Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Top 50 Games - 21. Final Fantasy X

Yes, Tidus is annoying and that fake laughing scene with him and Yuna is a bit painful. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about Final Fantasy X. The first game in the long-running JRPG series to arrive on the Playstation 2, FFX set a new graphical standard upon arrival. It was also the first Final Fantasy with fully voiced main characters. Final Fantasy has many times proven to be about the characters as much as anything else, and the added (though, as mentioned, occasionally subtracted) believability that voice acting and graphical fidelity provided really brought the cast to life in a way that hadn't been done before. The best example I can think of is Wakka, whose vocal charms would have gone unappreciated if we weren't able to hear his distinctive tropical accent. Final Fantasy X may actually be one of the most character-focused games in the series, as they contribute heavily not only to the story, but also to the fundamentals of gameplay. FFX's battle system abandoned ATB (active time battle) for a straightforward turn-based style. In ATB's place however, were new innovations. A list in the upper-right corner of the screen clued players in to the order of turns between their party members and the enemies. The second innovation, and one that Square should be ashamed of for not including sooner, is the ability to switch party members in and out of the battle's three-person lineup at any time, without forfeiting the turn. This may seem convenient, and it is, but it also adds a new layer of strategy to the deliberately paced fights. For the first time in ages, the party in a Final Fantasy game is comprised of distinguished individuals, each one of them wholly necessary for participation in combat. While the "level up" system, the Sphere Grid, can be "broken" by moving a character into another's field, for the most part each party member possesses unique abilities that come into play quite often. Tidus has speed, Yuna has white magic, Auron has brute force, Kimahri learns enemy abilities, Wakka has a ranged attack, Lulu has black magic, and Rikku can steal. While the random battles can be painful, the bosses are epic, slow-paced, cinematic affairs that test the strategic skills of the player. Outside of battle is a beautiful world full of small tropical islands, long dirt roads, and wide open plains. Unfortunately, this world called Spira was the most linear of the series until FFXIII came along. It's easy to ignore however, because you're constantly wrapped up in a story that is paced calmly but always moving forward. This story is one of the most well-crafted and emotional in a series known for epic tales that are just that, and riding along with it to its dramatic conclusion is a sweeping, magical experience matched in power by only a few other video games.

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