The second of our (all-too-rare) video game reviews
is now up. This games been out half the year, so I’m
sure that some of you have opinions that you’d like
to share.

Company Credits

Title: Final Fantasy X

Developer: Squaresoft

System: PlayStation 2

Release Date: Early 2002

Game Type: Role Playing Game

Premise

Tidus, the star blitzball player of the Zanarkand
Abes, is rudely and
abruptly pulled into a world where a demon called Sin
destroys
everything, and Zanarkand has been dead for 1000
years.

High Point

The sphere grid. There’s no spoilers here, so I’ll
go into more
detail than I usually do for the High Point of a
review.

There aren’t the level-based upgrades that were
present in most of the
previous games anymore. Instead, we’ve got the
sphere board, which is
more like the upgrade system in Final Fantasy 2 than
any of the rest.
Instead of winning battles to build points towards a
new character
level, you are able to move a character’s marker
around on a board
with various slots in it. (This will be much more
clear if you look
at the Sphere Board graphics available from GameFaqs.) You
can then get the
upgrades in the spots on the board around your
character, assuming you
have the item required to activate it. (Most of the
items are very
common, and are dropped by the creatures you fight.)
There are
built-in obstacles preventing you from maximizing all
of your
characters before reaching certain points in the
game, too. Since
your marker can only move along specific paths that
can branch off,
you also have flexibility in how you want the
characters to develop.
(For instance, once your combination dragoon/blue
mage clears out his
territory of the board, an appropriate item will let
him gain access
to the skills and upgrades given to a monk, a thief,
a black mage, or,
well, whatever class Tidus is in. It’s like a
combination onion
knight and jikuu wizard, for the people who’ve played
previous games.)
It’s a nice addition to the system.

Low Point

The increase in the difficulty of the enemies is not
a smooth curve.
There’s a dramatic upswing near the end of the game,
which can be a
turn off for the people who have to suddenly stop and
do some
level-building.

Additional Comments

As usual, there’s more after the closing credits, so
make sure you sit
tight until the words “The End” appear on the screen.

The Scores

The originality of the games is mixed.
Although I haven’t
seen this kind of turn-based battle engine used
before, I’ve heard it
described as something very similar to that in games
I haven’t
played. The story details have some pretty original
portions, but the
major themes have been in place since at least Final
Fantasy III, way
back on the 8-bit systems and not yet released in
English (to my
knowledge.) There’s also quite a few references to
previous games
thrown in for the attentive player, although there
aren’t as many as
there were in FF9. Still, despite similarities, it
felt pretty
fresh. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is one of the best I’ve come
across in a video
game. I’d read the novelization of this game, which
isn’t something I
can say about most of the first person shooters out
there. The
integration of conversation into battles helps pull
things along at a
nice pace, too. There’s also plenty of foreshadowing
and subtlety,
and even one “secret” that’s very well revealed. By
the time it’s
actually said out loud, neither the player nor the
character are truly
surprised. I give it 6 out of 6.

The graphics are excellent, but they didn’t
quite do it.
They’ve come closer to having realistic facial
expressions then any
other game I’ve played, but the direction and staging
of the game
demand something better than what they’ve got here in
the event
sequences. Battles look fantastic, but the faces
aren’t realistic
enough for most of the close-ups to really work. I
give it 5 out of 6.

The sound is excellent, as usual. The sound
effects are
perfect, giving just the right audio cues for the
tasks at hand,
adding ambiance without swamping the important parts.
The music is
excellent. For the first time in a numbered Final
Fantasy, Nobuo
Uematsu is not doing the music alone, either. Junya
Nakano and
Masashi Hamauzu made some excellent contributions as
well, including
the battle themes. The voice acting was also very
good overall,
particularly Tara
Strong
as Rikku (or is that Huggo?) and Michael
McShane
as Cid. Keep an ear out for Dwight
Shultz
,
too. I give the sound 5 out of 6, because Yuna’s
voice acting often
seemed off to me, and that’s an important role.

Now it’s time to rate the playability, or
the ease with which
one can sit down and play by instinct for hours or
days without
turning to a user manual. I’ve always been prone to
marathon sessions
with the Final Fantasy series, and this one
is no exception.
If you’ve played an FF game in the past, especially
7, 8, or 9, you’ll
pick this one up in seconds and be ready to go.
Apart from Auron’s
Overdrives, (equivalent to the Limit Breaks in
previous games), the
controls are completely intuitive. (To perform
Auron’s Overdrives,
you have to hit the sequence of buttons that appears
on the screen.)
I give it 5 out of 6.

The immersion score of a game evaluates its
ability to draw
the player into the world of that game. This game
drew me in with its
story, especially with its very well developed world
that has a
complete history and religious structure to it. I
really got a
stronger sense for this society and its operations
than I did in the
previous Final Fantasy games. Still, I usually felt
like I was
watching rather than controlling the action,
especially during the
excellent event sequences. They help the story, but
stand in the way
of the immersion. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a Final Fantasy
game. More
specifically, it’s the most technologically advanced
game in the
series, with the best story, and it’s a lot of fun.
It’s also
probably the last of its kind; the eleventh game will
be a massively
multi-player game. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Final Fantasy X receives 35 out of
42. This is one
of the few titles that is worth buying an entire game
console for.