"Final Fantasy X is simply an astounding achievement and is one of the best, if not the best game on the PlayStation 2."

Ever since Final Fantasy became a mainstream series in North America, our expectations from the franchise have been ever increasing over the past decade. During the past ten years the Final Fantasy series has gone through some interesting times. Before the ever popular Final Fantasy VII was released the Final Fantasy series was generally always set in a similar time period, and the civilizations were always relatively the same. These Final Fantasy civilizations were usually similar to our middle ages, with castles, kings, knights, mages, et cetera. Final Fantasy VII changed all of that with its bizarre futuristic and more modern setting which was never previously seen in a Final Fantasy game. This was a bizarre change for Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy X is kind of like a mix of the two settings.

Final Fantasy X begins in what seems to be a flourishing city, more technologically advanced then what we have in our lives today. The young hero of Final Fantasy X, named Tidus, is seen playing an underwater sport named blitzball. During the game a terrible disaster occurs, literally wiping out this entirely advanced civilization. A huge monster named Sin is responsible for this devastation. It here that Tidus meets with a mysterious man named Auron who he appears to have known before the events of the game take place. Tidus is eventually sucked into a wormhole and awakens in a world he does not recognize.

The setup for Final Fantasy X is an interesting one because like most previous Final Fantasy games it gives the feeling of doom and destruction, which is typical for a Final Fantasy game. Despite the fact that Final Fantasy X begins with a total disaster, much of the beginning of the game is very light hearted and easy going, when compared to the more depressing stories and events which occur in most other Final Fantasy games. Tidus meets up with some strange folk who appear to be much less advanced than what Tidus is used to. Although the game gets really interesting once Tidus realizes that he is not even in his own time period. He has somehow managed to be transported one thousand years into the future. But usually when one thinks of the future they do not imagine a civilization less advanced than one from a thousand years earlier. Tidus then learns that Sin was responsible for the destruction of all of the advanced cities ten thousand years ago, and advanced technology which is called machine, is now forbidden by Yevon, which is the religion of the world of Spira. Sin is to this day, still terrorizing the people of Spira.

Final Fantasy X is actually one of the first, if not the first Final Fantasy game that does not entirely revolve around an insane person trying to destroy the entire world. While the theme of the inevitable destruction of the land is present, the insane man trying to take over the world theme noticeably takes second stage in Final Fantasy X. Another amazing attribute of Final Fantasy X is that the main enemy of the game isn't even revealed until much later in the game, and even to veteran Final Fantasy players the final boss will be a huge surprise.

Tidus joins a group of guardians and a summoner whose objective is to set out on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin. The problem with Tidus is that no one believes him. Everyone just tells him that he is suffering from amnesia due to Sin's toxin, which is a side effect from being to close to Sin.

The interesting aspect of the battle system in Final Fantasy X is that it is a turn based system. Rather than the ATB (active time battle) Final Fantasy X uses the CTB (conditional turn based). This means that no longer can an enemy continuously attack your characters while you select your attacks, because each character attacks one at a time. Depending on the value of every character and enemies agility, they will be placed in a meter that shows the order of everyone's turn. This adds a lot of strategy, especially during boss fights, because certain attacks and abilities have a delay time which will cause your characters next opportunity to attack to change on the meter, so you can more easily plan out an attack strategy. What makes the combat system even more interesting is the fact that when Tidus joins the group your party consists of five characters, and this is extremely early in the game. Unlike any other Final Fantasy, you can actually swap characters in and out of battle at your leisure. For instance, if you are having trouble attack an airborne enemy with Tidus, you can press L1 to bring up a character swap menu. All you need to do is select Wakka, who excels in accuracy, for taking down aerial enemies. The benefit of this is that swapping characters doesn't waste your turn. Therefore you could swap through all of your available characters while you decide what action you would like to take for that turn. For instance if you switch Tidus for Wakka, then you change your mind, you can switch Wakka for yet another character to cast a protective spell, or something else of your choosing. Another great example is said a strong boss character uses an attack that does massive damage to all of your characters. On your next available turn, instead of using that character to heal themselves, you could effectively swap the almost defeated character out for another one at full strength, who could then heal another character. Therefore you could effectively bring your party back to two thirds of its strength in one turn, instead of two.

What makes Final Fantasy X's battle system so interesting and unique is also thanks to Final Fantasy X's innovative sphere grid. The sphere grid is a giant puzzle-like board, and each character has a starting point on the grid. Each character has a defined path of the sphere grid and they move along this grid by gaining sphere levels. There is no longer a level number associated with your character; there is no level 1, level 10, et cetera. Every time a character gains a level this level is used to advance one place on the sphere grid. Once you move the character on the sphere grid you can activate a sphere node. Each node will provide a certain upgrade to your character, such as an increase in hit points, magic points, agility, strength, et cetera. These nodes are finally activated by using spheres themselves. At the end of battles you will gain ability points (instead of experience points) along with the familiar gil, but also spheres. There are many different types of spheres, such as power spheres, ability spheres and so on and so forth. A strength sphere is used to activate nodes that provide bonuses to things like hit points, strength and defense. There are also empty nodes to be found on the sphere grid, where special spheres can be inserted. There is one instance where you can win a special strength sphere, that when inserted into the sphere grid it changes the empty node into a strength node where it can then be activated with a power sphere to boost that particular characters strength. These special spheres generally provide a greater stat boost than a regular sphere node of the same type. It is also worth noting that even though each character begins on a certain path of the sphere grid they can later be moved around into other characters sphere grids, or into previously inaccessible areas for some of the strongest spells and abilities in the game, these are accessed by finding key sphere that unlock a “door” on the sphere grid that was previously blocking your path. The locks are divided into four levels, and each need the corresponding level key to unlock.

Final Fantasy X also provides much in weapon and armor customization. After a certain event in the game you will be able to customize your weapons and armor with certain abilities by using a set number of items. For example much later in the game you will be able to add an ability to your armor called “auto-med” that will allow your character to instantly use a healing item to restore their status from effects like poison and darkness, et cetera. This ability would remove the effect causing you to not have to waste your turn healing said character on their next turn. You could even also add abilities to the armor like “poison proof” that would make this character impervious to poison. However each armor and weapon can only have up to four abilities, so you cannot make any given character completely invulnerable to every negative effect in the game.

Weapon customization is also very interesting because you can add many useful elemental effects to your weapons. This allows you to add such abilities like “fire strike” that would turn a regular sword into a fire sword, which would be highly effective against ice enemies.

Every character in Final Fantasy X is also for the most part extremely useful in certain situations. In many previous Final Fantasy games you could simply just use your favourite characters to get through the game, ignoring the rest of the cast the entire time. In Final Fantasy X you will be forced to use all of your character because each character has their own specific strengths and weaknesses. For example Tidus, the main character is effective at taking out quick enemies that would easily dodge your other swordsman Auron. Despite the fact that Auron is slow moving, he would be required to take down heavily armoured enemies, where Tidus' swords would otherwise prove ineffective. The same goes for the other characters. Yuna, who is the summoner of the group, is also your white mage who is extremely potent at healing and casting protective spells on your party. She does however possess a unique ability that no other character can ever be capable of using. This also leads to one of the absolute best features of Final Fantasy X. Yuna has the ability to summon Aeons, who are gained throughout the pilgrimage by praying at the temples of Yevon. The temples of Yevon are entire puzzles in themselves where you need to open various paths by using special spheres. These puzzles can be difficult at times, especially if you want to find the hidden treasure in each of the temples. Once you finally gain access to the aeons, you can summon them in battle. However these are not your typical Final Fantasy summons, because of the fact that they replace your entire party, rather than simply performing an attack then leaving. They act as an entire character on their own, as they each have their own attacking strength and hit point values. However their basic attributes are also increased every time Yuna's stats increase on the sphere grid.

Every character in the game has several overdrives which are vastly similar to the limit breaks in other Final Fantasies. However the overdrives are the most refined versions of the limit breaks yet, as they can be saved and used whenever you want without hindering your characters. For example, in Final Fantasy VII the limit break option would replace your characters attack option, so your character could not use their attack ability until you used the limit break, thus saving them for later was not always easy. In Final Fantasy IX the trances would come into effect immediately so even if it was the ending of the battle the trance would come into effect and be utterly wasted. Thankfully Final Fantasy X's overdrives are much superior to the horrible system used in Final Fantasy IX. Much like the main characters the aeons can also use their own overdrives, which are usually over the top special moves similar to the attacks the summons used in other Final Fantasy titles. These are the real reasons why you want to use the summons, as they are particularly useful against bosses. Much like the weapon and armor customization, your aeons can also be customized to learn new abilities such as cure and protect, which they otherwise wouldn't know on their own. Teaching an aeon abilities like cure or haste can increase their effectiveness tenfold as they can dominate a boss or strong enemies with the proper abilities. You can also increase their HP and other stats by using a set number of the different types of spheres that you have collected during your adventure.

The character interaction is a significant element in the progression of Final Fantasy X. Since the characters leave on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin there are numerous scenes where all of your characters interact with each other. This is also thanks to the way that the battle system works. In many previous Final Fantasy games for a majority of the time, you could really only witness the character interaction of the characters that you currently had with your party. However in Final Fantasy X you progress with the idea that every character is there, but you can only use three of them at any given time. For instance, when you swap a character in battle the one that is currently there, will run off to the side, and you will see the new character run in from off screen to take that characters place. Some of the time when a character joins the fray they will say something like “Need any help?” or “I see you need my magic.” Characters also do a similar thing when they defeat enemies, for example when the swordsman Auron, who is the powerhouse of your party, finishes off a character he will say something like “Enough!” or “Farewell!” As simple as it sounds it adds the feeling that these characters are real and have more emotion and feeling, rather then them just being “there” like in other Final Fantasy games without voice acting.

As Final Fantasy X is the first Final Fantasy game with voice acting, Square Enix has done an excellent job of finding a bunch of talented voice actors to portray the characters in the game. While some like to complain about Tidus' sometimes whiny sounding voice it does suit his character and his back-story. Tidus is portrayed as a person who was very whiny when he was a child, and is referred to as a cry baby on several different occasions. It makes sense that sometimes Tidus does sound a little whiny sometimes, but it was never anything that ever got to the point where it was annoying. The most notable performances would probably be Matt McKenzie's performance as Auron, the deep voiced, mysterious swordsman and John Di Maggio's performance of Wakka, who you might also know as the man who does the voice of the robot Bender on the television show Futurama.

The character interaction portions of the game are what make Final Fantasy X so special. Because no Final Fantasy game has ever had this sort of interaction with its characters, these scenes are an entirely new experience for Final Fantasy fans. Usually the characters of a Final Fantasy game would stand around, and the player would read all of the text boxes. This time you can sit back and watch, as the characters talk to each other. What makes these scenes even better is thanks to the facial animations of the game, which are truly superb. The facial expressions in Final Fantasy X are perhaps the best out there on the PS2. The high quality facial animations along with the great voice acting, the characters truly come to life in Final Fantasy X. While there are notably some odd scenes on occasion, or a line or two that could have probably been done better, Final Fantasy X is still an outstanding game in many regards.

The graphics in Final Fantasy X are nothing short of amazing. Final Fantasy X is the first fully 3D Final Fantasy game, and it is definitely a sight to behold. There is no longer a world map, every place you go to is connected together through forests, or mountains or paths. Almost every location in the main portion of the game is connected to each other, and can be reached by foot. The varied environments are beautiful and Final Fantasy X is quite possibly the best looking game on the PS2, even now. If there was anything wrong with Final Fantasy X, it is that when the characters faces are not in high resolution some of them look like they could have used a small touch up, but that is the only complaint that can be mustered against Final Fantasy X's superb graphics.

The music in Final Fantasy X is again done by veteran Final Fantasy music composer Nobuo Uematsu, which wonderfully compliments the amazing graphics. Final Fantasy X completely lives up to any expectations one may have had out of Nobuo, his latest compositions for Final Fantasy X are amazing. Most notably is the opening theme “Zarnarkand” which is a wonderful composition that truly adds great effect and invokes much emotion in the player during the scenes that it is heard. Many of the other themes heard in Final Fantasy X are perhaps some of the best to ever be in a Final Fantasy. The regular battle theme is one of the best there has been so far, and does not become repetitive and annoying like some other games in the past.

Final Fantasy X has amazing everlasting value, which is rare to find in RPGs. For the most part an RPG will be played through, enjoyed and then forgotten. Final Fantasy X is an RPG that will be remembered for years to come. Despite the fact that the storyline and the gameplay are very linear it is one of the best Final Fantasies to date. A single play though of Final Fantasy could provide at least 40-50 hours depending on how fast you try and complete the game. After that, there are countless of hours that could be spent playing many of the games different mini-games and sidequests. Blitzball is one of the best mini-games that has ever appeared in a Final Fantasy title. Even though it is relatively confusing the first time, once you learn the basics it could be an entire game in itself. Think of it as underwater soccer fused with American football, with a touch of RPG elements for good measure.

Final Fantasy X is simply an astounding achievement on the PlayStation 2. Regrettably the same cannot be said about its terrible sequel. However despite this, Final Fantasy X is an amazing evolution of RPGs, and is the best RPG, if not the best game available on the PlayStation 2.

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Value: 10
Tilt: 10

Overall: 9.7

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/25/06

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