtracks, like on FFIX or FFT. Either Nobuo's getting too old to compose every song on a game or he decided he'd just not give his all.

The music isn't bad, per se, but it just doesn't capture my attention very much. It's like listening to an el outside of your window every day for twenty years. After awhile, you just tone it out and forget about it. That's the only metaphor I can sum it up with.

Auron's Theme was notable, though. After you learn his past and listen to the theme, chances are that it will muster up all the endurance and lingering memories he had to travel around with.

[SIDEQUESTS]

Blitzball, Monster Arena, Celestial Weapons, Al Bhed Primers...

There sure is a lot of time-consuming sidequests you can take part in, and since nearly all of them start out early, you can start enjoying the benefits immediately. This is the second-highest point in the game as far as I'm concerned, because it's loads more interesting than following the plot.

You can capture monsters in nearly every location in the game, you can play blitzball for hours, you can traverse around the land for hours trying to win that certain Crest or Sigil...That's all there is to it. Journeying through the sidequests is more involving than the plot, and you'll probably care about it more, too.

[OTHER PROS AND CONS]

+ Customizing equipment should be put in more games
+ Re-viewing your cutscenes in the Sphere Theater is a nice extra
+ Yevon and the Al Bhed actually seem like they're warring sects
+ Cat-people in the mountains! Alright, I'm grasping at straws here...

- The plot twists that are thrown at you are ones you've already guessed
- The English voice acting sucks
- There's a fifty percent chance of you not caring about the characters at all.
- The Sphere Grid eliminates unique abilities
- Accomplishing sidequests is more fun than following the plot
- No world map to explore, no airship to fly
- The game babies your characters until the very end of the game

[THE VERDICT]

Story: 4/10 [Incredibly banal and uninventive for all the time spent on it]
Characters: 5/10 [Auron and Lulu are the only ones with likable personalities]
Graphics: 10/10 ['Cause they're pretty]
Music: 6/10 [Borderline mediocrity, brought up only by its placement value]
Sidequests: 19/10 [Spend all your time on this aspect.]

Total: 34/50 = 68% Satisfaction Rate

The Verdict™: You can enjoy this game if you forget about all of the boring and expected parts of the storyline.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/26/05


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