Review: Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X

Initial Thoughts

Much like my memories of Final Fantasy VIII, I remember picking this game up on its launch day, too. While not as epic a tale — I merely picked it up at my local Gamestop — I recall playing through it at home and marveling at the newness of the PS2 generation. The graphics! The emotion! The… music?
Truth be told, I don’t recall a whole lot about this game’s story other than the finer points, but I do remember liking it overall. I’m eager to play through it again, as I don’t believe I have since my initial run back in 2001.

Review

For the second straight month, I found myself utterly captivated by this game. As I mentioned,  knew certain beats were coming and had a general sense of the direction of the game, but to play through it again was breathtaking. From the moment the game starts up, it’s made quite clear that this particular title is not like any previous Final Fantasy title. Almost right off the bat, the usual crystal theme you’ve become so familiar with is replaced by a techno-inspired version. It actually works here, too, and it’s only the beginning. When you hear “Otherworld” kick off just a few moments later, you’ll wonder if you’re really playing a Final Fantasy title. But, again, it works!

The music here is really almost its own character. There are two main themes here, “Zanarkand” (first played during the melancholy title screen) and “Suteki da ne.” You will hear variations of these two played throughout the game, and they really assist with the emotional aspect of the narrative.

Speaking of which, wow, this game’s story is something else. I definitely don’t want to spoil it, but it is compelling throughout. What helps a lot in telling this story is the graphical capabilities this latest entry into the series had. If you think back to Final Fantasy VI, a bunch of tiny pixels shifting up and down was supposed to symbolize Kefka laughing. Here, you can actually see emotion in the faces of these characters, and the transition between CG cutscenes and actual gameplay is minimal enough that it carries over (compare this to the great disparity between Final Fantasy VII, for example). Add on another layer of the aforementioned music and you will find yourself really engrossed into the game.

But even then, that’s not all. You see, Final Fantasy X is the first game in the series to feature a full voiceover cast. No longer will you have to read the words and interject tone by the accompanying music; no, now you can have all of the above come together to make you feel the way the characters feel. It’s truly the pinnacle of empathy in such a grandiose story as this.

Even the gameplay has seen a revamp in the battle system. For the first time in franchise history, you can now swap party members in and out of battle — mid-battle! This is revolutionary, because every preceding game that featured multiple characters made you choose which of them you would end up leveling up, and which got left behind in doing do. If a time came where you wanted (or needed) to use a character you’d been neglecting, you might find yourself needing to grind out a few hours to bring them up to speed. Not necessary here! Instead, I found a nice balance in making sure to rotate in each member of the party per battle. Sure, this may have prolonged the battles just a bit, but it meant everyone was basically even in their progression.

Another element to note is the style of character progression in this title. There have been games where your characters can be anything and everything, learning every ability in the game (such as FFII, FIII, and FFV), and then there are games where your character’s roles are clearly defined and don’t really change (FFI, FFIV, and FFIX). Here, each character clearly has a specific role to fulfill, and their progression along a Sphere Grid unlocks abilities that enhance that role. For example, Wakka is strong against airborne enemies, throwing his Blitzball at them for enhanced damage. Yuna is clearly a Summoner, while Lulu is a Black Mage and Rikku is a Thief (and so on). However — and this bears pointing out — it is possible to break out from a character’s specific Sphere Grid path and veer into another role, if you so desire. You can also do this upon completing a Sphere Grid path — though I’m not sure why anyone really would do this (except perhaps just for the sake of complete Sphere Grid completion), especially with being able to swap in anyone for any fight.

Final Fantasy X also has its own minigame, much like its predecessors, and this time it comes in the form of Blitzball. This is a sport that you will see from the aforementioned opening moments of the game that is quite a big deal in the world of Spira. Basically an underwater form of rugby (it’s best not to think about how they breathe underwater), you will have to play exactly one game in order to progress along the story. However, you can actually play entire tournaments if you so desire throughout the game, including recruiting new players and improving their stats. It’s like an EA sports game bundled in as an extra!

All in all, this game was a hell of a ride, and to say I was sad when it ended is a bit of an understatement.

 

Final Thoughts

This is going to sound odd, but for the second straight month, I have a new favorite Final Fantasy title. I hesitate to say such a thing, as I don’t want it to come across as a case of “the latest I’ve played is the greatest” but, after much deliberation, it’s true. Between Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X, I think it’s good to look at FFIX as the best, but I still feel like FFX is my favorite, if that makes any sense. The emotional storytelling here in this jump to a new generation is just unparalleled, the memorable music, and the new gameplay elements help push this ahead of the pack, ever so slightly.

This makes the new list of favorites ordered as follows:
1) Final Fantasy X
2) Final Fantasy IX
3) Final Fantasy VII
4) Final Fantasy VI
5) Final Fantasy V
6) Final Fantasy IV
7) Final Fantasy II
8) Final Fantasy III
9) Final Fantasy
10) Final Fantasy VIII

As my goal is to play each single-player offline main series title, I will be skipping Final Fantasy XI Online for next month (though, truth be told, I’ve also been playing it, too, so I may be able to write a review of it, too). Instead, my next focus is Final Fantasy XII!

 


Initial Thoughts

Much like my memories of Final Fantasy VIII, I remember picking this game up on its launch day, too. While not as epic a tale — I merely picked it up at my local Gamestop — I recall playing through it at home and marveling at the newness of the PS2 generation. The graphics! The emotion! The… music?
Truth be told, I don’t recall a whole lot about this game’s story other than the finer points, but I do remember liking it overall. I’m eager to play through it again, as I don’t believe I have since my initial run back in 2001.

Review

For the second straight month, I found myself utterly captivated by this game. As I mentioned,  knew certain beats were coming and had a general sense of the direction of the game, but to play through it again was breathtaking. From the moment the game starts up, it’s made quite clear that this particular title is not like any previous Final Fantasy title. Almost right off the bat, the usual crystal theme you’ve become so familiar with is replaced by a techno-inspired version. It actually works here, too, and it’s only the beginning. When you hear “Otherworld” kick off just a few moments later, you’ll wonder if you’re really playing a Final Fantasy title. But, again, it works!

The music here is really almost its own character. There are two main themes here, “Zanarkand” (first played during the melancholy title screen) and “Suteki da ne.” You will hear variations of these two played throughout the game, and they really assist with the emotional aspect of the narrative.

Speaking of which, wow, this game’s story is something else. I definitely don’t want to spoil it, but it is compelling throughout. What helps a lot in telling this story is the graphical capabilities this latest entry into the series had. If you think back to Final Fantasy VI, a bunch of tiny pixels shifting up and down was supposed to symbolize Kefka laughing. Here, you can actually see emotion in the faces of these characters, and the transition between CG cutscenes and actual gameplay is minimal enough that it carries over (compare this to the great disparity between Final Fantasy VII, for example). Add on another layer of the aforementioned music and you will find yourself really engrossed into the game.

But even then, that’s not all. You see, Final Fantasy X is the first game in the series to feature a full voiceover cast. No longer will you have to read the words and interject tone by the accompanying music; no, now you can have all of the above come together to make you feel the way the characters feel. It’s truly the pinnacle of empathy in such a grandiose story as this.

Even the gameplay has seen a revamp in the battle system. For the first time in franchise history, you can now swap party members in and out of battle — mid-battle! This is revolutionary, because every preceding game that featured multiple characters made you choose which of them you would end up leveling up, and which got left behind in doing do. If a time came where you wanted (or needed) to use a character you’d been neglecting, you might find yourself needing to grind out a few hours to bring them up to speed. Not necessary here! Instead, I found a nice balance in making sure to rotate in each member of the party per battle. Sure, this may have prolonged the battles just a bit, but it meant everyone was basically even in their progression.

Another element to note is the style of character progression in this title. There have been games where your characters can be anything and everything, learning every ability in the game (such as FFII, FIII, and FFV), and then there are games where your character’s roles are clearly defined and don’t really change (FFI, FFIV, and FFIX). Here, each character clearly has a specific role to fulfill, and their progression along a Sphere Grid unlocks abilities that enhance that role. For example, Wakka is strong against airborne enemies, throwing his Blitzball at them for enhanced damage. Yuna is clearly a Summoner, while Lulu is a Black Mage and Rikku is a Thief (and so on). However — and this bears pointing out — it is possible to break out from a character’s specific Sphere Grid path and veer into another role, if you so desire. You can also do this upon completing a Sphere Grid path — though I’m not sure why anyone really would do this (except perhaps just for the sake of complete Sphere Grid completion), especially with being able to swap in anyone for any fight.

Final Fantasy X also has its own minigame, much like its predecessors, and this time it comes in the form of Blitzball. This is a sport that you will see from the aforementioned opening moments of the game that is quite a big deal in the world of Spira. Basically an underwater form of rugby (it’s best not to think about how they breathe underwater), you will have to play exactly one game in order to progress along the story. However, you can actually play entire tournaments if you so desire throughout the game, including recruiting new players and improving their stats. It’s like an EA sports game bundled in as an extra!

All in all, this game was a hell of a ride, and to say I was sad when it ended is a bit of an understatement.

 

Final Thoughts

This is going to sound odd, but for the second straight month, I have a new favorite Final Fantasy title. I hesitate to say such a thing, as I don’t want it to come across as a case of “the latest I’ve played is the greatest” but, after much deliberation, it’s true. Between Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X, I think it’s good to look at FFIX as the best, but I still feel like FFX is my favorite, if that makes any sense. The emotional storytelling here in this jump to a new generation is just unparalleled, the memorable music, and the new gameplay elements help push this ahead of the pack, ever so slightly.

This makes the new list of favorites ordered as follows:
1) Final Fantasy X
2) Final Fantasy IX
3) Final Fantasy VII
4) Final Fantasy VI
5) Final Fantasy V
6) Final Fantasy IV
7) Final Fantasy II
8) Final Fantasy III
9) Final Fantasy
10) Final Fantasy VIII

As my goal is to play each single-player offline main series title, I will be skipping Final Fantasy XI Online for next month (though, truth be told, I’ve also been playing it, too, so I may be able to write a review of it, too). Instead, my next focus is Final Fantasy XII!

 


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About the author

Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

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