Friday, February 22, 2002

Game Review: Final Fantasy X

Welcome to the booming Metropolis of Zanarkand! Home of the Zanarkand Abes Blitzball team, and their all star player Tidus, son of the former superstar blitzer Ject. For Squares 10th game (X) in the Final Fantasy series they really veered off in a completely different direction from your traditional RPG. In fact you can pretty much set any preconcieved notions for Final Fantasy to the side, in FFX there are no kingdoms in far far away lands, brave knights, magic crystals, princesses being kidnapped, time warping Sorceresses, or spikey haired guys w/ amnesia blowing up reactors, or crazy clowns killing summons and stuff. This game is much more personal with a likeable cast of characters that are (finally) well fleshed out.This game flows very much like Star Wars A New Hope. We start out with Tidus, a bright eyed adolescent boy who is suddenly whisked off on an adventure by a mysterious older man, Auron, who's been watching over him since he was a boy.Tidus awakens in an unfamiliar land, after being abuducted by a group that he can't understand on a salvage ship and escaping he washes up on the shore of a tropical paradise quite different from the city's of Zanarkand. This is where Tidus meets up with Yuna, daughter of High Summoner Braska who defeated Sin 10 years earlier with his guardians Auron and.....Ject, "the circle is now complete" This is where the story begins, Yuna is about to set out on her pilgrimage to become a summoner, accompanying her is Lulu who acts as Yuna's older sister, Kamahri Yuna's version of Chewbacca, and Wakka a Blitzball player who is the first to find Tidus. Thru Yuna's pilgrimage you learn about the religion of Yu Yevon, and the relationship between Yuna and Tidus blooms. Unlike FFVIII the romance between Yuna and Tidus seemed more genuine, perhaps because Tidus, aside from his choice in clothes, seemed more......normal.Right from the start you realize this isn't your traditional Final Fantasy, aside from the brighter pallet seen throughout the game and the rock music that fully utilizes your home theater's surround sound system. Other significant alterations to the FF engine are the good ol level system which is is enhanced by the sphere grid. The sphere grid resembles a constellation map, each of the party members starts in a different location on the map, after defeating creatures each member who participated in the fight gains Sphere points which can be used to advance thru the sphere grid (connect the dots). When plotting your course on the grid it is important to plan ahead, do you want the MP bonus or the new ability? Because you may find a fork in the grid and you don't have enough sphere points to get one then double back for the other. The idea is a nice way of making the leveling process more in your control in a more interactive way than watching numbers tally up. With more focus on individual leveling and sphere grid advancement per participating party members FFX allows manual swapping of active members during battle. That way each member can attain GP (grid points).In order to keep your party balanced it is important to ensure each member advances on the grid at an even pace, to do this FFX allows you to do something you could never do in any previous FF's, swap out party memebers mid fight, so in theory each member can contribute to the fight and recieve grid points. Final Fantasy X is a much more linear title than previous versions and much more personal. Instead of saving the whole planet from utter annihilation Tidus, LuLu, Wakka and Kamahri band together and set out on Yuna's pilgrimage, along the way they each must overcome their own personal challenges. Square delivers another gorgeous game, the most obvious change is the color pallet used throughout the game, the colors are vibrant and a nice change from the earth tones we're used to seeing in RPG's. The music is a far cry from the traditional Final Fantasy soundtrack, the hard rock theme of Zanarkand from the games begining screams "THIS AIN'T YOUR OLDER BROTHERS FF!"The sphere grid is a nice change from the traditional "reach a level and gain a new ability automatically. Now you have to make the choice of either going for that next spell/ability or grabbing the HP/MP boost instead. And one of the boldest changes to the series FFX is the first in the series to have total voice acting throughout the game. No text boxs with poorly localized translations here.The only aspect I was pretty let down about was the mini game, Blitzball. For Final Fantasy Fans a sports mini game in an RPG is like oil and water. I really enjoyed the card games of FFVIII and FFIX. Try as I did I just couldn't get into the game.FFX is another chocobo feather in Squares pointy hat! A quality story with drama, that touchs on topics of faith and religion, love, the relationship between a father and son, pride and prejudice, and multi culturism. WOW all that in a game and it's still enjoyable!


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