Review by FuriKuriMan

"It's Been Three years ... and it's Still the Best Video Game Out There"

Rarely does one ever find a video game so beautifully epic as Final Fantasy X. Square has dazzled us time and time again, but never before has it reached quite this level of sheer grandeur. Each Final Fantasy game has improved greatly upon its predecessors, (including VIII, but that’s an argument for another day) but Final Fantasy X is truly revolutionary. Simply stated, this game is one of the finest ever created, and my personal favorite.

GRAPHICS: From the moment you put the disc into your Playstation 2, you begin to realize how far Final Fantasy has come. You are treated to a cutscene far above previous FF caliber. The characters move smoothly. Their clothes sway in the wind and move upon their bodies. Their faces have expressions, and their mouths move when they speak. Suddenly, you realize that it’s time for you to take over, to move the strangely dressed gentleman about the screen. Questions fill your mind: When did the cutscene end? Where are the typical jaggies and stuttering framerate? Where are the flat faces, drab costumes and glitchy movements of the previous Final Fantasies? The answer: They’re gone. The graphics in this game are three years old now, and they are still some of the very best. Some compare FFX graphics with games like Splinter Cell and the Metal Gear Solid, with their sophisticated lighting and physics engines. First of all, this is testament of the graphics in FFX, and second, RPGs don’t need to rely on graphics to be a good game; The beautiful graphics of FFX are icing on the cake. Anyway, the in-game graphics are solid, solid, solid. You can count the number of graphics problems, and most of them are very minor, and often due to overambitious costume design. Take for Lulu’s uber-Gothic dress with the innumerable interlocking belts: it’s aesthetically beautiful, but the belts defy gravity by sticking out with the rest of the dress when they shouldn’t. Like I said, minor problems. Weapons and armor are character specific and show up cosmetically in battle scenes. Aeons (this FF’s version of Summon Spells) each have their own summoning and attacking cut scene animations which, thankfully, are easy to turn on and off at will. Spells also have their own cutscenes and only the really high level ones like Ultima and Holy last long enough to be annoying. For those who still want a ‘rating,’ I give it a 10/10.

SOUND: Main Game: This is where it really gets cool: most of the game is fully voice-acted. While the lip-synching is nigh unbearable, the voice-acting is well done. The voice actors are perfectly cast, for every character in the game, without exception. It doesn’t stop some of them from being annoying, mind you. In Battles: Your typical hackin’ slashin’ sound effects repertoire and characters will sporadically throw jibes and offer advice to one another. In fact, the game has a unique form of tutorial. It is activated when you come into battle with a previously unseen battle option, and the ‘veteran’ teammates will coach the ‘new guy’ on how to use it. Cut Scenes: The same as in the main game, except that the voices seem better synched with the on-screen character. Basically, the sound effects and voice acting are flawless. 10/10

MUSIC: Nobuo Uematsu is a living God. From the introduction piano solo ‘Zanarkand’ to the grand full orchestra cutscene battles to the big band version of the Chocobo Song to the Heavy Metal mayhem of ‘Otherworld,’ Uematsu-sama has provided a little bit of everything for us. Very little of the game is without music, and you will never feel the urge to mute the sucker and put in your own CD. Unless you’re like me and you bought the soundtrack. 10/10

CONTROL: Standard RPG fare, but without the stuttering walk, the invisible walls to run into, or the pain of trying to decide which way your character will move when you press ‘up.’ Also unlike most RPGs, the puzzle sequences are not made more difficult by bad control. You will be able to concentrate on the task at hand instead of attempting to control your rage. The menus are intuitive and easy to navigate, and the battle commands are just as user-friendly. Swimming can become irritating if forced to do so for extended periods of time. Blitzball, on the other hand (a sort of futuristic water-polo mini game) is controls like a dream, and is easily enough fun to merit many additional hours of play. Control is solid, but standard. 8.5/10

GAMEPLAY: This game plays like the well-oiled machine it is, and you will seldom be aware of the hunk of plastic in your hand. Battles are fun, puzzles are rewarding, and even traversing the vast maps is enjoyable. As with most RPGs, much of your time will be devoted to the many levels of character management. When the game begins, your characters are vulnerable novices, dealing double digit damage, and constantly gaining new methods of destroying your enemies. By the end, you will be a battle hardened veteran, with more ways to defeat your adversaries than you will ever need. The battle system has been totally revamped. Unlike the stagnant three character parties of yore, you can change your party during a battle with the push of a button. This makes leveling up your party much easier than in previous installments, and provides the basis for much more diversified character classes. All of the traditional FF classes are accounted for: The black magic attacker, the healer/summoner, the slow, strong tank, the fast, speedy brawler, the thief, the aerial/long range expert, and even the blue magic user (for the less experiences, blue mages copy the skills of enemies to use against them). Remember the “World Map?” It’s gone. All you have to do now is board the air-ship and select a destination. There is a new ‘leveling up’ system. In lieu of experience points, players are presented with a complicated map of ‘nodes’ and ‘spheres.’ When enemies are defeated in battle, the characters used in that battle divide the AP among themselves, to be spent on “sphere points.” Each node has a sphere inside, which is activated (learned) by using said sphere points. Each character begins in an area with attainable abilities typical to their class, but is eventually capable of reaching all of them. As per usual, better abilities are harder to reach and more expensive to attain. It sounds complicated, but the game’s excellent tutorial and streamlined control makes this system one of the best yet. The characters are balanced at first, but as your characters mature, some will accelerate growth and others will stagnate, resulting in about four decent characters and three incredibly formidable warriors. Weapons, armor, and even Aeon abilities eventually become customizable with innovative new abilities like “Break Damage Limit,” which allows you to break the usual cap of 9999 damage. There seem to be fairly frequent enemy encounters, but there is eventually an armor upgrade that allows to you bypass battles completely. If you spend enough time leveling and customizing, nearly anything is possible in this game. I’ve been told that this game is possible to complete in 40 hours, but I doubt that your final count will be anywhere near that low. There are at least 40 hours of gameplay – in the side quests alone. I probably spent more than that, attaining the Legendary Weapons, the Hidden Aeons, and the best items and armor in the game. Blitzball alone will give a serious player many, many hours of enjoyment. My final time allotment was something like 139 hours, but I’ve heard of much higher amounts. See if you can squeeze that many hours out of Final Fantasy VII, VIII or IX on four discs. FFX is on ONE. 10/10

STORY: The cornerstone of any nutritious game. For many games, control is the main determinant of fun. For others, it’s the graphics, or the replayability, or the multiplayability. For RPGs, the fun is almost always determined by Story. Of course, FFX has all of the prerequisites for a great game, but how much fun is it? The fact is, this game transcends mere “fun.” Heck, this game transcends “game.” When you put this disc in your machine, you are Tidus. Forget your worries. Forget your obligations. For the time being, you’d best forget your life, because it’s Tidus’s life now. Few games truly fit the description of “Bildungsroman,” a story in which the protagonist really changes and builds over the course of the story. It’s even rarer when all of the characters do this. No other game I have ever known accomplishes this like FFX. To reveal how would to commit the greatest of atrocities. I know this may sound like preaching, but in my opinion, this game is just short of holy. The characters are personal and endearing, and you will become attached to them. Tidus is the main character, a star Pro-Blitzball rookie, and the son of a legendary Blitzball champion. Yuna, the female lead, is a revered summoner, and the daughter of a legendary High Summoner. The catch is that Yuna lives in the same world – thousands of years in the future. Tidus’s world is attacked by a horrible monster called Sin, and Tidus is lauched far in the future, to Yuna’s world, where the monster still rages. As I said before, the game is epic, and has a story that you will never forget. Buy it now. 10/10

REPLAYABILITY: If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, play it through once for the story, and then once more with the (excellent) player’s guide to play through all of the extras. Once you’ve earned everything, there’s little reason to replay, unless you are as enamored as I am with the story. However, in a game that takes not just hours, but days and weeks to complete, replayability seems hardly necessary. 10/10

PROS: Sharp graphics
Full voice-overs
Solid control
Brilliant soundtrack
40+ hours of sidequests
Epic story
Excellent new revamped battle and level-up systems
Greatest hits status

CONS: Some voices are appropriately annoying
Frequent battles
Your soul will belong to this game until you finish it

FINAL JUDGMENT: This game is just short of perfect. It is one of the best ever made, and definitely the best in its genre, which is competitive and choked with excellent games. Now of the Greatest Hits status with a measly $20 price tag, there is no reason not to own this masterpiece. If you have a PS2, there is absolutely no excuse: buy this game now.


Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/24/04

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