Review by Gumbercules

Reviewed: 02/17/06

An epic tale of love, hope, and the liberation of an entire world.

Square-Enix has produced many great Final Fantasy titles over the years. The most notable is Final Fantasy VII, which was the first title Final Fantasy title released on the Playstation. Known as the definitive RPG, it overshadowed most other games released for the Playstation at that time. Final Fantasy X was the first Final Fantasy title released for the Playstation 2 and although it doesn’t steal the show like Final Fantasy VII did, it still stands out as one of the greatest titles ever made. From the heart warming story to the soul melting music, this game will fill you with emotions you’ve never felt before.

If you have never been mesmerized by a storyline before, get ready to be blown away. Let this story unfold in your hands, and be completely submerged. Final Fantasy covers every aspect of the word “thrilling”. From love to death, it delivers it all, often through the beautiful cutscenes. Although lengthy at times they tell the story beautifully, and really add to the experience of playing this game.

Tidus, a young boy from the city of Zanarkand, is thrown into a time based on religion and hope. He meets up with his soon-to-be partner Wakka, on the isle of Besaid. Wakka treats Tidus like a brother by showing him around and giving him a place to sleep. The young and beautiful Yuna soon joins the party as a full-fledged summoner. Tidus will soon learn more about the ways of the summoners and what they must do to bring hope back to Spira. As he learns it will deepen the story and bring you closer to the characters on an emotional level. As you travel you will meet different characters that will join your party and help with your cause. Can you relieve the whole of Spira from the spiral of death that it has been trapped in for so long?

Even though Square mixed up the gameplay this time around they still left the old turn-based strategy system intact. When Final Fantasy first started they used this turn-based strategy system, but they then decided to switch to active time battling. They finally brought back the original battle system in this game and made it better as well. This time it’s more strategy based, meaning you need to feed off of your partner’s spells and weapons to help you defeat enemies. There is no more maxing out magic and making it through the game. You need to find a medium between all of your characters and set certain strategies for certain fiends. Certain spells will give you certain advantages on the different types of fiends you find. Casting spells such as Haste will let a member of your party attack at a quicker rate letting you inflict more damage. Cast this spell on a stronger ally and allow them to do all of the hard work while you cast protective spells to keep your other party members from being killed when you do get attacked. Since you can only have three party members in play at a time switching characters becomes essential to win. Only certain characters can use certain abilities early on in the game. Yuna is mostly used for healing and summoning aeons where as Auron is used for brute strength. Each character has their weak and strong points, it’s up to you to capitalize on their strong ones. This may be the best battle system Square has come up with yet.

Weapons are up for customization now as well. The items you find throughout the game can be made into abilities for your weapons. Items such as electro marbles can make your average sword strong against water foes by giving it an electric shock with every attack. There are also even more helpful abilities you can attach to armor and weapons such as auto revive. This ability will cause the character using it to revive a member of the party automatically when they die. The strategy behind this is equipping everyone with a weapon or armor with this ability, so you will become almost invincible. You can now create new battle strategies, allowing you to tap into parts of Final Fantasy that were previously unknown.

Aeons are one of the biggest influences in the way you battle in this game. When an aeon is summoned they replace your party on the battle field. Your entire party will be unable to attack until the aeon is defeated or called back, so the higher your aeon’s stats are the more of an advantage you will have in battle. An aeon’s stats are linked to Yuna’s own. As Yuna grows in a certain aspect such as HP, her aeons will grow as well. With the ability of “Summoner’s Soul” and “Aeon’s Soul” you’ll be able to customize your aeon’s magic, attacks, and stats. The way you increase your aeons stats are simple. You go into a menu that allows you to check which stat you want to boost. They all cost a certain amount of spheres depending on what stat you are increasing. If you want to increase your aeon’s agility, you would have to use a certain amount of speed spheres to raise it. This doesn’t come cheap though. Each stat you raise will cost you around fifty spheres. This is another reason they are important to collect.

One change Square made to the level system is the sphere grid. Although it can seem complicated at first, it’s really simple once you get the hang of it. When you gain ability points from defeating enemies in battle, you will be able to move a space on the sphere grid. Then open up the sphere grid and you will notice that you can move a certain number of spaces depending on the amount of moves you have. Each character has a certain part of the sphere grid they start from. The longer you play the farther you will notice yourself moving through the sphere grid. Characters will generally specialize in one field of abilities, such as black magic or white magic. It may seem easy to progress in rank, but they add more to it than that. Each space that has can raise your stats or teach you an ability also costs a sphere. There are more than one type of sphere, and depending on what you are trying to unlock will determine the type of sphere you will use. For example; a speed sphere will let you raise your agility stat if you should land on that space and an ability sphere will let you unlock a new ability such as power break if you should land on that space. The different spheres are collected by battling enemies and winning them. Only certain enemies will drop certain spheres, so collecting them can be rather difficult. That’s why the sphere grid can be seen as one of the most innovative level systems created in an role-playing game.

As if the main story wasn’t enough to keep you interested, then you can check out some of the mini games and side quests. Blitzball has been deemed the remedy of Spira, it is a sport played in a sphere filled with water and your main goal is to get the blitzball into the net and score. A more important side quest in the game is collecting the character’s ultimate weapons. Each character has a designated crest and sigil that is used to power up an otherwise useless weapon. Once to their full power these weapons can be devastating in battle. The calm lands offer a mini game all its own called monster capturing. As you travel around Spira you will find hundreds of different species. Well, it’s now your job to capture these fiends with your taming weapons. This will allow you to battle even more powerful monsters. This is definitely the most time consuming quest in the game, but the most rewarding by far.

I found the graphics to be great environmentally, but the characters could have used a little more work. The surrounding areas in Final Fantasy X are vividly detailed, with vibrant colors and sounds. Just walking down a street in a town can be an experience all its own. Every person is moving and doing their own thing whether it be knitting or practicing blitzball. Different areas provide different experiences, such as the Moonflow and the Thunder Plains. They each provide something unique like the flash of lighting in the background or a scene of a placid lake. The characters can kind of ruin some of it though. The facial expressions can be a little annoying at times considering half the time it’s never the right one. The mouth movements can be way off as well. Sometimes there will be no one speaking, but the character’s mouth will still be moving. Those are some of the flaws in the graphics, and if they would have been looked at more thoroughly there would really be nothing to complain about in this game.

Can cutscenes get any better than they are in this game? If I didn’t have the controller in my hand I would swear I was in the game, that’s how insanely real they are. The colors are wonderful, especially the sky and the water. They use the most vibrant colors of blue that really make them stand out. As for the characters, they are beautiful as well. It feels as if you could reach out and grab a hold of them, and with some of the intense action the cutscenes provide you sometimes want to.

I really wasn’t impressed with the sound quality of this game. Walking around got annoying after a while because of the exaggerated volume of the foot steps. It sounded as if the character was stomping with every step they took. Although the voice actors were good the voice overs seemed rushed and even unfinished in some parts of the game. A lot of times the voices are out of sync, which is really annoying. The actors always seemed to have the right voice expressions though. They should have taken the time to master every element of the game. This would have provided a much better experience.

The music, however, was very engaging. Hearing songs in this game once just isn’t enough. Playing through this game is a must for any big music fan. Most of the music was up-tempo and rhythmic and each song fit perfectly into every part of the game. They give extra feeling to every dungeon and forest you travel through. However, the battle music gets very annoying after an hour or so into the game. Hearing the same exact battle theme over and over again is almost too much to bear. Most role-playing games have the same battle theme played throughout the entire game which is really a big flaw. The song becomes very unattractive and it may even frustrate some players after a while. They need to make some variations in the battle themes throughout the game so they can be enjoyed just as much as the other music.

If you take all of the elements of this game and add them together they create one of the best gaming experiences ever. With the musical beauty matching the beauty of the environment you can have fun just walking around. Although some things in the sound department could use some work overall it’s good. The graphics seem great on top, but a closer look will reveal that the characters could have used a lot more work. The gameplay is very immersive and creates plenty of variation which is good because it won’t leave you bored after you play the game for a while. The story is what will really keep you interested though. As it progresses you will become attached to the characters which will keep you playing just to see what happens. Let this game engulf you and enjoy it, every minute of it.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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