Reviewed: June 1, 2002
Released: December 18, 2001
Squaresoft is a legend in console RPG circles. Most everyone has at least heard of, if not played a Final Fantasy game. The games have been innovative with each successive release, and FFX takes a great step forward as the first FF game native to the Playstation 2 console. But is it a good Final Fantasy? I think I can answer with a most definitive Yes!
As with most games in the Final Fantasy series, this game really doesn't have anything to do with the other ones. It's set in an entirely new world, with new characters. The gameplay is very similar to other FF games but still unique enough to stay fresh. The game concentrates on plot over freedom of action, and like other FF games before it, sometimes the gamer feels like they are "on rails" while the game unfolds its story.
The game begins in a futuristic city called Zanarkand. We are treated to some incredible computer rendered graphics in the opening movies that show the game's main character Tidus in his best element - a blitzball game, a futuristic sport similar to soccer except that players swim in a sphere of water. Zanarkand ends up being attacked by an incredibly huge creature with some very powerful magic, and during this attack Tidus is transported to another world. Tidus quickly makes friends with some of the locals of this world and learns that this world is terrorized by the same creature that attacked his Zanarkand. He eventually agrees to help them defeat it.
FFX brings together many similar elements from previous games in the series, and adds a few unique twists. We still have the same kinds of spells, divided between "light" or "good" magic, which concentrates on defensive and restorative type spells, and "dark" or "bad" magic, which concentrates on offensive spells. Most of the dark spells are varying power levels of elemental attacks, such as fire, water, earth, and air. Of course, fire creatures are less susceptible to fire-spells, and are more susceptible to water spells. Figuring out which spells and attacks are most effective against which creatures is a key part of the combat strategy.
Characters in the game also have special skills that they can use during combat and sometimes out of combat. Skills and spells are acquired by spending various types of "spheres" on the "Sphere Grid." The Sphere Grid is basically a map that connects different abilities and power-ups together in a maze-like fashion. As characters gain experience, they can move around on this grid and spend their spheres for different abilities on the grid. In this way, any character theoretically can have any ability in the game.
In practice, however, certain characters do better at certain abilities because of their starting positions and starting attributes. I found that just following along the initial path worked well for most of the characters in the game until the late game, where it was more beneficial to jump around using certain special teleporting-type spheres. Certain paths will also be locked to your characters until you can acquire keys in the game that will unlock areas on the Sphere Grid. While the Sphere Grid system offers some flexibility in how to develop your characters, it's not a completely "open" system. In it's favor, though, it's a lot better than no choices at all.
As for items, there's many of the same types of things you're familiar with if you're familiar with the FF series at all. The good old Phoenix Down is used to restore a fallen comrade in battle. The Elixir restores magic points, etc. There are some new ones, of course. And best of all, when you get a certain character in your party, you will then have the ability to customize your gear worn by the characters by combining items to form new abilities. This aspect of the game was fresh and interesting.
You'll love hunting down the specific creatures that have certain items so that you can upgrade your equipment. You'll be able to use this character to "steal" items off of creatures, and different creatures will have different kinds of items available to steal.
Another aspect of the game that is not entirely unique but very interesting is the Aeons. One of the central characters in the game, Yuna, is called a "summoner." She has the ability to use light magic, and also to summon Aeons. Aeons are similar to the summoning spells from earlier FF games, but in FFX they are actual summoned characters that come to fight in the battles in place of your party (until they are defeated or dismissed).
Aeons have powerful Overdrive attacks that they can use after their booster meter has filled (usually from taking damage). The overdrive attacks are very impressive to watch and usually do a lot of damage. Aeons can be improved later in the game by using special items you find to improve certain Aeon abilities, much like weapon customization works.
Each character in the game also has different Overdrive attacks that they can use when their boost bar gets full. Most of the characters get their bar filled as they take damage, but as you progress in the game you will learn new "Overdrive Techniques" which can be used instead to gain new overdrives.
Depending on your playing style, certain techniques will be better than others. For example, Yuna can learn a technique that she gains overdrives as she heals her comrades, and Tidus can learn a technique where he gains overdrives as he does damage to the monsters.
One of the best changes to the FF combat system in FFX is the ability to swap out party members during combat. You'll end up with a stable of six characters, of which you can have three in battle at one time. However, you can freely swap out a character on their turn with another character that is "out."
This allows for some excellent tactical choices, such as using one character's special ability early in the battle, and then swapping them out with a character that is more able to take and deal out damage. Of course, it's also useful for swapping out damaged characters with "fresh" ones if you're unable to get a healing spell off in time. Certain characters will be better at fighting certain types of opponents, and this game feature really allows you a lot of flexibility in combats.
There are a few mini-games in the game, much like in the previous FF games. There is also a "meta" game like the card game in FF9. This time, it's a sports game, called Blitzball. Blitzball is played in a huge sphere of water, and the players swim around. There is a ball, and the players pass the ball to the other members of their team. It's similar to soccer, where each side has a goal that must be protected by a goalie. If the forward players on the team can get the ball into the other team's goal, a point is scored. The graphics in this mini game are very good. This "meta" game is fairly optional.
You can learn a few new abilities for one of the main characters if you play enough Blitzball. If you like sports games, you may enjoy playing it. You can also recruit new players throughout your travels in the world, acting like the team's manager. There is only one game of Blitzball that is mandatory to play, and the outcome of that game is not critical to the plot. I played this meta game only a few times, though, since I'm not much of a sports game fan.
Of course, this wouldn't be a Final Fantasy game without a strong story line, and FFX is certainly no exception to that. In between the fighting, you'll be following along the quest of Tidus and his companions as they try and defeat the seemingly invincible monster that is threatening this world. You will learn a lot about each of the characters as the main plot unfolds, and there is more than one unsuspecting twist in the story. I found the story of this game more satisfying than most other story-driven CRPG games.
Finally, I'll mention the puzzles. There are certain parts of the game which are reminiscent of a Tomb Raider style puzzle. One of the goals of the game is to visit each of the summoner temples, and each temple has it's own puzzle that you must solve. As a bonus for solving these puzzles, Yuna will gain access to a new type of Aeon. I found most of these puzzles to be fairly easy, but I did spend a lot of time on a few of them.
Final Fantasy games have always been ground breaking in their visual presentation, and once again FFX delivers. The in-game graphics are on the same level of the pre-rendered movie scenes from some previous Final Fantasy games. The movies in FFX are absolutely stunning, they must be seen to be believed. The artistic style of this game is fairly realistic, much like Final Fantasy VIII was.
The characters have an "anime" style to them, but they are quite lifelike compared to the styles in FF7 or FF9. The world itself is gorgeous, rich in color and textures. The spell effects, especially the Aeon summon effects, are extremely cool and a wonder to behold. If you are a graphics fan, FFX will not disappoint.
FFX is the first game in the series to use voice acting for almost 100% of the story text. The voice acting quality is very good to excellent. Some of the characters' voices are so good, you'll be thinking of them for a long time after you finish the game. The vocal dialogue really adds a lot to the story, bringing you further into the world of Final Fantasy. It feels like you are watching a movie in many cases, but there is still enough interactivity to keep you interested.
Another great part of the sound in FFX is the music. The melodies are wonderful and will haunt you in the hours you are not actually playing the game. They have a similar style to previous FF games, but these are all new tunes. Music plays an important role in the story of the game, also.
If you're really good at this kind of game, familiar with the FF series, stick with the main plot, and do not do any of the many side quests, you can probably finish FFX in about 40 hours. It took me about 80 hours to complete the game, and that was playing quite a bit of the side quests and taking my time in some places just to level up my characters.
After consulting with a few of my friends, I realized I didn't do even close to all of the side quests in the game. I expect there's around 100 or more hours of gameplay in the game total, and you might need to do a replay to see it all.
If you like a console-style story driven RPG, you will most likely find FFX to be one of the best of its type. The changes that have been made to the FF game system are fresh but still similar enough not to alienate old-time FF fans. You could certainly spend your time less wisely than spending it with FFX.