Game: Final Fantasy X
Year Released: 2001
This week’s Throwback article is pretty different for a couple of reasons. First of all, I’ve never reviewed a game from the PS2 era for my weekly old-school reviews, as most of them just don’t seem old enough to warrant any kind of true nostalgia. However, we are so far into the next generation of gaming that publishers are started to talk about the next next-gen, so I think it’s safe to say that last-gen games are now on the table. Also, despite being an unrelenting fan of the Final Fantasy series, I’ve never reviewed a game from the franchise before. Consider it a warm-up for when Final Fantasy XIII comes out (sometime in the next decade or so).
Before this month, I had actually only played through Final Fantasy X once. When it originally came out in late 2001, I had just moved away for college and left the PS2 behind at my parents’ house. I had no money, so buying another one, or this game, was not an option. I finally played through it four years ago, and absolutely loved it. Last week, I was suddenly struck with the urge to play again, and I haven’t stopped since.
Final Fantasy X was kind of a big deal at the time, even more than the usual release of a FF title. It was released early in the PS2’s lifespan, the first next-gen Final Fantasy title of the era, and was the first Final Fantasy game to feature voice acting. Additionally, the graphics had been notably improved over the PS1 titles, especially in the cut scenes. After the extremely positive reactions both fans and critics had for the previous generation’s Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X had a lot to live up to. Luckily, Square Enix (still know as Squaresoft at the time) pulled it off with another masterpiece.
Haters have had a lot of negative things to say about the tenth installment in the main Final Fantasy franchise (then again, haters have negative things to say about everything), but playing it again, I still love almost everything about it. The characters all have different and distinct personalities, and were brought to life even more by improved graphics and voice acting. The gameplay is fantastic as well, just as addictive as any Final Fantasy before it. Square made some minor changes to Final Fantasy’s classic turned-based battle system, and the risks paid off.
The age-old arrangement of experience points and leveling up was done away with entirely, replaced with a sphere grid of unlockable power-ups and abilities. The capacity to move around on the grid and unlock spheres is earned in battle, and it is on the grid that a character can increase HP and MP capacity, learn new magical powers, and so forth. Also new was the ability to switch characters during battle with the push of a button. Each character has a set of unique abilities making him or her suited for different enemies, so it was often necessary to switch it up. This also helps when you’re trying to make a balanced party, which is a good idea in any RPG.
I have to dedicate a portion of this review to blitzball, because it is such a big part of the game for me. I know a lot of people who played Final Fantasy X hated blitzball, but I not only love it, it is something of an obsession. For those not familiar with the game, blitzball is a sport played underwater, and every move is determined by certain stats a player has. In other words: it’s an role-playing sports game, and I adore it. During your travels, you can also choose to scout for better players and engage in league games at save points. Blitzball is actually keeping me from progressing as far as I should have in the story, but the Besaid Aurochs are first in the league!
Despite my obvious love for this game and the entire series it belongs to, I’m not blind to its flaws, which have become more glaringly obvious over time. First of all, it should be noted that although I love the story in Final Fantasy X, I can’t say that I found Tidus’s constant voice-overs necessary. I don’t remember noticing this the first time around, but now it feels like Square was so into using voice work, they put as much as possible into the game. Sometimes the narrative offered insights into the characters, but most of the time it just made the game feel like My Final So-Called Fantasy Life. It’s not terrible, but I don’t think the game would have suffered at all without it.
As I mentioned before, the graphics for Final Fantasy X were a vast improvement on the games before it, especially in regards to the cut scenes. These scenes still look wonderful today; unfortunately, I can’t say that for all of the game. There are certain parts where FFX looks like it’s on the PlayStation 1.5, not PS2. It’s funny, because I have no problem with the antiquated graphics from Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, but that’s probably because I know what to expect with those games, having played them so many times. I was a little surprised that Final Fantasy X looked a little primitive even when compared to more recent games on the system (most notably Final Fantasy XII, which looked fantastic for a PS2 title).
If you are somehow an RPG fan who has never gotten around to playing this game, the good news is that you can still find copies at game stores for around twenty bucks. Hate on it all you want, it won’t change my opinion of this early PS2 masterpiece. Despite some issues that have been made more apparent over the last seven years, this is still a game worth playing more than once. I only wish I was home playing it right now.