This is one of the finest role-playing games ever released on a console.
The Final Fantasy series has always been really interesting as it’s one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful franchises of games ever. That means each new release needs to be better than the last one. As a consequence, millions of players anxiously wait the newest iteration, making Final Fantasy one of the main driving forces of the video game industry.
Final Fantasy X was Square Enix’s first PlayStation 2 game, so most people expected it to look great. But besides graphics, it was also reasonable to expect an improved gameplay, an amazing soundtrack and an interesting cast of characters. The game’s story is one of the most memorable since Final Fantasy VII came out. Also, the new combat system can be quite challenging so the game has one of the longest adventures of the PlayStation 2. In a few words, X manages to deliver one of the finest role-playing games ever released on a console.
The only drawback with creating a compelling and epic story like this one is that you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to it. Some boss-battles can last over an hour, so this won’t be one of those games you can play for a short while at a time. Also, there are many long sequences to watch that’ll tell you the story of each protagonist and their main motivations. The game will take you between 40 and 50 hours to finish the main storyline, but it’ll take you another 40 to complete all the sidequests. Most people won’t be willing to spend that much time with the same game, but let me just say that it’s worth it. For those newcomers that maybe feel intimidated by the length of the game fear not. It includes many tutorials and additional information that can be quite useful during your adventure. Fortunately for them, the game isn’t based on any other iteration of the franchise so they’ll understand the story quite well, although there are several references to previous games.
Final Fantasy X follows the story of Tidus, a really outgoing and cheerful person. Enough of those shy and quite characters proper of Japanese RPGs, here we have a hero with a strong personality. But what would be of Tidus with no companions, these are Auron, an unknown man who’s also a swordsman; Wakka, a professional Blitzball player and one of the most likeable characters in the game; Lulu; the group’s spellcaster; Yuna, a beautiful summoner; Rikku, a mysterious girl and finally Kimari, a quite creature who looks like a lion and watched over Yuna during her childhood. Even when Final Fantasy X is really long, at least it takes its time to develop each character’s story. The plot is the most interesting element of the game and by the end of it you’ll be surprised to know how complex and intricate the story can become. Once you see the ending you’ll see how really rewarding and emotional a game can be.
One of the most endearing things to do in an RPG is character advancement and Final Fantasy X is no exception. The game includes one of the most interesting and addictive systems seen in years. Instead of gaining levels like in other games, here every time you defeat enemies you gain points that you can distribute on something called the Sphere Grid. This grid simulates a huge board that represents the progress of your characters. Every time you move on this map you see empty slots that you can use to teach a character a new spell, abilities, improve his/her attributes and so on. What’s most interesting is that each character starts at a different point in the grid but as you move on you’ll reach another character’s grid. Basically this allows you to learn even more skills and abilities. So for example, even if Yuna starts as a healer when you train her enough she’ll be able to learn attributes proper of a swordsman like Auron. Of course moving to certain places involves planning and strategy on your part, but the system is quite unique and rewarding as it maintains a balance between your characters allowing each one to have a specific role in your party. Besides the Sphere Grid there’s another very interesting ability that lets you add specific properties to your weapons. If you have the necessary number of spheres you can customize armors or weapons to obtain, for example, guard against sleep or poison at the same time it confuses the enemy every time it hits. Considering the number of weapons and the immense variety of skills you can acquire, the possibilities are infinite.
Final Fantasy X’s combat replaces the Active Time Battle system and is called Conditional Turn-Based Battle. It’s surprisingly awesome as it allows you to control three characters at the same time, and it also lets you exchange a character that is currently fighting for someone who isn’t. This adds another layer of strategy to the game, because you can replace one of the characters who is about to be knocked out by an enemy for one who is healthy. In any case, and as in any other Final Fantasy, if all of your active characters are killed is game over. Everything about the combat is tactical, especially if you consider that to swap a character you don’t need to sacrifice a turn or anything. Additionally, at the beginning of the game, each character is not balanced, but in this case this is good because the story and each character’s role in the game are taken into account. So Auron, who is a professional swordmaster can kill some monsters in one hit, this’ll cause that you rely more on some characters than others. At the same time, if you want all your characters to gain experience you’ll need to rotate them or use them at least once during a fight, which makes much more sense.
Similarly to previous Final Fantasy games, you can summon beasts to help you defeat enemies. Here they are called Aeons and are extremely powerful. Yuna is the only character able to summon them. Some of these monsters are new, while others, like Ifrit and Shiva are directly taken from previous iterations. Each time you call one of these creatures an animation is shown in a very dramatic way and they get tiring after a while. You can control your Aeons’ actions and eventually you’ll be able to improve their abilities and teach them new skills to use in battle. This adds yet another tactic to the combat system as you can replace a character for an Aeon sacrificing it for the sake of the team.
It’s surprising that even when combat is so developed you don’t fight for a huge chunk of the game, as the main focus is the story and its development. To do this you’ll need to go to several shines and temples to solve puzzles by using colored stones and placing them in the right slot. The puzzles are not really that difficult and its main objective is to add even more diversity to the game. Besides the temples you can also play Blitzball, the most popular sport in Spira. Blitzball is similar to soccer but it can only played underwater, a couple of tutorials will teach you the basics of it, though the game will force you to try different things until you succeed. Soon you’ll find out that it really doesn’t matter how skilled you are as it all comes down to the numbers and statistics of your players. So if one of your team’s player has a higher number it’ll allow him to pass, shoot and even score points without much trouble. As a minigame Blitzball is huge, at the beginning of the game you’ll have to play it once as part of the main storyline, but then you’ll be able to play whenever you want and level up your characters, learn new abilities and even acquire some new armor and weapons. Additionally, there are many more minigames for you to play. You can race with a chocobo to win special prices, you can capture most of the beasts that you fight with special weapons and you can catch butterflies to obtain bonus items. Like in any other RPG there are also some legendary weapons for you to discover, you’ll be able to fight against unique bosses and there are some rare Aeons to unlock.
Final Fantasy X is quite linear which can be surprising considering that the game was going to have many online features that were eventually dropped during production. Most of the times, you can rely on your minimap, which will show you the exact location or your current objective. The main advantages of this is that you’ll never get lost as there’s always a red arrow showing you where to go next, so this eliminates the frustration of wandering around aimlessly that some RPGs have. Considering the number of locations and the size of some of them you’ll probably never feel like you’re backtracking a lot, and once you get the airship you’ll visit several places at your own pace.
Final Fantasy X was the first game of the series to introduce speech and almost all the dialogue in it is spoken aloud, with the exception of some secondary characters. Most of the main characters though, do speak and they have very suitable voices that you’d expect them to have. The voices simply sound right and the music blends in perfectly well. Nobuo Uematsu (who also worked with his fellow composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano) was in charge once again of creating the soundtrack, for many people this was a turning point for him, as it surpasses all previous compositions creating something old but very refreshing at the same time.
Visually the game looks stunning, it follows the same approach VIII had, with ultra realistic graphics which provides the characters with a more lifelike and realistic look. This is impressive even by today’s standards and it demonstrates why Square’s animators are among the best in the world. Most of the characters react very well to the environments and act accordingly. Everything in the game is consistent and cohesive, but the CGI sequences stand out from the rest as they are simply superb, as they can be extremely detailed. Finally a minor detail that has to be mentioned is lip-syncing as it’s not very good.
In conclusion, when we deeply analyze Final Fantasy X it’s not really surprising why this game is considered one of the best in the series. Even after many years of its release the game is outstanding as it creates a unique and detailed universe, it presents one of the most engaging and complex stories of any role playing game and this it’s accomplished by taking some risks. And that is something that needs to be praised.