Square had the first playable demo of Final Fantasy X for the PlayStation 2 at its booth during the Tokyo Game Show. You could choose to play from one of two locations, one consisting of lakes and caverns and another located on a tropical island. For the first location, your party only consists of the lead character, Tidus, swimming through lakes and battling sea creatures. The game goes from field map to cutscene to battle and back and forth throughout the first part. Though some of the animation on the characters didn't seem natural in the cutscenes--such as Tidus' hair not moving while he was swimming underwater and in a scene where he falls off a cliff into the water--the transition between the different phases of the game was smooth and free from loading screens. In the case of a cutscene that leads into a battle scene, the last frame of the cutscene pauses and a wavy waterlike effect masks the transition from cinema to battle. Random encounter transitions show the screen shattering little pieces and going into battle.
The tropical island portion contains Tidus, as well as party members Yuna, Lulu, Wakka, and a beast warrior named Kimali Lonzo. Lulu is a black magician who carries a moogle doll-like creature with her at all times, and her personality is similar to Quistis from Final Fantasy VIII. Wakka is a blitzball player and a monk-type character, and he throws a special blitzball that has effects equivalent to spells. Kimali Lonzo, who rarely speaks his mind, is a beast warrior from the Lonzo tribes, and a bodyguard of Yuna ever since she was a child. Kimali is like Quina from FFIX, who is a good attacker and can use blue magic, which is composed of the special attacks of enemy monsters. During the game Tidus and Kimali duke it out for a few rounds until they realize they are both on the same side. Yuna is a summoner, and in the demo you can summon a birdlike creature called Valfarre, as well as Efrit and Shiva, both of which have appeared in previous Final Fantasy games. The main thing to know about summoned monsters in FFX is that once you summon them, they stay in battle until you call them back. Unlike FFVIII, the summoned monsters now have commands, including basic attacks, magic spells, special attacks, and limit break attacks. A unique element in fighting is that you can now change members of your party during battle. Also, the upper-right corner of the screen displays the attacking order of your party as well as the monsters. This is nice, because it lets you focus your attacks on the monster that is attacking next, in hopes of finishing it off before it can strike.
The field map, for the most part, is rendered in full 3D, though the camera can't be rotated. The 3D world can become confusing at times, as portions were filled with rocks and other obstacles. Relying on the radar is significantly easier. The radar has color-coded arrows, where yellow is your character, white marks are save or healing points, and the red leads to the next plot point. The camera angles during cutscenes and battles have improved, using some wild camera angle shots. In field maps, whenever there are treasure chests, it shows the character kneeling down and actually opening the chest. The music, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, as usual sets the tone for the Final Fantasy titles. The victory theme now has a little funky groove to it, which we have to say reminds us of '80s-style synth-pop.
Visually, Square has taken some pretty amazing leaps with its cinematic presentations, and some of the new features in the battle system help show that the game appears to be on the right track. Final Fantasy X is currently scheduled to ship this September.