Final Fantasy X
-Square Enix (2001)
Jock and all around pretty-boy Tidus gets sucked into the future where he embarks on a quest to resolve the issues he has with his ass of a father.
Final Fantasy reaches double digits. With the extra number comes a lot of what you can already expect such as excellent graphics, stunning cut-scenes, involving story, impressive summons, and beautiful music that these games are made of. What's new and different in this installment are voice-acting, the sphere grid for leveling-up characters, and the battle system.
Youíll notice right away that the voice-acting is some top-notch stuff. Youíll be able to fully understand how the characters feel thanks to the emotional inflections that bring deeper meaning to their words and flesh out their personalities. I was a little wary at first with Tidusí almost Wonder Years approach at telling the story, but itís done very well. In a way, Tidus is telling the story, his story, to the player.
Tidus isnít the, seemingly now typical, moody memory-loss victim personality of previous Final Fantasy heroes. Tidus is a beefy dreamboat who plays under-water soccer and is the star player of his team, the Zanarkand Abes. He is pretty much the direct opposite of the main game players and is possibly someone who picked on you in high school.
The battle system is a very nice turn-based affair, letting you do some hot-swapping of the characters throughout the entire battle to perfect your strategies. If one character wonít do any good fighting those monsters just bring in someone else. Or swap all your characters for a quick hit or steal and everyone will receive experience, which brings me to the way you level-up your characters, the sphere grid.
I love the sphere grid. You can totally customize each character to your liking, giving them the power and spells that you want them to have. After completing each characterís own part of the grid you can move them into someone elseís and give the chosen character the other personís abilities. This gives you complete control over a characterís growth.
The music is easily the most diverse of any Final Fantasy game. You get the usual beautiful symphonies and epic battle music, but you also get some rock, and a dash of techno thrown in. Stuff like this may not seem to fit in a role-playing game, but it does. It fits great. Prepare to be thoroughly rocked when you reach the final boss. The music is some very hard, almost death metal fare that made me want to head-bang my brains out.
The story in this installment is pretty linear. Itís a very good story in which a creature called Sin destroys much of the world when too much technology exists. Itís an interesting concept that makes for some good story-telling. However, youíre constantly going from point A to point B, with no optional point C to screw around in. When you near the end of the game you can go off on your own and complete a few extra quests and obtain some hidden summon monsters, called Aeons in this installment.
All the common Final Fantasy enemies get their updated treatments and the main Aeons are new versions of familiar summons from the other games. This time Bahamut is fancier, Shiva is sexier, and Ifrit is fiercer. A new Aeon, Anima, is an almost Giger-inspired bondage monstrosity and looks totally cool.
Speaking of bondage, how about that Lulu? Sheís the black mage of the group. Her costume is a black dress made of belts. A dress made of belts! Maybe I'll make pants made of belts. Ok, probably not. I think that Tidusí, and especially Wakkaís duds, look silly. Auron is a fierce and grizzled legendary warrior and can go in the running for coolest character in the Final Fantasy universe.
I have two complaints about the game. First, is the waste of time blitzball mini game. Itís just not fun. You have to learn it and play a game at least once, but unless you find that you really want to become an all-star blitzballer, or somehow happen to actually enjoy it, just forget about it. Itís not that important to the main quest anyway.
My other complaint is the airship. It looks great, no doubt about that, but... in this Final Fantasy you donít even get to fly the airship yourself. You just look at a map of the world, tell the pilot where you want to go and then youíre there. When I boarded the airship in the game I was anticipating that I would get to fly it eventually. I kept playing and got nearer and nearer to the end. I finally realized I would never pilot the ship myself and felt completely let down. No cruising the globe, no landing on lonely islands, and no fun. It was always fun to just screw around flying the airship. It was a little extra pleasure Iíve had in these games and they took it away from me.
There is an extra gotta-catch-Ďem-all monster quest that can be quite interesting. After you catch all the different monsters in an area, some old monster rancher dude makes a brand new, uber-powerful monster. This gives the game some added replay, but you have to be incredibly leveled-up to even survive these new monsters for more than a few minutes since they are tougher than anything else you'll face in the game.