Review by Random-J

"This ain't no Final Fnatasy VII..."

Now, I love Final Fantasy, or I did love it until FFX came along. But it seems to me that the higher the numbers get in the FF titles, the worse the games get. Slowly, but surely this seems to be taking place.

Game synopsis: You take control of a young man named Tidus who is sent 1000 years into the future by a mysterious is being named ‘Sin.’ Sin is a being which lives to destroy and has been around the world of Spira since the beginning of time. You cross paths with a ‘summoner’ whose name is Yuna and she becomes your love interest. You find out she is on a pilgrimage with several other guardians who are her friends to try and defeat ‘Sin’ and the game flows out from there. (Phew!)

Now only ‘cos this is a Final Fantasy game, it don’t mean it’s flawless and the best thing since sliced bread. This game is plagued with problems. The first problem is the ratio of movie / cut scene watching and actual game play. The bulk of the game is spent watching cut scenes and listening to some awful voice acting. From the start of the game this is annoying as you have to watch about 20 minutes worth of cut scenes and FMV before you can control your character and actually do something, then even when you finally do get to take control, all you do is walk forward a couple of steps just to be treated to more FMV and a flurry of cut scenes and boring ones at that. This is very annoying, especially when all you want to do is actually play the so called “brilliant’ game that everyone’s been raving about. At times you wonder why you spent £45 on the game in the first place and never just rented “The spirits within” instead.

The graphics in this game are good, but a tad inconsistent at times. In cut scenes where there are a lot of close-ups, the characters look extremely detailed, complete with full facial animation and astounding detail and then, at other times the characters look like character models from FF8. Not that FF8 had bad graphics, not by a long-shot, but for a machine that claimed to be the most powerful, it should not be pushing out graphics that are comparable to its predecessor. This game also showcases the console’s inability to pull off anti-alaising. Sometimes you are presented with so many jagged edges on-screen; that it’s like looking at a screen full of broken glass. It’s really bad at times and quite embarrassing on the PS2’s part. The battles however do look highly impressive and as with Final Fantasy 7 through to 9, players are graced with some spectacular effects and pyrotechnics when magic is used and beasts are summoned. The Aeons (the new name for the summons) look breath-taking and even though their summoning sequences are lengthy, they are worth seeing at least once as they really do show off the PS2 graphical capabilities if nothing else does. Like the previous 3 Final Fantasy games on PS, the game relies heavily on FMV and (to nobody’s surprise) it is beautifully rendered. But as good as the FMV looks, there is something boring about the sequences in this game and the FMV seems to lack the energy and excitement that came with watching the FMV in FF7, 8 and 9. It could be that because of the use of speech, a lot of the story is told through word as opposed to Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9’s extensive use of FMV to push the narrative forward…who knows? But despite the FMV looking great in FFX (which is in some cases better than the FF film), it isn’t that brilliant in terms of narrative and interest. There isn’t ONE particular scene in the game that comes close to Aeris’ death in FF7, FF8’s ending & Deling city sequence or FF9’s Alexander in Alexandria summon sequence. The FMV is brilliant, but not as spectacular and memorable as it was in previous games.

The sound is something that is always mentioned when it comes to Final Fantasy because its soundtracks are released in conjunction with the game and also because of Squaresoft / Final Fantasy’s high profile music composer Nobuo Uematsu. Past FF games have always benefited from having great soundtracks. This game does have the odd good tune, but generally the soundtrack is quite weak and besides the theme of Zanarkand and the battle theme, there aren’t that many songs that stick in your mind. This could be down to the collaborative efforts of another 2 composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano, but it’s not fair to blame the faults on them alone as they are brilliant stand alone music composers & arrangers. The soundtrack in this game just doesn’t seem to be as strong as FF6, 7’s or 8, despite it having a good track here and there. A special mention has to go to the voice acting which is POOR! This ain’t no Metal Gear Solid, put it that way. The voice acting sounds far too scripted and stilted as though the Squaresoft tea-lady or the office engineer was asked to go into the studio and read the script It’s no where near as naturalistic as Metal Gear Solid’s or GTA 3 and Vice City. And Wakka’s voice is plain ridiculous. If someone’s gonna do patwa, PLEASE do it right. Wakka sounds like he is deaf and sucking balls when he delivers his lines. It’s embarrassing and makes you cringe. FFX’s voice acting leaves a lot to be desired and frankly you’d think that with all the money Squaresoft has, they’d invest in that extra bit to get some decent voice actor sin to do the voices. It really is bad and so un-convincing at times that it butchers the story. But, in saying this, you do (somehow) get used to it, but after 80 odd hours of game play who wouldn’t?

Final Fantasy 8 introduced a new little game that players could play if they wanted to. By walking up to people and pressing ‘square’ players could initiate a card game. This wasn’t anything revolutionary or particularly exciting, but it broke up the action nicely and collecting the cards became a mini-quest…a side adventure. Because of its popularity in Final Fantasy 8, Final Fantasy 9 re-introduced the card game that many seemed to like. Final Fantasy X ditches this card game in favor of a sport named ‘Blitzball’, which features heavily in this game. The main character ‘Tidus’ and another character named ‘Wakka’ are both Blitzball players within the storyline. You can play this game when you reach a city in the game named ‘Luca’ (the only place where major Blitzball events take place). Once you reach this city and play your first game (which you HAVE to play) you can choose to play Blitzball whenever you reach a save point. Now let me explain this game to you. Blitzball is like a cross between Football and water polo, only that it is played ‘underwater’ and it is played with (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) a Blitzball, which is just an ordinary ball. The object of the game is just to score in your opponents’ goal. Now this sounds cool right? LIES!!!!!!! This game is crap (for the lack of a better word). Each half is 2 minutes which is far too long, especially as time stops when you are making a decision (such as who to pass to, whether to shoot or pass or changing formation). The game is crap and demands a lot of your time. Only sad people will find this game amazing. I think it’s a load of sh*t and it’s a real shame as this could have been a real cool and innovative game that could have detracted from the fact that FFX isn’t really all that brilliant.

The game system is pretty much the same as previous FF games, you run around talk to people, collect items, have the odd battle; all whilst traveling the world and trying to save the day. The only difference here is that it’s done entirely 3D. This doesn’t add a GREAT deal to the game except in cut scenes where the camera can actually move about freely as opposed to static camera angles and also when you are running about and the camera tracks you. The only immediate benefit that the 3D environments have is that sometimes when an enemy appears you fight the enemy THERE and THEN in the exact spot your character is when the enemy appears. However, I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a huge beneficial factor as a result of the 3D overhaul and is just a cool feature. You can’t look around in first person mode and change camera angles or interact with the scenery in any way. The whole idea of putting a game in full 3D is to exploit it and push the boundaries of the game further. (Zelda: Ocarina of time was and STILL is a classic example of this). Often you’ll wonder why they never just pre-rendered the backgrounds, as pre-rendered backgrounds offer a volume of detail that 3D environments often can’t capture (Resident Evil on the GameCube is a clear indication of this) and I don’t remember anybody complaining about the pre-rendered backdrops in Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9.As long as the game is good right?

This is one of the most linear FF games to date. Why Squaresoft made a conscious decision to ditch the world map I will never know, but it was a VERY big mistake and a very noticeable one at that. Because there is no world map, the game is very restricted and the sense of exploration and freedom is somewhat lacking as a result of it. Instead, when you gain access to the airship, you can access a map and just select where you want to go and you’ll be taken there, rather than you flying or trotting between locations yourself on the world map. FFX highly suffers from the lack of a world map and to make it worse, you only get the opportunity to go back and revisit previous locations right at the end of the game just before you pursue the last boss, so a lot of the item / weapon collecting, leveling-up and what not, has to be left till the very end, which is a stupid thing and somewhat off-sets the balance of the game.

One major difference to this game (and a very welcome one) is the battle system. The ATB (Active Time Battle) system is no more and a new turn based system is introduced. This battle system isn’t revolutionary and has featured in many RPG’s in the past, but it does add a lot to Final Fantasy and is new to this series. So there is no more waiting around for ages whilst your ATB gauge fills up and also you can take as long as you like to make your decision in battle, because the enemy isn’t allowed to attack until you attack, so there’s no need to rush and get hits in quickly like before. This game very much encourages critical thinking during battles which adds a greater depth of strategy. Another cool feature is the ability to switch characters mid-battle. This does not take up your turn and is more than just a gimmick as some characters may be better against specific enemies than others. (For example: Wakka is the only character that fights with a projectile type weapon (a blitzball), so he is the only character that can perform a physical attack on flying enemies, so if Tidus was to attack a flying enemy he would miss. “So what do you do?” Well, you press a button, select Wakka and in he comes to replace Tidus and BAM you can knock the enemy right out the air). Switching characters becomes a fundamental part of battles in this game and is such a good feature you’ll wonder how you ever did without it in previous FF games. Also, there are battles which place you in some very interesting scenarios, such as battling underwater. This is amazing to look at as the characters move differently and actually swim and wade in the water. Also there are battles where your characters will be spaced out and you can actually command your characters to move to another location on the battlefield. Interesting! The leveling up system had also changed dramatically as you are no longer rewarded EXP in a battle. Instead you are rewarded AP and only characters who have participated in battles gain AP, so once again using all your characters becomes fundamental for them to level up. These AP (Ability points) can be used on what FFX introduces as a ‘Sphere Grid.’ This is basically a ‘board game’ which you use to level up your characters. The amount of spaces you can move is determined by the amount of AP you have. So 1 AP (for example) allows you to move 1 space and so on and so forth. Different abilities can be learned on the sphere grid such as new spells and raising attributes such as Strength, Defence, HP and MP. But different abilities and attributes require specified ‘Sphere’s’ to activate them and these sphere’s can be earned in battle and are never in short supply, though some are rarer than others. It takes a while to get used to and is hard to describe without the aid of screen shots, but you do get the hang of it quickly once you get into the swing of things. Even though the Sphere grid system works well, many FF purists may miss the old system of just gaining EXP and having your characters level up accordingly and may find the Sphere grid system unnecessary hard work. But it’s easier to grasp than the over complicated ‘junctioning system’ in FF8. So if you managed to get through that, then the sphere grid will be a breeze.

NOW the storyline! This is where FFX trips up, falls down a flight of stairs and lands flat on its face in Bahamut doo-doo. The storyline is generally weak and EXTREMELY linear and straight forward. There are parts of the storyline which make little or no sense and the love interest is plain for all to see from the start. Yuna and Tidus’ love is no surprise and it’s blatantly obvious that Tidus wants to get all up in Yuna’s panties from the get-go. There is no ‘will they, won’t they’ as in Final Fantasy 7’s Tifa and Cloud relationship and the good ol’ love-triangle between Cloud, Tifa and Aeris. FFX kind of ties everything up for you. The plot is about some menacing being which resembles a piece of cow-dung, an *N Sync reject and a summoner who shows as much emotion as a vacuum cleaner. It’s a shame ‘cos the plot could have been good and has potential. The whole ‘religion’ thing in this game is well thought out and could have given a lot more to the game, but instead, what you have here is a good foundation for a storyline and a poor execution. The plot is good in places, but even the highlight of the plot in FFX, can’t come close to other FF game storylines.

Generally this game is good, but not even as good as the game many regarded the weakest of Final Fantasy games, that is FF8. The game has some good points and some parts of the game really show some thought and creative genius, but it seems that Final Fantasy X tries to play too much on the graphics and the fact that it is running on a more powerful console than FF7-9 was. Brilliant graphics do not necessarily make a good game. Period. If Squaresoft put as much effort into the rest of the game, as they did the battle system (which is brilliant) and graphics (which do not always look particularly brilliant) this game could have been good, but instead what you have is a mediocre FF adventure which doesn’t hold a candle to Final Fantasy 6, 7, 8 or 9. Buy it if you are an FF purist by all means, but don’t expect a game as good as FF6 or 7. If you bear this is mind, you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/19/03, Updated 01/19/03

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