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   Final Fantasy X - Staff Retroview  

Final Fantasy Wonderment
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
40-70 Hours
OVERALL

4.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Square's first PlayStation 2 offering came near the end of 2001 in the form of Final Fantasy X. This game moved the series to the next level with higher graphical quality, impressive voice acting, and an innovative character development system. Players take the role of Tidus, a star Blitzball player that has his whole life turned upside down when he is taken from the world of Spira he knows to a world that is not quite his own.

   The story of Final Fantasy X is epic, yet simple. As Tidus attempts to fit the pieces of his life together, he meets the story's heroine, Yuna, and soon finds out that things in this foreign world are sad and tragic. Sin, a powerful creature of destruction, is slowly tearing the world apart, and Yuna is striving to become a summoner in order to stop it. The story deals with issues of family, loss, trust, and life and weaves it all together in an emotional ride that is sure to touch those playing. Gamers should expect moments of laughter, shock, excitement, and sadness, as Final Fantasy X is packed with emotion.

Shame. It's a shame that this one did.

   Following in the footsteps of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, this latest entry had a reputation of high quality visuals to uphold. With the power of the PlayStation 2, FFX delivers. The cut scenes of Final Fantasy X are very realistic, and that realism has a very emotional impact on players, whether it is the opening Blitzball sequence or one of the later more touching moments. An RPG is not all about cut scenes though, so luckily gamers are treated to a very beautiful game even during real-time exploration and combat. Character designs are quite impressive as well with a high level of detail, be it Yuna's multicolored eyes, Lulu's outfit with its dozens of straps, or the swirl of Rikku's eyes. All of these additions give the characters a unique look unmatched in prior Final Fantasy titles.

   In an age where many developers are focusing on graphics rather than gameplay, Final Fantasy X shines not only visually, but in play mechanics as well. Leveling up occurs via a sphere grid. Characters gain points in battle and are able to spend those points as they move through the sphere grid. Each character starts on a different area of the sphere where abilities and stat increases are unique to that specific character. Yuna's area of the sphere grid gives her access to white magic, higher MP, and magic skill increases, whereas Wakka starts in an area of the grid that focuses him toward speed and decreasing enemy effectiveness. As the game progresses it is possible for characters to enter others areas of the grid to focus on different skills or abilities. The gradual leveling up process is nice in that characters are constantly increasing their stats, not just in spurts like other RPGs.

   Combat is a true highlight of the title, offering gamers the ability to swap out characters mid-combat, a very useful feature not seen before in a Final Fantasy title. Normal random battles are generally fairly easy and spaced at decent intervals. On top of that, save points that are scattered throughout the world of Spira also restore the entire party's HP and MP. Boss battles are elaborate, taking longer and requiring a more strategic attack than normal. Most bosses are not too difficult with the correct method of attack, but occasionally finding the right strategy will require the player to fight some bosses more than once.

Yu-Gi-Oh. No Rikku, we do not want to play Yu-Gi-Oh.

   The game's menus are smooth and allow for quick customization, especially when players are trying to swap between their characters during sphere grid customization. Item usage, equipment management, and other menu options are quick and easy to access as well. Certain weapons and items give characters special bonuses, such as raising the max HP limits and increasing the maximum amount of damage a character can do. These unique additions are helpful in allowing for a more customizable experience.

   Final Fantasy X's soundtrack is wonderful. It is the first in the numbered series to not be completely composed by Nobuo Uematsu, but that doesn't make it any less stellar. With many tracks also coming from Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu, this soundtrack is very diverse, offering hard rock, hauntingly beautiful melodies, and a moving theme song, "Suteki Da Ne." Battle music is fast paced, and the music of all of the different areas are not only enjoyable, but memorable outside of the game. The piano track, "To Zanarkand," is a simple, yet brilliant piece that will stir gamers emotions from the first time it is heard near the beginning of the game. Overall, the music is fantastic.

   Final Fantasy X brings a lot of new ideas to the table while still taking a traditional approach. Each of these aspects come together to create a very unique game. From the option of swapping characters out during the middle of a battle to exploring the monster arena to gather new items, FFX is an original twist on a traditional series. The game is long, and playing through all of the extras in the game, such as Blitzball, hunting legendary weapons, and obtaining the extra Aeons helps add to the playtime. However, even with all of these things, the replayability factor is not extremely high, but just a single playthrough can be enough to show the quality of the game. The likeable characters, an emotionally charged story, and a masterful soundtrack all come together into the awesome experience that is Final Fantasy X. It impresses in everything it does.

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