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Final Fantasy X (PlayStation 2) artwork

Final Fantasy X (PlayStation 2) review

"The first thing you will notice about Final Fantasy X is not the beautiful graphics, which show the great architectural structures or the beautiful lush green tropical forests or even the gargantuan mountains with winding paths covered in snow that you will become very familiar with. Nor will the first thing you notice be the voices, which bring each character to life, giving them a distinct personality. The first thing you will notice is the music, specifically, a quiet piano piece, dren..."

The first thing you will notice about Final Fantasy X is not the beautiful graphics, which show the great architectural structures or the beautiful lush green tropical forests or even the gargantuan mountains with winding paths covered in snow that you will become very familiar with. Nor will the first thing you notice be the voices, which bring each character to life, giving them a distinct personality. The first thing you will notice is the music, specifically, a quiet piano piece, drenched in emotion. To Zanakand plays as you are introduced to the characters of Final Fantasy X, and the story, told by the main character, Tidus.

Though Tidus may appear at first to be a whiny brat, he does make a surprisingly good hero. While competing in the game of Blitzball, a giant monster named Sin arrived and began to level the city. Tidus escaped and is met by Auron, a friend of Tidusí father. Auron gives Tidus a sword, and the two make their escape.

Eventually, Tidus is transported one thousand years into the future, where he meets up with the Al-bhed, a race of outcasts who thrive off technology, which is forbidden in this world. After another attack by Sin, Tidus washes up on a beach, and joins a band of travelers as they accompany the Summoner, Yuna, on her pilgrimage to Zanarkand, Tidusí home that has long been destroyed.

Yuna is a nervous and jittery young lady, who, being the lead female will eventually fall in love with Tidus (the lead male). Sheís young and naÔve, but strong willed.

Eventually, the party will consist of seven members; Lulu, a moody black mage, who has some doubts about our hero. Thereís Rikku, the token Al Bhed chick, a cheerful and energetic young girl, who shares her raceís gift with technology. Sheís quite hot, too. Thereís the captain of a losing Blitzball team, Wakka, who introduces Tidus to the rest of the gang. Auron is the respected veteran of the crew, as he has been part of a pilgrimage with the fathers of Tidus and Yuna. He always has something important or wise to tell the party. Finally, Khimari Ronso is the quiet and tough member of the group, sworn to protect Yuna, and is much like Star Warsí Chewbacca in many ways.

As the story of Final Fantasy X unfolds, youíll get to hear voice-overs from Tidus. This method of storytelling helps you get more involved, rather than it all happening in the present tense. Because Tidus isnít from this world, he knows as much as the player does, and thus you will learn about Spira as he does. This way, you will discover that the world of Spira is very deep, filled with an enormous history, different races and characters with their own ambitions. You will learn things that a resident of this world wouldíve taken for granted. This is one way the story of Final Fantasy X excels over its predecessors.

Final Fantasy Xís story offers so muchÖ from romance to adventure, comradeship to tolerance, and even a touch of religion, each arc of the story is perfectly told, and all the elements combine seamlessly to provide an epic tale. Among these many story arcs, you will find yourself smiling, laughing, and perhaps even crying, as Final Fantasy X has messes with your emotions, even in a scene without dialog. It accomplishes this through its musical score.

If a good musical score is one that succeeds in messing with your emotions, then Final Fantasy X must have a great musical score. Each piece of Final Fantasy Xís soundtrack feels in place with the mood of the scene it accompanies, the moods ranging from happiness, to anger and most commonly, despair. There was one particular scene where the music was very important, and although it appears very late in the game, it is worth mentioning. You are running down the highway of an old city, it is strewn with rubble. A sad piece of music plays, mellow, which soon becomes louder, turning into a much more hopeful piece, yet retaining its tone of hopelessness. In this scene, the music continues into the battles, so it is uninterrupted all the way through. Every time I hear this tune, shivers run down my spine and I feel both happy and sad at the same time. This scene messed with my emotion through the music alone; no dialogue was needed.

It is a very powerful scene, and just one of many scenes, which are fleshed out by the music. Many other tracks of music are varied; there are light and unassuming tunes and there are heavy scores that accompany action scenes. All the battle tunes are great Ė even the simplest random encounter can use the music to create a sense of tension. As is the trend with RPGís nowadays, there are two lyrical songs, and unfortunately, both feel out of place. The first one is played in the intro movie as well and is played again much later in the game, and consists of decent music with some fool yelling crap rock lyrics. A typical Japanese singer sings the second one, and unfortunately, sounds like a lot like a squealing pig.

The voice acting is a mixed bag; some are very good, while others are not so good. The voice of Yuna isnít very good at all to begin with, but by the late stages of the game, it isnít too bad. Even simple words such as ďokayĒ seem to be stuttered. The good voices are that of Auron, Rikku and Seymour. Auron keeps his role as the serious guardian and guide very well, while Rikku maintains her upbeat and positive personality throughout, and Seymour manages to sound sinister before you even get to know his character.

As well as sounding great, the characters of Final Fantasy X look great too. Each character is detailed and lifelike, and in the FMV movie scenes, they look almost real, right down to individual hairs. The only downfall is that the mouths are lip-synched to Japanese voices, so the English dubbing is noticed, but it doesnít hurt the game in any way. Each face has a way of showing the emotion the character is portraying, through the eyes, the mouth and body language. The power of the PlayStation 2 is put to excellent use.

Though the characters look great, the environments are awesome. Nothing beats running through a forest, with shards of light penetrating the canopy, your reflection on the calm river still as ice. The realism in Final Fantasy Xís visuals are astounding in every way. Even the Calm Lands, a grassy plain surrounded by cliffs is amazing to look at, and the city of Zanarkand is a sight to behold. To use a primitive description, itís rampant eye candy!

Final Fantasy X features a mix of both pre-rendered environments and 3D locations, the latter has a static camera which is flawless, except for one moment prior to the final boss, but thankfully, this is an isolated problem. You will be able to complete your quest without every worrying about the camera, but you will be on your guard during battles, some of them can get a bit tough.

The battle system has changed quite dramatically, and while that may upset a few diehard fans of the series, most of us will embrace this change with open arms. The Active Time Battle system has been done away with, and is now fully turn based. You can see the order of turns listed, and it gives you all the time you want to prepare your strategy. You can see the effects of certain actions on the order of turns before you execute it. For example, casting Haste on a character will pretty much double the amount of turns you see for that character, and casting slow on an enemy will reduce their turns.

Another big difference is the ability to switch characters during a battle. Because a lot of the battles require a certain strategy, you may need to bring Wakka into battle to take out some flying creatures, or you may need Rikku to destroy machine-based enemies. This means, essentially, that you donít need to worry about who is in your party while trekking through a particular location, because if you need someone who is currently absent from the party, he or she is just a button press away. You canít swap a dead character with a benchwarmer though, which means if you lose all three of your party members, the game is over.

Similar to the job system, each character has their own particular field of expertise, and while some will intertwine late in the game, each character generally remains an individual. For example, Lulu is a Black Mage, and is able to learn spells, while Yuna is a white mage/summoner who is useful for healing the party as well as unleashing brutal attacks on the enemy with Aeons. These summoned monsters are different in Final Fantasy X, as they are controllable like the party members. You control their actions, and they stay in the battle until they die, or you dismiss them.

To learn abilities and increase your stats, you need to become proficient in using the Sphere Grid. When you earn a sphere level from battles, you can move around a giant board, and place spheres on nodes to gain their attribute. The Sphere Grid is huge, and has a few different paths. This is where you earn all your abilities and stat bonuses, so itís in your best interest not to skip any nodes you cross. Each character is pretty much set on his or her course, though Kimarhi doesnít seem to have much of a course, and becomes decent in every field, but never masters anything. The Sphere Grid is original, and very easy to use. I could safely say it is the best level up/ability system ever seen.

Every aspect of Final Fantasy X is part of a very rich tapestry. The characters both look and sound good, and will propel the story. The story, which contains several different themes, will delve into the incredibly deep and diverse world of Spira. This diverse world is brought to life by stunning visuals, and an enchanting and moving soundtrack. An fresh new battle and leveling up system will keep you playing, as you take in the rich experience of Final Fantasy X. There is so much more I couldíve told you about Final Fantasy X, such as the side-quests or mini games, but I think itís best you discover it for yourself.

Lastly, Final Fantasy X is like a very good book. You just canít put it down. Even after completing it, I continued. I relived the story over and over, noticing things I didnít notice the first time, spending more time talking to people to learn all I could about the world of Spira. It was a thirst for knowledge. I was doomed to play Final Fantasy X forever, until a game called Final Fantasy X-2 came out.

But thatís another review.

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (February 26, 2004)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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