Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 3/18/2014
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Final Fantasy X was a game in the series that really shifted things around. It broke some common JRPG rules and was a bit all over the place. This was the first JRPG I had ever beaten as a kid and was the first Final Fantasy I ever finished. I have a lot of fond memories of this game and the HD Remaster brought a lot of those back.
The core game hasn’t really been touched, but US gamers will finally get a taste at the tougher International version which adds an expert sphere grid and Dark Aeons which are the toughest enemies in the game (some have millions of HP). Outside of the game, the game is still the same with great characters that are memorable and beautiful locales. The story is a bit confusing at first but very original – if not very deep. You play as Tidus who is a young man sent forward in time hundreds of years into the future. His original home is now a sacred ruin and a giant being called Sin is destroying humanity. Every 10 years this Sin comes back and the Calm ends. Another summoner must go on a pilgrimage to gather all the Aeons and take down Sin for another 10-year Calm. Your goal is to put a stop to this cycle. You gather your crew along the way to level up an put and end to all this nonsense.
Before you jump into this game you must have a mindset from when the PS2 first launched. This game was fantastic back in the day and still holds up well. Most JRPG gamers will be thrown off by the Sphere Grid. There is no traditional leveling up where you gain levels. Instead, you acquire AP and get sphere points which allow you to freely upgrade various attributes and skills for each character. The expert sphere grid allows you to use keys to go off your path and learn other abilities from other characters. This is a lot of fun and gives you total freedom over your character.
Outside of the sphere grid is the obvious combat. Yes, there are random battles and some areas are so bad that you hit one every 2-3 seconds; literally. A max of three characters can battle at once with the freedom to swap out. It’s the usual JRPG turn based battle system but there are overdrives which are crucial to winning boss fights. Characters learn new drives as they battle. Aeons are also essential but only Yuna can send them in. They are large heavy hitters that will take away massive damage and can also be overdriven which is probably the #1 technique to winning tougher boss fights. Like any other JRPG learning enemies’ weaknesses and battling with magic is a must. Some bosses nearly turn into puzzles where you must cast Reflect on them so their healing spell bounces off of them onto you. Some bosses will cast status ailments that can cripple your entire party. If you don’t grind a bit and stay ahead of the game you will struggle.
Outside of battle, there are the Cloister of Trials which are a huge pain and aren’t fun at all. These are puzzles in which you place various spheres to unlock doors. Another huge pain is the Blitzball mini-game. This isn’t fun at all and requires math to actually play. It’s stiff, shallow, and just plain boring. I hated it as a kid and I hate it even now that I know math better. It’s all nearly luck based and is a roll of the dice. You have almost no control over characters.
FFX is also full of pre-final boss content but there are a lot of requirements to get this stuff. Ultimate weapons are a must have to do more than the 9,999 HP damage limit. However, they require you to be in certain areas, acquire certain other items, or even get through harder areas which require getting through other areas just to get to that area. Sounds confusing? It is. I spent a good 15 hours just trying to figure all this out and could get only one optional Aeon (Yojimbo). Anima is another optional Aeon but requires getting through a tough boss with the 3 weakest characters (Tidus, Rikku, and Wakka) and then getting all the destruction spheres in every Trial. It’s a huge pain and requires a lot of running around and backtracking and can make you frustrated. You can also monster hunt but this requires training a Chocobo (which is tough as nails to get through) and then capturing the toughest monsters in the game easily requires Ultimate weapons which require more backtracking. It’s a frustrating mess but also somehow extremely satisfying once you do it.
With the main game out of the way let’s talk about visuals. The HD upgrade isn’t exactly what you think. Most of the game has been remodeled and all the main characters are completely redone, however, many monsters and NPCs just had a few passes of texture filtering and that’s it. It really looks ugly in spots but isn’t so bad if you’ve played the game before. I just wish the Japanese voice track was on here since the English voice acting is so terrible and embarrassing to listen to.
Note: Shame on you James Arnold Taylor for your terrible voice acting of Tidus. You’ve done better! Like Ratchet from Ratchet & Clank, Gabriel Logan from the PSP Syphon Filters, even Marty McFly on the Back to the Future adventure games!