Review by Lunadea

"Finally, another FF game that will wow your pants off."

Final Fantasy 10 is the first FF game to reach the PS2, and has caused much hype due to its dazzling graphics and fascinating storyline. I bought this game after it went platinum, wondering what all the fuss was about, and boy am I glad I did. To date, Final Fantasy X is the game that has clocked the most number of hours among my save files, an honor that is well deserved. It combines great gameplay with graphics that are easy on the eyes, plus possibly one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard in all my gaming years. So, let's have an in-depth look at what makes this game such a winner.

Gameplay - (9/10)

The gameplay is the same as any other Final Fantasy title; run around, get into random battles in order to gain stats, etc. Interestingly enough, there isn't a world map - all the areas are joined together via one or several paths, which leads directly from one place to another. Technically this makes travelling a little harder in the first portion of the game, but by the time you gain access to your airship, all your problems are solved. On the airship is an autopilot feature (much like the autopilot feature of the airships in FF9) which allows you to select a place and then go directly to it; you can also enter specific codes which bring up hidden areas that contain treasure.

There is a lot of extra stuff to do in this game, from Blitzball to capturing monsters for the Monster Arena. Blitzball is one of the main minigames of FF10; it's basically an underwater sport that Tidus and various other characters (you can recruit them into your team) can play and it yields some good prizes. It is also necessary for developing one of the characters, as most of his powerups and his ultimate weapon comes from playing Blitzball. It's quite an interesting game to spend some time on.

The Monster Arena is one of the most interesting aspects of this game; it's a very large sidequest which can end up being responsible for nearly half the time clocked on your save file. Basically what you do is as soon as you have access to the Monster Arena, you buy monster-catching weapons from the guy there, kill a capturable monster (any except bosses, humans or mecha) with said weapon, and then the monster you kill with that weapon will be magically teleported to the Monster Arena, where it will be kept for your slaughtering pleasure. Each area in the game has its own special variety of monsters, and each monster belongs to a specific family, or breed. When you collect a specific number of all the monsters from one area or from one breed, the Monster Arena guy will somehow create a new monster for you to have fun with. For instance, if you collect 4 of each monster from the bird family, a new bird monster called Pteryx will be created by the guy and you will be able to fight it at the arena with a small payment. These special bosses often drop great items, so there's plenty of incentive for you to keep going around and collecting all the monsters you can. Also, when each new monster is created, you get items that are often rare and hard to find, which is also very helpful and can make refining weapons a lot easier.

Speaking of weapon refining, this is also quite a new aspect for the FF series (or maybe I just have bad memory). Weapons come with a designated number of slots for extra abilities, from 0 to 4. The more blank slots the weapon has the better, as often the abilities you manually refine onto the weapon is better than the ones that come by default. Refining is done by using a specific number of a specific item on a weapon with a free ability slot, which grants it an extra ability. These can include useful abilities like Auto-Haste, Auto-Life, etc. which you cannot live without in tough boss battles.

The only reason this section didn't get a 10 is because I'm not particularly fond of random battles, but it's nothing against this game personally. Also you may find yourself doing a lot of fighting because the whole game revolves around battles in some way, which can get a little tedious.

Battle/Level Up System - (10/10)

Final Fantasy 10 has a slightly different battle system from previous FF games, and a very different 'level up' system. The battle system is now completely turn-based, and is always in wait mode. You can always see exactly who is going to have their turn next in the turn bar on the right side of the screen, and how certain actions performed by the character currently having their turn will impact on future turns. This makes the game slightly more tactical than usual; you wouldn't make Yuna summon all the time because summoning allows the enemy to have its turn sooner than if she does a normal attack or cast a spell. It makes you think more carefully about which ability to use and when, especially during tough boss fights where every turn counts.

The 'level up' system in FF10 is vastly different to previous games, and is very original. It involves a 'Sphere Grid' which is a large grid of interlinked nodes, some representing a stat and how much it rises by, e.g. HP + 200, and some blank. There are two types of Sphere Grids, normal and expert, the latter having less nodes and different paths to the normal grid. You use the spheres you gain from battles and various other places to activate a node in the grid that isn't blank and thus activate the stat gain. Different spheres like power spheres, speed spheres, and so forth activate different types of nodes on the grid - for instance, power spheres activate nodes which increase HP and strength, but won't activate ones increasing magic power or agility. After each battle, the AP you gain tallies up and if it reaches a certain level, you will gain a Sphere Level. You then use this Sphere Level to navigate on your Sphere Grid; with each S.Lv you can move 1 node forward (this being a node you have not moved onto before) or 4 nodes backwards (these being nodes that you have already moved onto before). This movement allows you to reach new nodes and activate them, allowing you to gain more stats.

When you activate all the nodes on your grid, you effectively 'reach the highest level' - but no, there's more! Later on in the game you will get chances to get a hold of spheres that can turn a stat gain node into a blank node and vice versa. Why would you want to do this, you ask? Well, usually, the spheres that turn blank nodes into stat gain nodes have better stats than the default stat gain nodes (most, if not all, have the maximum amount of stat gain you can get from one node), so in theory if you wipe out all the default stat gain nodes and replace them with the special spheres, you can give that character the highest stats they can possibly get. Isn't that neat? If you're a hardcore perfectionist or a stat freak, you'll definitely have fun with this system.

Story - (10/10)

Apart from FF7, this game is the only FF game with a deep and very interesting plotline that I actually enjoyed. The story follows Tidus, a young Blitzball star from the country? town? city? of Zanarkand. One day a strange creature named Sin suddenly shows up during one of his games and destroys his hometown, and flings him 1000 years into the future. In this future, it is the job of powerful magic-users named summoners to go on a journey to defeat this Sin every ten years whilst sacrificing their own lives, bringing about a 'calm season' where the world can live in peace without the threat of Sin. Here, Tidus meets Yuna, a young summoner about to make the fateful journey and the daughter of the summoner who had brought about the current calm season. Along with several other characters they embark on the journey to defeat Sin (and save the world). But wait! There's a twist! Along the way, the group learns the shocking truth about how summoners actually keep Sin at bay... and what Sin really is.

So what is this shocking truth? Well, you'll have to experience the story yourself to find out. Trust me, it's a well-needed development from the usual 'defeat the villain and save the world!' plot that most RPGs have. Yes, Sin is the villain and to defeat it means to save the world, but in the end Sin becomes more than just your average mindless villain.

Graphics - (10/10)

Being the first FF game for the PS2, I must say that FF10 definitely utilizes the console's graphic engines to the max. The graphics are just stunning, and the CGs look more beautiful than ever (think of the ending scene, the famous kiss scene... and many more to boot); normal gameplay sprites are great too, and even they have a large range of expressions. The design of each map is gorgeous and really helps to set the scene - whether you're in a mysterious forest or a grassy plains, the backgrounds are very fitting and look just like the place it's supposed to be. The monsters look great too, each with individualistic designs that suit the area, and the bosses are all very interesting-looking. I admit the bosses (especially the extra Monster Arena ones) could have had better and more original designs, but they do their job nicely.

Sound - (10/10)

FF10 has a brilliant soundtrack that really helped to promote the game even further. Each area has music that fits it very well and best of all, most of them sound great on their own, even out of the game. 'Suteki da ne' is the song played during the highlight of the game, and it is a very pretty piece with great vocals. The range of music in this game is also very large, with the soundtrack spanning 4 CDs.

This is also the first FF game to have full voice acting - or, in fact, any voice acting at all. Thankfully, it is done well and each character's personality shines through in their dialogue and the way they speak. Tidus can sound a little annoying at first, but he gets better later on, so that's a good thing. I suppose it reflects his character development; he starts the game off as a slightly bratty boy who thinks he can do anything just because he's a Blitzball star, but as the game goes on he matures (and falls in love). Anyway, kudos to the voice actors for doing such a terrific job.

Replay Value - (8/10)

There is quite a lot of replay value, even if it's only so you can see the cinematics again. There are plenty of side-quests you can do and you can always try out the Expert Sphere Grid if you didn't last time. The story is definitely interesting enough to go over again, but unfortunately there isn't a New Game+ or something similar so it may be harder to convince yourself to start a new game and start from scratch.

Final Score - (10/10)

I don't give 10s out very often, so when I do, you know the game is well worth it. Final Fantasy 10 is definitely a leap in the right direction for the FF series, and I hope that future titles in the series will be just as good. Now that I know why this game reached platinum, I urge that you give it a go too - even if you're not an RPG fan, this game will definitely provide many hours of great entertainment.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/11/07, Updated 07/12/07

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