Review by chocobo_hero

"Golden wrapping, fine bronze present"

Final Fantasy X was one of the Playstation 2's long awaited RPG, continuing on from Squaresoft's infamous series. As a gamer, I've come to the point to where I can pop a game into the system, turn on the power, press the X or O button past the intro, and smell common character proletariats, storylines, and battle systems a mile away. Being the role-playing bloodhound that I am, I've come to devise my own system for critiquing games. Like all gifts, video games can be broken down into two simple categories, each having several familiar subcategories for the average game review writer/reader:

The Wrapping

I don't think I've every met anyone who has an intense interest in wrapping paper when assembling Christmas or birthday presents; I'd imagine that years of psychosis treatments and sleeveless white jackets would be in order. In relation to video games, there's a wide stream of people who go nuts for the wrapping, losing focus on the quality of the actual present inside---these are the dreams of gaming industries everywhere. While not a huge factor in what makes a game good, it does attract our attentions and if the wrapping looks like crap, the person on the receiving end will automatically assume the gift's no better. The wrapping consists of:

Looks:

Final Fantasy X has some of the best graphics I've seen in a while. They made a big deal about being able to express emotions with facial features and all that jazz. Running through a jungle past cascading waterfall and ancient architecture topped with vegetation---giant monsters towering over you, their pincer-like mouths dripping with thick saliva, even literally showing the different weapons each character equips with amazing detail is all seen here. However, despite the glamour of graphics, I felt they went a little over the top with it all. Some characters in the movie sequences merely looked like Asian versions of themselves, where although good looking created a visual inconsistency that was completely unnecessary. Also, character motions were often recycled if I didn't press the button right away during dialogue sequences, such as Rikku's spastic hand motions whenever she talked. Maybe that was part of her character, but stuff like that could have been fine-tuned---it wasn't like they didn't have the technology or the time.

Sounds:

Music is either a hit or miss topic for me---and they hit it; it wasn't the best stuff in the world but it was decent enough. There were lots of tunes that were memorable, but instead of feeling the face-heating embarrassment when I just realized I hummed a bar from a Jessica Simpson album, I find it interesting that I remembered a tune from a video game and simply hum along in solitude. I especially liked the random battle theme—it was upbeat and made me want to battle even in times when I just wanted to get on with the story. Considering the fact that I would be hearing that tune quite often, it was good that the game designers made it something that was easy on the ears.

The sound effects were pretty decent as well—there was nothing that really irritated me. The burning whoosh of Fire spells and the ear-piercing rings of Thunder attacks hitting home were appropriate and clear as a bell. Voice acting was pretty good—as well as one of the features to be a first for a Final Fantasy series. They did a good job casting voices for the characters—each voice suited the apparent personalities of the characters—Tidus had the upbeat, puberty-ascending tone of a self-confident, fun-loving athlete and Yuna had the soft, heart-felt voice of an up and coming summoner.

Gift:

The meat and potatoes of what the game is all about---this is what true RPG fans sniff out as soon as a new title hits the shelf. Too many games have recycled, rinsed, and repeated common themes, causing the once intense interest in RPGs of millions wane over the last few years. Despite my slight exaggeration, a reused plotline can cause RPG lovers or just video game lovers to lose their faith in the creativity of the gaming industry. Take into consideration that a truly great game can be an excellent gift with mediocre wrapping. The components of the gift are:

Feel:

Or put simply, game play. Final Fantasy X keeps old elements and lightens them with something new. Like the majority of Final Fantasy games or most RPGs, you can only fight with three characters at a time. You select ‘Attack' to physically attack, ‘Items' to use whatever you have in your inventory and ‘Overdrive', Final Fantasy's newest name for the infamous Limit Break—a character's special and individual techniques. Overdrives can range from special physical attacks or the ability to use a regular technique repeated times, or combining Items to create better, newer ones at your party's disposal. What was once known as Summons, GFs, or eidolons are now aeons, powerful creatures your summoner can call onto the battlefield. One feature I thoroughly enjoyed was to fight with the aeons as characters instead of sitting back and watching it's one-time assault on your opponents then leaving the battlefield. You can even level up your aeons and customize their abilities, making them even stronger than they were. Other characters have special abilities like magic, the ability to run from battle, and powers increasing the stats of your allies, stuff we've all pretty much seen in Final Fantasy series or other RPGs but may or may not have grown tired of. You can't give any weapon to any character---each character has a certain weapon with its certain strengths and weaknesses—blitzballs (that's right) are great for KOing aerial creatures and big swords are excellent on armored monsters.

Each characters start out with their own individual stats but they fail to break outside the mold---pretty much all the guys carry the big, bad swords and spears and the women cradle their dollies and wands, casting the magic from the rear. However---drum roll---you can invade the primary abilities of other characters with FFX's new leveling system---the Sphere Grid. Imagine a series of circular spider webs interwoven into one another, each character starting on the end of their own spider web. If Character A learns every technique on his/her own Sphere Grid, they can easily move into another character's grid and learn their skills as well. As you level up, you gain Spheres and apply them to move your character along the path or help them learn skills. However, there's a downside to this.

Even though I can teach fighter characters magic, it's essentially useless. The strengths and weaknesses of each character are so strongly signified by the time you waste your time getting them to become what you want them to be, you could just be teaching the skills to the few who are already prepared for those skills. So while I like the fact that each character has their own distinct strengths and weaknesses, that very fact makes the concept of a Sphere Grid null and void---I personally would prefer to have characters with unique traits. Ideally, if each character started out with a clean slate and no distinct pros or cons, you'd pretty much have carbon copies which take away from what makes that character a character.

Speaking of character, let's focus on the story. Spoiler-free and in a nutshell:

In an era where technology reigns supreme, a young athlete named Tidus is in the middle of a newly created sport called blitzball. In midgame, a giant monster called Sin ravages the entire town, creating destruction with evil spawn and tidal waves. Needless to say, the city's pretty much wiped out. With the help of Auron, an acquaintance of his father, Tidus comes out alive, but is transported 1000 years into the future due to Sin's powers. Hoping from place to place in this new world, Tidus tries to make sense of everything that's happened with the assistance of a team of guardians and a summoner who travel the world to rid it of Sin once and for all.

As the game progressed, it was easy to identify common storyline elements---you knew this girl would fall for this guy and you knew that this guy would end up changing drastically in the end. I was, however, pleased to find unsuspected plot twists that renewed my interest in the game, helping play curiously and excitedly until the very end.
The characters stayed true to their personalities, each learning or dealing with their respective issues. As Tidus, you can also explore the possibility of character development that in effect changes several of cut scenes with that character---what may seem like a small feature for some can only make the gaming experience better for RPG fans with a love for story (or at least a respective character you'd like to see more of in a cut scene) There are characters to love and hate, each adding their own flavor to the game itself.

Final Fantasy was an old story spun with new elements and wrapped in gold paper. It seemed that Square attempted to make a genuine attempt at a decent gift but many can argue that they attempted to compensate for a Dollar Tree gift by covering it up in pretty, shiny tinsel foil. Nevertheless, while the gift itself wasn't the best or innovative there was, it had style and attempted at greatness, which didn't fall far from the bar. Number wise, I'd give this present a 7/10.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/06


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