cerza's Final Fantasy X International (PlayStation 2) review

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A Must Play For ALL PS2 Owners!

Final Fantasy X is Squaresoft’s first installment in the long running Final Fantasy series to grace the Playstation 2 generation. With the change to a new generation, Final Fantasy X deviates from the traditional Final Fantasy formula, changing it in a number of ways. For instance, you play as young Tidus, a star athlete in Final Fantasy’s underwater soccer/basketball sport Blitz Ball. However, unlike in previous Final Fantasies where the main character was silent and only communicated through small actions on occasion, Tidus is both very vocal and the game’s narrator. In other words, he speaks a lot.

Another change Final Fantasy X brings to the table is your characters no longer advance in base level. Instead, they advance in sphere level. How this works is character advancement is controlled by this massive, and at first very daunting, board called the Sphere Grid. The Sphere Grid is composed of several nodes, or spheres, which are all connected by lines. Each sphere level a character acquires allows you to move them from one node to the next. Some nodes have abilities you can learn. Some boost your stats, and some are empty and contain nothing. You use spheres acquired from treasure chests, people, or killing enemies on the nodes to activate them and gain the respective ability or stat boost for the character that is activating it. There is only one sphere grid, but each character has their own individual copy of it. So, technically it’s possible for each character to learn everything and have them all be the same. However, accomplishing this goal is no easy feat, because the grid is massive and moving around it takes time. Each character starts pretty far apart from the others in terms of starting location on the grid. For instance Yuna starts in the area containing all the white magic while Lulu starts in the area containing all the black magic. By the end of the game you should have some mixing going on with some characters crossing over into the starting areas of other characters on the board. However, unless you are ready to invest hundreds of hours into grinding enemies so you can keep advancing your characters around the grid, it’s unlikely that you will have characters that know all of the same abilities other characters in your party do. The biggest advantage this new system has over the old base level system is it allows players to customize their characters as they see fit. Gone is the old system linear predetermined character advancement. Gone, and good riddance. If all of this seems confusing, don’t worry, because it’s not. Final Fantasy X features a full blown tutorial regarding the system early in the game, and you can refer back to it at any time if you need to.

Final Fantasy X’s story starts with Tidus playing in a big Blitz Ball match. This is one of the many mini games featured in Final Fantasy X, and it’s quite popular in the games world. Shortly after this the giant monster known as Sin attacks the city. Tidus is saved from certain death by the mysterious character known as Auron, but before he can escape from the city, Tidus is some how transported to the land of Spira. Here he finds himself among a strange group of people known as the Al Bhed, and meets Rikku, a cute and perky girl with an interest in machina (machines). After a short adventure with them, Tidus once again encounters Sin and is sucked away into the Sea. The waves dump him on the isle of Besaid where Tidus meets Waka, the summoner Yuna, and the rest of the cast. After the rest of the cast hears his story, and Waka learns of his amazing Blitz Ball skills, Tidus is permitted to join them in accompanying Yuna on her summoner’s pilgrimage, and to say any more would be saying too much.

In Final Fantasy X there is no over world for players to wander between destinations. Instead, there is a map that tracks your progress with a dotted line, as you explore and move across Spira. This makes the game much more linear than its predecessors. However, it’s not a bad thing since there are plenty of wide open fields for you to explore, and by eliminating the over world time players never leave the action. You will encounter a large cast of likeable characters who play roles both large and small in the games world. You will encounter random battles in typical Final Fantasy fashion. When this occurs the screen changes to show the three characters that are fighting on one line and what enemies they are fighting opposite them on another line. Things play out here like they do in all the previous Final Fantasy games with menu driven attacks and commands. In Final Fantasy X, summons act much like they did in Final Fantasy VIII. When a summoned creature arrives on the battlefield it replaces your party and you have full control of its attacks and abilities until its HP is reduced to zero, or you dismiss it. The animations and still drawn out, but notably less so when compared to those of previous Final Fantasies, such as Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Spell graphics have also been toned down, but become more boisterous, flamboyant and impressive with each new level of the spell you acquire. The one very welcome change to the battle system present in Final Fantasy X is the ability to call in reserve characters and have them replace a character currently fighting on the front line. This gives a new twist to the old battle system and makes many things easier, such as advancing your characters on the sphere grid and the games harder battles. Don’t think that Final Fantasy X is a push over, because it’s not. While things are ridiculously easy early on, the games difficulty evens out with plenty of challenges mid to late game. In fact, players will find that much of the games “optional” content, such as the monster arena, omega ruins, and quests for the optional summoned creatures and ultimate weapons really aren’t optional. If players attempt the final battles and final dungeon without them, they will have your work cut out for them. It’s possible to beat Final Fantasy X’s story in twenty to forty hours if it’s all you focus on. However, by depriving yourself of the games added content, you will have quite the challenge on your hands by the end of the game. Realistically, Final Fantasy X should last most players a good forty to eighty hours, which is quite a hefty allotment of time, and noticeably longer than several of the other Final Fantasy games.

Graphically, Final Fantasy X presents mixed reactions. Some of the characters and environments look phenomenally good, while others look phenomenally bad. The good out weighs the bad here without a doubt, both in number and frequency. However, when players come across the bad they will know it, because it’s glaringly obvious. For instance, some of the crusader avatars such as the captain and her squire look like they were ripped right out of one of the Playstation 1 Final Fantasies. The pre-rendered cinemas return in Final Fantasy X as well, and look better than ever. The only problem with them as that it’s obvious they were done by a completely different group of artists than the ones who created the in game character models, and as a result the characters in the cinemas look very, very, very different from the in game character models you will be playing with.

Final Fantasy X’s audio presents equally mixed reactions. The cast is all fully voiced, and the voice actors did a superb job. Unfortunately, it becomes obvious by the end of the game that in several instances where a character is saying something that was said before, such as “ok” that all the sound engineers did was set the only recorded “ok” sound bite to play when that line comes up for that character. This works pretty well most of the time, but there are several instances toward the end of the game where it doesn’t work at all and really detracts from the experience, because of the lack of feeling it creates. Final Fantasy X really only has one theme. It is beautiful and you will hear it over and over throughout the game. However, as great as the theme is, by having only one theme it creates a lack of variety in the game’s music, despite how many times it is remixed, and it wears itself out by the end. There are a couple other fully voiced songs that play during key moments of the game though. They all sound truly fantastic, and as a whole the audio is nothing short of memorable.

Overall, Final Fantasy X is a must play. As the first in the Final Fantasy series to arrive on the Playstation 2 it is a superb debut for the franchise. Final Fantasy X comes loaded with extra content that will keep players busy long after they have beaten the games story. It features a quirky, likeable, and truly memorable cast of characters, as well as a fun gaming experience ripe with challenge and something for everyone. Final Fantasy X is without a doubt one of the best titles in the Final Fantasy franchise. It brings many changes, all of which are very welcome, and yet manages to keep the old distinct flavor and feel that is Final Fantasy. If you own a Playstation 2, or are a Final Fantasy fan, you owe it to yourself to play this title, or at the very least have it in your collection.

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