Final Fantasy X: A milestone for the series
sifar    2004-07-14, 00:46 am.

The Final Fantasy series is one of the biggest game franchises ever to grace the world of entertainment. Nine games in, the franchise has sold over 30 million units in sales. Final Fantasy X has been considered as being a milestone because it is the tenth installment to the series, which is a feat not accomplished by many games. The last milestone had come from Final Fantasy VII which brought the fantasy world from 2D to 3D on the PSOne. Similarly, Final Fantasy X is the first of the series to grace the PlayStation 2 console. With the power of the PlayStation 2, Squaresoft has unleashed a fantasy like none other, one that has captivated the hearts of millions all over the world.

The plot begins in Zanarkand, hometown of our young hero Tidus who is an athletic blitzball player (blitzball = underwater sport). Living the good life, Tidus would've never imagined that one day, his hometown would be attacked by an enormous force. That evil force was none other than Sin (main lead villan) who crushed Zanarkand and took Tidus into another world, one known as Spira. After a day or two in Spira, Tidus found himself with a group of individuals who vowed to defeat sin at any cost. The party was lead by Yuna (our heroine) who was determined to give it her all. Tidus joined them on their journey in the hope that he could maybe find a means by which to get home. Thus the journey of Final Fantasy X began.

The cast includes individuals who each have their own styles, attitudes, and fighting abilities. Tidus is a young, energetic teenager who makes decisions in an instant, without thinking. His fighting strengths come in having the ability to attack fiends who can evade attacks. Yuna, our heroine, is a strong willed summoner who holds the might staff through which she can call forth mighty aeons (creatures) who assist her in battle. Next in line is Auron who plays the role of a guardian for Tidus. He is the "all wise" who gives valuable advice to the team from time to time. He uses his heavy long blade to attack enemies with his physical strength. Wakka who lived in the same village as Yuna is considered as being the slow witted one who loves the game of blitzball. Like Tidus, he too wears his blitzball uniform. But make note that the uniforms are very different in style. His fighting strength comes in the status effects he can unleash on his enemies. Lulu is the pessimistic one who brings the team's focus onto reality, and away from fantasy. She is the team's black mage and thus uses elemental magic to crush her enemies. Rikku is a young cheery girl who has the ability to steal and use items that she has collected along the way. She may be the youngest, but she can pack a powerful punch with her items and customized equipment. Finally, we have kimahri who pretty much has the look of a blue tiger. The most quiet of them all, he only speaks when necessary. He is found having a caring and guarding outlook towards Yuna. His strength comes from his lancet ability which allows him to learn the abilities of his enemies and then use it on them. And there you have it, a powerful cast who each have their own stories which blend in very well with the overall game's theme.

Final Fantasy's jump onto the PlayStation 2 has allowed its tenth installment to bear some of the most beautiful graphics ever to grace a game. In previous FF titles, backgrounds were pre-rendered and did look quite amazing, but alas it is nothing compared to the real time backgrounds which were created for Final Fantasy X. Having them brought a more realistic feel to the game. And this time around, both the characters and the backgrounds seem to go well togeher, whereas in older FF titles it felt as if the backgrounds were too good for the characters. All the characters in the game were designed by none other than Tetsuya Nomura who was given great praise for his designs in Final Fanatsy VIII. When asked what his favourite designed characters were, he answered by saying it would have to be either Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII or Tidus from Final Fantasy X. Each character had his own unique style of clothing aswell. Lulu with her long skirt made entirely of belts, Yuna and her Okinawan influenced dress and many others. A down point for the game came in some of the cut scenes. Final Fantay X was only Square's second game to have cut scenes, the first being Vagrant story. Still new to the field, they were able to do a decent job but not to the likes of the cut scenes in Metal Gear Solid 2. But Square is getting there no doubt, and Kingdom Hearts proved just that.

Final Fantasy X showcased a first for the FF series, it was the first to have voice acting. A factor that could really bring the world of fantasy closer to reality. The actors chosen were definitely fit for their roles and sounded just as how one would've wanted them to sound. However, a problem did arise with the dubbing from Japanese to English. There are many Japanese phrases which have short lengths, but when translated into English become long sentances. Thus, you may find at times that characters speak fast so as to match the mouths of their game character. In the end, the dubbing was never really dead on but that was not something that changed the game's feel at all. I actually never felt the errors until I played it the 4th time around. Best voice acting would have to be that of Wakka who got a Jamaican styled accent which just suit him pefectly, worst was Tidus' due to it being very high pitched at times.

The music on the other hand was extraordinary, it showcased traditional styled FF music created by none other than Nobuo Uematsu and some new style music created by Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu who worked for Threads of Fate and SaGa Frontier respectively. The main love theme song in the game was titled "Suteki da ne" which really fit in well with the game. Unfortunately though an english version was not made, but another english track was created by the name of "Another World" which showcased some alternative/metal styled music. Something that you find rarely in a Final Fantasy game. Overall the music was a blast to listen to and Square allowed us to enjoy that even more by creating a theater in the game. This was a location in the game where you could purchase either movie spheres or music spheres and then watch or listen to them.

Random battles may seem tedious and boring at times, but not in Final Fantay X. With the large list of attacks, magic spells, and gorgeous special effects, you're bound to wanna stay in battle for as long as you can. The gameplay is by far one of the best ever to be featured in a Final Fantasy game. The ability to customize equipment is almost limitless. There are just so many items that can be garnished onto your weapon or armour, thus turning them into something a whole lot better. The leveling up system has also been slightly changed where Squaresoft has now introduced the Sphere Grid. The grid is like a big map with each character in a different location on it. As one fights more battles he/she gains sphere levels by which they can then move on the map. The map contains nodes which each contain a new ability/skill/stats builder. These nodes can be activated by the use of spheres which are also obtained automatically in battle. The new system allows you to determine how you want your character to be which brings more options and replay value to the game. Also new in the gameplay is the CTB system which is the conditional turn based battle system. This system is different from the old ATB system in which you had to wait for a bar to load up in order to do your next move. The CTB system gives you all the time you desire before making your decision of how to attack your opponent bringing more strategy to the game rather than just quick battles. Other new features include the swapping ablity where you can play with all the characters on your team in a battle. All that is required of you is to press the L1 button and change your character. This is a blessing in comparison to previous FF titles where you were only allowed to play with a selected 3 or 4 characters throughout a whole battle. The summons in this game are also different. This time, not only do summons have powerful one shot attacks, but they also fight with you in battle. They have their own HP, MP and so on. This feature is great seeing that it can really help your team if it is on the verge of being eliminated. As most FF fans know, summons normally have long intros before they actually attack. This time, Square has given us the option where we can change the intros from long to short or vice versa. A small problem that fans found with the game was that it was too linear. Squaresoft removed the 'world map' feature, and replaced it with a navigation map that appeared on the top left hand side of the screen. This little screen showed with a yellow arrow where the main character was located, and with a red arrow showed where he had to go. Some fans felt that this removed the frustration of playing unecessary encounters in the world map, while other fans felt that Square moved too far away from the traditional RPG scene. Whatever the overall opinion, I felt okay with the linear feel to the game and wasn't bothered much by it. Final Fantasy X, as is the tradition, showcased many mini games and blitzball was one of them. It may have not been the best mini game, but it sure did have some great looking animations .

Final Fantasy X was an outstanding addition to the FF game franchise, and is worth anyone's time. I have to admit though that my liking for Squaresoft games may have made my review here somewhat biast. But my opinion has developed only because I found the game to be so amazing, and I'm not alone, millions of fans all around the world feel the same. Due to Squaresoft's high production values, we have recieved yet another masterpiece to add to our collection.

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