There are some games that have a lot to live up to. They come from a series of video games that is so well known and has set such a high standard for itself that they simply must innovate and improve upon their predecessors or be dismissed as failures. Final Fantasy X had the challenge of not only being the first Final Fantasy game on a next-gen console, but also the monumental task of living up to the standards set by the previous games in the series. Well, it certainly manages to match up to other games in the series, and it's worth the time of any RPG fan. The game begins with Tidus, a young yet very successful Blitzball player in the surreal city of Zanarkand. However, things soon suddenly take a drastic turn for the worse as the city is suddenly attacked by a monstrous creature known as "Sin," and Tidus is flung into another world. I won't give away too much of what happens after that, but Tidus will eventually meet several friends who will travel with him until his journey ends. They include Yuna the young Summoner, Wakka, who is another Blitzball player like Tidus, Auron the tough guy, Lulu the seemingly emotionless magician, Rikku the girl who shakes her arms a lot for some reason, and Kimahri the Ronso. The plot doesn't disappoint in the least, and there's really nothing to complain about with it. The gameplay in FFX is sort of a slight variation on the standard turn-based battle style. Fights do take place in a turn-based style, and you do gain some sort of experience for winning them. However, instead of simply leveling up, you instead win an opportunity to move your character along the Sphere Grid. "What is the Sphere Grid" you say? Well, it's sort of like a board game. Basically, when you gain enough experience from battling enemies, you gain an opportunity to move your character one space (The game calls the spaces "nodes" for some reason but that's not really important) on the sphere grid. Each space on the grid has a certain ability or attribute associated with it. For example, some spheres can raise a character's physical strength, or give them the chance to learn a new ability. However, to use these spaces, you must use various spheres that you earn by defeating enemies in battles. Only by using these can you activate the spaces on the grid. For example, a Mana sphere will allow you to increase your character’s magic attributes depending on where they are on the grid. Ability spheres are necessary to teach your characters new abilities. And there are even spheres that can be found that affect your character's positions on the grid. The whole thing is set up to take advantage of each character's strengths and weaknesses, and at times you do have the opportunity to take your characters down different parts of the grid instead of just sending them down the same path every time you play through the game. Frankly, you could possibly write a whole book on all the different nuances and features of the Sphere Grid, but it's not really that necessary to fret over the grid. It's necessary to fight enemies and gain experience in this game, but the Sphere Grid is actually a fresh change that makes it more interesting to do so in this game. As I've said before, battles take place in a turn-based fashion. You have as long as you like to decide what to do with your turns, and there's even a little window in the top right side of the screen that shows you who gets to move next. Also, sometimes you get the opportunity to perform some sort of command that will affect the battle in some way. For example, you might talk to an enemy or activate some part of the scenery for your advantage. There is also the Overdrive Gauge, which gives your character the ability to perform some sort of super-powerful attack after you fill it up by battling fiends. Yuna has the ability to summon characters or "Aeons" to fight for you. However, instead of simply attacking and disappearing again, in FFX you have complete control of a summon once it has arrived. It will take over the fight for your party and follow your every command until it is dismissed or defeated. Aeons can even perform Overdrive attacks if their Overdrive Gauges fill up enough. However, even though you'll eventually gain a full seven characters in your party, you can only have three of them in combat at once. This means that you'll have to substitute one for another at some point if you want to use that character's abilities. While you don't lose a turn for any substitutions that you make, it is a bit annoying to see the "game over" message when in reality less than half of your party has been defeated. You can almost imagine the rest of your party saying "Oops, they lost. Time to go home!" But still, there's a bit of strategy in deciding which three characters to have out and which ones to substitute in when you have the need. So even though it doesn't make that much sense, this part of the battle system still manages to make it all a bit interesting. The character's journey is a one-way trip for most of the game. You usually don't get to backtrack to other parts of the game at all unless the plot requires it at all. Other than that, you usually won't see a part of the game once again after you've left it until a late point in the game where you're given the ability to go back. And on top of all that, there's even a little red arrow that appears on the map of each area that you see while you walk around that tells you exactly where you need to go. Some people might have a problem with this because it feels a little like you're not being given an opportunity to decide where to go on your own. And indeed, it is a little bit annoying. But this is still just sort of a minor problem. If you really have a problem with being told where to go, it can be said that this game is quite linear, but personally I didn't really have a problem with that. And then there's Blitzball. Blitzball is a sport that is popular in Tidus' world and in the one that he finds himself in after he gets transported there. It's basically an underwater form of soccer that is played by two teams attempting to throw a ball into each other's nets to score points. However, it's all done in a turn-based fashion that's a bit difficult to understand. It's all a bit tricky to understand, and I actually found myself avoiding this part of the game as soon as I could. Fortunately, you do not need to play Blitzball more than once to finish FFX, although you do have the opportunity to go back and play it whenever you want afterwards. However, you may feel inclined to avoid it for the rest of the game. But like I said, it's not really necessary to play it more than once. Graphically, this game impresses, at least most of the time. Characters have facial expressions, their mouths move when they talk, and it all syncs up fairly well with the voice acting (more on that later). Character motions can be jerky sometimes. Characters move around cut scenes in the same way as they move around the main world and in battles. This means that sometimes the way they move around looks a bit unnatural, and it can be sort of annoying at times. However, there are also certain scenes which are animated in a very detailed and quite stunning fashion. They usually show up only at parts of the game that are very important to the plot, and you absolutely never have control of what goes on in them. Despite this, they still look incredibly good, and it's clear that a lot of work went into them. But you might still find yourself a bit disappointed when comparing these scenes with the graphics that you'll see for most of the game. But overall the game still looks wonderful. Every single setting is detailed to an incredible degree, and they all make for memorable locations that stick out in your mind long after you finish the game. So graphically, this game manages to excel. The game's audio is another high point. Almost every single character in the game has a voice. Every cutscene, while subtitled, is acted out entirely by different vocal performers, and it works wonderfully. The characters all sound almost exactly as you would expect them to sound. Sometimes you might feel as though the voices and the graphics don't quite seem to be in sync, but that doesn't become too much of a problem. Also, the music in this game is wonderful. Apparently it has all been recorded using actual performers and actual instruments, which gives it all a very robust sound. Also, there are a few Japanese songs that are played at certain points in the game. Of course, it's impossible to understand the words unless you speak Japanese yourself, but that's not too much of a problem, because they still sound great. So overall, Final Fantasy X is a must-buy if you're looking for a role-playing game on the PS2. While it does have a few slow points (cough cough *Blitzball*), it's still one of the best RPG's available on the system. And it definitely lives up to it's predecessors. So I would definitely recommend picking this one up. It's a fine game.
Other Helpful Reviews for Final Fantasy X (Mega Hits!)
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