Classic or re-run? It is
entirely up to the gamer.
Ah, the Final Fantasy series.
There is probably no other RPG series that has as much popularity or history.
From humble beginnings on the Nintendo Entertainment System, all the way to the
nextgen consoles and even the PC, the series has gone a long way indeed. But
one question lingers in everyone's mind except maybe the hardcore FF fans; Is
the series losing its edge? Many called FF8 a complete disaster, because it
wasn't true to its history. Gone were the memorable and dynamic characters,
well crafted story lines, and most of all, entertainment. One can help but
question the future of the series. Luckily, FF9 wasn't as bad, Square tried to
reconnect with its past and ended up with a great game. Does the same go for
The story, like FF8, involves a romance between two characters (Square, leave
the love stories to books or real life, please). Tidus, a whiny athlete with a
traumatic childhood is transported to the land of Spira by a glob of sparkly
mess that the citizens of Zanarkand simply refer to as Sin. There, he finds
himself in the hands of the Al Bhed, a reclusive bunch of tech lovers, that is
until Sin finds him again. This is when the adventure officially begins. Wakka,
the local blitzball coach, finds Tidus at the beach and he offers to take him
in until Tidus can find his way around. Then Tidus eventually meets Yuna, a
high summoner, and immediately develops feelings for her. Haven't we heard this
story before? Much of the story revolves around the summoner's pilgrimage. The
pilgrimage is for the summoner to collect Aeons (summons) and train at the same
time for the eventual showdown with Sin. There are a few story twists, but
nothing out of the ordinary. Many characters join you along the way, from the
introverted swordsman Auron, all the way to the perky Al Bhed cutie, Rikku.
Gameplay is much like the previous games in the series, with a few exceptions.
Leveling up is an entirely new experience in FFX. Numerical levels are now
obsolete, as they mean absolutely nothing when measuring a character's skill.
The Sphere Grid, a huge board full of small spheres that hold various
improvements and abilities, replaces the old method of advancement. It is hard
to explain using words; Once a character has gained, lets say, five levels,
they may move five spheres on the grid. Each sphere can be activated (since
they hold good stuff) by using a corresponding item. Improvements in strength,
defense, etc are activated by a Strength sphere. Mana spheres activate magic
related stats, Ability spheres activate just that, and Fortune spheres activate
luck improvements. I'm sure it sounds complicated, and it is. The only way to
learn it well is to practice using it. This method of character advancement is
actually very creative. In this way, you can tune your characters in the way
you want. Fighters can boost their strength and spell casters can improve their
magic skills. When it comes to mini games, FFX does not take the cake. The only
real minigame you get is blitzball, which is a mix of soccer, rugby, and
football. You can sign players and level up as you play. It's very
entertaining, but it can be difficult to learn. Combat is done just like in the
previous games, only three party members are allowed in a battle, but you can
switch members on the fly, without penalty. This can be very useful since some
battles may require the use everyone's skills. One new addition to the battle
screen is a bar that shows the order of action. It shows the portrait of each
person in the order that they will have their turn. This comes in handy when
you need to time your healing spells and such. There are fewer summons this
time around, but they are much more powerful and nothing less than creative.
From the incredibly greedy Youjimbo, to the horrid Anima, all of the summons
have their own personalities and strengths.
The main problem with FFX's gameplay is the lack of gameplay. Much of the
beginning (and most of the game, for that matter) is cutscenes. In another nod
to change and innovation, Square has killed off the overworld map in FFX.
Players will no longer travel all over the world, but now simply follow a
linear set of events (marked by a mini-map), making FFX probably the shallowest
Final Fantasy game ever, next to FF8. I was continually bored into submission
by cutscene after cutscene and unimaginative bosses. Let me end this paragraph
by saying that FFX probably has the WORST endgame boss than any other game I've
played. Even the monsters in the monster arena offer more of a challenge.
While the story is an uncreative mess, fortunately, the graphics are far from
disappointing. PS2 owners need not look elsewhere for a game to show off the
power of their system. FFX sports incredibly high poly counts and beautifully
crafted models. Eyebrows, eyeballs, and even Wakka's stubble shave are visible.
This game truly matches CG video. But, of course, this kind of detail comes
with a hefty price. The models are rendered in two ways, a low and high detail
mode. Only during dialogue or cutscene are the characters modeled in high
detail mode. In battle or short conversations, models are in low detail mode.
Not a big loss since a good amount of the game is spent blabbing or acting.
Maybe this was part of the developer's plan? FFX also strays from its previous
incarnations by converting the backdrops to full 3D. Pre-rendered scenes are no
longer used, the entire world is in 3D. This is both good and bad in many ways.
Characters now feel like they're in the world, unlike in previous FFs, where
they seemed as if they actors on a stage backdrop. But when all characters are
on screen at once, the graphics engine starts to choke from the sheer amount of
polygons it has to render. The camera also suffers from many problems. It is no
longer in a fixed position, it often swings as the character moves around. This
can be very annoying, since the camera can't catch up sometimes and you have to
stop moving in order to see yourself. Playing blitzball or the chocobo training
minigames often become frustrating since you can't see where you're going
because of the camera. Summoning Aeons is a whole new experience in FFX as
well. The summoning cutscenes are now much shorter (and can be made even
shorter), but still inspiring to watch.
One of the things that the Final Fantasy series is known for is its brilliant
music. Unfortunately, FFX's soundtrack failed to amaze me. There are a few
songs that are decent, such as the remixed Final Fantasy theme and the Hymn of
The Fayth, but most of the soundtrack is indeed disappointing, it fails to
inspire like the previous games did. In-game sound effects are usual fare, but
again, Square has added something radically new to the FF series. FFX is the
first in the series' history to have seiyuus (voice actors). The voice acting
is mediocre and not even close to impressive.
When it comes right down do it, FFX is both a beginning and an end to the
illustrious series. The formula that has made the games so successful over the
past several years is being dumped, or assimilated, rather, in order to make
the series more innovative. Maybe it's just me, I am a fan of nostalgia, but
there is no doubt that some of the choices that Square made with FFX were
completely unnecessary. As a hardcore FF fan, FFX isn't exactly what I was
looking for, I wanted an RPG, not a soap opera.
Highs: Beautiful graphics, innovative, high production
Lows: Linear gameplay, story's been done to death, can be boring
Bottom Line: It's still Final Fantasy, but with radical changes. Some may
welcome them, some may not, but times change and this particular reviewer isn't
happy about it.