Final Fantasy X PS2 Review

By now we’ve all gotten used to Final Fantasies being released one after another, though each separately delivering a unique experience to people around the globe. You see, every episode in this wonderful saga is different in every way: not one FF feels the same, yet the concept remains: an epic story filled with so much power that it can hold you for months in a row. As time went on, the rising of Playstation 2 was at hand; and Square had the task of satisfying the world with the first Final Fantasy on Sony’s next-gen machine. Now -almost a year later than our Japanese friends- the most popular RPG ever has made it to these shores and Europe finally gets to taste the sweet flavour of Final Fantasy X. First things first: the story revolves around a Blitzball Player named Tidus who gets sucked a thousand years into the future and ends up in the watery world known as Spira. But the entire place is terrorized by Sin, a sort of evil creation who hasn’t got anything better to do but destroy the very planet, and it’s your job to defeat it and save the day again.

Once you’ve inserted the disc you’re immediately pulled into an immensely huge and lively universe; built up by some of the finest visuals yet. The pre-rendered backgrounds which were used in previous FF’s have been replaced by a fluid free-roaming environment: the camera follows you and swoops around the screen, which offers a much more natural feel to the game; resulting into jaw-dropping moments. The use of this excellent engine -where everything is polygon-based- gives a whole new dimension to the game and adds depth to the incredibly detailed world, filled with the tiniest blades of grass, huge palm trees and fields as far as the eye can see. This is probably something that separates FFX from traditional RPGs: the entire layout of the game is linear, meaning every place is linked together via open roads, forests,… making sure the numerous locations are easier to reach.

The characters also really come to life: the detail of their appearance, the improved skin texture; everything is much more realistic. The cast truly shines as you can really tell how they’re feeling by glancing at their faces; each emotion is perfected thanks to some excellent facial animation. The way partymembers prance around gives you an idea of what their personality is: you only need to wonder at their imaginative bodies to uncover their mind whereas in the old days characters were pretty stiff. Even movement has become smoother than ever; all comes to life because of the vivid colours, it all has a warm, tropical feel to it; which fits perfectly with the theme. Lighting and water effects have become spectacularly attractive: sunshine, lightning, a blowing breeze; all things to soften the eyes and tickle the senses. Even the wonderful FMV Sequences slide in seamlessly with loading times really brought down to a minimum, if none at all and no virtual slowdown when a lot of action is going on. Both beautiful and amazing!

Final Fantasy X is a turn-based RPG… The ATB Bar which was always used in previous FF’s is replaced by a new conditional fighting system, which adds a lot more depth to the entire game. You see, now you have to attack in turns which are displayed on your screen; this way you can anticipate when an enemy is about to strike and take precautions when danger is imminent. A whole new dimension of offense and defense is revealed: you can prepare yourself and decide when to take actions before they happen. Another new feature is the ability to change between characters on the battlefield; think of it as a sort of tag move where a member of your team will leave the fighting grounds to make way for another character so everybody can join in. Fighting like this offers you a wide arrange of tactics, you’re much more involved in battles because you have to think things through; making the game even more interactive than ever. For you see, each character has its own strengths and weaknesses enabling you to study the enemy first instead of attacking head-on. For example, certain teammates are good for attacking meanies with big armour, but then again the agile, fast people in your party are good for dealing with smaller creatures. The same goes with magic; only mages can attack the elemental baddies so picking the right people in a battle is essential.

During battle you also have to ability to call upon your Aeons. No, those aren’t the little planes you find in cereal boxes, but mighty über-beasts which aid you in your Quest. Instead of just summoning them you get to control your Aeons! Your party will make way for it, leaving only your Aeon to battle with, which requires a totally different fighting stance. These sort of things engross the pleasure you get from fighting and make victory oh so sweet.

But the one thing that makes FFX stand out from the crowds, is definitely the Sphere Grid. Normally in RPG’s you could strengthen yourself by levelling up. This time, you have to concentrate on a gigantic Board which has to be filled up with Nodes. There are different Nodes -or Spheres- which allow your characters to grow stronger, learn new skills, abilities, magic, you know: the usual. So whenever encountering random fights, or when you’re plugging away at bosses, you have to keep in mind what you’re doing and make sure you understand the complexity of the Sphere Grid before you throttle yourself in adventure. Tactical thinking is at hand here if you want to be succesful on your perilous journey, because each party member is initially assigned to its own abilities depending on where its place on the Sphere Grid lies.

Combat isn’t the only form of play you know…Final Fantasy is well known for its sidequests and other means of entertainment to make sure the fun doesn’t wear out too fast. In the two previous outings there was the infamous card game to keep you busy; but this time the most important “mini-game” is an underwater rugby type of sport that goes by the name of Blitzball. Sounds flashy eh? Well, it’s an action packed ballgame that still manages to uphold certain RPG elements. It also holds an important part in the storyline; everything is molded into a perfect swansong. Whenever you’re tossing passes at your teammates in a fine match of Blitzball or wandering around in the various locations of a vast and stretched world, the music lifts the atmosphere and livens it all up. Nobuo Uematsu has gone for a complete new array of sound: everything now streams at a calm pace, even the more “souped-up” themes. The quietness of the landscapes is nicely portrayed into the sounds but still manages to hold the player’s interest. Still, the music remains true to the formula and proves that it can still wow instead of filling the mind with a “been there-done that” soundtrack.

But of course the main chew is -probably- the all new voice-overs in this tenth instalment: for the first time in Final Fantasy History the characters talk. It’s obvious that a lot of attention has been put in a feature of this magnitude, conversations, actions, thoughts; it’s all more believable as it sure beats reading little text-balloons. Though (most) actors do a good job, the whole dialogue seems a bit woody because they tried to match the words with the lip-movement, still SquareSoft couldn’t help it as you do experience bad lip synch. But let’s not be picky shall we: characters’ emotions really shine out in their voices, contributing even more to their personalities and creating a cast that practically lives.

All around, FFX is built on traditional foundations but introduces new-school properties. Mouth watering graphics accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack only let you gaze at the screen. Also -as is the style- there is a major longevity factor; the usual side-quests are back to boost up the long term fun, but this time they appear to be more difficult. Square probably decided to harden them because of the fairly short story so finding out every secret is going to be challenging, and mastering the game even more! Expect to busy yourself on the sheer magnitude of this title, sacrifice a couple of months to join a couple of -truly alive- adventurers on their epic journey through time and space. Final Fantasy X is the best, fairest and most gracious RPG on the PS2; the creators have given it so much love and now it’s your turn to do exactly the same; delve the deep caverns of Square’s latest and dig out all the sparkling diamonds. Simply, it’s the brightest star in RPG sky; and you’ll be blinded by it for sure.