Final Fantasy X was painfully linear.
Ok ok. While this is the first time I played through Final Fantasy X, this isn't the first time I experienced it though. I remember day one when this game came out and watched a friend play through it for about 10 hours. I was completely wowed by the graphics, as it was the first PS2 game I've actually seen in motion, but I was disgusted by the lame main characters. I could never get over it, so I never had the urge to play this game. Now that I'm starting to scrap at the bottom of the PS2 RPG barrel here, I decided to start this baby up on my own.
While I'm still completely annoyed by Tidus's voice, his looks, and his actions, I did end up liking the battle system quite a bit. Ok, constantly switching characters in and out was cool at first, but it did get a little old. Either way, I did enjoy the emphasis on strategy on the battle system, which kept me on my toes. The game was overly easy though and I felt like my characters got WAY to strong using the Sphere grid. I did end up enjoying the Sphere Grid than I expected to. I was confused at first and didn't lay down all my spheres for a good 10+ levels, but after that I got around the grid just fine.
I still hate how linear this game was, and the fact that 34 hours into a 36 hour game is the only time you can backtrack. That sickens me a little.
Final Fantasy X is a turn-based RPG. All turns are determined by which character or enemy has the best speed. You can see a list of all the turns on the screen to play future movies, similar to that of Evolution on the Dreamcast. In battle you can replace characters on the fly without a penalty.
You don't gain experience points in Final Fantasy X, but rather Ability Points. Only the characters that acted in the battle will gain Ability Points. For example, if you beat a monster using only 2 of the 3 possible characters on screen, then only those two characters will gain the ability points, while that lone character that didn't act will get none. That also applies to the characters in reserve, as they won't get any points either. So this basically encourages you to constantly switch characters during every battle just so everyone will get a piece of that pie. The weird is the points doesn't splinter off either. If you kill a Bat with 1 character then that 1 character will get 1,000 points. Now let's say you kill a Bat with 7 characters, then all 7 will get 1,000 points. It's a flawed system but it slows the game down I guess.
Ability Points however are almost the exact same thing as Experience points though, because once you get so many points, you'll basically "level up" in the same fashion, except your attributes won't increase. This is where the Sphere Grid comes in. Each time you level up your ability points, you'll gain 1 "Move". This allows you to move across a grid, droping spheres on it, which give you either HP boosts, or Magic Defense increases, or more power. The sphere grid is completely pre-determined, but you can change directions of the huge grid, or drop new spheres in blank slots to gain extra attributes.
Each character have their own specialty in battle. Auron can attack armored enemies, Yuna is the healer and summoner, Lulu is the black magic user, Tidus can attack ground enemies, Rikku can attack machinery and use items, Wakka can attack flying enemies and Khimari can attack ground or flying enemies. This gives you a reason to switch characters in and out because most characters are useless against some enemy types. Auron can't attack small ground enemies because they're to fast for him. Wakka can't attack armored enemies because they're to strong for him.
Each character has their "Overdrive" ability, which is kinda similar to Final Fantasy 7's Limit Break skills. Some characters gain more than one during the course of the game. Some Overdrive skills force you to do a minigame to perform them. For example, using Tidus' skill you have to line up a move icon into a middle dot, similar to a Golf swing. Lulu's skill requires you to circle your right analog stick over and over again to build up power.
You can only equip 2 items for each character, a weapon and accessory. Each weapon and accessory is basically a blank slate. Some items can come with 4 open slots to them though. Each slot can add bonus' to your character, for example a weapon can have Slot 1: 5% Strength, Slot 2: 10% HP, slot 3: SOS Haste, and Slot 4: blank. You can use Rikku's customize skill to add any skill you want in that blank spot to create whatever ultimate weapon or accessory you want, as long as you have the items to do so.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Tidus, a hyperactive teenager that proves time and time again he would rather act than think. Tidus has severe daddy issues and possible has ADHD. Tidus is a star Blitzball player, when after a game, he got sucked into a giant vortex and sent 1,000 years into the future. The future is very grim, but he is constantly haunted by memories of his past. Tidus eventually meets up with Yuna. Yuna is on a quest to be the Grand Summoner, and she needs Guardians to protect her on your adventure. So Tidus ends up being one of her Guardians. The game follows Yuna on her quest to save the world by becoming the Grand Summoner.
I thought the storyline was ok, confusing all the way through though. I was really annoyed by Tidus and his actions, every word he said and everything he did. Tidus is possibly the most annoying main character in an RPG I've played as in a long long time. Yuna doesn't come out peachy clean either. Yuna is possibly the most generic female character too. I could run down a list on why I think that, but that would be spoiler territory though. Either way, I did love the sub-cast of charcters like the mysterious Auron, Kimahri, Wakka, Lulu, even the wacky Rikku.
Final Fantasy X uses a mix of pre-rendered backgrounds for houses and some towns or dungeons, similar to the ones from the previous Playstation titles. Some cutscenes are also pre-rendered CGI, which is another trick recycled from the Playstation era. However, most cutscenes are used with the game engine, the character models look a little shaky, but overall they look great. Most dungeons and towns are also fully 3D rendered although you have no control over the camera.
There is barely any loading the time, I rarely if at all noticed a single loading screen. The graphics were very impressive, although I think they went a little overboard with the playable character designs (especially Tidus), and sometimes underboard with the NPC designs. The monsters were designed with a ton of detail and care. Final Fantasy X came out in 2001 and easily trumps any RPG before it, except for maybe Shenmue in a few areas.
Most of the dialog was voiced out, even by lowly NPCs. Besides Tidus, the voices are pretty good. Tidus got on my nerves though. The music was great though, some songs where classic remixes. The original songs were excellent aswell.
For the majority of the game you're walking a straight linear path without a world map. At the 34 hour mark, you can finally use your ship and travel to any previously visited area that's available. The "World Map" is basically a list of towns and fields, nothing more or less. Kinda pathetic.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
That was the last save before the final boss(es). The game doesn't save anytime after that, so that final time does not include fighting the final boss(es), watching the looong ending scenes and credits. No bonus' that I noticed.