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  • Final Fantasy X Retrospective

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    The launch of the PlayStation 2 ushered in a new era for the Final Fantasy series. Though the developers tinkered with the layout of this series several times before, each entry kept key components so they still felt connected. As Final Fantasy X developed, fans of the series were about to see quite a few changes.  2001 gave us a new and innovative twist on this beloved franchise, leaving much of the foundation in the past.


    Tidus enters Luca

    Out with the Old, In with the New

    Final Fantasy X has a lot of firsts for the franchise. It is the first game in the series to utilize voice acting, pre-rended backdrops and full three-dimensional areas. In addition to the technological advances, X is also the first entry to get a direct sequel in Final Fantasy X-2. Finally, the game's soundtrack is the first that Nobuo Uematsu was not the sole composer. Along with Uematsu,  Masahi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano had a hand in developing the music.


    With the new technological capabilities,  X gets an intense boost in graphics. The visuals are stunning and are even better in the HD remake. The world seems so vast and clear, and graphics only get better from here on out. Playing FFX is almost like watching a movie at times- because with better graphics comes more cut scenes. The developers did learn from previous entries and added an option to skip particular cut scenes (ie. long summons.) The capability only goes so far as the cut scene graphics are still far better than the in-game.


    Aside from auditory and visual alterations, there are few big changes as far as how the game is played. Final Fantasy X abandons the ATB style of the past in favorite of a new battle system, and instead of leveling stats, players are introduced to the Sphere Grid. Everything seems new, even down to the way players explore the world map. With all of the changes, it may be hard to believe that this game still plays like other franchise entries. While there are many changes, Final Fantasy X still does what it does best - creates a memorable story.


    Final Fantasy X Opening

    Welcome to Spira

    Our journey begins with the young star of the Zanarkand Abes blitzball team, Tidus. He is participating in a blitzball tournament being held in honor of his late father, Jecht, a former star player. However, chaos ensues as the city is beset by a giant monster. Tidus can only wonder what is happening as his care-taker, Auron, grabs hold of him and the world around him is destroyed by the creature dubbed 'Sin.' When Tidus wakes, he discovers that he is not only alone, but in a time and place far removed from his home. Upon his rescue by Al-Bhed salvagers, he discovers his Zanarkand was destroyed 1000 years ago by Sin.


    Lost and confused, Tidus eventually finds himself in the company of the determined Yuna. She is a newly trained summoner on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin, along with her guardians Wakka, Lulu and Kimahri.  Tidus joins with Yuna in the hopes of finding Sin and using the creature to return home. However, he soon discovers a deeper connection with this new world and a possibility that he may find his estranged father. Not everything is as it seems in Spira in a tale of death, deceit, and false hope. Tidus and Yuna must band together to uncover the dark secrets of Spira and defeat Sin.



    Yuna Sending

    I Write Sins not Tragedies

    Final Fantasy X's main plot is dark. Hidden behind all of the bright and cheery color palates is a very disturbing tale revolving around death, sacrifice and betrayal. Each of the characters settles into the story and has their own stand-out moment. It has some very interesting twists and a refreshing main protagonist in Tidus. He is a cocky young man who wants nothing to do with the adventure that is placed before him. He's also an outsider to this new world, not exactly a hero of destiny.  In fact, he barely knows how to handle a blade. It is interesting to see how his appearance in Spira has such a huge effect on the course of the world.


    The fan base tends to be a bit split on Tidus in general. He can go from being very heroic to incredibly annoying in minutes. Part of this could be the choice in voice acting, but I think most of it has to do with this dreaded

    . Regardless, most of the characters have some little quirk that could make them hard to relate to. If players get past those minor issues, Final Fantasy X has some pretty great characters and interesting villains.


    When it comes to character development, at first each party member seems to be very one dimensional. However, as the story continues, each one opens up and grows with the narrative. As the journey unfolds, the layers peel back and players are privy to the dark secrets the characters and the world of Spira are hiding.


    Final Fantasy X Characters

    Final Fantasy X: Game-Play

    The time of the top view overworld map has passed. All of the destinations in Final Fantasy X link together and are mere points on a map. Once the airship is acquired, players can either walk from place to place or hop on the airship to revisit areas covered in the story. Instead of exploring the world map and entering dungeons, players control Tidus in third-person perspective as he journeys through parts of Spira on a more realistic scale.


    At first, Tidus and company must walk (or ride a boat) to all of their destinations. While en route,  players can discover treasure, talk to NPCs, and run into random battles as they aide Yuna on her pilgrimage. Towns and villages transition easily to the 'open terrain' where gamers can explore and encounter monsters. While some players like this idea, others are unhappy with the game's linearity. Also, players don't actually get to control the airship. Still, there is some freedom when roaming Spira as all the parts connect, so the option to navigate the world map is still there.


    As players circumnavigate Spira, Tidus and friends must head into towns and claim summons to move along with the story. In order to get these 'Aeons,' Tidus must go through the Cloister of Trials - a sort of puzzle section that involves moving spheres around until the group reaches the final chamber. While the main goal is to reach the Aeon, there is also a secret treasure hidden in each trial. In addition to these tasks, a big part of the game involves fighting battles - as usual.


    Final Fantasy X Airship Menu

    Fighting Large Ocho

    Encountering Monsters and Combat

    While exploring open terrain, gamers can encounter random and fixed battles, like all the previous franchise entries. However, FFX abandons the Active Time Battle system in favor of something completely new: The Conditional Turn-Based Battle System. This new system takes out hasty decision making in favor of a more tactical approach. During an encounter, a new menu appears that displays the turn-order of the battle. Faster characters/enemies appear more often then those with slower stats. Also, certain attacks or battle options can have an effect on the turn-sequence as well.


    Players control up to seven different characters, but only three can partake in battle at one time. What's interesting is the option to swap out characters mid-battle. Characters also have strengths and weaknesses against particular enemies, for example; Tidus is adept at fighting fast enemies, but has trouble with monsters that are heavily armored. These battles require a bit more strategy; gamers need to swap characters in order to win and gain experience. Weapons and armor are unique to every character,  each has a specialty and the customization truly allows players to develop a different experience during each play-through.


    A fun addition to battles is the back-and-forth commentary from the characters. Since this is the first Final Fantasy with voice acting, it was fun to see the characters calling each other out and complaining about battles. It was a little touch, but it was fun.


    Battle Scene

    Weapons and Armor

    Taking a page from previous franchise entries, Final Fantasy X allows players to customize equipment. While each character can only equip particular pieces, it's possible to add abilities and stat boosts to everything. Characters can equip a weapon and a piece of armor. While some of the items come with pre-equipped abilities, players get the option to customize their equipment using items found in the game. Once the amount required is reached, it's possible to use a number of items, such as potions, to add abilities. While it isn't necessary, it's an exciting addition to game-play.


    Auron Equipment Menu

     Overdrives: The New Limit Break

    In addition to a battle system change, Limit Breaks have also been overhauled. Final Fantasy X developers took what worked best in the previous games and made a solid limit break system called 'Overdrives.' At first, these gauges are filled the old-fashioned way -- by a character taking hits from enemies. As the game progresses, more options become available, and characters can fill their gauges by killing enemies, healing party members, or a number of other ways. Overdrives require a bit of work from the player; based on the character, you might have to hit a sequence of buttons, mix two items together, or play slot reels. Overdrives can also be saved - they do not have to be used immediately. They can also be changed by completing specific tasks, for instance; Tidus can gain a new overdrive by killing a certain number of enemies.


    Tidus VS Chocobo Eater

    Summoning Monsters

    Final Fantasy X developers completely changed how summoned monsters work. In other entries, summoning a monster usually took up one action with a devastating attack. In this entry, Summoner Yuna calls upon these 'Aeons' to fight in battle. After Yuna calls a monster, he or she takes the place of the party to defeat the summoner's enemies. Players actually control the actions of their summons. What's more exciting is building a summon's overdrive. Like the character limit breaks, summoned monsters can unleash a furious attack after their gauge is filled.


    While there are a particular number Aeons players can access through the story-line, there are a few that can be obtained through side-quests. Players can also customize the stats and abilities for their Aeons, making each play-through unique.


    Yuna Summons the Magus Sisters



    Final Fantasy X Sphere Grid

    Sphere Grid: A New Way to Level

    Combat isn't the only thing that developers decided to shake up. Once again, the creators decided to change how players customize and level up their characters. Gamers still get experience points from battles, but the way that experience is used is much different. Each character's stat growth is based on a Sphere Grid system. Through battles, players accumulate special spheres and sphere points. These can be used to upgrade a character's stats and abilities.


    At first, when players begin, each character is set on a path. It's important to collect spheres; they are required in order to learn abilities. While battles provide the most basic ones, there are specialty spheres that can allow characters to learn abilities outside their projected paths. As the game continues, it's possible to explore other paths and develop the characters in unique ways. No play-through has to be the same. In the international version and the new HD version, there is an option of expert mode. In this mode, all characters start in the middle of the sphere grid and can be developed in whatever way the player chooses. However, to completely explore the sphere grid, gamers have to be open to attempting some of the more difficult parts of the game in order to obtain the spheres needed.


    Sphere Grid

    Mini-Games: The Fun, the Unfair and the Frustrating

    One of the most frustrating parts of Final Fantasy X involves the mini-games.  Not all of the mini-games are terrible, but a great number of them are required in order to get some of the best equipment in the game. A little challenge is fine, but most of them are so insane that they take the fun right out of the game.


    One of the mini-games done right is the monster hunting. It's an interesting side quest that requires players to hunt down 10 of every monster in a region in order to forge an ultimate monster. Players can then challenge these beasts and gain some rare materials. While these battles are challenging, they are not impossible.  Another fun side mission is discovering the hidden Aeons. Again, this side mission isn't required and it has a fair amount of challenge.


    Blitzball is another mini-game that players are forced into, much like the card game in Final Fantasy IX. The big difference here is that Blitzball is more fun to play, and you don't have to win in order to continue on with the story. Playing Blitz and recruiting players can be enjoyable, and it's possible to get some specialty items out of the deal. However, this is where the games stop being fun.


    Catching butterflies, dodging lighting, chocobo racing and other mini-games can be downright grueling. These mini-games are incredibly frustrating, but completionists will have to get past that. If gamers want to get the ultimate weapons and armor for every character, they must complete these mini-games to do so. While I agree that mini-games should be challenging, there is something to be said about mundane and repetitive tasks.



    Final Thoughts

     Final Fantasy X was a huge departure from the series as we know it, but it still has the look and feel to be worthy of the franchise. With incredible musical tracks, a daring new battle system, a unique story and multiple customization options, this is a definitely an entry every fan should play at least once. As the series continues to evolve, FFX is an excellent example of how something new can still feel familiar and an exciting display of what to expect for the future.


    Final Fantasy X Logo





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