Review by Bobo The Clown

"Near Perfection, But Not Quite Reaching The Lofty Heights Set By Previous Games"

Near Perfection, But Not Quite Reaching The Lofty Heights Set By Previous Games
Final Fantasy X is a very good game. In fact, judged solely on gameplay and storyline, it's a great game. However, there's a lot of little things that continually add up to make Final Fantasy X somewhat lacking. In a series that is well known for a high standard of quality, the little things add up more-so than in a non-descript RPG series. It's a huge step up from Final Fantasy IX, which is a grossly overrated game, but it's not quite the leap that Final Fantasy VII was from Final Fantasy VI, the last hardware jump made by the series.

In this installment, you play the role of Tidus, the star player for the Zanarkand Abes in a sport known as blitzball. Your world is thrown into chaos when a large, aquatic-type creature known as Sin rampages through your city in the middle of a game. You escape with the help of Auron, a mysterious man that you vaguely know. When you awake, you're in the world of Spira. You become a guardian for Yuna, who is a summoner on a quest to defeat Sin. Your sworn duty is to protect Yuna while she is on her pilgrimage, and to hopefully find a way back to Zanarkand.

Sounds great, right? Well, there are plenty of dull conversations on your journey, thrown in just for the hell of it, plus a few common sense issues to boot. Yuna's dialogue throughout the game is dull beyond belief. Never has a starring character said so little in a game. Yuna says the word ''Okay'' around 4,792,729,102,287,102 times in the course of five minutes. Other snippets of her highly reformed vocabulary: ''All right'' and ''You know.”

The sheer stupidity factor of the characters in Final Fantasy X doesn't stop at just Yuna. Every other character in the game feels the need to say ''you know'' after most sentences. It's like the entire game takes place in the province of Vancouver, or in a ''Kids In The Hall'' sketch with the Ottawa Kid.

The lack of common sense in Final Fantasy X is also sickening. Tidus feels the need to connect with Yuna because... Um... Well, you never really know why Tidus is mysteriously attracted to Yuna. Her voice is annoying, the other two females in your party are much more attractive, and Swiss cheese gives her a significant run for her money in the character department. In fact, I would say that Swiss cheese is an improvement upon Yuna’s character, because it knows when to shut the hell up.

Three characters can fight underwater - Wakka, Tidus, and Rikku. It's never explained why. It's also never explained why Tidus doesn't drown despite being underwater for hours at a time. Or how Rikku, a short, cute as a button blonde, can manage to be in short shorts through the ENTIRE GAME. There's snow on the ground, yet Rikku is still there, wearing shorts that would make Britney Spears' blush.

Throughout Final Fantasy X, I found myself wishing that the secondary characters were elaborated upon more. The game, for the most part, is about the developing (and boring) relationship between Tidus and Yuna. However, Auron, Rikku, and Lulu are by far the most interesting characters of the game. Yet, excluding a few introspective looks at their past, they go relatively ignored by the plot. Instead, we are forced to listen to Tidus, the grown up version of Dennis the Menance, and Yuna, the queen of apathy.

The actual path that the storyline takes is fairly predictable, but still enjoyable. Since I'm not allowed to divulge spoilers, I'll just say that anyone who's played a past Final Fantasy game *should* see some of the plot twists coming a mile away. In a cinematic kind of way, the game identifies who is a villain, who is a friend, and who isn't all that they appear to be. It's too bad that most of the characters in Final Fantasy X are either twits or just plain boring.

The actual gameplay of Final Fantasy X is radically different from previous installments. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise; in every new Final Fantasy game, the old gameplay system is generally thrown out and replaced by something new. In Final Fantasy X, the new development is the sphere grid, along with enhancements to the traditional turn based system.

The sphere grid allows you to ''customize'' your characters. Instead of traditional levels, they gain Sphere Levels, which allow you to move around nodes on the sphere grid. Sphere Levels are increased when you reach a certain number of AP Points, which are acquired by characters in battle. You activate these nodes with smaller spheres, based on four primary skills, strength, speed, mana, and ability. The nodes provide either stat boosts or new abilities. Potentially, a character can earn an infinite amount of spheres, and learn the abilities of every other character.

Potentially is the key word in that sentence. Unless you cheat by using a Gameshark, most characters in the game are forced to follow a somewhat rigid path. Sure, there are opportunities to split off from the main skills you're learning; however, they're few and far between. Only Kimhari actively changes paths, and the result is that he immediately becomes a second tier character. As others are mastering their classes, he's twenty to thirty sphere levels behind, due to the length of time it takes him to get to his class change.

The other main difference from past Final Fantasy games is that it's back to a solely turn-based combat system. Not since the days of Final Fantasy 3 in Japan has one been in a Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy X's system has a few wrinkles that makes it different from other role playing games such as Lunar or Dragon Warrior 7.

In Final Fantasy X, a list of turns is displayed in the upper right hand corner, alternating between your actions and enemy actions, depending on the agility of the character. Some actions (casting a Flare spell) take more time to recover from than others (using a potion). As a result, the turn list is constantly in flux. Your attacks can also delay enemy turns, as can their attacks delay yours.

This simplifies the guessing game seen in many role playing games, and it's a godsend. Some people may cry that it dumbs the game down and makes it a lot easier; however, any feature that takes seemingly blind and dumb luck out of the equation is welcome in my book.

Another nice feature is the ability to change characters at almost any time. By simply pressing the L1 button, you can switch the current character with anyone ''on the bench'', so to say. This adds a lot of strategy to every fight, as only active members earn AP points, and it allows you to switch in effective characters during the middle of a fight.

All of this gameplay is executed with ease and precision. At no point is control an issue, and the in-game help provided is extensive. In addition to the manual included with the game, an in-game manual is provided which details all status effects and equipment effects, and tutorial screens around the world allow you to hone your skills in practice fights with enemies. Final Fantasy X is very friendly to the new player, while still adapting to the hardcore role playing gamer.

However, that being said, the main quest of Final Fantasy X is clearly designed for the casual or mainstream role playing game player in mind. It is not too difficult to defeat, and the only curveballs are thrown in late in the game. The extras are an entirely different beast, but for the most part, any gamer should not have significant problems getting through the majority of Final Fantasy X.

Ah, yes, the extras, which are a staple of any Final Fantasy game. Final Fantasy X is no exception. Chocobo racing, ultimate weapons, monster catching, summoning beasts, learning a foreign language, and more are found throughout gameplay. The amount of depth in Final Fantasy X is jaw dropping, and almost all of it is fun in some way shape or form. It's what another game with an immense amount of depth, Dragon Warrior 7, should have been. Fast, fun gameplay that never seems to end.

If you're a hardcore gamer, then getting a ''perfect'' Final Fantasy X game will be a prime accomplishment. There's scores of extra bosses, with sick hit point levels, and almost every single piece of equipment in the game can be customized with different abilities. There are acres and acres of terrain to be conquered.

There isn't much to say about the graphics of Final Fantasy X that hasn't already been said. Breathtaking. Stunning. Out of this world. All of these adjectives apply. Best of all, there's integrated full motion video, so much so that it's hard to tell what's a video and what's just the normal view of the game. Except for the occasional bad ''syncing'' job (matching the voices and words spoken to the lips of the character's graphical model), the graphics are as close to perfect as can be, and are unmatched by any other game.

Likewise, the musical score is outstanding. Deep, orchestrated tunes that are always appropriate for the scene punctuate the gameplay. The score of Final Fantasy X is better suited to a Hollywood motion picture than a Playstation 2 video game.

However, the majority of the voice acting is beyond bad. Part of the problem is the aforementioned lack of interesting dialogue between characters. The other part is the sheer lack of emotion in the voices, or simply the inappropriateness of the particular actor. Tidus sounds like a twelve year old boy; a role as a Hanson member would be more suiting than as a hero attempting to save the world. Luna always has a ''dazed and confused'' sort of sound, like she's just woken up from an all-night bender. Wakka apparently spent a considerably amount of time in Jamacia.

The only voices done well are that of Rikku, Auron, and Lulu, which helps to breathe life into their characters. Rikku has a bright, cheerful tone, which perfectly matches her personality. Auron has a low, hushed voice, that once again, matches his personality. Lulu has a deep, husky voice, which matchers her low cut robe and dark eye shadow, creating the image of the ultimate seductress. Maester Seymour is also a strong point, as are some of the other not-so-major characters.

Final Fantasy X is sure to go down as one of the greatest games of all-time. Does it deserve this title? In my opinion, absolutely not. It's still a very good and enthralling title while it lasts. However, Square constantly misses the ball with the smaller issues. The small things might not seem important, but the improbable stupidity of the characters and the deplorable lack of common sense in the game eventually build up and get on the nerves.

If you're interested in deep and expansive stories with compelling characters that actually have interesting personalities, the simple fact is that an action game, Metal Gear Solid 2, still provides it more than this game. With no real serious competition, Final Fantasy X will surely be hailed as one of the greatest role playing games of all time, despite facts to the contrary.

Good games leave you feeling satisfied with the resolution, happy with all the work you've put into it, and a warm knot in the pit of your stomach. Great games always leave you wanting more. This is what separates Final Fantasy X from other great games such as Lunar, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Chrono Trigger.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/19/02, Updated 08/28/03

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