Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Well, its been a while since I continued my ongoing tribute to Final Fantasy. We last left off with FFIX, so now were onto FFX, the first addition to the PS2 Library, and for most, the best of the bunch.
To all but me at least.
Don't get me wrong, any Final Fantasy Game is a good one (even X-2, which i'll do later.) but for me, Final Fantasy X just didn't live up its last three predicessors in any respect. Graphically it is superior, and the battle system has been revamped into a working, and more complex machine, but the storyline felt off. This time, we star as Tidus, a Blitzball player from Zanarkand who is mysteriously transported into a sperate world, where he becomes the protector of Yuna, a cleric and summoner on a "pilgrimage" to eliminate Sin from the world, one battle at a time.
Graphics-Graphically, the PS2 showed it's technological power in spades. The game looked beautiful, and more important, real. No longer were the heavy anime-ish characters of FFIX or VII, but the more realistic look in FFVIII, which I personally think Fits the world of FF better. Also, the characterization is pretty strong here, and they also introduce new characters and races, stunning visuals, great in game cut scenes and in game movies. The Battle animation is the weakest part of the graphics, mainly because the animations are repetitive after a while, but other than that, excellent work by SquareEnix on the tech specs.
Final Score- A-
Gameplay- This is where I had some trouble with Final Fantasy X. While it is technically the best in the series, storywise it is a bit weak. We have a annoying protagonist in Tidus, who does kind of go on his own soul search here in the game, and finds out that there is more than Blitzball, but it was kind of a boring story for the main character. Plus his quest to return home had a horrible, although surprising, result. Yuna's story is the most interesting, but is also very cliched and ridden with "classic" all over. Nothing wrong with classic, but after Final Fantasy VII and VIII, I expected a bit more. FF IX can do classic, FFX couldn't.
The other themes of duty over love, racism, importance of sports in society and trust with friends and strangers were nice, but I felt little or no impact with them. Wakka was my favorite character, until he started insulting Rikkus race of Al-Bhed Tech heads. The best character in the bunch is Auron, and it goes without saying that he ranks as one of the best bad-asses in the Final Fantasy Universe.
While the story lacks, the battle system is stronger than ever. We can switch out characters in tight spots, and everyone has a specific use. Lulu is the magic user, while Wakka can hit flying units each time. Tidus is the most balance, while Auron can become your strongest character. It is a very good system, adding some strategic play into the game. Also the sphere grid adds more strategy, because you can potentially make any character as powerful as you want, but you need to be careful on how to use the spheres. Other little tidbits, like the Blitzball management minigame, are good, but really take up more time than a madden game.
Final Score- B
Sound- The Music is strong as usual, but not as memorable as FFVII or FFVIII. The game also features the first ever voice work for a Final Fantasy, but honestly, it is a very mixed bag. Tidus did his job if he was supposed to be whiny, and Wakka, Lulu and Auron had great voice actors, but the rest were kind of horrible. Sound effects sounded great though, as usual.
Final Score- B-
Final Fantasy X is a technical achievement, and a solid entry into the Final Fantasy family, but is also a very flawed entry. I beat the game like everyone else has, but I did not feel satisfied with the results I got unlike the last three on the Playstation. This is kind of like the Cars of Pixar, not a misstep, but also not their best effort either. The sphere grid and battle system make up for the lackluster story, and there is enough here to keep you entertained. Overall, you either praise it, or feel empty when playing. For me, I felt like it was empty.