Final Fantasy 10
Review of Final Fantasy 10
Well it’s here, it’s really here. Final Fantasy X has officially touched down for the PS2 and I absolutely feel the same level of anticipation and excitement that I felt when the first PS1 FF game came out (FFVII).
The opening scene depicts a ravaged world and has the primary characters sitting around a small campfire. The camera twirls around and provides a good view of the environment and the players…and surprisingly all it is being done with the in-game graphics engine. The music playing in the background is rather surreal and saddening all at once…
Starting up the actual gameplay it became readily apparent that Square has tried to create FFX so that it is comprehensible to anyone that has never played the series before, yet also retaining key elements (like key soundbytes and familiar control schemes) for those that have savored the series in the past.
The action starts with our lead character, Titus, enroute to a Blitzball tournament. Blitzball is apparently the number one sport of the world and is almost like a religion to most people. Titus is of course the star player for his home team in Zanarkand and is recognized and admired as he struts down the street to the stadium. We will shortly learn that Titus is the son of the most famous Blitzball player of them all –Jecht-. As the story unfolds we find out that Titus has a real chip on his shoulder regarding his dad and is apparently happy at the fact that his father disappeared 10 years ago…
Suddenly a mysterious figure appears (Auron) clad in a maroon trench coat, high collar and sporting some cool shades. He appears to be speaking to someone when suddenly a huge sphere shaped object that looks like a big ball of liquid mercury appears in the sky and begins to tear the city to pieces.
Gameplay is still quite linear and scripted with major events “waiting” for the character to be in the right place before kicking off. In typical FF fashion though, there are a large amount of side quests and mini-games that players can partake in. I particularly liked the Blitzball game and the fact that I could manage my team and engage in a game at any save point throughout my journey. Very enjoyable stuff. The biggest change here though is the fact that there is no longer an “overworld” map. Instead, progress is tracked by a tiny map that appears in the upper left hand corner of the screen and just shows the immediate area that the party is occupying.
The battle system has been refined to the point that even a newbie to RPG’s should be able to understand it. That is not to say it is not good…it has just been significantly dumbed down when compared to some of the earlier FF’s. Gamers can now look several moves ahead, determining the order of attacks (on both your side and the enemy side). This will give players a huge advantage in knowing when to cast healing spells and such. But make no mistake; the battle system is strictly “turn-based”.
Parties expand and contract throughout the game, but the maximum amount of players in a battle is still three. Square has thrown in a nice twist though…players can now be swapped in and out at any time during the battle. Just press the L1 button and a list of available combatants (those in your party that are not currently in battle) will appear on screen and can be called into action…sweet!
When issuing Summon commands the rest of the party vacates the battleground to a safe distance and it is just the summoned Aeon against the enemies. If the Aeon gets defeated, the last three party members will rejoin the battle and take up where the Aeon left off.
In case you are wondering what an Aeon is…These are the “new” summon creatures that consist of the souls of those that have departed as a result of Sin. Ifrit and Shiva are back and there are a slew of new ones to bring into battle. Aeons can be taught new abilities and attributes to make them stronger and can be continually developed throughout the game.
In addition to normal attacks, players will activate an Overdrive mode when their attack meter fills up. It is here that you can execute some very powerful attacks. Pulling off these attacks are different for each character though. Some can execute Overdrives directly while others like Titus depend on you pressing the “x” button (or a series of other buttons, depending on who you are executing the Overdrive for) at the optimal time to get the most out of the attack. This actually worked out quite well and added a sense of urgency and tension to the battle for me.
Instead of leveling up in the typical sense after a battle, players are now awarded Ability Points (AP) after defeating an enemy. Certain creatures will also surrender something called a Sphere. Once a characters AP reaches a certain limit, they are awarded a Sphere and can use that to move about on a Sphere Grid to obtain all types of new abilities and attributes.
At first glance the Sphere Grid is rather daunting and intimidating indeed. Players’ first view of the grid is zoomed in and all that is visible is a rather complex circle will smaller circles inside. Most of the circles have small icons in them that resemble family Crest symbols. Once you zoon out though and get to soak in the entire grid…lets just say, we hope your head doesn’t explode. The entire sphere grid looks like a complicated road map of the brain with a multitude of connecting pathways the branch out in all different directions. Choosing which direction to take will play a key role in each players advancement so make sure you plan out move well in advance or you will be faced with time consuming backtracking through the grid. Bottom line though, this system does work quite nicely and once you get the hang out of it, moving about and upgrading your characters becomes quite enjoyable…really.
The storyline of Final Fantasy X is amazingly engrossing right from the beginning…apparently Square has figured out a way to eliminate the 2 to 3 hour story set-up time of most RPG’s.
There appears to be an enormous entity that is names “Sin”. The world you are on is called Spira. We get introduced to Sin within the first few minutes of the game and witness the mass destruction of Titus’ hometown of Zanarkand. We are also introduced to another major character named Auron that appears to be in a discussion with someone that we cannot see. He is talking about Titus and how he is about to enter into a life-altering event. Titus is then sucked into Sin and spit out in a land that is foreign to him…one thousand years into his future!
In short time we get introduced to a handful of other key characters that will join Titus’ party. The most important being Yuna…who comes off looking a bit like a Jennifer Aniston clone…but wait, Titus looks a bit like Brad Pitt…ah, never mind… not gonna go there….
Yuna is a newly appointed Summoner with a prestigious lineage. With her father being a world class Summoner…Yuna has a lot to live up to. Summoners’ are revered the throughout Spira and in addition to being able to call forth the mighty Aeons, they also perform many other services as well (like saying prayers for recently departed people so their souls can go to the afterlife). Her main mission though is to rid Spira of Sin or perish while trying. As expected, Yuna plays an extremely key role in the FFX story.
As a Summoner, Yuna retains the service of people called Guardians. They will protect Yuna with their very lives if necessary and are almost constantly at her side. One Guardian of particular mention is Kimara who has been at Yuna’s side since she was just a little girl. Kimara is a rather huge blue creature that doesn’t say too much…with a horn protruding from his forehead…that has been broken, leaving a blunt end. We are sure to find out what happened to his horn later in the game… It is readily apparent that Kimara will do whatever it takes to ensure Yuna’s safety. He is always at her side.
Another of Yuna’s Guardians is named Wakka…trust me, the name fits. Wakka is the captain of a Blitzball team called the Aurochs. He had a younger brother that was killed by Sin…Whom Titus seems to resemble to a tee. Naturally Titus and Wakka become close friends and Titus is asked to join Wakka’s Blitzball team…which has the not so grand honor of having never won a tournament game before. With Titus’ help, Wakka is sure their team will win a championship.
The final Guardian is Lulu…again, the name fits. Lulu is a wonderfully sarcastic character that practices the arts of black magic. Her powers are formidable indeed but I can’t help but get the feeling that she is hiding something….
There are certainly more characters that will join your party or play key roles in the game (like Auron) but I don’t wish to give too much away. The other character that is worth mentioning though is Rikku. She is one of the first people that Titus meets after he is transported. Between Yuna and Rikku, Titus has his hands full…
Oh, there may even be an appearance by Cid…. In typical Square fashion, all of these lives are somehow mysteriously intertwined and the pieces fall into place so perfectly that you wonder how the developers could come up with such an outlandish story and yet have it make perfect sense and come off as totally believable.
If artistic direction were the only means to rate a game graphically than Final Fantasy X would easily merit a perfect score. The worlds that have been lovingly crafted and the way they (and the characters) are presented are second to none in my book. The artists have definitely captured the look and imagination of this world and how it should be properly depicted to the gamer. I was continually blown away with the style. Unfortunately there are many variables that go into determining the overall graphical prowess of a game and it is here (in some areas) where FFX fails to exceed the mark.
The first big drawback with the visuals is the insane amounts of shimmering. The ground, the structures, virtually everything in the background shimmers and jags to some degree. My initial thought when playing the game is that this is what FFVIII would look like if run through BLEEM. It first came off as a hi-res PSOne title…no kidding. Even the clothing on the characters comes off rather blocky and low-poly looking. After playing for a while though I could really start to appreciate the intricacies of the graphics and any thoughts that I earlier entertained about this being a hi-res version of a PSOne game soon vanished forever.
The animation, while quite good, does not manage to exceed many of the 2nd gen PS2 titles that we have seen recently. The characters move along just fine and the summon animations are incredible, but I did notice a bit of stuttering here and there. The hair and clothing animations are very done though with various articles of clothing flowing about as the characters move. What are really impressive though are the background animations. In the jungle areas, blades of grass and tree branches move to and fro from the gentle breeze. Water laps off the shore or the docks. It is all done very convincingly.
The last two little nitpicks are the fact that there is no controllable camera and no real time shadowing. I would have loved to been able to use the right thumb stick to rotate my viewpoint at any given moment…even if just to see the beautiful surroundings. As for the shadowing…there isn’t any. Characters are instead glued to a little round circle that follows them about instead of a genuine shadow.
Now for the good stuff! The texturing and color palette used in FFX is awesome. Everything from the characters to the backgrounds is fully 3-D and textured up the wazoo (yes, that is the technical term). Fine little details like sew marks, buttons and intricate wall patterns and designs are everywhere. All of the visuals are fresh without repeating textures and the like. The colors are really eye-catching too with rich vibrant hues that appear to jump right off the screen and bring the visuals to life.
The cut scenes are comprised of two primary presentations: CG graphics and real-time using the in-game graphics engine. The CG scenes, as expected, are fabulous. In typical Square fashion, they have managed to produce jaw-dropping CG’s for some of the pivotal moments in the game. The other cut scenes that use the in game engine are also well done and as an added bonus, they melt seamlessly into the actual gameplay. There were a few times that I didn’t realize it was time to start controlling the character again…except for the fact that the little in game map appears in the upper left side of the screen when its go time.
Taking everything into account and combining the artistic with the technical, FFX certainly scores big in the eye candy department…but I still expected better. Perhaps I am just being too picky, the game DOES look marvelous and indeed blows many games out of the water and may very well be a showcase title to show off to friends. I do however get the feeling that this is just the beginning of far better things to come from Square. There was certainly a big leap in visuals from FFVII to FFVIII and I can’t help but expect the same thing here in future Final Fantasy titles.
New to the Final Fantasy series is the use of spoken dialogue. Being the first time that Square has attempted this in a Final Fantasy series, I was certainly skeptical if they could pull it well. Thankfully my fears were for naught. The voice acting is in fact top rate and scripted extremely well. All of the key characters, as well as quite a few of the sub characters have their own voice actors and the voices actually fit in well with the characters…with the exception of perhaps Titus. For the most part, Titus’ voice is just fine (especially during story narrations when Titus is directing his dialogue to the gamer), but there are a few times when he gets excited that his voice gets all high-pitched and whiny. Whenever that happened I just had to roll my eyes and say “oh well” nothings perfect. The lip-syncing is a bit off though, but the expressions and body language that go along with the voices is very well done.
Returning once again to compile the musical score is veteran FF composer Nobuo Uematsu. His sweeping, epic themes are trademark to the FF series and in Final Fantasy X Nobuo san once again displays his mastery with integrating highly elaborate musical licks that blend in so well with the story that gamers will get totally immersed as a result. I also love the fact that the “end battle” theme as well as variations on other past FF songs is present in this game.
Soundwise, I can’t find any fault either. All of the appropriate noises, ambient sound effects, etc. are all present and accounted and perfectly melded into the overall structure of the game.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Final Fantasy 10' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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