Review by CChan

Reviewed: 08/19/02 | Updated: 10/05/02

Squaresoft has been there - and done it.

Final Fantasy X is the tenth instalment in the series of Final Fantasy games released by Squaresoft. Three of the Final Fantasy series, VII, VIII and IX are good enough, but Final Fantasy X is even better. (Final Fantasy VII is the one that introduced me first to the genre Role-Playing Games (RPG), not to mention the rest of the Final Fantasy series). It’s more beautiful than you’ll ever imagine, a touch of upgrades on the battle system and finally, voices to suit to each individual character in the game (for those who don’t know, previous Final Fantasy games did not include voices).

Story – 9.6
Final Fantasy X revolves around a young guy called Tidus (which you can name to any other names you like), whose nation called Zanarkand attacked by a mysterious beast called Sin and drawn into the world of Spira. Finding no other ways to go back to his homeland, he became a guardian to a young Summoner, along with other guardians, who have to travel and summon ‘The Final Summoning’ in order to defeat Sin, who has also troubled the lands of Spira.

Well in actual, there are definitely more to tell but I’m afraid that I’ll be too engrossed in writing that I’ll reveal too much spoilers. The things I mention above should be enough for you to glimpse a little into the story of Final Fantasy X before you start playing. The story also don’t really have that much of a suspenseful intrigue moments and twists of story like Final Fantasy VII does, because FF7's story can be real confusing if you don’t pay attention and a lovable main character dies there.

Graphics – 9.7
I’ve never seen anything as breath-taking as these graphics, especially the FMV (Full Motion Videos) sequences, where they look absolutely real-like and with an extremely impressive quality set about it. Every single detail is taken into notice, like the river or water flowing, sunlight sets about a place, creatures, environments, etc. The in-game graphics though, slightly deteriorates when a character is close to your television screen, perhaps due to the absence of anti-aliasing in PlayStation2. There are also many side characters that look a bit awful, like the mouth won’t open at all when they talked or zero facial expressions or even the hair looking like unnaturally stuck together. There are times too when the characters’ facial expressions look a bit stiff, and the characters’ mouths’ movements are not in sync with the voices, but I guess they’re a bit too hard to do. While the voices that are not in sync with the lip movements could be forgiven, Squaresoft should at least make sure that the facial expressions will be able to rival those in Shenmue.

The lighting effects are simply great; casting spells like Fire or Thunder will produce flashing lights with their respective effects. Almost the entire game is set only with the in-game graphics, including cut-scenes except various times where Squaresoft show themselves how wonderful they are in producing excellent FMVs by displaying one of the best graphical sequences that I’ve seen in a while. The FMV sequences will come right after a cut-scene, which means absolutely no slowing down and made the whole process smoother than a velvet fur.

The camera zooms in quite nicely at good angles, but sometimes, it’s slightly difficult to move and look around because of the fixed camera. And no, you don’t get to move the camera around while playing in the game. Loading times are considerably faster than its previous predecessors – and saving and loading the game is as fast. The changing of scenes is almost smooth with almost no visible loading times.

Music, Sound Effects and Voice Actors – 9.6
As what Final Fantasy games are known for, the background music is absolutely great, as well as the fantastic theme songs like Yuna's Theme which is really beautiful, composed by Nobuo Uematsu that had done music in other games like Final Fantasy VIII’s Eyes On Me, and Final Fantasy VII’s individual character music themes. Even Final Fantasy IX’s Melodies of Life sounds not too bad. Of course, some of the background music will sound familiar as it has used music from previous Final Fantasy games, especially some of the battle music. Some new background music while you’re travelling also is undeniably good. The music tracks also come in at the right time and mood, thus enabling this game to make its player mesmerized with the game.

The sound effects are amazing, all variable from water drops, wind blowing, lightning, fire burning and the like. And the realistic and fully emotional voice actors used for characters like the serious and solid Lulu and Auron, kind and gentle Yuna, Wakka’s accent and Rikku’s mischievous voice makes the game all the more full of realism that you’ll be captivated by the whole experience that this game sets you – graphics, music, sound effects, voices, gameplay, story and all. Some voices like Tidus can get pretty annoying at first; he sounds like some immature kid trying to act cool.

But the remarkable thing is how the voices can make the game all the greater; like the natural-sounding laughs that the characters might do at certain occasions really might set you gaped in awe. Plus, there are simply hundreds and hundreds of various and side-characters’ voices that you can hear when you’re talking to them, not only the main characters (of course, some of the characters won’t have voices when you talked to them).

Gameplay – 10.0
I’m simply short of words on describing the astounding gameplay that Squaresoft has set for us in this game. Final Fantasy X has made an overall redressing for its battle and levelling system. I’ll go through the several aspects of the game slowly so that you won’t be too overwhelmed with the tons of things this game has to offer.

OK, I’ll start with Sphere Grid. What’s that you ask? Final Fantasy X no longer used the same old levelling up system using Experience Points that you’ll get when you defeat enemies. Instead, they have a Sphere Grid where you can customize your characters freely as long they have S. Lvls that could be obtained when you gained enough AP that you get when you finish a battle. Sounds confusing? They have also different types of spheres like Mana Sphere and Power Sphere that could be applied on the respective nodes in the grid. Some of them are locked accordingly, so you’ll need to acquire a Key Sphere Level 1 or something similar in order to unlock them.

So basically, customization is easy in this game, because those who used the sphere grid to the fullest will find it easy to give your characters simply any abilities. For example, a non-magic user like Kimahri or Auron will be able to cast spells like Thunder and Fire or again, non-magic users like Wakka and Tidus will be able to cast Cure or Life depending on how you customize them. Maxing out your characters will every single ability and maximum stats will take a super long time, but at the same time, will make fighting a whole lot easier. But then, making a wrong move (which you’ll most likely do, since the Sphere Grid might require you to reread the Tutorial or make a trial-and-error basis in order to fully understand the entire concept). And apparently, the International version of the Sphere Grid (which you can get to use in Final Fantasy X International) is said to be easier to use, because the characters’ grid are set closer together.

Now get on with Aeons. Aeons are creatures/beasts/beings/whatever living organism that can only be summoned by the Summoner Yuna. Basically, they’re your summoned creatures, Guardian Forces and Eidolons (Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX respectively). These Aeons could be controlled like a playable character, have their own HP and MP and individual stats, as well as unique abilities that could be used against tough bosses. They can even cast black or white magic themselves, and be able to use an Overdrive.

Speaking of Overdrive, it is again, basically a Limit Break and Trance, except that when executing them, there are a few things you can do in order to enhance the attacks. For example, Tidus’ Overdrive requires you to press an Action button at the right place in the middle of a bar. Auron’s Overdrive needs you to press several buttons (directional buttons, L1, L2, R1, R2, Circle, Triangle, X and Square in the right order it’s shown), something like Shenmue’s Quick Timer Events (QTE). Wakka’s Overdrive requires you to press buttons for the slots it have (like Tifa’s Limit Break from Final Fantasy VII), in order to create some effect on his Blitzball. I could go on more but I think you could grasp on what I’m telling you.

The battle system has been changed a lot. While engaging a battle, you could switch your characters easily without a lot of hassle, though only a maximum of 3 characters could be used at a time – a slight drawback for me. When playing through the game according to the storyline, there are instances where you can perform other actions other than attacking/using magic/summoning/using items. For example, in the earlier part of the game, after fighting a few enemies out of a possible thousand, one of the characters will suggest you to attack something else instead. Another instance is there are some parts where you need to activate a machine in order to defeat a certain boss. You can even change your equipments such as weapons and armors while fighting in a battle!

Equipments like weapons could be customized in order to further enhance its use. You’ll have to use items in order to customize virtually anything like your Aeons’ abilities and your equipments. Learning Cure for your Aeons, for example, require a certain amount of Hi-Potions. And Rikku’s Overdrive Mix could be used to mix any item in order to produce another item as a surprise powerful attack on the opponents or an extremely useful healing item.

The Save Point itself has its own improvements. Other than the usual thing to be used to save, touching it could restore your party completely, along with a few more other uses like playing Blitzball, a sport and the only entertainment (don’t you just pity them) enjoyed by the people of Spira.

Although there isn’t any real substantial map, but while walking (or swimming) around, there will be a tiny map on the bottom-right corner of the screen with a red triangle indicator which shows you where to go. This is an extremely handy item to use, as you won’t be able to get lost in the game anymore, plus the ability to see where you are on the map.

What I can’t stop liking is the characters’ own unique personality, and with the voices, it’s even more evident. Wakka is a bit of a blockhead and stubborn, and have this totally different accent in his voice. Also, there’s this language called the Al Bhed which is another unique aspect to the game. The characters speaking Al Bhed could speak so fluently that it’s might as well be another forgotten language used by real-life humans. If you’ve ever read or watched Lord of the Rings, the Elven language is something the Al Bhed language could be associated to. Of course, you can collect books that are used to automatically translate the Al Bhed language when the subtitles appear.

Replay Value – 9.2
There are tons of mini-games to play, side-quests to complete and secrets to discover that it literally adds up to hundreds of hours of gameplay. One of the mini-games worth mentioning is the Chocobo Race (at last!), and the Blitzball too. Blitzball is a sport where you have a team to fight with against other opponents. Combine football and swimming and you’ll get the rough idea. You might not be able to get used to this game in the beginning, but there are many good points on why you should play Blitzball.

Acquiring better and ultimate weapons are no longer as simple as you might presume it to be, as there are tough challenges lie ahead before you’re able to get hold of them. Improving your characters’ stats is another thing that you might attempt. And if you get the International version of Final Fantasy X, there are several changes like the Sphere Grid and improvements as in more optional bosses and items, and you could even view a bonus ending that sets two years after the ending you’ll see in this game.

Overall – 10.0
Final Fantasy X International is an extra version of the normal Final Fantasy X, because there are new optional bosses (which are extremely, absolutely, horrendously tough), an extra DVD with a second ending named the Another Story, the new International grid which is believed to be easier and new extra items added to the game. You can switch the subtitles between Japanese and English, though the voices will be stuck in English only.

But anyway, what could I say? Add in the visually stunning graphics, beautiful music and sound effects, the completely realistic and burst-with-emotions voices, unique gameplay, a revamped battle and levelling system, great storyline and the various mini-games, side-quests and secrets, you’ll get Final Fantasy X – the most fascinating game that provides you the ultimate gaming experience in RPG. Everything is so dramatic and eye-catching (or ear-catching, on some instances) that you’ll simply be speechless. Final Fantasy X (or get the International version if you can!) has set other RPG games rocking with fear, because nothing could compare to the most revolutionary and evolved game ever produced. Squaresoft has been there - and done it.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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