Final Fantasy X
"It all begins here."
Everyone has passions: many choose videogames and among them a great number of players give all their interest and attention to the Final Fantasy series. There are lots of examples of this dedication: fans who bought Final Fantasy X before having a PS2, others who created entire sites on the characters of the game just using the scarce news available before the official release, home made translations of the Japanese script, fanarts and fan fictions invading the web.
All started in the late Eighties. That’s the story of a small publishing company, Square Co. Ltd and of a young game designer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, that were in desperate need of a brilliant idea to mantain the company alive. Well, they were not exactly optimistic. So they decided to give the game – a RPG - an eloquent title, Final Fantasy. The destiny follows strange ways, and the game became very popular. Actually, that was just the beginning.
Throughout the years the series gained an always increasing popularity. In 1997 there is a revolutionary turning point: the series abandoned Nintendo and arrived on a console destined to outsell any competitor. The title of the game was Final Fantasy VII and the console was Sony Playstation.
Final Fantasy VII profoundly transformed the way to intend RPGs on a console. Hironobu Sakaguchi and the extraordinary development team created a game that was a never previously seen mixture of pure RPG elements, FMVs, music and story telling. Adding to this, a constant of the series: a strong message that moves behind all the events, a condemnation of those who exploit the planet for their personal puroposes, destroying its resources and all the living beings on it. The same message is strong also in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – and this goes for the ones who said the movie had nothing in common with Final Fantasy because there weren’t chocobos and moogles.
Final Fantasy X might seem the realization of Sakaguchi’s dreams: a mix of exploration, battles, and movies to create an experience that should be able to completely involve the player.
In its basics, Final Fantasy X plays exactly like the episodes of the series on PsOne. For the newcomers, Final Fantasy is a role-playing game in which you take the control of a party of characters. Every Final Fantasy is not connected to the other instalments of the series. The characters, the story and even the world of the game are always different. What makes of these games a series are many recurring elements like particular creatures (Chocobos, Moogles), themes and something more undefined, that just a fan of the series can understand.
In Final Fantasy X, Tidus, the main hero, is a young famous Blitzball player. Blitzball is a sort of strange mixture of sports like basket, water polo, and football played into an enormous sphere filled with water. During a Blitzball match the city of Zanarkand is attacked by Sin, a mysterious force in the form of an enormous wave. Zanarkand is destroyed but Tidus and Auron, the one who brought up the orphaned Tidus, are mysteriously transported in an unknown land. That's just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure. If you want to have more information on the characters and the world of Final Fantasy X, you can read our special features on the game. Just follow the links at the end of this page.
During the game, you have to explore a whole fantasy world inhabited by many different creatures, fight hordes of dangerous creatures, and enhance your characters. Every Final Fantasy is based on a linear story that you necessarily have to follow to complete the game; anyhow Final Fantasy X has much less subquests than any other episode of the series, and it sometimes plays too much like an interactive movie and too little like a role playing game. The mini-games, another thing that many fans of the series loved, are just a few. A lot of work was put into the creation of the Blitzball, the sport played by Tidus and Wakka. You can play full tournaments of this unusual mix of sports games and role-playing games for hours and hours, but if you don't like sports games, you might just hate Blitzball. If you want to have more information on Blitzball, just take a look at our feature on Wakka at the end of this page.
There are many novelties introduced in the exploration of the world of Final Fantasy X though. First of all, the game makes use of a magnificent graphic engine that renders in real time good part of the environments. On the left corner of the screen, a small map shows you the zone you're currently visiting. A green arrow indicates your character position, while a red arrow is used to show you your destination in order to prevent any sort of frustration. But if you prefer to make things more difficult, you can turn the map off. Anyhow, it seems like the developers were scared of taking real advantage of the possibility offered by a 3D engine. All the environments are non interactive, and you pass through them just like you would do in a racing game or in past Final Fantasy games. In other words, the 3D world is used only to enhance the visual impact of the game, and not to add true new elements to the gameplay.
And just like in any other instalment of the series, your path is filled with random battles, necessary to gain ability points and increase your characters' stats. Sometimes, especially when you're just trying to take a look at the incredible environments of the game, these battles get terribly annoying, even if the developers made more than an effort to create a faster battle system that is a little revolution into the series. First of all, in Final Fantasy X there is no active time bar. The old system has been replaced by the conditional turn based battle. On the right side of the screen a window in which the turn order of both allies and enemies is displayed. The order changes depending on characters' stats and it's dynamically affected by the moves you perform during a battle. For example, if you perform a powerful technique, the character could need more turns to recover. While this could seem an insignificant change, it really makes battles faster and it's definitely an improvement over the old ATB system.
Just like in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, in Final Fantasy X you can fight the enemies with three characters on the field, but this time pressing the L1 button you can switch party members in and out of battles: in this way you can use all of your characters' special features when needed. Adding to that, Yuna has the ability to cast summon creatures called Aeons. The use of supernatural beings that can be summoned at will during the battles is surely one of the best features of the series, but while in the previous games these creatures were substantially extremely powerful spells, now they have become fully playable characters. If Yuna summons one of these creatures, after the introductory scene you have full control over the creature. You can perform attacks, cast spells or special techniques. Aeons are the key element to the whole story of Final Fantasy X - exactly like in Final Fantasy IX.
In Final Fantasy X, characters can perform special actions called command abilities and powerful moves called Overdrives. Overdrives are the equivalent of Desperation attacks in Final Fantasy VI, Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy VII and VIII and Trance attacks in Final Fantasy IX. During the battles, an Overdrive gauge is displayed for each character. This gauge is slowly charged up during the battles. The novelty here is the possibility to choose among different Overdrive modes. For example, you can choose that your gauge charges when character takes damage: that is called Stoic Mode. Or you could decide to use the Warrior Mode: the gauge charges when your character damages an opponent. At the beginning, only an Overdrive mode is available for each character but you can learn all of them during the adventure.
The characters' development system is entirely based on what is called the Sphere Grid. The Sphere Grid lets your characters learn new abilities and improves their stats. You will earn a certain amount of abilities points for each character that joined a battle. The ability points increase the Sphere level of the characters. For every Sphere level, you can move of one space on the Sphere grid. Once you are arrived in a node you can activate the corresponding ability by using one of the four kinds of spheres available: Power Sphere, Mana Sphere, Speed Sphere, and Ability Sphere. What's important is that each character can move only on a well-defined path that can be transformed only by acquiring key spheres during the game. Key spheres can open new paths and theoretically each character in the game could learn great part of the other characters' abilities. Don't worry if this may sound a little confusing, you'll get accustomed to the Sphere Grind little by little playing the game. In fact, the system is much more linear than the one of any other Final Fantasy game, and it's sometimes an heavy limitation to the possibilities that a game labelled as an RPG should offer. It's like if the developers wanted to create something that could appeal to the greatest part of players, also to the ones that doesn't have the patience of playing Role Playing Games. But you can't have your cake and eat it. This excessively linear system, this over-simplified structure will inevitably annoy the hardcore role-player. Compared to Final Fantasy X, all the previous games of the series released for PsOne offered a more mature - and more rewarding - characters' development system.
I have a final note on the gameplay and the story of Final Fantasy X. It's evident that Sakaguchi and the developers wanted to create a game that could appeal to an extremely wide group of players. The inclusion of a sport like Blitzball in a fantasy game, the fact that Tidus is the kind of Californian muscular boy that might act in Beverly Hills 90210 - the exact opposite of the more disturbed yet infinitely more interesting and original characters from the previous episodes - all is here to please the average player.
Anyhow, I must admit that when you keep a closer attention at the story of the game, it's not difficult to realize that Final Fantasy X is one of the darkest games of the series. There are themes and messages that are strangely mature for such a popular videogame. They are most of the times hidden or just suggested to the player, but they are there and they are fascinating. A clear example is the dance of Yuna as a priest of the Yevon religion. The dance, that seemed just a beautiful spectacle from the screenshots available before the release of the game, turns out to be a nearly macabre event.
Still, after we had finally completed the game, we weren't entirely satisfied by the experience. It seems like Sakaguchi was forced to create something able to please as many players as possible. Final Fantasy X's story and gameplay lack courage, lack inventive, lack sincerity. The gameplay is too linear, too old-style, without all the sidequests and the mini-games that helped this series becoming so popular, and the game plays too much like an interactive movie. Too special effects, and not enough heart.