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Looks Can Be Deceivable
Another Final Fantasy review. But this time, you get to hear an opinion from Europe! As if you actually care! Anyway, Square went and developed a new one, Final Fantasy X. This is the tenth in the "main series" or whatever you're supposed to call it. I really wished for this FF to be the best, but unfortunately, it's far from it.
If you're a previous FF fan, you will only need to see one battle to realize that this is pure Final Fantasy. It's still the old turn-based system, but a lot of new things has been put into it as well. For example, you can now switch characters in the middle of a fight. You can also change equipment in the middle of a battle, but that will end your turn. Other than that, there isn't much new in-battle. However, the actual leveling-system underwent some great changes in this part of the series. This time, Square introduced the Sphere Board. On the sphere board, each character in the party has their own marker. When characters gain experience, they will sooner or later claim a skill level. With this skill level, you can move (one S.lvl means one step) across the Sphere board. On the sphere board are skills, stats and abillities to learn. There are also empty nodes on the Sphere board for you to put new skills/abillities on if you like. Although you need to find the right spheres to be able to do this. Also, I must add that I played the European version of this game, also called FFX International, which had two Sphere boards. The new board was nothing special, so the americans didn't really miss anything. It's practically the same, only almost half of the board is empty nodes. This is probably because you're supposed to master your party (getting 255 in each stat) by putting out your own nodes, although it's totally unnessecary. I was able to max out everything except Luck and HP on my first run, and I used the original board.
As in most other Square RPGs, the Interface is spectacular. While I didn't like the colors in it, the speed was amazing. There are no delays at all, and everything about it is smooth. It's all very easy to use as well, and much of it looks like the older Final Fantasy games for the PSX. There are also some of those useful details in the interface, such as not having to exit the Sphere Board to check the status on your characters, instead just press Triangle, and you'll see all your current stats. Such things make the game flow even more, and is much appreciated.
Although all these new details can be clearly seen in this new Final Fantasy game, those are only details. It felt like I had seen all of this before, but hey, maybe that's also the point. Fans of the series should recognize it all, the battle system, the Chocobos, the traditional summon monsters (Shiva, Ifrit etc). It's not an original game, but perhaps it isn't meant to be either. However, there are some really revolutionary parts in this Final Fantasy as well. For example, the voices! There has never been a Final Fantasy with voices before, and there were a lot of mixed feelings between the fans before the game arrived. As I expected, it turned out to be a bad idea. The voice-actors have a total lack of empathy, and some of them sound like they are still practicing for their actual lines. Some of them were great though, the voice of Rikku and the voice of Auron, for example. Aside from this, the translation is good.
Then we have the music, and as usual it is Nobuo Uematsu who is behind it all. The soundtrack is not quite like the other Final Fantasy games, this time there's more of an Asian style over the tracks. I liked it a lot, as the tracks needed to fit in to the surroundings, and the plot. This leaves us to the visuals, which are perhaps the most original I have seen. Not many games from Japan take place in an Asian world, but Final Fantasy X is one of the rare exceptions. Everything is Asian, the forests, seas, cities, even the people. Square also put in some great FMV movies in this title, some of which are almost too good looking to be true. Even though it isn't the graphics that make the game worthwile, I still think FFX has to be mentioned as one of the best looking RPGs out there today.
And lastly, the plot! This FF has probably the strangest plot ever seen. The basic idea is cool, but the development of it is weird. The story is filled with the drastic changes that are so often seen in other Squaregames, and you will find a hard time trying to stop for a levelup-session throughout the game, as you are always urging for new plot events. I can't give it too much credit, but I have to say that I was really captured by the way the story was told throughout the whole game. Truly an unforgettable experience.
But not so unforgettable that I would like to experience it 10 times. I finished the game twice, and I will probably never finish it again. It's very linear, almost too linear, which makes the replay value goe down a lot. If you've played the game once, there are only like 3 or 4 scenes that you can actually make a change in on the second run. Most people would probably master this game on the first run. There is no particular challenge in it either. I never had any problems with any of the bossess, except the newly added Penance boss (similar to the so called 'Weapons' in earlier FF games) in the International version. This is of course just a side quest though, and nothing you actually have to complete.
Being about as long as your average Final Fantasy, FFX can be completed in 30 to 45 hours if you stick to the plot. Although if you want to master it like I (and most other fans) did, you have to stick around for at least 120-150 Hours, or even more than that. The sidequests are many as well, and at times it felt like there would be no end of it.
Perhaps the Final Fantasy greatness is coming to an end. I didn't really sense the same special feeling that I felt in the earlier games when I played this one. It's special, but not that special. Also, hopefully we'll see more of a world map next time. And get rid of the linear gameplay, will you?
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