Review by Carlos McElfish

"Despite the reinvention of so many facets of the game some things, it seems, never change."

I gives much respect to Final Fantasy, it always has the graphics, the sound, the damn intriguing story, you name it. FFX is yet another technological breakthrough created by the genius talent down there at Squaresoft (go up Tihomi Street and take a right at the big green building). So it comes with much regret that I inform you that FFX did not nail absolutely every goal it set out to accomplish, but since the game also comes equipped with so many new innovations its a forgivable crime. FFX truly is the new high water mark that all new RPG’S should hope to attain. With that said lets get down to some knit picking.

The lip syncing is at times spot on and at other times, oh how you say, not so accurate. But considering the immense amount of dialogue in the game its almost to be expected.

This game is good, possibly even too good. FFX managed to get both my roommates to sit down and watch the TV. screen with hushed anticipation only to get up and grudgingly leave 5 minutes later because they didn't want to ''get sucked in''. FFX is so good that I fear a population introduced to this caliber of interactive entertainment will somehow reject it because they subconsciously think that its too good to be true, despite the fact that they are seeing the game unfold right before their eyes.

With top notch production value, FFX will be a game that simply overrides your instinctive need to, say, go to the, or otherwise function as a ''normal'' human. And I hope you have some vacation time coming up cause this ain't no weekend jaunt. Final Fantasy X will make you eternally grateful that you have a lock on your bedroom door. This is the kind of game that demands you put your life on hold and take notice of an incredible interactive journey, and rightly so.

A couple new functions introduced with part X are Overkill and Overdrive. Overkill's are activated by delivering a finishing blow that is far stronger then the remaining Hit Points of the enemy. This kind of attack results in receiving better loot at the end of the fight. Overdrive is basically FFX's version of FFVII's Limit Break or FFVIII's Trance State, which basically allows you to unleash a deadly attack after taking a certain amount of damage. Unlike the previous versions however, FFX allows you to customize the means of attaining Overdrive mode, as you fight more baddies you learn new ''Modes''.

Another nice feature is that you can now not only summon monsters (Summon cinemas can be shortened this time around) but control them in battle as well. This comes in handy when fighting the more sinister foes. And the Overdrive method is also present for summoned monsters, which is where you will find the most devastating attacks in the game. Sadly though FFX does not offer as many summon-able (is that a word?) monsters. New Aeons (summoned monsters) can be attained by going through various trials, which is in essence logic puzzles at various temples throughout the game.

The amount of detail Squaresoft spent on every single scene in the game is nothing short of astonishing. Real time water reflections, idle character animations, lush plant life, anti-aliased random battle scenes, all perfectly integrated into beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds.

Comparatively speaking Final Fantasy X has the most things in common to FFVIII, the character models are decisively realistic, only with the power of the PS2 this game is kicking out around 9 times the amount of polygons per character. And like FFVIII this installment is more contemplative and thoughtful.

The sphere grid replaces the previous traditional experience points system allowing you to customize the power ups each person receives. Unlike previous RPG's where random enemy encounters were of little use except to simply level up your character, FFX gives you the ability to buff up your party any way you see fit. Basically it’s a grid of various power ups, you use spheres to activate a power up and Sphere levels to maneuver through the grid. Once this concept is realized you'll begin to see why this method is vastly superior to the traditional linear method of powering up your character.

There are 7 controllable characters in total, ranging from the technology savvy 16 year old Rikku to the mysterious wine jug toting 35 year old Auron. Each character has his or her own unique set of skills, although through the wonders of the sphere grid you are able to teach any character any skill.

After FFIX for the PSX dug up the old school roots of the franchise perhaps it is only fitting that FFX, which sees the series first PS2 outing, implement such new and diverse methods for character growth, gameplay customization and exploration. Not to worry though these changes are not for the worse, they are far from drastic or detrimental in any way, and will serve as a precursor legacy of sorts for the series.

Every real-time cut scene sports near perfect human movement emulation, I imagine many a blue screens were used in the making of this Final Fantasy installment to so closely replicate the physics of various body gestures. And the production value of the voice acting is actually somewhat worthy, which is saying quite a bit for a video game that kicks so much ass in every other aspect of interactive digital entertainment.

For the first half of the game you'll appreciate the voice acting but during the latter part of the game you might find that the voice acting is actually starting to become a nuisance due to the fact that the storyline starts to become more involved and the voice acting doesn't do justice to the story any more. The least Squaresoft could have done is allow for turning off the voice dialogue for good measure. I doubt the script for this game was optimized for verbal dialogue. I hate to go on about this but it has to be mentioned, FFX's voice work will confuse you as to what the writer of a particular scene's intention was when he wrote it. Not that the voice talent is nearly as bad as with most games -- but with a story this involved you have to have voice talent that understands where the writers of the game were going with each particular scene. But in Final Fantasy's defense you can finally turn off the beautifully rendered yet frustratingly time consuming summons cinemas.

The basic interface window also leaves a lot to be desired (although if you learn every tiny little nuance you can sufficiently navigate it), for instance when you want to add abilities to your Aeons (characters that you can summon) you have to first choose the Aeons category, which throws you directly into your status viewing mode, and then you have to back out by hitting the circle button and then choose abilities.

The world map can sometimes detract from your appreciation of the in game artwork due to the fact that you'll find yourself watching that, instead of actual goings-on of the game itself. My main gripe with this game however is the fact that the majority of the side quests are found within the last 10% of the game.

One thing that Squaresoft always nails is character development and FFX is no exception. Although the degree of attachment to the characters depend on how you interpret the context of the story as translated through voice acting, it is inevitable that everyone will find something or someone in this game to relate to, which is probably what makes the Final Fantasy franchise so universally appealing. As the main character, Tidus, you will develop relationships with dozens of people, there are so many facets to the storyline -- every main character is seamlessly intertwined with each other on some level.

The exceptionally well written story is reinforced by excellent character animation and a beautifully orchestrated musical score. Considering the fact that FFXI and FFXII are both scheduled to come out this year it is surprising, the depth of detail smattered across this title. It will take the average gamer around 40 hours to complete this game going straight through it and around 60 hours if every nook and cranny is explored. The game is crammed onto one 4.7gig disc (which marks an optical format first for the franchise), so obviously, no more disc swapping is required.

Final Fantasy X has more then enough variety in gameplay peppered throughout the experience to quell even the most diehard cynic, a gaggle of mini-games, some noteworthy side quests, and enough tactical customization to tide you over well into the New Year. Like the preceding Final Fantasy's you will find that by the time you get to the end credits of this game you will have grown a little (unless your 19 or older, in which case you would remain the same size...unless you count growing horizontally), and also perhaps, grown attached to your characters.

Some old favorites revisit this iteration of the FF legacy, like the infamous Cactuar, good ol' Cid (who has appeared in every successive FF related game, but who's alter ego ''Sid'' was the only one who could make it to the storyline of last summer's technically impressive Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), and of course, Moogles (which I think suffer from Moogla-mania, keep an eye out for Moogle Cart Racing, it'll be Moogle-tastic, and how many Moogles would a Moogle Moogle if a Moogle could Moogle Moogle). A few other traditional characters also make appearances to give the hardcore FF fans props. So you see, despite the reinvention of so many facets of the game some things, it seems, never change.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/05/02, Updated 02/05/02

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