Reviews: Final Fantasy X
Polished, but has some of the newer FF games\' flaws
Final Fantasy has changed a great deal over the years, and some changes are welcome while others are not. The tenth game is a product of those changes, for better or worse. The story- involving an outsider named Tidus being sucked into a world known as Spira, which desperately fights for even a brief respite from the monster known as Sin- is the game's high points, as it involves some of the best worldbuilding and Character Development in the series. The game effectively utilizes Show, Don't Tell, helping you to learn a great deal about Spira and the people in it with relatively little exposition. One problem that limits replay value, though, is that it's impossible to skip the cutscenes or story scenes, which makes the game drag at times, particularly in the early game, which has lots of dialogue and fights that are a bit too easy. The world is overly linear, even compared to the other titles in the series. Most outdoor areas only consist of one curving path, with a few chests, save points and NPCs along the way, and there are hardly any towns, giving little sense of exploration. Unfortunately, there are things that you can and will miss if you don't look for them, such as the Al Bhed Primers (the game doesn't tell you about them until after you've passed by a few). The game discourages backtracking, since after clearing each area, you're put on the path to the next, and you don't even get the Global Airship until just before the final area. The battle system is one of the best-designed ones in the series, as the characters all have various specialties, and you'll have to use all of them at various points (helped by how you can swap party members without using a turn). The Sphere Grid, in which party members progress along a large board, moving each time they gain a level and spending spheres to gain stat increases and abilities, is a deep and innovative system for leveling. The item customization is a good concept, but getting the very good bonuses involves a bit too much farming of rare items. Aesthetically, the game had excellent graphics for the time that aged fairly well, even without the HD re-release. Unfortunately, the soundtrack doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the series, as while it has some Awesome Music ("Assault," "Someday The Dream Will End," the final boss theme and others), much of the music, such as the standard boss theme, is mediocre, if not repetitive (I had to turn off the music when the "tense" music played during the Zanarkand Cloister of Trials, so I could solve the puzzle there). Another unfortunate part is that the game utilizes minigames that aren't very fun, such as the in-universe sport Blitzball. You don't have to be much good at them to progress in the story, but you do have to play them in order to unlock powerful gear and get achievements, which can be frustrating for those who dislike the minigames. All in all, FFX is highly enjoyable, but I don't consider it the best FF.
One of the best
Final Fantasy X is the first game in the fourth generation of the Final Fantasy series, released on the PS2 in 2001. In my view, not only does it remain the best in it's generation (over XI and XII), but one of the best in the series period. The story is fascinating and beautifully told. I'm fond of stories where characters get drawn into a whole other world and have an adventure there, and this is one of the best examples of these types of stories. There are many emotional twists and turns, and it all feels cohesive and appropriately paced. The biggest revelation that happens midway through the game even changes the whole story's nature when you go back and play through it a second time, catching on to all the prior Foreshadowing. Of course, the story wouldn't work if it didn't have strong characters driving it, and this story has plenty of them. Yes, he spends a good quarter and a half of the game as a whiny Idiot Hero, but Tidus does develop and grow, to the point where he's mature enough to not whine when learning something about himself that would give him damn good reason to complain. Yuna is a great kind, gentle yet strong heroine, arguably even better than Aerith. Wakka, Lulu, Kimahri and Rikku are all likable supporting characters and each have some distinct development. Only Auron doesn't change, but that's because he's past his development already, and now is content being the ultimate Badass mentor. And of course, there's Sin, one of the most terrifying RPG antagonists ever. Combine this with still visually beautiful graphics due to great art direction, a superb musical soundtrack, and fun, fast-paced turn-based gameplay (ignoring that damned Sphere Grid...), and you have an excellent RPG. The one complaint is that it's more linear than past games (with no World Map and all), but that was probably a cost of the upgrade to the PS2 the series had to make. Still, this game is, to me, the last "great" Final Fantasy game, and if it's upcoming HD rerelease proves one thing, it's that it's a classic.
Good Story But The Characters...
Final Fantasy X was a good game in that the gameplay and battle system were decent, but definitely could've done with some improvements. Like the implementation of multi-targeting ones spells. Or removing the mechanic that, if a player wants the full AP from a battle, they need to have every party member active in the battle at least once. Most of the battle system is pretty decent and the idea is nice that you can exchange your members, especially if some of them are better against certain types of enemies. The story is pretty good, it can be a bit depressing at times, but it's not too bad of a one. Though, unfortunately, several of the plot twists are rather easy to figure out very early on, which has the disadvantage at making the hero Tidus seem rather... slow on the uptake... Which brings me to the main issue with this game. The characters are not good. Some are decent to entertaining, like Auron and maybe Lulu. But the rest are the kind that you want to tape their mouths shut cause you don't want to hear a single word from them. The worst being Tidus. I understand that they attempted to have him be a representative of the player and needing aspects of the game and lore to be explained, but they did it in a way that makes Tidus seem as self-centered and dumb as possible, which ultimately makes it seem like the developers believe the player to idiots themselves. Especially since several of the aspects do not need to be explained, since it's the same thing one has seen in previous Final Fantasy or RPGs but under a different name. Tidus' personality is not that much better. He's loud, obnoxious and I do not see how he improves, even later when he tries to grow into a more proper hero and leader role. The voice acting of the game was okay, except for Hedy as Yuna, who ended up with strange pauses in her sentences as she was trying to voice her lines to fit with the game's Japanese lipflaps. And James Arnold Taylor who manages to up Tidus' obnoxicity even higher. Though I must say the Japanese voice acting was not that much better, though Morita has the excuse at not being great at balancing his emotion-in-voice ratio, since it was his Debut Role.
Hates XIII, but loves this game. Why yes I have been drinking
It's not clear who is wagging who here: the tail or the dog. Final Fantasy IX took ten years to develop a cult, and X shows no signs of developing one yet.... And both were throwbacks to the campy games we played as kids. Why would Square Enix want to stop cramming its games with angsty teens and cyberpunk futures? X makes a lot of missteps, many of which even I - who bought the PS2 launch title - can't just pretend I don't see. The plot, while not full of holes, has one (or two) supermassive black holes. Sin has kept the world in the dark ages, and technology is outlawed. But we can't have a Final Fantasy game without a gigantic Gold Saucer. Also, it's a pity they cast Hedy Burress, who had no prior VA experience. What were they smoking? Can I just don my Ralph Lauren rubber mask and say: the fashions in Spira are butt-ugly. Leiderhosen? Butt floss? There's fanservice, and then there's faceplanting. Pros: This is the most likable cast the series has had for some time, voiced by generally good VAs. (Purists may hold FF to a higher standard, but I think it's good for a first effort.) Even the token Yuffie, Rikku, is smoothed out by showing up early: the second guest character who helps Tidus. This was a good strategy, introducing everyone early. It makes them feel less superfluous when they join up for real. Tidus sounds like he fell out of one of those nineties kid's movies, like A Kid in King Arthur's Court, but he doesn't become truly important until the end, so it's a slghtly different situation from Vaan (who upstaged his much badass brother, Reks). He may be foolish, but at least the game is honest about Tidus and Jecht's limitations as as people, i.e. Tidus isn't a magnetic jackass like Squall, or a complete basket case like Hope. They're both unlikely leading men, who wound up on opposite ends of the same war. The audio log mechanic is inspired, because we get to follow Jecht's parallel journey - and downfall - as his son traces his footsteps. Jecht comes to the same crushing realizations we do, almost in real-time. The story takes some interesting twists, and none of it seems cribbed from past games. Aside from Seymour. There's a name which strikes terror. Seymour. X is my second favorite FF game, and my only complaint is it's a bit too easy.
Final Fantasy Squared
This. This is it. This is the higher level of being those bleeps and bloops on an old 8-bit system was fated to one day ascend to. Through decades of both triumphs and missteps, Squaresoft finally created the illustrious jewel in the JRPG crown. Even if they were not to immediately face a precipitous drop in quality product, it'd be hard to follow up something like this. That being said, the charms of Final Fantasy X are the sum of many factors rather than the outstanding-ness of all. There are certainly legitimate points of criticism to be made against various facets, but such criticism can easily be leveled at so many of its genre-mates anyway. Some of the voice acting is a little rough around the edges, I'll freely admit that. Final Fantasy X is a hearty mix of tried-and-true FF ingredients mixed with new bold new ones, thankfully devoid of the ill-fitting, watered-down aesthetics that had plagued previous attempts to capture the attention of western gamers. The story remains engaging and resonant at all times, never once sacrificing its comprehensibility for the sake of whatever the hell they were trying to convey in VII through IX. Simple and clean, it makes for one of the most triumphant and heartbreaking narratives in our still fledgling art form. And that gameplay... God! Conditionally turn-based RPG action at its absolute finest; if you don't keep your brain in the game, some of those bosses will END YOU, and how. I always find it kinda hard going back to ATB or real-time battle systems; it's just that goddamn good. The leveling/skill/stat system is perhaps not as immediately pleasing as materia or junctioning, but still unique and surprisingly deep. If there's one area where the game must concede defeat to former series installments, it's the music. While not bad by any means, it's just not as dynamic. It's clear Maestro Uematsu was beginning to run on empty here. Still though, it's a masterpiece compared to what came next for the series, and it's still in the upper echelon of video game soundtracks. My love for this game is beyond my insufficient grasp of the language, and I realize this may not read like the review of a guy who's reached pure gaming nirvana, but suffice to say I will sing the praises of Final Fantasy Unknown Integer till my dying breath.
One flaw and we all know what it is
FFX was my first good game it's still one of my favourite games of all time and has stolen several hundred hours of my time. The game is linear and cutscene heavy, it's a story to experience, not create. A journey through a beautiful but monster ravaged land. There is a way to stop the monster, it's been done many times and yet the monster came back. But this time it may not, there is hope. As such, the gameplay is part of the narrative, showing the pains of this long difficult journey that so many fail. The gameplay in itself is far more tactical than most FF games. It's turn based, turns decided on speed and move choice. The order for several turns is displayed and using it to employ the right attacks is vital. At any time active members can be switched out for inactive ones and battles involve knowing who you need for what enemy. The mighty and stoic Auron has a hefty punch can take out the strongest armoured foes. Impatient and keen Tidus can take out creatures that are too fast and evading for Auron to touch. This matching of combat and character makes them feel consistent in gameplay and cutscene, they are still the same person. Levelling up involves moving along curving and intersecting paths and buying attributes and abilities with spheres dropped by the enemy. Each character has paths that define them but there is enough flexibility to adjust the party and by the end everyone as started branching out on other paths. The setting is breathtaking and combines with the plentiful cutscenes to drive you ahead, to see the next magical and marvellous thing in this world. Stopping and staring is well known. The story has some amazing twists and some more complicated ending and a more mature ending than could have been expected. There is always enough mystery to hold interest and the music is some of the best piano music of all games. There are plenty of sidequests and a particularly deep turn-based sport sim. Love or hate them, you can ignore them but they are required to unlock the best weapons (if you don't build your own). In the end this games represents the best of fantasy. It's both escaping into a whole new world and dealing with important facets of character and society. Only the voice acting is poor and that alone can keep people away. But I managed and at the very least please check out the opening cutscene on youtube.
I'll say this first, I was not an FF fan when I first played this game. This is one of those games with so many flaws it's hard to find one to start with. So, I'll start with the good part. The combat system, is awesome. I still don't like the 'I have a party of seven people but only three of them can fight at one time,' thing, but to be fair, there are very, very few games that allow you to use all party members. The Aeon animations are really pretty cool, Yojimbo and Anima being two of my favorites. Lastly, the boss battles (up to the anti-climax boss) are amazing. Here's the stuff I hate; the story is crap, predictable villain, stupid backasswards logic, and just so many cheap tricks it's just sad. The voice acting is terrible, mostly. Auron is awesome, and so is Lulu, but otherwise, everyone else sounds either irritating or bored, especially Tidus and Yuna, you've probably heard of that infamous laughing scene. Blitzball is a total waste, it's honestly one of the worst minigames I've ever seen. The leveling system is pretty stupid, but they tried something new, so I do give them credit for it. The last thing, is the temples; nothing more than 15-90 minutes of busy work. God help you if you want to unlock the bonus Aeons like Yojimbo and Anima. I'll just chock it up to another Square Enix failure, god knows they've got an abundance of them lately. My review is probably vanilla and too short, if you want a better review, go to The Spoony Experiment, he has an 85-90 minute review that goes into detail and is hilarious.