Final Fantasy X is a game that I could not put down--playing until the wee hours of the morning and missing half the day's lectures in medical school. This game may cause me not to receive honors, but it was worth it. The story, albeit ridiculously linear, was engaging to say the least. I generally don't like sappy love stories (hence my dislike for Final Fantasy VIII) but the grander plot makes it all so much more bearable. This game's ending has the honor being the only instance that I was brought to tears. Not just teary-eyed like in Kingdom Hearts (which you will read later), but actual bawling. The sphere grid was a nice turn from the regular leveling-up mechanism. The graphics were, of course, breath-taking, and the music was top-notch, particularly the Hamauzu tracks.
Chrono Cross featured very nice game mechanics with the use of elements. Though I am not a big fan of games with a ridiculously large cast, the plot was surprisingly well-woven for one that incorporates such a large number of people. The "star level" mechanic was something rather controversial, but generally, I liked it, as it made defeating bosses more than just a matter of being at a higher level. The mechanic made me focus on strategizing and arranging my elements to produce maximal damage-dealing capacity. Mitsuda also made the ride very aurally entertaining. I personally believe that this game features some of the composer's best work.
Existentialism is always a great topic to base a game from, though most find this issue "too emo." It was very well-done in the case of Final Fantasy IX. Oh, and even after all of these years, I'm not a big fan of the visual design nor the out-of-nowhere final boss.
The thing about Kingdom Hearts is that the purity and idealism of the characters will come very close to ticking the gamer off, but it is this innocence that makes all the things that the characters do for each other all the more touching. I have to admit that this game's ending also caused me to shed a tear or two. Who knew that a very badly drawn face and fruit (with a single teardrop from the artist) could evoke such emotion? I was bracing myself to be disappointed as to the incorporation of the Disney plots to the main storyline, but was pleasantly surprised at how well-done it was. The basic premise of the stories were there and made you smile a little at recognition, but they were twisted just rightfully so to accomodate the main plot.