[PS2] Final Fantasy X

posted 5 Jan 2011, 00:46 by Thomas Vale   [ updated 5 Jan 2011, 00:47 ]
I think that it's fair to say that I am a big Final Fantasy fan. Fortunately (as far as this review is concerned), this doesn't extend to the point where I can not see fault in the games. Final Fantasy was the reason I bought a PS2, instead of waiting for another console, and needless to say, it didn't disappoint.

Now where do I start? The first thing you notice about the game is the graphics. Compared to the previous incarnations, it looks stunning. But that is hardly surprising considering that this is on a 'next-gen' console. Comparing it to other games on the console, it looks far from shabby. Square have done a good job here. The main character models are well detailed, with good texturing and a good poly count on them. This only applies to the main characters, and the battle opponents, however. NPC's look decidedly pedestrian, and somewhat out of place. Textures in the game vary. In some places, they seem very detailed, but there are one or two points in the game where they look a little ropey. Square also take advantage of frame buffer-style effects to blur the screen. It is used to good effect in combination with camera pans for some dramatic scenes.

Another thing that strikes you is the fact that it's all gone 3D! Square, for the most part, have dropped the 2D pre-rendered backdrops of the 32-bit generation, and moved on to full 3d scenes. Game play is little affected by this owing to a little mini-map in the left hand corner of the screen, with a little red arrow, showing you where to go. While some purists may say that this makes the game too easy, I applaud this. I would rather play a game which was deemed slightly too easy than spend 50 hours of my life getting lost in a dungeon. And lost you would get with twisting and turning paths, and a roving camera, sometimes seeming to move at random. One niggling point however; the pal version has no 60Hz option, and thus we are stuck with black borders. It is annoying that Square seems to have little love for the European market.

The graphics aren't just superb in game, there are also some truly amazing cut-scenes. Square took full advantage of the dvd drive and decoder in the PS2, and made some fmv which wouldn't have looked out of place in The Spirits Within. The fmv had to improve in order to compete with the improving hardware. There are some scenes which I thought were fmv, then subsequently realised my folly. An example is when Tidus is washed up on a beach, and the sea is lapping at his ankles. He stands and you see an amazing shot over his shoulder of an ocean which looks truly amazing, and then I took control, and the camera rotated with me, and I realised that it was no fmv. The motion capture for said fmv, and in the game is really well done. You can really imagine that there are people there, like in a film.

Now, to a point that causes controversy for many FF die hard's: The voice-overs. The voice overs aren't magnificent. They aren't too shabby either. A couple of points grated at me throughout the game. Firstly, the game was designed for Japanese voices, and the dubbing that has been done is not great. I would have preferred the option for the original Japanese dialogue, with English subtitles. Secondly, there is an over-abundance of filler words and phrases, like 'you know' and the suffix 'yeah?'. Were this restricted to a couple of characters, say Wakka and Rikku, this might be OK, but it seems all the characters do it, and it just seems out of place on Yuna, and on Tidus it seems strained. Those gripes aside, the voice acting is OK. The characters have appropriate voices, and express the right amount of emotion, and it works. I think that the voice-overs are a step forward, making the game more like an interactive film. I would just say that next time, either re-do all the animations so that it's dubbed correctly, or provide Jap voices with subtitles for those that would prefer it that way.

The music is spot on. You don't often notice it's presense, yet it is always there, adding to the atmosphere. This time round Uematsu-san had help from other composers. This is a good thing, as although Uematsu-san is a brilliant compser, it is a stretch to to that many tracks. Suteki Da Ne is sung beautifly by Rikku and, like Eyes on Me in FF8, is inserted into the game at an... appropriate moment. The only thing that I might say against the music is that there isn't enough different tracks. The track that turns up altogether too much is the theme in temples, while you are solving long puzzles, that track can start to grate.

Now: The plot. I can't really say much here, as all the exciting bits are spoilers. There are a couple of things that bug me about it. Mainly the fact that villains in FF seem to be completely incapable of killing heroes they have captured. Other than that, and the slightly too short ending (apparently in the Final Fantasy X International version, it was extended to better explain the final scene), it is a really well put together story. If you just play it and take it at face value, you get an interesting story, but much like Final Fantasy VII, there is more to it that comes to the enlightened mind. I think the best descriptor I can give you of the plot is to compare it to the previous incarnations. I see it that only Final Fantasy 7's plot at the moment is better. One thing about the plot is that you are often not in control as a result. In order to keep the story running, cut-scenes are frequent.

The random battle system is still there, but battles seem somewhat reduced from the previous games. Battles are also much faster now. There is no time gauge in the classic sense, and you can take as long as you want to choose an action without fear of being attacked in return. The new battle system is a hybrid turn based/atb system. Each action takes a certain amount of time, inversely proportional to your agility. So what happens is that fast characters get more turns than slower ones. This system is equivalent to the wait style atb in FF7, but without having to wait for the bar to actualy charge.

The Level system has been scrapped in favour of the sphere grid system. This means that you control how your characters develop directly. This means that although initialy your characters have jobs, by the end of the game, they could do almost anything you want. The exception to this is overdrives (limit breaks), and summons. Summon length can now also be reduced (Square does listen to it's gamers then). The summon system has changed for this game. Summons summon the beast to fight as a character instead of the party until either he/she is killed, or is dismissed. The summon magic's from the previous games return as overdrives. That's right: Aeons, as they are called now, have limit breaks, and they are impressive. Another change to the battle system is the ability to switch in and out characters. This is immensely useful, as say you have your three powerhouses in the party, and you come up against a character that is strong against physical attacks. You can just switch out one of your characters on thier turn, and have one of your magic users to take their place.

This game lasted me around 25~30 hours, and I was pretty much turboing through the game. I'd expect it to take around 40 hours, what with all the, sometimes infuriating, puzzles and battles. I'm going to play it again, maybe a couple of times to try to max out my characters, and to get all the secrets of the game. All in all that'll be around 150 hours by the time I'm done. Not too shabby in my opinion, for around £35.

My final opinion? The game is simply stunning. It'll keep you absorbed for a good long time, and looks good to boot. It's easy to pick up owing to the in-game tutorials, so the lamest noob can pick it up as easily as a l337 rpg die hard.

Rating[/size]
Graphics: 9/10
Mind blowing fmv, coupled with excellent real-time models. Occasionally let down by low-rez textures
Sound: 8/10
Voice overs are poorly dubbed, but they are otherwise well done and sound good. Pretty damn good music.
Plot: 10/10
If you take the time, it is as deep as you want it. Cut-scenes are frequent however.
Game-play: 10/10
New battle system speeds up the game a hundred fold. Random battles no longer seem so much of a chore
Longevity: 10/10
40 Hours to begin with. 100+ if you want to do it properly.
Overall: 94%
This game is simply wicked, however if you don't like the previous incarnations, the likelihood is that you wont like this.
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