Review by JohnSPal

Reviewed: 05/26/04

A beautiful RPG worthy of the name: "Final Fantasy"

Final Fantasy. Many, many people regard this series of games being one of the best around - with Final Fantasy X bringing this series to the "next-gen" era. And, though the game has its flaws, it is none-the-less pretty darned fine. It is a game that is very long, and is packed full of little details - believe me, the number of times I came back to sections and added extra little points I liked was unbelievable. I personally loved this game; I hope that in writing this, I can let you experience the magic which made this game one of the best I've played in a good while.

Just to say before you read on: This game is definitely worth a purchase, especially now that it's in the Platinum range (well, it is in Britain anyway, I don't know about the US for sure) and selling for a mere £20...

Anyway, on with the review:

Story: 9/10

This outing doesn't disappoint in terms of its story. Though rather slow

This story is pretty much great - and probably the main reason why the game is "great" as opposed to "good" in my opinion.

The game follows Tidus, a star player for the Zanarkand Abes blitzball team - blitzball being the football or soccer of this world. But this young fellow hasn't got it all easy. His father, Jecht, had a very turbulent period in his life and so Tidus didn't have the best of childhoods. This made him hate his father. However, Tidus doesn't see his father any more, because he mysteriously disappeared 10 years ago, and no trace of him has been found.

Anyway, we eventually hear of this huge thing that goes by the name of "Sin". This thing just strolls along, destroying everything in it's path because of it's sheer size and strength. And guess where Sin strikes? Yep - Zanarkand.

So why should the game follow Tidus in particular, do you ask? Well, Tidus is the unfortunate fellow whose fate doesn't seem to lie in his Zanarkand; Tidus' fate doesn't even lie in his current time-period. Tidus is the one who will inadvertently try and help save a future world - Spira - from what seems like an ever-lasting Sin.

...And I shall leave it there, as I found that I grew to love the story more and more, given the twists and turns that the destiny of Tidus will have.

However, the story can be taken to be much deeper than this. The game features many religious issues, interlocked strongly, and how those in power can easily end up being corrupted; it also shows how love can develop between young folk, then followed by how everything can seem so cruel given future arising situations (this area is particularly heart rendering, yet still bloomin' great!); and can show just how annoying some characters can be! It also shows just how tough some issues can be to tackle, and we can empathise with just how hard some decisions were for these characters to come to...

...Which brings me to the best part of the game. It's undoubtedly the ending. The final couple of hours of gaming - in terms of plot, that is - are moments that I will cherish for a long time to come. Though perhaps the ending will not come as a complete surprise, Squaresoft did a marvellous job in making the end very emotive and making the ending give you lots of satisfaction. I recommend ANYONE who buys this game to play right through, otherwise you will miss out on true brilliance.

Overall, this plotline is very deep, and can be taken on many levels. On one hand, you can concentrate merely on the "save the world" aspect of the plot, whereas some other folk may want to look closer at the "developing love" side of events. Or you can concentrate on both and be really enthralled.

Either way, it would be hard not to love this plot. However, the story does have its major flaws...

i) My word, how slow is this story?! We could easily have things up in half the time. The first few hours of the game are particularly slow - this is why I originally hated the game so much (as I said in my tagline),

ii) Sometimes it just feels too far-fetched (despite the game's name), and it feels as if the main plot was drawn out to prolong the length of the game. Fair enough, it'll take a good 35-40 hours to complete which gives you good value for money, but do you want to risk getting slightly bored of it? This especially seemed to happen in the middle of the game when you just move from place to place, and the real objective of the game feels "lost" for chunks of the game,

iii) The game often ends up trying to explain everything too much, through an over-reliance on clips as opposed to play. In the first few hours, I came so close to just switching my PS2 off because I was so sick of watching clip after clip, at the cost of being able to actually play the game. Fair enough, this story isn't the most simple, but my word I paid my money to play a game, not watch a blummin' film! Still, I guess we can't complain because the clips we do see are beautiful, and rarely intrude to an extent where gameplay is devalued.

Anyway, on with the rest of the review:

Gameplay: 8/10

The RPG and adventure elements of the game blend near-perfectly. Nothing less than brilliant, and worthy of the name: "Final Fantasy"

...And this is no understatement.

The RPG "options" (e.g. attack, run away, who to attack etc.) in the game at first feel a little disorganised - though this was probably just me - because all the controls felt quite new and we weren't given any proper tutorials before our first battles. However, these first few battles eventually demonstrate just how well the RPG elements generally work in this game.

Firstly, we have our typical attacks. These consist of regular attacks, black magic, white magic etc. which all do different sorts of different things on both your own party and the opponents. However, as we progress through battles, your Overdrive gauge will fill up. When this gauge is full, you will be able to select a special attack which will most likely do a lot more damage to your opponent. You can also customise the weapons and defence the characters use and have during battle, AND you can use any of the available characters in battle by merely switching them in - which you will eventually need to do in order to win tougher battles. But if you want, well, you're able to just forget about all this and run off like a coward... Though this will obviously hinder progress.

On the subject of progress, this isn't a typical "defeat the baddies, get higher stats" stuff. Well, no, it is. But FFX des things a lot differently. It uses a "Sphere Grid" (though you US readers may have a different name for it), which allows you to increase statistics of each player, by allowing you to move your character around this great big board. You can "buy" such stats using - you guessed it - spheres. Though in order to obtain these spheres, and in order to be able to move around the board, you will need to fight and defeat a few baddies, ergo this is why this levelling-up system isn't entirely original and novel.

However, the RPG elements also delve back into the history of Final Fantasy. The Summoner who is the "leader" of your party can summon and battle with Aeons. Though Aeons have featured in previous Final Fantasies, you haven't had full control over them before. The incorporation of Aeons gives you a bit more fire-power.

But that's where the gameplay brilliance concludes. If I were able to express my exact feelings for the "adventure" element of the game, this review wouldn't be posted on GameFAQs. It is absolutely rubbish! The game is really let down by the way the game feels extremely linear. The characters simply move from place-to-place with no trouble what-so-ever. The paths you follow are often too simple, and provide no challenge; and to make this element even worse, the blummin' map tells you where to go!! This really let the game down, so much so that a "10/10" became an "8/10".

Anyway, on the whole, the whole RPGing is a pleasure to be a part of because of the great job Squaresoft did on the game. Such a shame, really.

Graphics: 10/10

Simply beautiful

...And this again is no understatement.

From the moment the game commences, it is plain to see that Squaresoft spent a lot of time touching up the visuals of the game. Then again, given that a fair chunk of the game is made up of clips, you would expect the graphics to be rather good.

As well as generally great graphics, we are occasionally treated to watching FMVs. Though I'll not go into great detail about what they are (you can find out for yourself, after all), I'll say that they are clips which have been composed through recording real actors performing the movements, then doing some re-jigging. WOILLA. Beautiful clips; I personally have never seen such amazing clips before, even.

But then the only aspect that slightly lets the game down is that there are little niggles with the level of graphical detail within battles. Don't get me wrong, they are very, very well done - each fiend [those things you fight], and your characters and their attacks both look great-cum-stunning. It's just the backgrounds, you see. There are too few backgrounds, so you could be attacked by a fiend in one place, then attacked by another a few minutes down the road, and exactly the same "scene" is generated. Plus the camera angles you're faced with during battles can slightly hinder your progression through battles. Both niggles are understandable, but it is never-the-less fairly annoying, given the amount of detail they went to outside of battle.

To conclude: How did they fit all this one one disk?! To think FFVII - FFIX had some 3/4 disks each, it's extraordinary that the PS2 game can not only blow these games out of the water, but also manage to fit it on a quarter of the number of disks. Meh, that's progress for you!

Sound: 9/10

You must be bored of similar comments. But again, very good

This section needs to be split up into two sections - music and voiceovers. Firstly for the music.

I loved the music in this game. There are masses of different pieces throughout the game - with a large number of variations - with many different pieces used during battles. I can assure you that you won't ever get frustrated with the music, because not only does it actually sound good, it firstly also has a large loop-time (that is, each piece is about 1-2 minutes long and so you won't hear the same music loop every 10 seconds), and is secondly unintrusive. Squaresoft - or more specifically Nobuo Uematsu who worked on all the FF music up until FFX - also managed to compose the perfect music to set the scene, and was never shy or reserved about putting certain genres of music in (you'll hear all sorts of types of music within the game - though perhaps to see just how far Uematsu-san was willing to go, listen to the music in the final two battles, and see how much they contrast).

Though perhaps the most famous piece in the game is Suteki Da Ne (recorded by the artist Rikki), which translates to Isn't it Wonderful?. As far as I remember, this piece is played twice in the game, with both occasions being perhaps the most important and/or the most touching. Suteki Da Ne is a lovely piece, and is worthy of its place in the game.

However, we now move onto the voice-overs. The voice-overs weren't a bad attempt in any way, and I personally didn't mind the voiceovers at all, but there are LOTS of people out there who hated the character voices. Criticism particularly went to the character Yuna, and Tidus received his fair share of stick, but Auron has been widely complimented for his performance. However, I also believed that the voice-overs got better towards the end, thus perhaps people who hated the voice-overs either didn't complete the game, or concentrated on the first third of the game when forming their overall opinions.

Squaresoft also attempted to include lip-synching into the game. In other words, they tried to make lips move to make the characters look as if they were actually speaking. And boy did it not work for us European/American gamers. I have read [though by no means am I sure that] Squaresoft made the lips synch with the Japanese voices, so translation issues would have meant the company would need to go to massive expense to re-synch voices for other languages. Thus you can't really complain about this issue.

The sounds were pretty fine overall, but far from perfect.

Playtime and reliability: 8/10 and 4/10 respectively

There's plenty of life in the game, but was this at the cost of the replay value?

The italicised line pretty much sums up this whole area.

Quite simply, the linearity almost killed the replay value - I tried playing through again but gave up because it was just so slow second time around. However, the first (and most important) playthrough definitely makes up for this, with a minimum of 40 hours gaming for you to salivate over...

Overall: 9/10

Though a game with its faults, it's one of the best I've played in a good while

Buy or rent?: A definite buy, kids

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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