Review by GerudoPrincess
"Must-play game, even with its flaws"
Towards the end of 2001, Square enix released the first of its long running franchise Final Fantasy on the Playstation 2 and it was a huge success. The game was well liked by both hardcore Final Fantasy fans and those new to the franchise. It had many firsts, including voice actors, the ability to switch characters during battle, and the absence of the world map, which gave a more realistic feel compared the the sd sprites on a zoomed out world map of previous games. It did however, have a many flaws due to the fact that this was square's first attempt at alot of things.
I am what is considered a first generation Final Fantasy fan. That is, a fan that started playing before the 3-D era of playstation. If there is a game with the title of 'Final Fantasy' in it somewhere, I have played it and more than likely beat it, thus I consider myself as sort of an expert in the ways of Final Fantasy. So anyway, that being said, let's get down to this:
The storyline is superb, albeit slightly predictable. The story revolves around two characters: Tidus, a boy from a place 1000 years in the past who is suddenly dropped in a new era and must cope with all the trials of being new is a strange land of whose customs and traditions he knows nothing about. And Yuna, an esteemed summoner who must sacrifice her happiness and freedom to save the land she loves. It makes for a compelling story that toys with your emotions, bringing you to tears one moment and causes you to burst into fits of laughter the next. Also, the voice overs done by Tidus give the player more insight into the inner workings of the character's feelings and emotions, and also makes the gamer feel more like they are actually there.
Like I said, the storyline is slightly predictable. There are many plot twists within the storyline, but the foreshadowing and 'hints' prior to said twists make the outcomes of them almost completely obvious. Aside from that, it is also very linear. Once the mission has been stated, the characters never stray from it once, which makes it feel more like a movie than a game.
The cast of characters is very diverse. Each has his or her own background and, through the course of the game, character development. The days of two main characters with numerous static side characters is long gone. There is someone for everyone, and the emotions expressed by the characters leaves the gamer very attached to them. And like I said, the character development is great. I myself didn't like Yuna at first, because I saw her as a push-over and a sheep, but as the game progressed I gained respect and admiration for her.
It is rare that someone likes every character in the game. Like Rikku for instance. She's a very energetic and whiney girl who has a one-track mind. And most people either love her or hate her. The characters also have a bad habit of stating the obvious.
Breathtaking is the first word that comes to mind. From the very beginning of the game you see lush sceneries, realistic looking people and gorgeous FMVs. The opening FMV in the locker room and subsequent blitzball arena left my jaw hanging open, to say the least. And every FMV following the first was just as awe-ing. The details of the locations in Spira is just as stunning. From the flowers in the jungles to the grains of sand in the desert, it is a masterpiece of art. The characters also very lively and for the most part are very detailed.
Characters often seem blocky and their movements were repetitious. Each character seemed to have their own set of movements when speaking and they were often repeated leaving the player somewhat disappointed. Also, while the FMVs were gorgious, it kind of took over the game and downplayed the gameplay itself. The first couple hours of the game were about 80% fmvs and other tid bits of storyline, and you really only got to play the game (fight, explore etc) about 30 minutes in all of this. Some of the characters looked too asian at times. Tidus is an example of this. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he is hardly asian, however it's apparent that he was modified to look more asian to appease the japanese audience. I'm not racist, don't get me wrong. If the characters were all asians I wouldn't have cared in the least. It just bothers me when obviously caucasian people are made to look asian to sell. I know that it is a japanese game and first and foremost it needs to sell to the japanese public, but I think that instead of making characters of one race resemble another they should have had more diversity in the characters themselves.
Nobuo Uematsu really out did himself in this game. The music so emotionally charged that it tugs at your heartstrings even if there is no spoken words. Every score fits the mood perfectly and it ties in really well with the storyline. This is the first Final Fantasy game with voice actors, and being their first attempt I think square did pretty good. Each character's voice actor fits them perfectly and helps to bring out their personality splendidly.
While the voice actors fit the characters well, the way they say things sometimes tends to ruin the mood and lives the gamer less convinced that they actually mean what they say. Here are a few examples that I remember: Often Tidus sounds too peppy for the dialog. While the mood should be somber , the way he says things makes the mood a bit lighter than it really should be. And Lulu, who is overall a stern character (and might I add in most cases her voice actress fits her to a T), sounds like a completely different person when she is saying something urgent or light-hearted, as if someone else did her voice at those times. And lastly, some minor phrases seemed rushed when uttered and don't really fit the mood at all. For instance, when Yuna says 'ok' it sounds as if she is out of breath and doesn't sound as casual as it should. It also sounds like the same 'ok' is used everytime she says it, instead of it being redone every time. While that is effient, it is also less realistic.
The new ability to change characters in battle this game has makes the battles more hands-on and stratigic. In previous games, whenever you go into battle you are stuck with whoever you started it with and if you have characters that are no good for the enemies you face you are basically screwed. Also, the new sphere grid leveling up system gives the player more control over their characters.
The way the game is set up, there is a certain set of monsters that each character is good at. This aspect, while it makes use of every character at one point or another, leaves the player craving more variety in the foes they meet, as they are all usually just a palette change and stronger version of their predecessors. And even though the sphere grid gives the player more hands-on in their leveling up, it also can be tedious and leaves some characters virtually useless in battle. For instance, Rikku is basically a mixture of a thief and a chemist. Her mixtures are too unpredictable to be of much use and the good ones often require rare items that can only be found by completing insane tasks, And as a thief she doesn't have much physical strength or even redeemming skills. In addition, the 'set of enemies' she is good at can easily be taken out by a few sword swipes, thus rendering her useless on all fronts. And then there's Kimahri. He's not particularly strong nor does he have strong magic skills. His sphere grid is annoyingly short and has no useful abilities. Plus, he has no real set of enemies he is good at, either. The only redeeming quality is his overdrive, and even that is seldom useful and tedious to obtain since he uses enemy skills and thus has to have the enemy use a skill on him for him to learn it.
The game is full of mini-games to play, most of which revolve around getting items to unlock each characters ultimate weapon. The best of these is blitzball, which took the place of the previous games' pokemonesque card game. While it's slightly hard to pick up, it's very addictive.
While there are alot of minigames to choose from, most of them are very annoying and, if you are trying to obtain all the ultimate weapons, almost impossible to complete. The two hardest of these are for Lulu and Tidus's ultimate weapons. For Lulu's , you have to dodge 200 lightning bolts_in_a_row by pressing X when you see a flash of light. This means no saving in between or even leaving the screen. The game has a cheat sensor in it, and if you simply continue to press X the game will strike you out of spite. While it keeps the player from cheating very efficiently, it is also a little spastic and often hits the player even if they are not trying to cheat. Plus, if you don't have armor that has the 'no-encounter' attribute (no random battles) attached, you are likely to be struck by lightning when you come out of battle. Might I add, also, that the requirements for getting no encounter armor is very tedious, unless you are lucky and an enemy drops one after battle in Omega's dungeon. The mini-game for Tidus's ultimate weapon is likewise frustrating. You have to get a time of less than 0.00.00 seconds in a chocobo race. This is done by avoiding flying obstacles and collecting balloons that shave seconds off your time at the end of the race. While it seems easy enough, it really isn't. The controls of the game are very spastic, and it takes alot of effort just to get the chocobo to go where you want it to, making it hard to avoid the seagulls and grab the small balloons. In addition, the seagulls that fly at you often hit you even if they are no where near you, and usually, if you are hit by one ,it stuns you and you get hit by several more causing great agony to the player.
As far as the sidequests go, there really aren't many. Like I said before the game is very linear (which, in response of its fans, is probably what caused square to make X-2 so non-linear). There are two major sidequests. One involves getting three 'secret' aeons for Yuna, and the other is the Omega dungeon, which yields no real rewards for the player except for the ability to say "I beat Omega". This area is where the game really disappointed the players.
This is a fun game. I enjoyed it very much and grew very attached to the characters. However, the game is very flawed, as you can see. It's not one of square's best, nor is it one of their worst. Alot of the problems in the game are overshadowed by the sheer feel and emotion of the game itself. Flawed or not, this really is a game that everyone should experience.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/10/05
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