Final Fantasy X
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. I remember when Final Fantasy X was first released in Europe back in 2002 and how taken back I was at how much the visuals had improved since IX. Not only were the graphics immensely improved but the facial animation was stunning and the environments had forgone pre-rendered backgrounds. It was truly a marvel to behold.
Fast-foward eleven years – how do the graphics fare now? To tell you the truth, not very well. Living as we are in an age of HD visuals and seamless environments stretching farther than the eye can see (I’m looking at you, Skyrim), Final Fantasy X feels more than a little dated.
However, the folks over at Square Enix picked up on this and decided that they were going to fix it, and at Tokyo Game Show 2011 they announced that they were working on a HD remaster of FFX. After two years of hearing nothing about it, it appears that we’re finally getting some juicy details. Redone character models, redone voice acting with the same voice actors, new GUI, 30 minutes of new cutscenes. Oh yes, this a remaster alright.
The question still remains though – was Final Fantasy X a good game? All the beautiful scenery in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference if the game itself was lacking. Sounds to me like it’s review time!
Final Fantasy is almost synonymous with JRPG (although XV seems to be trying to mix up the formula a bit) and the cornerstone of a good JRPG is a good story. In my experience, it seems to be that the effectiveness of Final Fantasy X’s story weighs heavily on how much you like the characters which is the make or break of the game.
Final Fantasy X is set in the world of Spira, a world ruled by religion, Yevon, and ravaged by the destructive giant of the sea, Sin. Summoners, practitioners of Yevon whose purpose is to summon beasts to fight for them, embark upon a pilgrimage to gain strength and finally defeat Sin.
We find ourselves playing as Tidus, a guardian of a summoner and the hero of the story, who is just as bewildered by this new world as we are. This is Final Fantasy X’s best played card in the story. Spira is a world away from our own with different customs, beliefs, creatures and traditions and as a player we question, doubt or rally behind a whole range of ideas presented to us within this world. By experiencing this world through Tidus, we learn about Spira in the same way at the same time and at many points it feels like he is the only voice of reason.
As the game progresses we visit new areas, meet new characters, and have a whole host of plot twists thrown our way, all cleverly foreshadowed but none blatantly apparent. We have our emotions, ranging from joy to anger, from anguish to dread, all being toyed with as we follow our party through their pilgrimage. Personally, I loved every second of it.
Final Fantasy X is a turn-based RPG with characters and enemies taking turns based on their speed tier, the move used and certain status effects. Whilst some of the speed mechanics are hidden values it never feels frustrating thanks to the implementation of the CTB. X departs from the Active Time Battle system of previous Final Fantasy games in favour of the Conditional Turn-based Battle system. The battle will pause during the player’s turns, allowing for more time to plan out actions and to see who has what turn and when, thanks to the graphic in the top right of the screen. This addition adds more strategy to X, although it only really shines in the later half of the game.
Each character has a different ‘class’ to begin with (be it magic user, warrior, thief etc.), but it is entirely possible to have every ability on one character which brings me onto possibly my favorite aspect of the game – the levelling system.
X does away with the numbered levels and stat gain curves implemented in previous games and brings in something new. Something terrifying. Something wonderful. The Sphere Grid.
Every character that participates in battle gains Ability Points (AP) which are put towards gaining a Sphere Level (S.Lvl). Each S.Lvl allows you to move one sphere on the grid, using up your S.Lvl in the process. Within in the Sphere Grid are nodes that can be activated to provide permanent buffs to different stats as well as all the abilities/spells/actions in the game. Whilst confusing at first, after getting used to the system it allows possibly the most freedom in character roles that I’ve seen in an RPG of any kind.
Worth noting are the various mini games dotted around the world (although most of them are difficult to access pre-endgame) such as chocobo racing, dodging lightning and the most famous sport in Spira, Blitzball.
Blitzball in Final Fantasy X could almost have been a stand alone game. The game itself is a cross between basketball, football and swimming. Players, whilst swimming inside a giant ball of water, must obtain the ball and shoot it into the opposing team’s goal. It has its own stats, levels, players, skills, rewards and mechanics. The depth in this mini game is astounding, and although it’s not for everyone it is definitely worth a look into.
Post game content cannot be ignored either. First of all there’s the Monster Arena where you must capture different monsters from areas in the main game with a special weapon. The owner of the Monster Arena will then create a new monster, often a sub-super boss, based on the amount and type of monster you bring him. That alone brings to the table a whopping 35 more bosses! Then there are the secret Aeons that can be obtained, including a throwback to Final Fantasy IV. On top of that there are the Dark Aeons, the true super bosses of Final Fantasy X. There are 7 in total, and one must be beaten 5 times in a row to claim victory. Following that, there is one final ‘ultra’ boss named Penance. This boss’ HP has so many zeros that it’s a minimum requirement to have maximum stats before even thinking about having a chance.
Whilst being the first game in the numbered Final Fantasy series to not be scored entirely by Nobuo Uematsu, the game has not suffered at all from that. The song “To Zanarkand” that plays at various parts of the game really drives home the emotional impact of those scenes, and “Suteki Da Ne?” is a vocal reserved for possibly one of the most touching scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a game, book or film. The themes used during combat are just as one would expect from a Final Fantasy game, particularly a song that cannot be named for spoiler reasons that plays during a boss just before the end of the game.
Back in 2002, Final Fantasy X was a main selling point for the PS2 and a great leap forward for the franchise. Now in 2013, it still holds its own. Despite aged graphics, the gameplay is a fantastic mix of fast paced action and strategy, and the story is a sheer masterpiece. The world is believable, the characters are likeable and the content is challenging and seemingly never-ending.
If you’re finding yourself short on games waiting for the next console generation, pick this up and treat yourself. Or, if you’re anything like myself, sit around drooling at screenshots for the HD version. It’s coming guys. It’s going to be great.