"FFX introduces many new elements which have never been seen before in a Final Fantasy game. I guess the one with the biggest impact is the new battle system. Square finally decided to just throw exp/levelling-up out the window."
Square has always been known for bringing gamers the biggest, baddest, most beautiful RPG's out there. I've always loved the Final Fantasy series, especially since it's last few incarnations. When I found that FFX was in stores, I knew I had to have it! I hadn't been so excited about a game for quite some time. My first question to myself after buying it: Does it live up to the hype? Yes, pretty much.
FFX's graphics are, without a doubt, the best-yet seen on PS2. They're simply stunning in every way possible. There are some many great in-game cutscenes I couldn't count them all, and they're all top-quality. Battle effects and spells are often like mini-cutscenes in their own right. The backgrounds and polygons are all detailed and colorful. In an area which is dimly lit, your character is forced to use a glowing-stone as a light source, and the light effects are as realistic as I could imagine. Animation flows smooth, like butter, and graphically, the game is a marvel. Easily competes with the graphics of many games on XBOX and GameCube.
FFX introduces many new elements which have never been seen before in a Final Fantasy game. I guess the one with the biggest impact is the new level-up/exp system. Square finally decided to just throw exp/levelling-up out the window. That's right, you do not level up. Instead, you acquire AP, and orbs. After enough AP is gained, you are allowed to move your character once-space one a board-game-like screen which is called the Sphere Grid. The Sphere Grid is a giant maze of little circles, each representing an attribute which can be activated by the placing of a sphere on it's node. You can save up your Sphere levels (which are how many times you can move on the board), to reach better skills, if you so wish.
At first the system seems strange, and you may not like it. But after a while, you'll learn to see it's true beauty. For one, after almost EVERY battle, you'll have the chance to customize your character. This is great, because if you're impatient like me, you hate how long it takes to gain levels in most RPG's, and this is a great new twist. Another excellent characteristic of this new-found system is the fact that YOU can choose how your character gets better. Before, it was just the game giving you new attributes for your character, but now you can select from literally dozens of paths to take. The new system is brilliant.
Square is notorious for their fun mini-games they throw into almost every single of their RPG's. I like FFX's mini-game best of all. It's called Blitzball; a soccer/water-polo like game which you can play at any save point. Your players gain EXP, and you can learn new techniques. It's really based on a fairly simple mathematical system which involves subtracting and adding players stats to determine probabilities, etc... Anyway, I really like it, even more so than the card game in FF8, and the Chocobo-breeding in FF7.
The battle system has also been modified a bit. Now you have the ability to swap party members during battle. What's better, they come into play ready to make their turn, so you don't really lose anything. This is a great way to evenly distribute AP, and to get a ''second chance'' in battle. The other change to battle is the lack of the Active Time Battle from the previous few FF's. Now it's back to just turn-based-goodness. Which I like--Instead of waiting for your guys' meters to fill up and pray the enemy doesn't attack, or rushing to make your move, praying the enemy doesn't attack, you can take your sweet time without worrying. I really like it.
Well, that's the good change since the last games, now for the bad: The game is extremely linear. You pretty much just have one path to follow throughout the whole game. There's even a map in the corner which shows you the area, and indicates a red-arrow which is where you're supposed to go. Thanks to this new linearity, there practically ARE no dungeons, seeing as you usually have no more than one or two ways to go. This is incredibly frustrating, and really makes the game seem like less of an RPG, overall.
Another little issue for me was the real lack of a world-map. Rather than having a huge, expansive map that you're free to roam around in, with lots of secret areas and side-quests to venture into, like most of the other FF's, the world-travel in FFX in limited to a pathetic little screen which comes up, and in a dot-to-dot fashion, shows you where you'll be going next. You then arrive at a road, which you follow at an incredibly slow pace, until you get where you're going. It's pathetic.
Obviously, the gameplay has it's ups-and-downs. The presence of such a linear game-style may really let-down a whole lot of gamers, but for me, it just took getting used to. Sure, it often pissed me off, and I also found myself looking more at the little mini-map than the actual game-screen for a while, but if you can accept it, it's not really that noticeable. The world-map is also a real flop, and I can't quite understand why Square did this. But, ultimately, the fantastic new Sphere Grid system pretty much makes up for this major flaws.
For the first time ever in a Square RPG, there is VOICE-ACTING! Amazing, huh? Almost every single dialogue in the game is done through actual-voices, excluding little monologues of townsfolk and other unimportant characters. At first, I hated this, but in many ways, it's good. First of all, it really makes the cutscenes seem like a movie, which I think is great. Before, in other FF games, Cutscenes were often short, mainly action-sequences with little-to-no dialogue. Now, almost all the cutscenes are filled with quite-good voice-acting. It also gives the players a guide to pronunciation of locations, characters, spells, and whatever other weird things are in the FFX universe. The downfall is probably how long it takes. While you can skip it by pressing X, you can't turn it off all-together, which I think would've been a great feature.
The rest of the sound in the game is top-notch. Battle music is as good as ever, and all the sound effects are nice. This is what is to be expected from Square.
The story starts out with a game of the futuristic sport, Blitzball. Your main character is a professional, and is just enjoying a game. We get to watch as he signs autographs, and then we get to see some of the game. Afterwards, a strange, big... Thing appears, which we later know as ''Sin.'' I'm not going to reveal too much, but the storyline turns out to be great. In my mind, it's a good of storyline as any, and really deserves praise. The characters are good too--very unique, and while Tidus, the main guy is often annoying, the others make up for it.
Once you've started Final Fantasy X, you're in for a long haul. The game takes approximately 40-50 hours to beat, not completing the secrets. Add another 10 hours on for the side-quests, and add up to another 20 hours on for Blitzball. That's right, it is possible to actually play Blitzball for longer than you'd play most games (let alone mini-games), and it will still be fun. Thanks to it's RPG-like levelling-up system, blitzball is probably the most complete of any mini-game found in an RPG thus far. When everything is completed, you could find yourself looking at around 75 hours for your game time. Now, if that's not a lot of time to spend on a game, then I don't know what is.
It took me a while to decide if I actually liked this game, but after a lot of playing, I decided I did. It's almost hard to think of the ''flaws'' as flaws, because really, they're just changes. So what if it's more linear than the average RPG, and if often a tad easy in spots? It's still a fanstastic game WELL-worth playing. Definitely one of the most successful and most impressive games out for PS2 thus far. With such a splendid battle/skill system, and awesome graphics and sound, I was able to ignore the pathetic excuse for a world-map, and the incredible linearity of the game. I hope that most other people will be able to as well, because the game really is great, and should not be passed-by.
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)
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