Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final Fantasy X

Gamefly tossed this at me out of nowhere.  Kinda pissed me off, but again, I had been meaning to return this anyway.  But I really need Gamefly to resume actually sending me games I want, instead of fishing some random game from the bottom of my list.  It's annoying.  I've had to significantly shorten my GameQ, just to play it safe from them throwing curveballs at me.

So yeah, Final Fantasy X.  Pretty good game, so far.  I haven't actually been playing it for very long (Been playing a couple days, just finished the Mushroom Ridge event..), but I like it.  It puts an interesting spin on the typical RPG leveling system by instead placing all characters on a grid full of abilities and attributes (more on that later).

In terms of shockers and such, the game hasn't pulled much out of its sleeve, but I'm not far enough along to make any judgement.  The voice acting is..amusing, to put it lightly.  It just feels poorly done.  Most of the characters' voices fit them well enough (except Seymour's, when I first heard his, it did not seem befitting of his appearence), but the scripting wasn't done so well.

The game begins with a great CG sequence of an intriguing sport known as blitzball (a combination of soccer and basketball, but played underwater), and introduces the headstrong and confident Tidus, a skilled blitzer, and the quiet and mysterious swordsman Auron.  The two know each other, though I'm not really sure how (Not family, I just can't imagine how they met).  The game is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Sin, a huge water demon (or..something) that attacks and completely absorbs the city and its residents, including Tidus and supposedly Auron.

Tidus wakes up cold and hungry in an unkown place, and is eventually picked up by Al Bhed salvagers.  The Al Bhed seem to be a sort of nomad race, who explore ruins for ancient artifacts, namely ancient but powerful machina.  Tidus meets Rikku aboard the ship, who informs him that Zanarkand, the city Sin absorbed in the prologue, was destroyed 1,000 years ago by Sin.  So apparently, Tidus has been transported 1,000 years into the future.  Tidus's apparent lack of luck shines once again as the Al Bhed ship he is on is attacked by Sin, this time landing him near a tropical beach.  Tidus is woken up by a hit to the head from a blitzball, thrown by local resident Wakka.  Wakka brings him up to speed on just what's been going on, and brings Tidus to his village of Besaid, where Tidus soon meets the young summoner Yuna.  The two take to each other quickly, and Tidus, along with Wakka and others, accompany Yuna as she departs to complete a pilgrimage that will hopefully earn her the right to use the Final Summoning, which would allow her to defeat Sin.  Thus begins Tidus's journey.

Yeah, its a really long prologue.  Frankly, I've been reminded of the Kingdom Hearts series more than once in FFX.  There's the facial animation style, the hero that is unwillingly transported to another world (or in Tidus's case, another time) by demons, and KH2 also sports an uncomfortably long prologue.

Gameplay in FFX is fun for the most part.  I've decided that I absolutely hate the boring affair that is blitzball (yes you can play it in the game), but the battles are very fun.  They're turn based, and actually a little on the easy side if you make sure to take advantage of enemy weaknesses.

Returning to the aforementioned leveling system, FFX is very different from the traditional way of making your characters stronger.  Instead of steadily leveling up overall, with all your attributes increasing with time automatically, FFX has a huge board called a sphere grid.  As you battle, you gain AP, which levels up your Sphere level.  Each sphere level allows you to move once on the sphere grid.  Scattered all across this huge grid are attribute boosts and abilities.  Each character starts out in a certain part of the grid, generally a section that offers attributes and powers that suit that character.  For example, the black mage Lulu starts out at the bottom of the grid, where there are lots of magic stat upgrade nodes, and fire/ice/lightning/water spell upgrades relatively close by.  Tidus, being the light and quick melee attacker, starts out in an area with an abundant amount of agility stat upgrades.  Though you can follow the regular path and stay uniform, you can branch off in any direction, provided you have the correct sphere to unlock the path.  I could make Yuna (a white mage and summoner) a melee attacker eventually, or Auron a spellcaster.  If you have the patience and devotion, I suspect its quite possible to absorb every single upgrade on the grid, giving you the ultimate character.

This freedom granting design philosophy carries into weaponry and equipment too.  Weapons don't have their own stats.  Instead of steadily buying new, more powerful weapons as you progress through the game, its very possible to play the entire game with the exact same weapon you started with.  Instead, weapons have attributes.  There's a variety of elemental weapons, and weapons with advantages such as the ability to automatically scan the enemy (whenever a character holding a weapon with the "Sensor" attribute is in play, the enemy's vital info becomes visible), or do extra damage.  As a result, you'll be buying new weapons not necessarily to equip it immediately after, but to have it in your collection, should a need for its equipped attribute arise.

I like this system of advancement quite a bit, and it made battles very fun and enjoyable (as well as strategically advancing your characters across the Grid), though I think it somehow made the game easier than an RPG with the normal level advancement system.  Sphere levels are gained far more quickly then normal levels are, so with good planning, and a bit of grinding I was able to get a fair headstart on the grid.  Though I've had to use items maybe a couple times during bosses (even difficult boss battles are fun!), I've been able to rely mostly on the characters' abilities, of which there are a surprisingly wide variety.

Interestingly, load screens are also fairly minimal.  Maybe its because I was playing it on my Ps3 (some games like San Andreas run better on it, some, like an older Ratchet and Clank game I was playing, run significantly slower on it), but the game performed well.  The transition from Ps3 quality graphics down to Ps2 wasn't such a huge shock either.  The game still looks fairly good.

I'd feel bad recommending FFX, only to keep playing it and find it does a total 180 later on or something.  But its pretty good so far.  I think I've spoiled the ending for myself already, but I'm crossing my fingers anyway.  The game's interesting spin on level advancement has kept me compelled to play, and the story also helps.  An 8/10.

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