Mon Jan 21 2013 at 1:01 PM
Picture, if you will, the year 2000. Sony's Playstation had utterly dominated the previous console generation, with a strong userbase of over 100 million units in homes across the world. Nintendo's N64, while still a success, was nowhere near the sheer juggernaut of newcomer Sony, or even their previous two home consoles. A new generation of gaming was coming, and Sony decided to step things up a little, announcing the Playstation's successor. The hype for the Playstation 2 was astronomically huge, its announcement and buzz generated spelled the death of Sega's Dreamcast and forced them out of the console-making business! And, what's more, Square announced that the tenth installment in their Final Fantasy series would be coming to PS2 with a Japanese release date of July 2001. (North America got it in December the same year, while Europe and Australia had to wait till May 2002).
For some perspective. Final Fantasy VII was a blockbuster and one of the single most important games for the original Playstation, selling 10 million copies, redefining the RPG genre, and being hugely acclaimed by fans and reviewers alike. Final Fantasy VIII and IX too were financially-successful critical darlings, establishing Final Fantasy as a major asset for both Square and Sony. So, as you can imagine, the thought of Final Fantasy on a console four times the power of the PS1 was something that caused gamers all over to collectively froth at the mouth. Nintendo, meanwhile, was probably kicking themselves for going with cartridges rather than discs for the N64 (up to that point, all FF games were Nintendo exclusives, and the limitations of cartridges prompted Square to hook up with Sony, y'see).
Anyway, Square pulled no punches in the development of Final Fantasy X. The game had a crew of over 100 people and a budget of four billion yen (which translates to about 32 million American dollars). As both the tenth installment in the series and the first for Playstation 2, its innovations are nothing to sneeze at. It was the first true 3D game in the series, with real-time, fully-modelled environments as opposed to the PS1 installments' pre-rendered bitmaps. It was the first game to drop the traditional experience point and level up system. And, the reason most relevant to the site, it was the first to include full voice acting.
To this day, Final Fantasy X is one of the most popular entries in the series. It sold over 6 million copies and has received numerous awards, with Japanese magazine Famitsu even referring to it as the greatest video game of all time.
But you didn't click on this for a retrospective, did you? It's my opinion you're looking for right? So, without further ado, onto the review!
* Warning: This review contains spoilers *
Wow. Just... wow. The Final Fantasy series is known for its brilliant storylines, and I can safely say that X has the best of the bunch. FFX tells the story of Tidus, an upbeat teenage boy from Zanarkand, the city that never sleeps. One day, during a blitzball tournament (the most popular sport in Zanarkand; it's basically underwater rugby), Zanarkand is ravaged by a massive monstrosity known as Sin. Tidus awakens in an unfamiliar land, which he later learns is known as Spira. As for Zanarkand? According to the locals, it was destroyed thousands of years ago! Tidus finds himself in this strange, futuristic world very much a fish out of water. After being brought by Sin to the island of Besaid, Tidus meets a summoner named Yuna. In Spira, a summoner's duty is to "send" the souls of the dead (granting them peace; unsent souls are essentially ghosts, not to mention that all of the game's enemy monsters originate as unsent people), and most importantly, to go on a pilgrimage to stop Sin, if only temporarily.
Twists and turns come around the corner in FFX. As Tidus is an avatar for the player, they learn things at the same time he does. Over the course of the game, Tidus and the player learn more about Spira, Zanarkand, Yuna, Sin,. Every plot revelation is earth-shaking and alters not only the course of the story from then on, but also provides alternate perspectives when examining scenes in retrospect. Many of them are genuinely saddening.
Although the game itself looks bright and cheery with its colourful graphics, the story of FFX is one of the gloomiest in the series. Ultimately, Spira is a bleak world ruled by death. All of the people live in constant fear of Sin, an all-destroying monster that cannot be permanently killed. The aeons brought by summoners are physical manifestations of deceased souls. As Auron describes it himself, "[Spira] is a cycle of death, spiralling endlessly." Another central theme is religion. Spira is dominated by the religion of Yevon, with the Al Bhed being a minority, but the maesters of Yevon are in fact corrupt and ensuring that the cycle of death continues by sending more and more summoners on futile pilgramages to defeat Sin and die in the process. If there is one word that describes the storyline of FFX, it would be "bittersweet".
Finally, another central part of FFX is the love story. Romance has always been part of the games (see Cecil, Kain, and Rosa in IV, or Locke and Celes in VI), but starting with VII FF began to make it a love story a central part of the plot. VII had the triangle between Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa. VIII basically wrapped the whole story around the warmhearted Rinoa as she defrosted Squall's heart. IX had the growing relationship between Zidane and Princess Garnet. One thing you'll notice is that they all end happily. X, on the other hand, is a prime example of the star-crossed lovers dynamic. As cute a couple Tidus and Yuna are, they simply are not meant to be. Their relationship and what they go through is absolutely the franchise at its most heart-wrenching.
What makes the story truly amazing is not just the basic plotline, but the mythology and the whole world of Spira. The developers have placed incredible amount of love into crafting the game world, inventing mythology, culture, religions, and races. Though death is a central motif of the game, Spira is ironically enough one of the most "alive" settings not only in the series, but gaming as a whole. With the amount of detailt they put into creating Spira, you'd think there's an actual full history textbook of the place somewhere in Square's offices!
I will wrap up my thoughts on the storyline on one last note: the ending? Have a box of tissues handy. You'll need it.
Putting things very, very simply, there are three main aspects of FFX's gameplay: map/field screens, battle, and the blitzball minigame. That being said, simply saying that what I just said scratches the surface is highly, HIGHLY understating things.
The most notable thing about FFX's field screens is that (ye gods) there is no world map! Instead, the majority of locations on Spira are connected in a linear fashion. For example, the city of Luca has an exit leading to the Mi'ihen Highroad. Travelling across the Highroad takes you to Mushroom Rock. At the end of Mushroom Rock Road is a split path, one leading to the Djose Temple, and another to Guadosalam. Furthermore, while inns still exist in the game (and they're free to boot), they're basically a novelty as the save points found along the way will heal your party completely. Notably, this really blurs the line between traditional dungeons (of which places like Mt. Gagazet and Via Purifico are examples of) and open lands that would have likely be part of the world map in previous games (the Calm Lands).
The linearity is a commonly-criticized aspect of FFX, but to tell the truth, I don't really mind it. Every FF game is linear to some extent, and to be honest, having the characters simply travel on a path from one place to the next really enhanced the feeling of a player embarking on a journey just as the characters are in-game.
Not to mention, that once the player finally gets the airship (which is during the very last leg of the game), all of that linearity is thrown out of the window. Not only can the player go wherever they want, but they can also use the airship to find new locations. The two most notable are Baaj Temple, the derelict ruin that Tidus visited at the start of the game, and the Omega Ruins, a sprawling dungeon filled with some of the toughest creatures in the game.
Also, getting the airship causes roughly eighty billion sidequests to open up. Seriously; there is just so much to do that it's overwhelming. When I beat the game for the first time, I had clocked 60 hours. Only about 40 of those were the actual storyline, which is actually a bit on the shorter side by FF standards. The remaining third was just doing sidequests. There's the Monster Arena, where one can fight not only the monsters they have caught, but also exceedingly difficult bonus bosses. You can collect the Jecht Spheres, which show flashbacks that flesh out Jecht, Braska, and Auron's characters. Then there are the Celestial Weapons. Broken beyond belief, but unless you're a completionist, getting them isn't worth it. Why? Because by that point in the game you should be highly powerful anyway, and while getting the weapons themselves isn't hard, collecting the Sigils to actually make them useful is one of the most sadistic and frustrating tasks ever put in a video game. On one hand, if you've been doing most of the sidequests (read: collecting her optional aeons and helping the Monster Arena guy), collecting and upgrading Yuna's weapon isn't a problem. The others? Let's just say that Lulu's sigil requires dodging 200 lightning bolts in a row with precision timing. It's a nice challenge if you're a masochist, but ultimately the celestial weapons are just a bonus.
Oh, speaking of weapons, they have no effect on stats like they used to. Instead, what sets weapons apart from each other is that each weapon provides a character with different abilities. For example, one of Auron's swords may have the "Poisontouch" ability, which will poison any enemy he attacks. Some shields may have "No Encounters", which completely (and thankfully!) eliminate random encounters. For all of FFX's innovations, it IS rather strange that it still uses the archaic random encounter system after Square's own Chrono Trigger did away with it even in 1995, but I digress.
Now, onto the battle system. FFX throws out the Active-Time Battle system used in every entry in the series from IV onward, replacing it with a new system designed by Toshiro Tsuchida known as CTB, Conditional Turn-Based. CTB is halfway between ATB and the first three games' traditional turn-based combat. Here's how it works.
The player characters and the enemies have their standard turns, so fights are not realtime like with the ATB system. But, certain actions in battle can cause either the player or the enemy's next turn to be delayed, essentially meaning that not everyone is guaranteed an equal amount of turns. For example, with default settings, Tidus can get two attacks, and an enemy can get two attacks. But, if Tidus uses an attack that's very strong, he may only get to move once before his next turn, letting the enemy get three attacks in before that happens. However, spells like Haste and Slow can be used to ensure one side has an advantage. If Tidus casts Hastega on his team and then Slowga on the enemy team, the enemies will get fewer turns and his group will be able to perform more actions before the enemy can act. So what it boils down to is that if you play your cards right, characters can actually take multiple turns before the enemy even gets a chance.
Another change that's highly welcomed is that FFX eliminates the old system of being able to change your party only on the world map or at save points. All party members are present at all times and can be freely switched in and out during battle. This provides a great amount of strategy. You can have Tidus speed up the party with Hastega, switch out for Auron to dish out some damage, bring Yuna in for healing, and then Rikku to steal some items. It's very involving. Aside from that, the battles are recognizably FF. Attack, use magic (which uses MP), use potions and Cure spells to keep HP high, watch for status ailments, etc. It's nice that even with all of X's innovations to keep it fresh, at the core it maintains the series's staple gameplay.
As for the enemies themselves, there's a decent variety of them. We've got some new creatures, plus Final Fantasy staples like the Malboros (their Bad Breath attack will cause a number of status ailments), Tonberries (they counter all moes with an attack that deals damage based on the number of enemies you've killed), and Cactuars (defeat them before they run away for a hefty amount of AP). Just like always, they provide AP, gil (currency), and the occasional item.
FFX eliminates the traditional EXP system, so characters do not gain levels in the same way as older games. Instead, we are introduced to the Sphere Grid, which allows players to customize the characters as they see fit. Participating in battle earns the characters ability points, which they can use to progress on the sphere grid, using spheres to unlock nodes that give them new abilities or stat boosts. The Sphere Grid provides a level of customization comparable to, if not better than the Materia system in FFVII. While all characters do have predetermined paths at first (for example, Yuna's base stats and position on the grid encourage making her into a white mage), things do open up. So you can have Lulu use healing spells, Auron with access to Tidus's speed... Kimahri starts out in the middle, so he can access everyone's section of the grid. Unfortunately, the fact that he has no true specialties means that Kimahri is left behind by many a player. I know that all this may sound complicated in writing, but once you get the hang of it, the CTB and Sphere Grid are highly intuitive. They give the player an increased sense of involvement in the gameplay. It's brilliant.
The summoning system is different too. Previously, summons were glorified magic spells; summoning a monster would result in them only using one attack. Yuna's aeons are just as much characters as the other party members, with access to their own attacks, magic spells, and overdrives. Yojimbo and the Magus Sisters are particularly unique; Yojimbo must be paid gil in order to attack (and even then, the attack he uses is random), while the Magus Sisters are three aeons in one, but they too are essentially random in how they act. Anima is also unique, in the sense that summoning and using her overdrive turns the game into "press X to win"!
All characters and Aeons (except for Yojimbo) possess a powerful attack unique to them known as an Overdrive. The Overdrive system functions similarly to the Limit Breaks of VII and VIII. The characters have an Overdrive gauge that fills up slowly after meeting criteria (by default, this would mean getting hit by enemies, but you can unlock alternate ways to fill it later). Tidus, Wakka, and Auron's overdrives are simply powerful attacks, Yuna's overdrive allows her to summon Aeons in overdrive, Lulu can cast multiple magic spells, and Kimahri can use the skills he's absorbed from enemies using his Lancet technique.
Most Final Fantasy games admittedly aren't too hard if you know what you're doing, but X is a bit closer on the challenging side due to its new battle system and some legitimately difficult bosses (I'm looking at you, Yunalesca and Seymour Flux). Still, even the meanest of these bosses have some weaknesses that can be creatively exploited, and the lack of realtime combat reduces a lot of the stress that would've existed in previous games.
Finally, there is one last aspect of FFX's gameplay that I must address: blitzball! At save points, you can take a break from the storyline to play blitzball. For a minigame, it is astonishingly deep, featuring its own cast of recruitable characters (who can be met at various cities across Spira) with unique stats. The basics of blitzball are as follows. You assemble a team, swim around an underwater court, pass the ball to players when necessary (e.g. they have better stats for throwing, or you're about to get jumped by the other team), shoot, and score. It may sound simple in theory, but almost everything in blitzball is determined by a number of calculations. Examining statistics both of your players and the opponents is key to victory.
For example, when the player comes into contact with one of the opponents, they can choose to either "break through" (endure a tackle) or pass the ball. Choosing the "break through" is when the opponent's attack and your endurance stat come into play. If your endurance is higher than their attack stat, the player can survive the tackle and press onward. If not, they will have the ball taken from them. If they pass the ball, they must make sure their passing stat is higher than the opponent's blocking stat, otherwise the ball will most likely not make it to your fellow teammate.
Blitzball is definitely one of the most fun and involving minigames in the series. If Square wanted to, they could make blitzball into a whole game by itself. It helps that the music that plays during games is extremely catchy!
The gameplay is overall very solid due to how complete a package FFX is. You get so much bang for your buck that it's not even close to funny. Aside from some gripes like the tediousness of some sidequests and the random battles, there is really not much to dislike about the gameplay.
After taking a short break from the series, with no involvement in Final Fantasy IX, Tetsuya Nomura returned to design the main cast of FFX.
Tidus: (James Arnold Taylor/Masakazu Morita) The main character, and obviously one with the most development. While a lot of people dislike Tidus for being whiny, what he does is justified. Tidus provides a great viewpoint character from the story, and seeing him develop from an overly-energetic, loud-mouthed teen to a calm, smart, and brave hero is highly satisfying. With that being said, his outfit is nothing short of hideous.
Yuna: (Hedy Burress/Mayuko Aoki) The co-protagonist. Yuna is a young summoner and the daughter of Lord Braska, who died fighting Sin ten years ago. Yuna is rather shy and keeps to herself most of the time, but over the course of the game, she learns to become more outgoing, confident, and happy. One of the most popular female characters in the series, and for good reason.
Auron: (Matt McKenzie/Hideo Ishikawa) Every Final Fantasy game has either a token "mysterious, badass loner" or "the old, wise one". Auron, as the oldest member of the party, is just that. He's very quiet and serious all the time, never once cracking a smile. Ten years ago, he went on a pilgrimage with Jecht and Braska, and acted as a mentor to Tidus in Zanarkand. Mysteriously, he shows up in Spira too. Though the story doesn't focus on him specifically, Auron is a very developed and deep character. Collecting the Jecht spheres and learning about his past fleshes him out immensely and adds a great deal of depth to his character.
Wakka: (John DiMaggio/Kazuya Nakai) One of the first people Tidus meets on Spira. Wakka's one of Yuna's guardians and a hardcore blitzball player (even though his team is one of the worst in Spira). As a devout follower of Yevon, he really hates the Al Bhed. Thankfully, he gets over his racist tendencies by the end of the game. Aside from the racism, Wakka is overall a likable fellow.
Lulu: (Paula Tiso/Rio Natsuki) Lulu is icy. She's rather blunt and serious to the point that she seems harsh, but she is intelligent with a mastery of black magic, and she does care for her friends deep down. She doesn't feel quite as developed as the others to me, but she is nonetheless a likable character, not to mention very useful in battle.
Rikku: (Tara Strong/Marika Matsumoto) Rikku's one of my favourite characters. Most FF games have an "energetic young girl" type, but I've never really liked many of them. Rikku is a great example of this archetype done right; she's genuinely likable, never annoying, and developed so that she's not boring. She provides a great deal of lighthearted relief to an otherwise gloomy story.
Kimahri Ronso: (John DiMaggio/Katsumi Cho) Kimahri... there's not really a lot to say about him. He's part of the Ronso tribe, where he was shunned by his peers for his comparitively small size (he still hulks over everyone else in the party). He doesn't really say much, do much, or get a whole lot of development. As mentioned previously, he's also rather neglected in battle due to his lack of specific strengths. Generally, he's just... there. Kimahri's not a bad character per se, he's just criminally underdeveloped.
Seymour Guado: (Alex Fernandez/Junichi Suwabe) The game's primary antagonist. Seymour is basically Kefka, Kuja, and Sephiroth as one character; he's got Kefka's nihilism and destructiveness, Kuja's feminity, and Sephiroth's mommy issues. He is a respected half-human, half-Guado Maester of Yevon who wants to become the next Sin. Why? He believes life to be pointless and that by killing the people of Spira, he is in fact saving them from their miserable lives. A pretty good and effective villain, though he unfortunately loses a good bit of importance by the endgame when destroying Sin itself becomes the top priority. Briefly playable during the fight against Sinspawn Gui.
Jecht: (Gregg Berger/Masuo Amada) Tidus's father, whom he hates. He went on a pilgrimage with Auron and Braska ten years ago. In order to defeat Sin, Braska had to perform the Final Summoning, and Jecht offered himself to become the Final Aeon. Due to the way the cycle of Sin works, this resulted in Jecht becoming Sin upon its revival. Jecht, in the form of Braska's Final Aeon, is the game's final boss. Though he often talked down to Tidus, deep down they truly do care for each other, as seen during the aftermath of said battle. Another great character.
There are many other supporting characters throughout the game, too. There's Bahamut's Fayth, a ghostly boy who guides Tidus, Rin, an Al Bhed who owns many of the inns across Spira where the heroes rest up, Dona and Isaaru, a pair of summoners who are also on pilgrimages with their respective guardians, Rikku's father and airship expert Cid, and more. These NPCs are likable and while not many of them are naturally as memorable as the heroes, they do provide an important presence. Though some characters are underdeveloped, as a whole the cast of FFX is enjoyable and service the plotline very well.
The dialogue itself is solid, with a good deal of memorable lines throughout the game. Special props go to the various internal monologues spoken by Narrator!Tidus, Seymour's life speeches, and a good deal of Auron's quotes.
Though it's not quite as fun and memorable as the translations for VI and IX, the writing and translation are very well-done, with few-to-no major outright errors. However, there are a few noticeable flaws. Since the lip-sync couldn't be redone to match the English dialogue, some lines are filled with filler. Case in point: Rikku says "you know?" practically every other sentence. One conversation, without exaggeration, goes exactly like this:
Rikku: Zanarkand's on the other side, you know?
Tidus: I know.
Rikku: Yunie's going to summon the Final Aeon, you know?
Tidus: I know.
Yeah. Another funny thing about the translation is that Tidus at one point mispronounces Macalania Temple, causing Wakka to correct him. Unfortunately, Tidus's mispronounciation is dated beyond belief; he calls it Macarena Temple. Can you tell this game's from the early 2000s!?
Another interesting quirk about the writing: the game allows you to change Tidus's name, as was the case with the older games. But, because the game is fully voiced, they could not anticipate what name would be chosen by the player. Because of this, Tidus's name is never spoken once throughout the entire game. It gets a little awkward when the cast includes his father, his mentor, and the girl who loves him, none of whom ever call him by name, or the scene towards the opening where Rikku tells him her name, but he doesn't say his. Still, this is more of a strange little quirk than a genuine flaw. The ability to change character names was completely dropped starting with XII, allowing the protagonists' names to be spoken.
The writing's pretty good. It's serviceable most of the time, but it can get pretty awkward. At the very least, there's nothing on par with VII's infamous "this guy are sick".
The voice acting is a sticking point for a lot of fans. Some people go as far as to claim that it's terrible! But is it really?
Really, no, it's not. All of the voice actors sound completely in character. John DiMaggio is typically very recognizable, but he does an amazing job at distinguishing his twin roles of Wakka and Kimahri. Wakka's faux-Jamaican accent sets him apart from his many other roles, while Kimahri is almost unrecognizable. Alex Fernandez is a delight as Seymour; he sounds elegant and dignified, but also equally sinister. He also excels at playing up Seymour's hammy and insane sides which we see later in the game!
Tidus and Yuna attract the most criticism. Do they deserve it? In my opinion, no, not really. People's main criticism of Tidus is that he's whiny. But hey, he's a loud-mouthed teenager who just got taken from his hoem land. JAT nailed that part of him. Plus, Tidus narrates the game, and his narrator self is a lot wiser and more mature. JAT sounds totally different as the narrator, and he completely gets it. It sounds just like an older version of someone looking back at their young self. Plus, you've got to consider that Tidus was actually one of his first major roles as a voice actor. Considering that, he did a pretty good job. As for Yuna, the script and her character call for her to be quiet and not particularly confident so it's not really Hedy Burress's fault that she delivered the lines that way. Plus, she really made Yuna sound sweet and likable.
One of the most often-criticized scenes is the "laughing scene", which you can see below.
However, allow me to explain that scene. Tidus has just learned from Auron that Sin is his father, Jecht. Naturally, learning that his father is the force that brings fear and hopelessness to Spira crushes Tidus severely. So Yuna tries to cheer him up by asking him to laugh. Because Tidus has been so affected by this revelation, his laughing comes off as stilted and forced. Yuna even realizes this, asking him to stop because her idea isn't working. Tidus doesn't stop, and so Yuna joins in the fun by laughing in an equally fake way. This causes the two of them to see the humour in the whole thing, and they start laughing for real (notice how genuine they sound there?). Unfortunately, the clip is very frequently taken out of context and used as an example of bad voice acting, when really it isn't. The scene is actually kind of sweet, when you think about it.
One real flaw that's not really the fault of the voice actors is that sometimes, in order to get a line to fit, the scene properly, the sound editors would actually speed up certain lines. The effect is very noticeable (this part is the biggest and most hilarious that comes to mind). There are some other, more human slipups; O'aka XXII and Wantz's accents (which I believe are supposed to be Cockney) are rather inconsistent. Some lines are delivered a bit strangely, but this is likely because voice director Jack Fletcher and the actors weren't given proper context, which is quite common when dubbing Japanese games.
Even the NPCs are well-voiced. Maechen, an exceedingly minor role, is voiced by Dwight Schultz with such clear diction and such theatrical delivery that every line of his is a joy to listen to. John DeMita not only breathes life and class into the seasoned warrior Luzzu, but also does a hilarious job as the Hypello! "Rides ze shoopuf!? All aboards!!" Michael McShane and David Rasner are clearly having fun as Cid and Brother, Julia Fletcher's Yunalesca is calm and classy yet eerie and ominous, and Debi Derryberry brings both youth and an air of mystery to Bahamut's Fayth.
While rough around the edges, for a first attempt at Square handling full VO for such a massive project, FFX turned out quite well. It is at the very least nowhere near as terrible as infamous dubs like Resident Evil or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The dubs of XII and XIII would learn from X's mistakes by refining and smoothing out the process, resulting in higher-quality voice work.
Say what you will about the voice acting, but on paper, the casting is excellent. The cast consists not only of Jack Fletcher alumni like John DeMita, Sherry Lynn, Julia Fletcher, and Matt K. Miller, but also established animation voice actors like Tara Strong, Cree Summer, Tom Kenny, Gregg Berger, and Candi Milo. It also features some relatively early roles for Quinton Flynn, Paula Tiso, Andre Sogliuzzo, and of course, James Arnold Taylor, before they had really hit it big in the industry. All of them are cast well, fitting their parts very nicely. The only casting choice that's really less than stellar is Cree Summer as the young Tidus; her voice is too husky for a young boy and doesn't sound too much like JAT's. Thankfully, it's a small role and she does a lot better in her primary part of Belgemine. Aside from that, I've got no qualms at all with the casting.
Matt McKenzie as Auron, full stop. He nailed Auron's quiet, serious demeanor, and delivered his lines with such precise delivery. The truly amazing thing is that while he reads his lines in an entirely calm way, it's completely in character the whole time, never once sounding like he's simply reading off the script. Not to mention that he also does a great job in the Jecht Sphere flashbacks, where we see a younger Auron who's much more brash and impatient. Auron never had a single line that I felt sounded awkward or could've been done better. He does an absolute bang-up job.
"Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose! Die, and be free of pain, or live, and fight your sorrows! Now is the time to shape your stories! Your fate is in your hands!" - Auron
For a game released only in the PS2's second year and nearly 12 years ago today, FFX looks gorgeous, the environments in particular. Locations like tropical Besaid Island, Macalania Woods, and Zanarkand are absolutely breathtaking. The character models aren't too shabby either. Okay, while the basic character models do show their age a bit, for close-ups and important scenes with the main characters, they will switch to high-res character models that are much more detailed. These high-res models have aged very well and still look great even today.
Of course, it's not a post-VII Final Fantasy game without loads of FMVs, and X is no exception. The FMVs look great! Thanks to improved budget and technology, they look extremely fluid and are almost film-like in quality. While VIII and IX had very high-quality FMVs that still look wonderful today (FF8's waltz scene, anyone?), it says a lot that they look almost primitive compared to the speed, smoothness, and fluidity of the ones seen in FFX. The scene with Tidus and Yuna at Macalania Woods at the top of this section is a prime example. Pure, unadulterated, beauty.
The only thing I don't really like about the graphics is that the magic spells don't look as impressive as they did in VIII and IX. They seem to be missing a bit of flair. However, as if to make up for it, the summoning and overdrive sequences for Yuna's aeons are downright spectacular.
Considering the time period FFX was made as well as the fact that the graphics hold up well even today, they get a big-time pass from me.
Music / Sound
Final Fantasy is known for its beautiful soundtracks, referred to as among the best in gaming. Longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu composed the majority of the soundtrack for this game, but for the first time, he didn't do it entirely by himself. He received some help from newcomers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. Thankfully, they picked worthy people to assist Uematsu, because the soundtrack is no less stellar than the franchise's high standards. The music is incredibly varied, utilizing a wide variety of instruments and genres, from orchestral, to techno, to even heavy metal. There's even an in-game sound test; in Luca, Music Spheres can be purchased containing various tracks from the game. A good idea, because this is definitely one of the best soundtracks in the series. Here, I will examine five of the highlights and provide samples for you to listen to.
- "Movement in Green" (composed by Uematsu, arranged by Nakano) - A lively arrangement of "To Zanarkand", the game's melancholy main theme, playing on certain map screens (most notably the Moonflow). What makes "Movement in Green" great is how the lively and upbeat instruments play such a sad melody. This contrast perfectly summarizes the bittersweet nature of FFX's storyline.
- "Luca" (Nakano) - A happy, relaxing piece that plays in the city of Luca. A joy to listen to and very catchy. Almost sounds like the kind of thing that would play in a shopping mall!
- "People of the North Pole" (Hamauzu) - The theme of Mt. Gagazet. A very serene piece that mainly uses string instruments. I love the Asian influences here!
- "Fight with Seymour" (Uematsu) - Plays during the final showdown with Seymour at the game's climax. This synth-heavy track emphasizes both Seymour's evil brutality, plus a melody that represents the tragedy of his character. The buildup at the beginning, going from synth, to a choir humming, to crashing cymbals is nothing short of exciting. Somewhat inexplicably, it's not included in the game's sound test. One of Uematsu's greatest works.
- "Suteki da ne?" (Uematsu) - The game's main vocal theme. Sung by Japanese singer Rikki, it's a classic Japanese pop song that acts as a central motif for the game (Yuna's Theme is a rearrangement of it, for example). Rikki's voice is wonderful and the instrumentation is exotic, the song's lyrics and performance again perfectly summarizing the bittersweet nature of the game. Simply a beautiful piece.
Final Fantasy X is a masterpiece of a game. It summarizes everything that I love about the series. A compelling storyline, hours upon hours of gameplay, a brilliant soundtrack, lovable characters, and more. Not to mention that it'll always have a special place in my heart for being my first exposure to the franchise. If you can play only one Final Fantasy game in your life, make it this one.
...of course, you can't go wrong with VI, VII, or IX either, but you know what I mean!