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by Square

ff1-01.jpg (7736 bytes)In the most classic and richest sense, Final Fantasy X encapsulates the struggle between a domineering father and a strengthening son; only Kafka put to paper a better interpretation of this theme, yet FFX is the inverse of The Metamorphosis: instead of a son finding himself having become a beetle upon waking, subsequently locked away in his room, fed by his sister, mourned by his mother, and despised, even feared, by his father, the creators of FFX have transformed the father into a monstrous entity simply referred to as Sin who punishes the towns and people of the futuristic world of Spira, hoping that one day his son, who he (Sin) has transported 1,000 years into the future, will defeat him and throw an apple into the back of his misery.

ff2-01.jpg (8697 bytes)You assume the role of Tidus, a professional blitzball player from the past, who is seeking to find his way home, if he can, to Zanarkand, a city destroyed by Sin. Tidus quickly befriends a group of guardians who are escorting a Summoner, Yuna, on her pilgrimage through Spira at the end of which she hopes to defeat Sin. The game’s quest follows a pretty linear path.

ff3-01.jpg (8622 bytes)Each character of the game possesses the ability to go into overdrive mode after taking so many attacks. Initiating an effective overdrive attack isn’t as simple as just pushing (X) and watching the lightshow. Nope. With characters like Auron, your truly bad-ass fighter (reminds me of Cid from previous installments of FF), you need to perform button combinations within a set amount of time. Depending on how well (or lucky) you are, the amount of damage inflicted increases. You quickly obtain most of your party. This includes: a mage, Lulu, another blitzball player, surfer-boy, Wakka, Kimahri, Yuna’s guardian since birth, and eventually Rikku, an Al-Bhed (three races/faiths in the game: Guado, Yevon, & Al-Bhed), and of course Auron, Tidus’ quasi-stepfather.

ff4-01.jpg (5561 bytes)I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing the graphics, since it’s a given they’re going to be pretty damn good. Your world is a complete 3D environment. In fact, you don’t have a world-view map that you wander through—be this a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you are. Your characters are richly colored (almost reminiscent of Chrono Cross) and actually have voice-overs for their dialogue; yep this is new to the series. Luckily, the acting is as bad as most games out there. And you’re going to swear Wakka reminds you of one of the characters out of Shenmue.

ff10-01.jpg (5506 bytes)Abilities are handled in a completely new way. As a player, you’re now able to determine kind of the path your character is going to take. This is done through a system coined Sphere Grid. At the end of each battle, your characters can earn Sphere levels as well as different types of Spheres (mana, power, speed, ability, etc.). The Sphere Grid is this table of interconnected, unfilled spheres that contain different attributes. You spend Sphere Levels to move across the grid and place Spheres in empty spaces to obtain more attributes, skills, or spells. Now, this isn’t as easy as going in a straight line; rather, there are times when you’re going to need to back-track to gain abilities or raise HP/MP. It’s best that you plan ahead before spending your Sphere Levels because once you’ve spent them you’re stuck until you get more.

ff7-01.jpg (6254 bytes)As an aside, the game offers the chance to play blitzball from any save point (that is once you’ve earned this ability). Blitzball is basically a side-diversion, since there are really no side-quests per se. The game also offers you the ability to recruit Blitzball players for your team, the Aurochs. I really didn’t spend too much time with this, since the Blitzball matches are pretty primitive

ff8-01.jpg (7935 bytes)One of my long-standing complaints about the Final Fantasy series has been how encounters are handled. In previous installments, battles took a considerable amount of time to initiate and complete. Square has quickened this process up some, but you still have those random encounters that can become infuriating if you’re not into fighting for every step you take. A decent job has been done at tapering this some. It feels as if a lot of work went into integrating your battles into the actual story of the game. Forget wandering around until you’ve leveled up enough to continue in the game.

ff11-01.jpg (8966 bytes)As far as RPG titles for the PS2 go, this is another owner; however, I must put forth that the game time is significantly lower than previous installments. It’s also not as in-depth as previous Final Fantasy titles. To me it feels like Square is getting its feet wet on the PS2, but not completely jumping in. That’s unfortunate, as so much could have been done with the world of Spira. One plus, however, is that FFX resembles some of the colorful traits of Chrono Cross—at least, this was a plus for me. The game feels like an RPG designed and drawn by a surfer in California or Hawaii. Final Fantasy X is another trendsetter for the platform. We see Square push through a decent storyline--albeit linear-- and introduce us to another lovely world with intensely archetypical characters; however, it remains plainly simple compared to some of its predecessors, especially last year’s Final Fantasy IX, which was a nice return to the original theme of the series.

Matt Baldwin   (01/08/2002)


Ups: Great visuals; cool new battle and skill development systems; good story; voiceovers.

Downs: Too linear (no sidequests); less gametime than previous FF titles; Blitzball.

Platform: PlayStation 2