Prior to its release, the first Final Fantasy game on the PS2 promised to be a remarkable succession to what was a golden era for Square’s illustrious series in the late 90s. Having achieved unbelievable success with ‘VII’ and ‘VIII’, Final Fantasy IX returned the roots of the early games and brought back the medieval style settings along with the more cartoonist character designs. The new generation of fans did not fully appreciate the brilliance of Final Fantasy’s PS1 swansong, and unfortunately the game’s sales suffered relative to what had come before. So, with ‘FFX’ looking to rekindle the flame, Square were determined to throw everything they had at it.
Final Fantasy X stuck with the medieval theme, but placed human characters into a more realistic world. As I look back at the game now, ‘FFX’ still boasts one of the most deeply immersive environments I have ever experienced in a video game. It was only when playing ‘FFXV’ that I was reminded of the feeling I had when I first played ‘X’ back in 2001. Even back in a time when the world was virtually a corridor that led from the beginning to the end, I still had a real sense that I was exploring a world that was hugely diverse with so much to offer.
The depiction of a multi race population was one of Final Fantasy X’s strongest features. Various other games before ‘X’ had tried it, Red XIII in ‘FFVII’ being a strong example, but the implementation and variety of culture and language within Spira made the world so much more real. There was so much I wanted to learn about this place. The exploration became less about the physical landscape and more about the intimate workings of the world itself.
An inevitable bi-product of a multi-cultural population is the variety of beliefs and traditions. This is something that I think has never been done better in any video game. The portrayal of religion in Final Fantasy X is so powerful and once again serves to add incredible depth to every single individual in the setting. Whether it’s a nameless weaver sat in a tent in Besaid Village, or an armed guard stood at the gates to Bevelle, each and every character has a story to tell and a point of view to further deepen the games’ plot.
Spira truly is the best game world I have ever had the privilege to explore. In terms of physical exploration, it may have become outdated thanks to the arrival of open world environments. But the environment is only half of the story. No other game has filled their environment quite so beautifully as Final Fantasy X. The life and soul of the world is clear and real, and you are made to feel as though you too are an inhabitant with a story of your own.