Review by Eternal Jehuty

"I wish all games were this good..."

Ah, the Final Fantasy series. Many fans of the RPG genre would consider it the holy grail. Now, even with 10 installments, the series shows no indication of slowing down, if Final Fantasy X is an omen of things to come. Although it bears the ''Final Fantasy'' name, Final Fantasy X (hereafter ''FFX'') is markedly different from it's predecessors.

First off, the graphical style seems to have more of an Asian influence, rather than the fantasy look shared by most of the previous FFs. Of course, the graphics are superb. The character models are practically seamless and are highly detailed (though they aren't up to the caliber of Metal Gear Solid 2's models, but they come pretty close, which is a remarkable feat), the enviroments are beautiful and wonderfully crafted, with nary a bland texture, and even the infamous FMV sequences look better. The one thing that's a bit annoying involving the graphics is the fact that when the characters talk in the game, the lips aren't synced with the words. Overall, though, the graphics will continue to amaze and wow you throughtout the duration of your quest.

Of course, it just wouldn't be a Final Fantasy title without some awesome music. Although series composer Nobuo Uematsu continues his work with FFX, some other composers aided him in the creation of the soundtrack. This is quite significant, as the music does indeed sound a bit more ''modern'' than the previous installments. The game starts out with a remix of the ''Crystal theme'' and then, for the first time in the series' history, a hardcore rock song starts playing. It may be a bit overwhelming for fans of the NES/SNES era of the Final Fantasy games, but for those who have played through the PSX games, it's much easier to ''handle''. For the most part, though, the music is superb. Another year, another great FF soundtrack. The sound effects are standard fare, with the usual footsteps, sword clinging, magic blasting, and whatever other RPG sound effect cliché that you can think of. The biggest change to the sound, however, is the addition of voice acting. The voice actors do quite well for the most part, although some of it sounds a bit unrealistic or cheesy. The characters do talk how you would expect them to, due to their designs and looks. The voice acting is quite good, and I would welcome it in the any new FF as long as it's up to the caliber of this one's. Overall, it makes for one fantastic sounding package, and I would recommend buying the soundtrack as soon as you finish the game.

Gameplay. The most important part of any game. This is where FFX REALLY takes turn from the FF standard. Of course, battles are still random, but the similarities to older titles end there. FFX ditches the ATB (Active-Time Battle) which first saw the light of day in Final Fantasy IV. Now, the game has a turn-based battle system. You can easily view the order in which you and you enemies are going to make their moves in. Although some may claim that this makes the game a lot easier, it actually allows for more strategy. Instead of being rushed into making a decision, you can sit back, and plan out an effective way to take out your foes. Another drastic change is that you can now switch characters in/out of battle with the simple press of a button. This really makes the game a lot more strategic than it's predecessors. Let's say you start the battle out with no one but physical powerhouses. Unfortunately for you the enemies you are facing have a high defense, and can only be taken out easily by a magic user. Well, now it's no problem. Just switch out one of your characters, and replace them with the Black Mage of the group. Problem solved. The next biggest change is the way Summons appear in this game. Dubbed Aeons, when you call them, they become an active member in the party. In fact, once called, they REPLACE your current members, which means you can only control your Aeon. This is, of course, a lot different from the previous one-shot super attacks of the earlier FFs. They can attack, defend, use magic and special attacks, just like regular characters. They can charge up their Overdrives (which I'll talk about later), and then unleash one super move, which is more in tune with what I was talking about earlier. Their appearance in battle kind of interrupts the seamless flow of the regular characters' battle, but it's alright for the most part. Overdrives are still the same Desperation/Limit Break/Trance super attacks that characters have had in the last few games. They are most like FFVIII's limit breaks, as they usually require some sort of button press or combination in order to realize the full effect of the move. The way that the Overdrive meter fills up can be changed. From the outset, when you take damage, your meter goes up a notch. You can unlock other ways to do so, however, such as Healing party members, or attacking enemies. After all of that, though, none of it can compare (in terms of change) to the Sphere Grid system. You remember leveling up in RPGs? Well, forget it. That's not how it works here. You still earn EXP. (called AP for ''Ability Points'' in this game), but whenever you ''level up'', your character does not receive any stat bonuses or new moves. Instead, you get to move one space on the Grid. For each space you move, that number is subtracted from your total. So if you are at Sphere Level 1, you can only move one space. Now, this alone does not increase your stats. Instead, you have to use ''Spheres'' of all different kinds in order to activate nodes, which will increase your HP, MP, attack, etc. There are all kinds of different Spheres, and each one activates it's own set of nodes. Also, each character has their own starting position on the Grid (with one exception). This makes it so that not all characters are exactly alike. For example, your White Mage starts where, surprise!, all the White Magic spells/abilities are. And your main fighters will be in places where there are lots of strength nodes. This doesn't mean that you can't move into another characters part of the Grid, but you will need some special items in order to complete the transition. Some other things new to the series: You can add abilities to weapons and armor, such as moves that increase your strength, or defend against certain status ailments. So this means that Weapons don't really affect your stats as much as they did in previous games, because they don't really add a certain amount of anything to your character. You can also teach your Aeons abilities, as well, but it comes in too late in the game to really be of much use, anyway. And random battles occur too frequently in some areas.

Overall, though, the game is quite fun. The gameplay is new and fresh, and it feels like a breath of fresh air for the series. Some people may complain about all the changes. I, however, embrace them.

And of course, it wouldn't be a FF without a story. Although it's still the same RPG ''Find a group of characters to battle a big enemy'' type deal, the way it's told is exquisite. The game doesn't really seem to focus on the main enemy as much as the characters. I like this change, as it makes the characters seem more...human-like. They develop a lot better than before. The story is told through a combination of real-time cut scenes, and some FMV (although much more of the former), and it makes for quite the experience. You should be able to relate to the characters, and understand what they are feeling. The action doesn't really let up, with some really interesting plot twists, and once you reach the end, you are rewarded with quite the wonderful ending (although it is kinda left open for debate). I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, and I couldn't be happier with the translations (except for a couple of mishaps).

This game sure is packed with stuff to do. Just playing through the game will take the average gamer about 30-50 hours. The sidequests, however, are quite numerous. The main attraction this time is Blitzball, a kind of underwater soccer sport played in the game's world. There are plenty of secrets to unlock, and lots of extra places to explore. These make the game worth playing the game through a second time.

Overall, the game is fantastic. The game looks and sounds great, it plays fantastic, and there's plenty of stuff to keep you busy for hours upon hours. One warning though: Once you get this game, don't expect to be doing much else until you finish it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/22/02, Updated 01/22/02

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