IT DOESN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS!

FINAL FANTASY X REVIEW - PS2

Everyone has a 'favourite game of all time'. That's the beauty of personal opinion ... Everyone draws their own conclusions and there is no such thing as right or wrong. Nobody can give you a statistic that will change your mind because your choice has so many personal factors and certain games will resonate with different types of people.

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In my opinion, Final Fantasy X is the ultimate gaming experience that has never been topped. Sure, it's not a common choice ... But for me, this was a game that ticked every box and reminded me that video games can take you on an emotional journey where you actually feel part of the fictional world.
 
In essence, this superb tenth installment of the franchise is a linear experience for a large portion of the game, but the story and character development works so brilliantly, you can't help but feel as though you're being taken for an unforgettable ride!
 
An unusual factor in this game is that the lead character, Tidus, is initially a bit of an annoying, arrogant shit. Over the course of the game however, you can see how the journey effects him and changes him for the better. In a nutshell, Tidus is a famous Blitzball player from a hi-tech city called Zanarkand. If you're wondering what Blitzball's all about, it's basically like water polo on acid! The most unique aspect is the fact that it's played completely underwater and the players never need to come up for air ... Suspension of disbelieve is definitely required here! Anyway, during a big game in front of a wild crowd, the stadium is attacked by a giant creature called 'Sin 'and Tidus is transported to the world of Spira 1000 years in the future. Poor bloke, I hate it when that happens.
 
Soon after his arrival, Tidus learns that the monster known as Sin has terrorised Spira for centuries and the only way it can be stopped is by a Summoner embarking on a pilgrimage to obtain a powerful being known as the 'Final Aeon' from the now ruined city of Zanarkand. Tidus soon meets the Summoner Yuna, who asks him to join her and her group of Guardians on their journey to defeat Sin. Tidus obviously has a hard time accepting his home is the same place that lies in ruins at the end of their pilgrimage and the people he meets have an equally hard time understanding his situation. The game is so immense with plenty of twists and turns and there is no way I can cover everything in this review ... So the best thing I can do is recommend you play this game and enjoy the awesome story.
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As great as the story is, for the game to be a true classic, it needs to be supported by excellent gameplay. To say that Square Enix deliver in this area would be a major understatement! The tried and tested formula of random battles and leveling up was still in play at this point ... in fact, this was the last entry in the franchise that truly felt like a Final Fantasy game! Instead of reinventing the wheel, Square Enix made some excellent tweaks to this system, introducing the sphere grid and the ability to switch characters during battle

In traditional RPG games, the characters learn new pre-set abilities as they gain battle experience but the Sphere Grid system allows the player to choose a path for the characters to take and decide what abilities and attributes they will gain. This gives you the freedom to create some unique battle styles and strategies for each character. For example Yuna is a Summoner (a White Mage type of character), traditionally powerful with holy and healing magic but physically weak with annoyingly low HP. Seventy plus hours into the game, I had reinvented Yuna into a bad-ass Black Mage with 12,000 plus HP who was even powerful enough to destroy an enemy with one swipe of her staff!
 
There is also a wealth of weapon customisation options ... Want a sword that makes you 25% stronger whilst rendering you immune to petrification and doubling your AP (Exp) after each fight? It's possible if you have the right items ... These aren't easy to get, but believe me, it's worth it!
 
Speaking of customisation, remember the 'Final' Aeon I mentioned earlier? The name should give you a hint that there are more than just one of these beings that you can obtain before the last big fight with Sin! Aeons are huge, majestic beasts that Yuna can summon to aid her in battle! In addition to this, you can customise them and teach them a long list of cool abilities! Unlike previous FF games where summoned creatures performed a powerful attack then disappeared again, the Aeons actually fight alongside Yuna and have their own magic, Overdrives and HP (disappearing from battle when the latter reaches zero or the player chooses to dismiss them). This adds an interesting new element to regular battles and some of the Aeon's Overdrives are quite a sight to behold!
 
What are Overdrives, you ask? They are powerful attacks performed by the character (or Aeon) when their 'Overdrive Gauge' is full ... What causes the gauge to fill up? Again, this is another highly customisable part of the game! For example, you can select 'Stoic' which will cause the meter to progressively fill up whenever the character takes damage. More of an aggressive type? Then select 'Warrior' for your meter to fill up when you damage an enemy. Just about everything in this game has layers upon layers of depth!
 
The ability to switch party members during battle is also a great twist to the traditional turn based Final Fantasy system, allowing you to give each party member an equal share of experience. This doesn't even need to feel forced, as certain characters specialise in dispatching a certain type of fiend, so you're not forcing yourself to include someone just so they don't get left behind in their development ... you will genuinely need each character at certain times to make victory easier for the party!

The world of Spira itself is colourful, breathtaking, yet steeped in a sad history that hangs over its natives like a black cloud. Tidus learns more about the strange world he is stranded in as the game progresses - often during conversations with his travelling companions. I've already mentioned Yuna, who Tidus forms a close bond with ... She is a quiet and caring person, always putting the happiness of others before herself. Her Father, Lord Braska is also a very notorious figure in Spira's history.
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Other playable characters include Auron, a companion of Tidus's famous (and verbally abusive) Blitzballing Father Jecht who went missing ten years ago. Tidus soon finds out that Auron was also Lord Braska's guardian in Spira (hmmmmmmm). Wakka is a Blitzball fanatic from the Island of Besaid, his Brother, Chappu was killed fighting against Sin and was also in a relationship with another main character, Lulu. Wakka and Lulu have a 'complicated' relationship to say the least! Another playable character you meet during your journey is a cheerful girl named Rikku who is from a misunderstood race known as the Al Bhed. And then there's Yuna's most loyal guardian, Kimahri .... (Sorry, I just fell asleep for a second) .... Let's just say he won't be winning any awards for the most interesting or useful Final Fantasy character (he is still a likeable kinda guy though)!

The bond that Tidus forms with each of the people he meets and the way you experience the difficulties of life in Spira through each of their perspectives adds even more layers to an already deep and enthralling experience.

As I'm avoiding spoilers, I can't fully explain the magnitude of this unforgettable gaming experience ... Late in the game, when the party reaches Zanarkand, Yuna simply says "let's go" and an amazing soundtrack called 'A Fleeting Dream' plays as the characters venture forward to face their fate. I can honestly say that I had never been drawn into a video game to this extent before this moment, nor have I since.

I could go on for hours about how great this game is, but the only way to truly understand its brilliance is to play it yourself. So if you are yet to play Final Fantasy X, what are you waiting for? And if you have been fortunate enough to play this superb game before ... do it again!

The Good
- Engaging and emotional story
- Likeable and intriguing characters
- Realistic world with it's own history, languages and religions
- Almost everything is hugely customisable
- Massive sidequests and easily over 80 hours of gameplay if you want to complete everything
- Brilliant, moving music and a typically stellar soundtrack
- Awesome graphics for it's time
 
The Bad
- The Cloister of Trials (puzzles set deep within temples that the player must complete before Yuna obtains the next Aeon) can verge on being tedious. They don't feel particularly logical in places either.

How does it hold up to today's standards?
As far as this reviewer is concerned, its still the best ... Play it!

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8.jpgPlease note: Our review scores are based on various factors
such as nostalgia, technical limitations of the time and most
importantly, the reviewer's personal opinion.
In other words, don't take these scores as an 'expert's view',
take them for what they are ... a gaming fan's personal perspective!