Final Fantasy X Review – Strong, Powerful and Emotive
Final Fantasy X (FFX) is the last FF game Square developed independently before their merger with Enix in 2003. It has since been remastered by Square Enix for both PS3 and PS4.
This game raised the bar. When it was released on the Playstation 2, nothing before had come close in terms of quality. The graphics heralded the true introduction of the next generation, and the efforts put in to developing the characters set a new standard.
FFX provided the spark for game developers to really begin pushing for perfection. In many ways, it marks the moment when video games began to grow beyond entertainment, and became works of art.
Engaging, Immersive and Rewarding
FFX is very easy to sit down and play. The game offers such an enjoyable experience, simply exploring the game’s charismatic setting lends itself to days of satisfaction.
Within the deep and absorbing world, collecting and customising masses of equipment and fighting optional monsters in the arena amounted to a 200+ hours save file that still sits on my PS2 memory card. I spent even longer replaying the game when it returned on PS3 10 years later.
Final Fantasy games in the past have suffered from an encounter rate too eager to interrupt your progress (damn it FFIX). This never feels like a problem in X. The random encounters, which incorporate a straight forward turn based battle system, lead you sweetly to FFX’s ‘sphere grid’ leveling platform.
The enjoyment is occasionally interrupted. These moments are rare, yet in the most extreme case, almost game breaking.
I’m talking about THAT boss battle of course. The one where, not only do you lose over and over because you have never faced anything nearly as powerful or annoying at any point in the game so far, but you then have to sit through one of the longest cut-scenes in the game over and over because there is no way to skip it. Each failed attempt saps another 5 minutes out of your life and its just infuriating. That particular fight remains the root of my subsequent obsession with over leveling in every RPG I have played since. I will not suffer that controller-breakingly horrific frustration ever again.
Aside from that, the only other real frustration this game offers is available through a particularly ridiculous mini game. This delightful diversion has you dodging lightning for fun… I say no more. Lightning is notoriously impossible to dodge, but as this is a video game, a press of the X button within a half second window will allow Tidus to leap out of harms way. Do this 200 times in a row and the prize is yours. Yeah… no thanks.
Considering the fact the lightning dodging mini game is entirely optional, there is very little to take away from the fun. FFX provides engaging character interactions, immersive settings and rewarding gameplay.
FUN – 8
Despite the difficulty spike being driven through your sanity around two-thirds of the way through the game, FFX progresses smoothly. The turn based battles offer a relaxed style of play, although you need to concentrate if you want to avoid stress.
Each encounter comes with its own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. The characters in your party have individual strengths and weaknesses, therefore organising your best three characters for a particular formation of enemies requires a meticulous understanding of the game and its mechanics. It’s not overly complicated, but you can get some very satisfying results when you get it right.
The real challenge of this game when you fail to prepare properly. This is a key strength in FFX, because you never feel like the game is cheating you, there’s always a reason why you lose. But being prepared is not always easy, the boss battles thrown at you often present different challenges, and it’s that variety that makes it interesting. It’s enjoyable challenge rather than frustration.
CHALLENGE – 7
The game makes you care
It’s refreshing when you play a video game and feel like you’re actually making a difference. The chance to get involved with a games’ story is always very welcome. You don’t’ get that with FFX. Of course, this game doesn’t feature a current-gen open-world, in fact it’s entirely linear in its progression. Yet, it’s story remains one of the best ever told. There are genuine laugh out loud moments alongside full on emotional breakdowns. The game makes you care, makes you want to join in.
With a game this linear, the story telling needs to be spot on, and FFX absolutely nails it. You wouldn’t want to affect the story. The characters, constantly strengthened by their interactions and development are all people you care about.
The story relies on the character’s relationships. As you uncover the truth surrounding the game’s events during the second act, your party’s reactions to those discoveries lead to some of the most iconic scenes in FF history.
One place in FFX where you get to stamp your identity on things is the wonderfully diverse sphere grid. Earning sphere levels allows your characters to learn new abilities and boost their attributes a la every other RPG. But the true brilliance of FFX’s sphere grid comes with experience and experimentation. The grid consists of one sprawling plane of nodes which contain various upgrades shared by all seven party members.
ENGAGEMENT – 9
A new concept
The music in this game is perfection. I appreciate the FFX soundtrack as true musical brilliance in its own right. The themes that play throughout the game are breathtaking, they fit the characters and the story so perfectly. Even 10 years later, there are moments when the music still reduces me to a quivering wreck. No tears though… just emotion.
Video game soundtracks are something of a dying art for me. Sadly, the days when some one like Nobuo Uematsu could sit at his desk and compose a score of music single-handedly are long gone. It was so personal, so heart-felt and carried so much emotion that FFX felt like so much more than just a video game. It became a work of art.
On top of that, the graphics, as we’ve come to expect from FF titles, were era defining on the PS2 and still hold up remarkably well, even without the HD Remaster.
I love the character designs in this game. Every individual fits right into the setting. You get a strong sense that these are people who live in a real place. FF has always managed to build unique and believable communities and FFX delivered a wonderfully immersive world.
Voice acting was a first for the series, and a new concept for video games at the time. The game achieved cult status for one of the most infamous scenes in video gaming. It’s not aged well, and I’m still not clear why Maester Seymour sounds like he does, but there were some stand out performances from John DiMaggio (Wakka), Matt McKenzie (Auron) and Dwight Schultz (Maester Mika).
PRESENTATION – 9
When FFX launched in the early 2000’s, the video game world stopped and stared at the things this new game was doing. It showcased the best visuals we had ever seen. The stunning CGI cut-scenes, authentic character animations and beautiful environments were all miles ahead of their time.
The story remains one of the strongest ever told by a video game. The ideas and themes were faultlessly executed. FFX was supreme. It remained the benchmark for all games for the majority of the PS2 era and even early PS3 titles.
Square had a brush with perfection with this game. Everything about it struck a chord with me. The music, the visuals, the character development and the world they created to house them all, really took gaming to a whole new level.
EXCEPTIONALITY – 8
Final Fantasy X – 4.1
A strong, powerful and emotive experience. A little frustrating at times, but a game you will replay over and over again. Age is not a problem for games like this.