Review by grasu
"The only Final Fantasy game worth your time."
It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that I'm not an FF supporter. Hell, Square's famed series is the equivalent of that thing dogs do in the park to me. The history of FF always seems to forget to include how all of their games are lightyears behind the curve in technical terms, how they're characters are some of the most stereotypical ever found in games, and how the combat system is so overused and just simply pointless that I want to blow my brains out.
FFX doesn't have almost ANY of that.
FFX, one of the most hated FFs by the so called "elite" is actually the best FF game Squaresoft has ever made. Its characters are unapologetically based on cliches and that's fine, because thanks to a great battle system, up-to-date graphics and sound they are far more alive than anything else you have previously seen in an FF game.
When it was released, Final Fantasy X was considered to be the best looking PS2 game out there. The game was so gorgeous most people just couldn't believe it, and the fact that it's still considered by many to be among the best looking games of this generation earns Final Fantasy X this score with brio.
FFX doesn't only look good, but it feels good to. There are no framerate problems, no fogging, no graphical glitches that I could find. The character models are a bit malformed in the facial area (most of the have overly large cheeks) but otherwise their animation, design, clothing, and attacks are all stupendous to look at. The monsters are just as beautiful. Slash a bird and it will flap its wings in pain sprinkling the ground with feathers, etc. These small touches make a good-looking game into a great-looking game!
The environments and lighting are also absolutely astounding to gaze at. Apparently Square went all out with showcasing the PS2's power. Fully 3D in all aspects with great resolutions and character/enemy models, FFX is still among the best looking PS2 games out there.
The only noticeable problems with the graphics really begin to arise in the outside world what that means, is that during most of your play time (with the exception of cutscenes) your characters will look far less detailed and their facial and bodily features will be slightly changed when actually playing, rather than just when watching the cutscenes. It's quite a noticeable flaw but it doesn't hurt the graphical appeal of Final Fantasy X all that much.
Voice acting!!! OMG! Finally Squaresoft decides to join the rest of the free world and put VOICE ACTING in their games, and it's honestly a blast. FFX gains so much personality from its voice actors (no matter how bad they might be) that it's impossible to conceive why this wasn't done before.
In the music department, I must say that the game doesn't fare all that well. There are no instantly memorable tunes here and the whole J-Pop phenomenon is starting to step on my nerves. Sound effects are great, despite the fact that they don't support Dolby II but they have a rich sound and just feel a whole lot better than the 2 sound clips used for all of the other FF's game (usually a hit-like-sound and then some sort of walking sound).
Overall, graphics and sound are by far the most improved categories in FFX.
Game play: 7/10
Let's get a few things straight: Final Fantasy X's gameplay is faster, more furious and more balanced than any other Final Fantasy game. That's not to say, however, that you'll have a revelation when playing this game: If you really detest FF to begin with, than this game won't change your mind.
In terms of storytelling Final Fantasies have always seemed lackluster well, to me at least. It might be because I play the occasional other RPG that isn't branded FF but, whatever the case is, FFX is still just as lackluster in terms of actual story as all the other FF games. You play as Tidus, a young man who acts like a teenager, has an effeminate look and a dark, mysterious past. Oh yeah, he's an orphan as well.
The story unfolds after Tidus' home town is attacked by something, which you later find out is actually Sin some sort of thing that appears every X-number of years to cleanse the earth. After the mysterious attack you wake up on an island in a tropical paradise where you encounter a summoner named Yuna, who- surprise, surprise- is suppose to seal away Sin for good. Her daddy apparently couldn't do that so he just left his kids to do the dirty work.
Throughout the game you meet a cast of characters of all sizes and nationalities. They all have some utterly-abnormal childhood or some other totally bizarre type of convoluted past that makes great for sidequests. The best part about the character system in FFX is really not who they are, but when you meet them: You meet most of your team mates very early on, which is great because you'll certainly not get attached to these characters due to their formidable background stories.
As you can probably tell, FFX is far from original. Hell, if it wouldn't be for a classical-game-changing-FF-plot-twist half-way through, this game would rank among the lowest of the low in terms of story. Character development is equally as dull. Tidus finds out about his father, since he's an orphan and Yuna about her mother since she knew her father, etc. This is the kind of typical archetypes that you can expect from all Japanese RPGs, and really, if you haven't gotten used to it by now, you should just stop reading this review.
While the story might not be all that interesting though, what really separates FFX from the other Final Craptasies (VII, VIII to say the least) is it's gameplay: This game bends over backwards to be user friendly and fast paced, sparing you the painful reset-your-console-2,392,159 times-so-you-can-get-a-chocobo quest.
The biggest change in FFX is, by far, the modified battle system. First off you can finally swap characters in and out of battle at ANY time you please. This means that no more will your team standby like a bunch of idiots while the three main people are getting pummeled to death by a huge rock-like thing with wings, this time they might want to give you a hand. This obviously also means a few drawbacks, the most important one being the lack of a Catch up feature, but it's well worth the loss.
The second big change to the combat system comes in the form of summonings: Only one character can now summon creatures and, when summoned, creatures now have hitpoints and they can be controlled by the player as he/she desires. This is such a huge improvement that it'll be hard for some to get back to older FFs. It not only gives you some extra cannon-fodder in battles but it puts a lot of strategy in a game where hitting the X-button-a-thousand-times was the way to win each and every battle that, and running around in circles for hours until you got to level 99.
Among many other minor changes we get a flee that works 100% of the time (a good thing since you still can't skip idiotic random encounters); a ton of ways to refill our overdrive bars and a boatload of weapons, armor and accessories which AREN'T just tools of the leveling system.
On the bad side however, battles in FFX are still random and they're still as common as hell. This drives me across the edge in terms of patience: Why the hell do I have to fight lv. 1 monsters every 4-5 steps for no good reason? Why don't they just run in fear of my mighty warriors which look like they just came out of hell? Why don't I have an option to do auto battle? Why, why, why?!?!? I don't know, but it sure as hell is irritating. The second problem with the battles in FFX is the overly dramatic animations, which, at first, are fun but then they get WAY too common and WAY too damn annoying.
Luckily however, the game at least spares you a pain in the ass with its new leveling system. This is, by far, the best leveling system ever in an FF. Your characters gain skills and attributes by placing some sort of sphere in a specific slot on a huge map-like-thing called the Sphere-Grid. This huge behemoth has all your characters on it, starting at different locations and it features all of the skills, spells and quirky stupidities you've come to expect from Final Fantasy games. When your character levels up, he/she gets spheres which he can drop into one of the slots on the map. When he/she puts a sphere in a slot the map moves forward and the ritual continues. Some spheres feature strength, dexterity or luck attributes so those specific categories get a bonus when using that type of sphere.
What makes this system so great is that: A. It doesn't focus on equipment to level you up. B. It's quick, easy and it gives you a great deal of freedom and C. It's unapologetically homogenous. What that means to say is that you can get ALL the skills of ALL the people as long as you keep on leveling up. This game doesn't try, unlike the others before it, to tell you how unique your characters are because in Japanese-RPGs they AREN'T so it just lets you pick and choose your skills without the burdens of locking you in a specific weapon type or God-knows what other convoluted system that makes you wonder why wasn't time spent on gameplay rather than the leveling systems.
Of course, this whole system would be useless if there wouldn't be enough content in FFX to make you want to keep going and to that extent, FFX has got what other FFs don't.
There are tons of monsters in Final Fantasy X. From the truly weird and idiotic, like a huge bolder with a wing and a claw, to the old favorites like those dammed Bombs to your average, over-the-top bosses with 20 minute long animations and self adoring speeches. The variety of monsters is really huge and it plays well into on of the best quests to EVER appear in a Final Fantasy game: The monster ranche- wait, collector- quest. In this quest, what you do is collect different monsters from all over the world and you bring them to a sort of uber-pen where the keeper not only keeps a specimen of ALL of your captures but allows you to fight it when you want! Hell yeah! This means goodbye running in circles fighting 200 weakling monsters for hours and welcome easy boss fights that give you ****loads of experience! On this alone, the game earns most of my respect.
Speaking of quests, FFX has its share of the bizarre, absurd, weird and annoying when it comes to sidequests. On the one hand there are the fun ones like collecting monsters or searching chests (these aren't all that memorable since memorable is synonymous to annoying in Square's vocabulary). Far more often though, the quests that you have to accomplish in order to get the final weapons for your characters are utterly idiotic, boring, or annoying as hell. How's dodging 100 lightning bolts sound to you? Or racing a chocobo with a racing system that's even MORE broken than the one in FF7? Well, let me tell you how it sounds: FRUSTRATING! I must've done the Chocobo Racing-idiocy at least 300 times before I finally got the piece for Tidus' final weapon that it promised me. I thought I was gonna pop a vein when I realized that I've been racing chocobos for longer than I've been practicing for GT3 Super Licenses. Utterly frustrating and totally unnecessary, this is how I'd qualify most of the quests in FFX but, luckily, they AREN'T based on simple idiotic luck like on that other FF game.
Fortunately though, at least the places you visit are damn pretty and varied. In fact this Final Fantasy game probably has the most varied, well-made backgrounds in the series' history. Everything from the obligatory spaceship to the equally-as-obligatory temple and enchanted forest are present. However, unlike in other FF games these are actually designed by people with an IQ above 10 so you won't actually be going though endless corridors, nor will you be forced to redo the same passage a billion times because the game just feels like making you restart from an arbitrary check point you were never told about.
There are really just two important minigames in FFX, one of those being Blitzball. A sort of combination between football (soccer to my American friends) and underwater-walking all warped up in a pseudo-turn-based approach, Blitzball pits your team of inept idiots against utterly overpowered teams that will rip you to pieces at first. That's, of course, until you start employing a bunch of bugs in the game engine and you get your characters leveled up a bit. After that the game becomes stupidly easy. The other minigame in FFX is actually far more important and about 2000 times as annoying: The puzzle-like-temple-sequences. These things will drive you INSANE unless you have a guide as the game provides NO clues on how the hell to complete them and, in the harder ones, if you make a mistake you're stuck with it and might NEVER be able to beat the temple unless your restart the WHOLE sequence. (NOTE: Square must really think that everything they touch is instant gold, no matter how boring, pathetic, or annoying it is.)
That's not to say however that FFX is without some serious flaws. For beginners, the freedom that made FF games so great and mysterious is GONE here. You fly around in a ship and have some arbitrary checkpoints set up throughout the map which you can fly your ship to. Forget freedom, it doesn't exist. The game is also fairly difficult making you face some idiotic situations before you are truly prepared to deal with them. Not to mention that FFX still makes it IMPOSSIBLE for you to finish it without getting your characters to level 99. Unless you like scaling mountains that are perfectly vertical, in which case you can go ahead and try to finish this game without doing 95% of all sidequests and getting to, at lest, lv. 90 with ALL of your characters.
I don't like Final Fantasy games, and that's not a mystery to anyone who's clicked on my username in the past 2 years, but FFX departs so far from the old, boring, and tired Final Fantasy methodology that it simply is a better game. Whether or not you're gonna like this game (assuming you haven't bought it yet) really depends mostly on whether or not you liked or disliked other FFs. FFX strides far from the old formula but it does so in such a way that even haters might become pick-up men.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/10/05
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