Review by Brandon O

"A fair, accurate evaluation"

First, before I get into my main review, let me tell you about my experience with Role Playing Games. I've played many RPGs over the years and gained a vast amount of knowledge from them so when I review a game, I am very critical. I'm especially a big fan of the Final Fantasy series as I enjoyed titles 4-8. I was blown away after Final Fantasy 8 and I thought that square would just go uphill from there on out. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed with IX and its medieval style visuals. Now, I don't mind a medieval game, but when they exaggerate it to the point where it's immature then you know something is wrong. I thought that with the more sci-fi type civilizations that we saw in 6-8 that Final Fantasy was on the path of evolution (which it was).

I put the past horrid experience from IX back and began anticipating the release of Final Fantasy X. I knew that no matter how good or bad the plot was, the game would still be a revolution to the series because of the next generation graphics of the Playstation 2 consul. In fact, I remember getting very excited about the release and even pre-ordered the game so I could receive it by Christmas as opposed to having to wait till January.

When I looked at the cover, the first thing caught my eye was the Caribbean type water visual that was used. I got very excited for this because I knew that if the game was set in this manner, Final Fantasy would be trying something new and this could possibly make up for IX. After the first 10 minutes of playing, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sci-fi type metropolis. This was the first glimpse of hope I had for this game and possibly the last. The thing I noticed right away that the graphics were stunning.

The graphics in Final Fantasy X surpass almost anything I've seen on any system yet to date. The facial expressions and details are very well done. However, the main thing that I appreciated were the visuals and the environment in which the characters journey. I was a bit disappointed that there was no world map, but I think the overall visuals made up for that. Every place in Final Fantasy X is eye-candy in a good manner, the graphics are just so incredibly stunning and the art is very creative. The tropical setting works perfectly in the game, and the best part is there is variety in the places that you visit. I loved the transitions in the visuals, going from the Moonflow trail to Guadosalam, then engaging into the Thunder Plains, and then finally entering the Macalania Woods. Not only is this an extremely well done transition, but also the environments graphically, are breathtaking. Every game has its flaws graphically, however. The only problem is the movement of the mouth of the characters. They do not follow the dialogue at all. All in all I'd say that the graphics/visuals in Final Fantasy X are the best I’ve seen in any game and in any RPG; definitely the strongest aspect of the game.

Unfortunately, things start to go a bit downhill when it comes to the overall gameplay. The main problem with the gameplay is that it is MUCH too linear. This is probably due to the fact that there is no world map in the game. Basically the gameplay is a bit repetitive; going from one place to the next, traveling on trails in between, then occasionally stopping in temples to gain a new Aeon(or summon). Final Fantasy was better when there was more freedom to explore cities at your own pace and figure out ways to boost your characters. The main Final Fantasy where you had the most freedom in my opinion, was VIII. You could go to many towns that weren't required to go to and do various things such as challenge people at the triple triad card game. In Final Fantasy X you are required to go through one path till the end of the game where you have control of the airship which even then is still linear. I did not like the airship grid coordinate system one bit; if you are going to put an airship in an RPG, there must be a world map, period. Adding to the fact that the game is lacking exploration are the camera systems which are implemented in this game. Unfortunately, the cameras make every environment extremely limited to one view. I don't know why they would so this as the environments that they created were beautifully crafted and were just ripe for exploring.

The battle system in X is both much improved from the past systems and at the same time, worse. The good part is, there are icons at the right side of the screen which tell each turn your character has, which reminds me of the Grandia series. This was a good addition as was the fact that they removed the ATB(Active Time Bar). I also noticed that the battles go much faster than previous battles in past FF's. The main problem with the system and battles is the fact that you must use all of your characters in one battle if you want to get full experience. The system is one of substitution. Let's say you have Tidus, Auron, and Kimarhi in your party. You want to just use this party and shred through enemies with physical attacks and abilities you've developed. The problem is, YOU CAN'T! The game forces you to use other characters for certain enemies which makes you have to switch characters in and out. This makes the battles very long, and time consuming. While this was a very creative idea, it was not an intelligent idea to put in the game because there are already enough random encounters in the first place, we don't need them longer.

The main mini game in Final Fantasy X is blitzball. The creators were very creative with implementing this into the game because the game seems to have actually taken some thinking to develop. Square has given us a whole sports program embedded into Spira. You can play blitzball all throughout the game, there is a large story-required tournament, and you can even recruit.I did not find this as fun as VIII's triple triad card game but it came close. The main problem with this is that it is way too time consuming.

Now we get to the experience system. There are no experience points in this game, only AP. This is the first Final Fantasy where your characters do not level up. Instead, you must progress on the sphere grid where you'll gain sphere levels, move across the board, and gain more attributes as far as strength, vitality, health, magic, and speed. Along with gaining new attributes, your characters will learn spells through the sphere grid. Again, this is a creative idea to put in the game, but was it the most intelligent idea? No. You could spend hours leveling up at an early point in the game and then finally find yourself with a Tidus who can cast basic black magic spells. Square meant for this system to limit freedom of players, but give them more freedom at this same time. The grid accomplishes this but this was not a good choice for square to use.

The last problem with the gameplay is that the game lacks Side Quests. There were many side quests in all of the previous final fantasys that were fun and actually worth doing. The ultimate weapon side quest is worth doing and is a good idea, but it is the only thing in the game besides three more aeons. What happened to the creativity of the sidequests involved in VII and VIII?

Ah, now the plot. The plot takes place in two worlds, they are: Zanarkand and Spira. The protagonist of the story is Tidus. Tidus is originally from the metropolis of Zanarkand however ''Sin'' a supernatural being takes him out of his dimension and into a new world, Spira. At first, I was pleased with the plot. It was something new which we did not see before. However, later on the plot completely changes and you find yourself going on a ''Pilgrimage'' to defeat Sin. The concept of getting back to Zanarkand is still a symbol in the game, however the main fact of it becomes insignificant. The main focus is then put on the Pilgrimage to defeat sin where you are joined by Yuna(Summoner), Lulu (Dark woman), Wakka (A blitzball player), Rikku (Cheerful Al Bhed), and Kimarhi (A ronso that reminds me of a demi-human). I thought as the game progressed, the plot got worse. There was only one major plot twist and it was actually not that hard to figure out. Personally, I prefer games that have sophisticated twists which require the player to think critically (i.e. Xenogears, Xenosaga, Final Fantasy VII). I'd like to develop more ideas for this review on the symbols and themes in the plot, but I would not want to spoil it for people.

Now we get to the sound/music aspect of the game. Overall, I thought the music in Final Fantasy X was spectacular. Sure it's not as good as other RPG music such as Mitsuda's work on Xenogears or Chrono Cross, but it was way above average. Let me put it this way, the score would be at least 2 points lower without the music. In my opinion, Umatsu was able to capture the emotions of the different areas throughout the game as far as the scenery goes. He really worked it out well with the backrounds he was given. I really enjoyed the way he captured the scenery of: Kilika, The path to Moonflow, Thunder Plains, and Macalania Woods. I'm very disappointed and worried that Umatsu will not be doing his work on XII. The bad part in the sound area is the voice acting and dialogue that was written for the characters. All of the characters voices were horribly done i'd say, excluding Auron, and Lulu. Tidus, Wakka, and Yuna were all very annoying and I hated listening to them. However, I believe that the music fully makes up for this horrible fault.

Overall, Final Fantasy X is a good game, it's just lacking in the plot, and gameplay a bit. I really think that if the creators reconsidered some things, this game would turn out much better and possibly one of the best Final Fantasies ever made. Does it live up to the hype? Yes, in my opinion, there are many people who are inexperienced RPGers who will probably play more games after enjoying the simplicity of Final Fantasy X. I'll state this however, if you're an experienced person when it comes to RPGs, you'll either like this game to an extent, or despise it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/17/03

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