Review by Fein

"Although great on it's own merits, Final Fantasy X feels somewhat disappointing as well as revolutionary"

If you thought Final Fantasy VII was the heist of public mania, think again.

Squaresoft are responsible for Final Fantasy and up until now has had a very sparkling reputation for their knack of creating standout and mainstream RPG's that continue to be ever popular and ever in demand. The last three installments have sold millions worldwide, one being a franchise phenonemon, turning the company around and justifying it's growing status. All eleven games, including this one and it's sequel have all been more than critical acclaims, they've wormed their way into the homes of people by the millions. Final Fantasy VII will forever remain in the heart of the history of video games. And because of that, every subsequent game has been massively hyped up to be the next best game. Deservedly so, but Final Fantasy X made the biggest impact in the media, sending shockwaves throughout the world of video games. Then in the week it was released, in every continent, it was an instant success, making history in the process.

You could easily guess why. It's refreshing to see one of the most cherished saga's of all time being uplifted and growing up, so to speak. Final Fantasy X had everything you would have hoped for in a PS2 RPG title - terrific graphics, seemingly great gameplay and one hell of a CV. There was the tinge of worry though, after the rather controversial The Bouncer, some people were wondering if Squaresoft might have had the wrong execution and direction on the PS2. Those fears were quickly battered though.

What you instantly get from this game is a branch of explosiveness in about every department and you'll quickly adapt and praise this game. But, judging from the score, it is with it's faults and actually a step away from the usual Final Fantasy. Not for the best reasons as you'll undoubtedly notice but there is now time to add those corrections and the new things that FFX has installed and set new standards to. But without futher ado, please meet the possible greatest RPG for PS2 right now..

Yawn, is that blonde haired freak still talking?

The story to this game is a very lukewarm thing. I say that because some people love it, some people think it's the game's main downfall. Personally, I think it has it's twists and Final Fantasy language, but easier to understand than Final Fantasy VII. The opening FMV is indeed exciting, the infamous Blitzball game being held and suddenly being gatecrashed by a huge wave of energy that consumes the whole town. And the cutscenes are all interesting with great movement and emotional features in the characters faces, but you can't skip these scenes, making it boring the second or possibly third time around.

The whole story does indeed take it's time to unravel. You play Tidus, an aspiring Blitzball player who finds himself trapped in another dimension after his home town was destroyed by an evil entity called Sin. He appears on another world, oblivious to where he is and how to get back. It's there he meets his companions, Wakka, the captain of the local village Besaid, takes Tidus in and introduces him to Yuna, the summoner who embarks on a pilgrimage to destroy Sin, Tidus becomes another one of her summoners.

And literally it's a pilgrimage that happens all of the world of Spira, and it does show a sign of weakness in the plot as you travel from town to town. But you also delve into each character and find out about them. And the characters are something of a good and bad thing. They are all unique, which is something FF9 had done, gaining criticism in the process.

For a hero, Tidus seems more like a confused and lost puppy whose fighting skills make him seem even awkward as a main character. But the way the story centralises around him is neatly and intelligently done, lacing his past and his future together in the process. But also the narration of Tidus makes Yuna's journey even more insightful - it shows character development at such an early stage making it sound as if he is reflecting on the past, and a big twist lies in store for us somewhere in the game. Final Fantasy X has the story telling feel then.

Unlucky koala bears! There is flaws! Final Fantasy becomes so stretched out like Fienaluk's reviews and Tidus's narration soon becomes something of a sermon (in my opinion). Why the analogy?. Well like a non religious person, you go to a sermon out of respect, but you're never really interested. There are some times you wonder if Tidus will ever get out of the introversy, and there is the slight prayer that he will soon shut up and just get on with the journey. The lack of airship leaves you travelling dungeon to town etc - consequently leading the cutscenes and everything else to be painfully boring. Really, you could go into the kitchen, make yourself the best cup of tea ever and heck, maybe a few slices of toast and you'd still be back in time to catch the last ten minutes of a cutscene. Now, okay, I would be a great hypocrite, a Scottish one at that, if I said that I thought this way about any other Final Fantasy game. Because never have you ever been able to skip a cutscene - but none of them were as long and unmeaningful as the ones in Final Fantasy X - so I'm justifying myself.

Final Fantasy X, to me, also tried to reignite the unanswered questions like they had planted in Final Fantasy VII. The magnitiude of the history of Spira, and how religiously Sin is penancing destruction onto the world is not only confusing, but to make it worse, Squaresoft have proposed various other "issues" that is swiftly tossed aside to introduce the next one. Plus, the relationship between Tidus and his Father Jecht, it's not only a bland concept to enter, but the portrayal of it all is so poor. As well as Yuna's mission - her kind and gentle nature was probably supposed to come off as a huge sympathy vote for the twist in her journey (and the biggest twist in the game). But the reason why you'll probably find empathy with Yuna is because the other characters adore her. Being guardians, they will happily lay their lives out for her, she lives on a golden pedestol. Even the cool deamened Auron shows his softer side for her. If you don't relate to her, then it is because Yuna's character is maybe just too angelic?

There is then the mixture of characters ranging from Auron, the mysterious guy who is connected to Tidus somehow and is the one who really guides and guards Tidus and Yuna. Speaking of Yuna, she is a little to repressed and soft spoken for her to take the stage as the main heroine compared to other FF girls such as Aeris or Rinoa. I did happen to like Kimahri's presence, the silent and don't mess or even talk to me for that matter he had going on. Lulu was also, taken from the instruction manual, cool but may appear insensitive due to her poise. You have Rikku, the happy go lucky Al Behd girl and Wakka, the Joey Tribbioni of Final Fantasy. If I said this was the best plot and characters I had seen, I'd be lying. However, it is neat and easy to understand (at times) with considerable depth and emotion depending on how well you can relate to the characters.

The gameplay is fun, but something is definetly missing.

With a few tweaks and new innovating battle system that Squaresoft have always presented, Final Fantasy X easily slips into the boots of being perhaps the easiest adventure to date. The challenge of the game is actually high, but there are the new "systems" that can be moderated to being taken advantage of - if you're good that is. But ultimately, there is nothing that can stop Final Fantasy having a sometimes perfect feel of RPG gameplay, at times.

The controls are never a bother in this series, and everything is merely the same as the last two games. The handling of Tidus is a little slow, and he runs as if he's space jogging, but the controls don't ever get irritating. The menu system is also merciful, with an easy guide to exploring it. In battle, the system is roughly the same although now you can switch characters in battle with the simple button of R1.

The job system has been tweaked with a very unique system called the "Sphere Grid", but veterans should not be dismayed because there has always been the slight new invention right? Plus, the basic fundaments haven't changed. Random battles, gil and AP have all returned. And so has the Chocobo's! Anyway, Guardian Forces are now called Aeons. So get it into your heads. They have their personalised levelling up system, much like Final Fantasy VIII. The job system is much like Final Fantasy IX, where characters have their default classes - but also, the characters can learn skills of different classes (and without the class change, or just costume change).

For example, Lulu is a black mage, Yuna is a white mage and summoner, Auron is a warrior and Rikku is a thief. But with Sphere Grid system, they can learn other abilities that normally wouldn't suit their class. But the alternative ranging abilities of characters give them all use and each of them will be vital to use in some battle or another. This is fantastic because you never really had to make use of every character in a Final Fantasy game.

The Sphere Grid. It's like a chessboard you move on, unlocking the grids by placing spheres on them. When you win battles, your characters will no longer move up in levels, but gain AP experience to use on the Sphere Grids. Also, you will gain different spheres types such as Magic, Speed, Power and Ability. This is essential to master, and the main difficulty is choosing the right path for your characters. But they can be built in many ways. You fit the corrects spheres onto the grids you're on and standing next to, and you learn something. Your HP, MP, Defense and Speed will all increase on the Sphere Grid.

The abilities you can have each character learn is amazing. For instance, Tidus can learn swift moves, and magic if you choose the right path. Wakka, a normally a long range attacker, can learn abilities to put status effects on the enemy and Auron can learn break moves - such as power and defense break - which lower enemies power and defense. Lulu, as a default black mage, will have to learn higher refined black magic. And she can do so, as well learn other magic. It is true, the Sphere Grid can make a fool out of you that you will have to fight more battles for experience to correct a wrong turn. But you can also use the grid to your advantage.

Never did I ever take Final Fantasy as a serious strategy genre (aside from Tactics, which I've never played). But the changed format of the battle system has ensured a real time strategy feel. The layout is basically the same. Three characters on a screen, enemie's opposite, ATTACK!. But there is a turn bar which the characters portraits are rowing in a vertical line. The order of these portraits is when a character will take his/her turn. You can also see the enemies portrait, which will give you the time to strategise what you will do. Also gone, is the limit breaks, replaced for Overdrives. There is also trigger commands, in which characters perform their special moves and sometimes special actions in order to defeat enemies. An example would be when you're fighting a flying monster from the top of your own flying airship and Tidus and Rikku have the command to shoot the monster with the airship guns.

The "Limit Breaks" as such, are much like Final Fantasy VIII - you will have to manually carry out these attacks. Tidus has an Overdrive which you have to press the X button at the right time. Auron has the allotted button bashing to carry out his powerhouse attack, similiar to Final Fantasy VIII's Zell's limit break. You can also decide how the Overdrive bar progresses. You can have the bar build by a character being attacked, or attacking, or watching or characters being attacked.

And the Aeon's are not such a bother like they were in Final Fantasy VIII, they don't have a film production of making it onto the screen. They can learn abilities in the same fashion the Guardian Forces could, but you will use sphere's and items to trade in for abilities. Yuna is the only character who can summon these Aeons (grantedly because, didn't you know, she's a summoner. I know! Matrydom or what?). The Aeon's are now lifelike as the characters in the battle, they are not just here to do a single devastating special move. They can attack normally, use magic, a special move AND and Overdrive. Bearing in mind that the Aeon will replace all three characters in battle, they will die just like the characters also. This makes you actually care about them in a slight sense.

Buying weapons and accessories are the same, but exploration has vanished. The game is linear, and the only dungeons you come across as forests and caves you pass to get to the next town. The world map is nowhere to be seen, well it is, but the marginal glance of it each time you exit a place a transparent screen appears of the world of Spira and a dotted path to where you're heading next. I've noticed it's a problem with recent RPG's on the Playstation 2 - so for crying out loud, give us the world map back, you bastards!.

Really, this is a huge issue. We're always been ordered around what to do, and there is no exploration other than hiking over a hill to get to another town - stopping off at the local temple - and on the road again. The airship comes into play at the last stages of the game, in which it appears uncannily like the Edea's SeeD ship from Final Fantasy VIII. But the main exploration is to get to one place - Zanarkand. How boring!. You get to a hundred different places in the other games, so why different now?. This is one of the reasons why I'm proud not to be one of the game's many followers.

The default Aeon's given to Yuna aren't unfair - getting the secret Aeon's are part of the many sidequests to Final Fantasy X. This boosts up the replay value immensely. But what disappointed me personally, but not many other fans was the sudden replacement for the fantastic card game. Blitzball. Now, the Blitzball game is practically rugby or American Football, with the players in a gigantic galleon of water. How the hell Tidus, Wakka and the other players don't drown in the time they're being kicked and tackled is way beyond me. The complexity of this game is very hard to master, and sometimes unfair. But the challenge of it will appease many so in replay value, the game succeeds, possibly having the most side trips to do. Only hampered by the boring exploration of course.

To finally summarise the gameplay of Final Fantasy X, I'll say it's not the hardest adventure yet. And the glorious graphics won't save the fact that the traditional things of RPG's are painfully missed. Once you beat the game in it's entirety, there is not much reason to play the game again. And for me, just getting past the cutscenes is challenging enough.

There's something about Lulu, and her rack?

One simple peer at this game, and the former smug looks of Final Fantasy games hide away, disgraced. The opening FMV of the mesmerising Blitzball game is shell shockingly awe inspiring waves of respect - Squaresoft have created one of the most beautifully crafted games ever. The FMV before in Final Fantasy VIII & IX were soaring in the blue skies weaving ambition to take on the cinema world but Final Fantasy X kicks most animations of the shelf. But the in game graphics are not only just the best graphics ever used in a Final Fantasy game, the deformity of VII that was once considered chic are now truly dead and resting peacefully beyond the grave. Everything in the game is realistic, gorgeously colourful and only technically inferior to one game for the Playstation 2. And that game is Metal Gear Solid: Sons Of Liberty. As an RPG, it has the best graphics in the bag.

I'd love to exaggerate with a straight face that the characters are lifelike enough to be mistaken for human beings. Obviously no game will achieve that (feel free to prove me wrong though) but the characters of Final Fantasy are so unique, ranging from vibrant, to chic, to retro styles. Laugh if you want, but the style of Tidus actually had me impressed. You will find the clothes are rare and very, unique. Some found this a mixed bag, but I felt it filled the quota of making them stand out in a crowd. For instance, you just know that the only place for Lulu's belt dress would be in a bondage party. Tidus has some of the coolest clothes I have ever seen. The hairstyles are also quite fashionable. I would imagine the game setting off trends with Rikku's and Lulu's hairstyles but please someone else tell me that some idiot with a vendetta with the head director of art at Squaresoft put the hairstyle of Wakka in as revenge for some prank played on them. God, it's not happening is it?

The characters are lifelike, and the lip synching may not be on par with the English translation, but it gives them the realism of the new generation graphics. They move fluently, react to environments and characters. The cutscenes show more fluidity than most Playstation 2 games. And everything around the characters have their own movement. Generic people from towns and other locations are more likely to be doing more than standing and walking. The environment such as the trees all move in the direction of the wind - it's amazing. The small details are never neglected and given their own fifteen minutes of fame. The graphics as a whole are smooth, toned and perfect - something that nobody could ever criticise. Maybe the designs are a bit drastic (Seymour anyone? The robes and togas have to go) but everything runs well, making the game historic for something.

Nobuo Uematsu trails after the moving van.

I first heard "Sekuta De Ne" when a friend played it to me, and I was then on sure the rest of the game music would be up to scratch. Then when the intro song "Other World" played me into the game, I was not only impressed, I was in love. To me, Final Fantasy music has and probably will always reign superior to any other RPG, Nobuo Uematsu has my undying respect. And Final Fantasy X had me inseparable from Midi files and whatnot. The emotional piano playing in the background always get's me, to the more sinister gripping themes of meeting a terrifying boss, or and evil bad guy - Final Fantasy X has it all really. There is a series of ranging themes that are all powerul and infectious in their own small way.

The heavy metal rock song in the intro FMV to the Blitzball match couldn't be more electrifying. Neither could the mellow "Some Day The Dream Will End". Or even the battle themes that are very well constructed of striking drums and loud clashes that compliment the sound of the impact of your sword hitting your enemy. The sound of attacking will not sound the same. The sound changes depending what kind of surface you hit. And speaking of those boss battles, some of the music will not only inspire you, put you in the mood but depending on being a optimist or pessimist - you can be worried violently.

Voice acting is here! And I can tell you it's one of the most average things ever. Tidus' voice doesn't suit him and he tends to get quite worked up during the game. For good reasons yes, but his voice is that annoying that you wish he'd be a man and shut the hell up. I think it's great that the acting isn't limited, but when Tidus tries to lighten the mood by laughing - you're looking for a brick to lunge at the TV. Yuna has a voice that is so soft and gentle, reflecting her personality - but for those reasons, she became very unpopular with some. Auron, Kimarhi and Lulu luckily have the correct voice types and act quite well. And Seymour's voice will make him one of the most unconvincing, unbelieveable whatsoever bad guys of all time. Looks powerful and dodgy but when he opens his mouth, he may well be the long lost brother of Frank Spencer. Could do better.

Although flatly broad, Final Fantasy X prevails with only a couple of setbacks.

For a Playstation 2 effort, despite the flaws, Final Fantasy X is one of the best RPG's out right now, and one of the top ten games made for the Playstation 2. Like most games, it doesn't live up to the hype but it shouldn't disappoint the veterans of Final Fantasy other than a few traditional things gone missing. Personally, I felt the graphics were probably too much of a good thing and the amount of money spent on them reduced the gameplay time. Same for the exploration.

Final Fantasy X doesn't best the last three games in my opinion. And it doesn't bill itself as the best RPG for the PS2. Kingdom Hearts does - but that was made by Squaresoft so it's a good thing. The battles are sometimes repetitive, easy and boring. But the new innovation system is welcomed and hey, the fresh things implemented in this game can always be mentioned in the following games. It is a beautiful game, in and out and worth a buy for a good play and to add to the collection.

Well done, Squaresoft, you've done it again.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/16/04, Updated 11/27/04

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