My Top 5 Games of 2001: #3 Final Fantasy X (PS2)

Developed: Squaresoft
Published: Square Electronic Arts
Genre: JRPG
Platform: PS2

If anyone has been paying attention to this blog, and I know that nobody is but regardless, you've probably been wondering why I haven't been posting as much lately. First: I've been playing a lot of games that I bought over the holiday season, and second: this God damn article. As I said at the end of my top 15 games of 2011 article, I had just about finished this article when I made a mistake and hit the undo button.

The entire article decided to disappear and nothing I did would bring it back. It didn't help that blogger auto saves constantly, which is normally a great feature, but not if it's gonna erase an entire article. This was going to be a full plot summary but I just don't have the motivation for that, especially since I don't like the plot in this game nearly as much as ones that I fully summarized in the past.

Anyway, Final Fantasy X was one of three games (the other 2 being the next 2 games in this top 5) that had me at a level of hype for the PS2 that has yet to be equaled for another platform. I guess the fact that I was like 12 at the time helped but regardless, I really wanted to play this game. Final Fantasy X is the story of a sports star who gets sent to the future and is caught up in the battle against a huge, world destroying beast. It was the first game in the FF series to feature voice acting and has maybe my favorite battle system in any RPG, though its leveling system may be a bit complex.

Final Fantasy X is the story of Tidus, a young man who plays the fictional sport of blitzball. The city of Zanarkand where he lives comes under attack one day by a huge monster known as Sin who transports Tidus 1000 years into the future where Technology has regressed for whatever reason. Sin is still around after a millennium and seems to follow poor Tidus wherever he goes.

He soon meets a group of people on a journey to destroy Sin by helping the "summoner" of their group learn to summon powerful beings known as aeons. They travel the world visiting temples where they gain new aeons and eventually find that the leader of their religion, Yevon, was responsible for Sin's existence. They defeat Sin and Yevon but find out that Tidus and Zanarkand are just figments of the Aeons imaginations or whatever and he apparently ceases to exist.

As far as the story is concerned, it's okay but has a lot of dumb elements that Spoony talked about in depth in his scathing review of the game. Your party members are pretty likable though all of them seem to have something wrong with them that keeps them from being lovable.
This is Seymour, one of the main villains. Yep.
 For example, Wakka, your first permanent party member, is usually a pretty nice guy except for one problem: he's racist against a fictional race called the Al Bhed who he considers to be heathens for their use of technology that is banned by the church of Yevon. He eventually gets over it but it really bothers me that an otherwise lovable character is a racist. Also, he's voiced by John DiMaggio. Hmm. A young man is transported 1000 years in the future and befriends a character voiced by John DiMaggio. Sounds familiar.

Probably the worst thing in the game is the fact that the cutscenes are NEVER skippable so you'd better enjoy them if you want to play the game multiple times cause some of them are long. Probably the best example of a scene that you will desperately want to skip every time is this one:
Video brought to us by YouTube user YoshiFan007.

What the unholy hell were they thinking? The voice acting is normally okay, even from those 2, so I don't know what was going on there. They're supposed to be forcing themselves to laugh to try and cheer up but god damn, did the laughing have to be that forced?

Pretty much every other aspect of FFX is great. The graphics are quite dated by today's standards but remember: it came out in 2001. The pre-rendered scenes still look great though. Square is always on the cutting edge in that department. Probably the only company consistently ahead of them (at least in my opinion) is Blizzard. Just search for any of the Diablo III cutscenes that they've released so far and have your mind blown.
Most bestest graphics that will ever exist!
As I said at the beginning, Final Fantasy X has probably my favorite battle system of any JRPG. It's similar to Persona 4 in that it's completely turn based, meaning that enemies won't attack until it's their turn. There's even a handy list on the side of the screen that shows the order for the next few turns. My absolute favorite aspect of the battle system though is the fact that you can switch out a character for another during their turn so your full party of 7 can participate in each battle. No other JRPG that I've played allows that but I'm sure it's present elsewhere. I guess Pokemon counts but you usually only use one at a time. I just negated my own point.

Each party member has a type of enemy that they are good against so you'll need to make good use of character swapping. For example, Tidus is good against fast, ground based enemies but has trouble damaging armored opponents or flying enemies, Wakka does extra damage to flying enemies but less to others, and Lulu, your party's mage, can use magic to easily dispatch enemies with elemental weaknesses. I think the only character without a specific specialty like that is Kimarhi who is similar to Tidus but eventually can take out armored enemies too, pretty much negating Tidus' usefulness.

Like in Persona 4 (I need to stop talking about that game so much), if you use your party's strengths well, you can win battles in no time so exploration is fairly well paced. With this in mind, the game would be really fun to replay if the damn cutscenes were skippable. That should really be a willingly enforced industry rule but whatever.

There are 3 aspects of gameplay that I didn't enjoy so I suppose I should address them. First, and probably the worst of the 3, are the cloister of trials areas that you have to go through before you obtain each aeon. They're puzzle segments where you have to push blocks around and put spheres in walls to make shit happen until you find the way out. They just bored the hell outta me but maybe some people enjoy them.

Second is blitzball, the sport that Tidus plays, which would be the worst of the 3 but you're only have to play it once during the story and you don't even have to win. You're allowed to play it at any save point but I really don't know why you would want to. I can say without hesitation that blitzball is one of the worst minigames I've ever played. It's pretty much underwater quidditch but it's turn based just like regular battles. Watch Spoony's review of FFX if you really wanna know more. He covers pretty much everything.

Lastly is the sphere grid: the character advancement system that FFX uses instead of the usual EXP system in most RPGs. It's just a bit complex but I can't say that I hate it; I just don't care for it. You gain 2 different things from each battle that you win: sphere levels and various types of sphere items. Each character gains sphere levels individually but the sphere items must be shared between them. To increase your character's stats and teach them new abilities they must use their sphere levels and items to move around a giant board known as the sphere grid. It's set up like a board game with hundreds of spaces that are either empty, contain a stat or ability that you can gain, or are a lock that must be removed by rare spheres if you wish to get past them.
Dammit, just look at all this shit.
You must first spend sphere levels to move around, 1 for each space you want to move through. When you get to a stat or ability you want to learn, you use a sphere item on it to gain it. There are a few different types of sphere items and the stat you want to learn corresponds to the type you must use. Abilities all use the same type of sphere item so you need to budget those a bit more. Complicated, huh? I think that's enough of that.

There's actually one other dumb thing about the gameplay. There's a gauntlet of boss fights at the end of the game but the only problem is, the last 2 are literally impossible to lose. The first of the 2 is a fight against all of your aeons, one after the other. The second is against Yevon, who is supposed to be GOD. Sounds rough, right? Wrong. For both of these fights you have auto-life on your characters which makes it impossible to get a game over because your characters are resurrected if they die. Yevon is especially pathetic. He spends almost every turn healing himself so if you cast reflect or zombie on him his heals will either bounce off onto your party or hurt him.

Final Fantasy X is the first game in the series that Nobuo Uematsu didn't compose single-handedly and the last one where he contributed the majority of the songs but the soundtrack is still amazing. The normal battle theme is one of my favorites in any RPG and the music that plays during aeon boss fight is just incredible. I probably should have included it in my top 5 last boss themes since that fight is technically part of the gauntlet of last bosses.

As far as the Final Fantasy series goes, I'd say that X is maybe my 5th favorite. I'll probably do a list some day. Should probably do that for a few series actually. Sweet! New feature idea. 'Cause nobody has ever done that before, right? (they have.) For its time, it was a technical marvel, just like Max Payne. I really though those 2 had the best graphics that there would ever be. I wasn't a very smart kid.

For now, Final Fantasy X is only on PS2 and you can get the game for dirt cheap online but I'd say if you haven't played it already, just wait for the remake that is in development right now for PS3 and Vita. I dunno why they wouldn't do a 360 version as well since they claim it uses the Final Fantasy XIII engine and that game was on 360 but whatever. My PS3 has been gathering dust since my Persona 4 article (no, I didn't replay this one. they should have made the cutscenes skippable.) Also, why the hell would they remake this one before FFVII like everyone in the freaking world wants them to do? Whatever. Article over.

Number 2 in my top 5 games of 2001!
Maybe the weirdest game in an already weird series of stealth action games.

I'll leave you with 2 great songs from FFX. The first, which plays when Tidus first meets Wakka, I believe is called Men Who Bet on Blitz. The second, which plays during the aeon battle, is called (again, this is a guess based on Google translator) Summoned Beast Battle. Anyway, both videos are brought to us by YouTube user PeyserConley.

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