Ever played a game with high hopes only for them to be slightly dashed? Yeah, I'll be buying Final Fantasy games until doomsday, but the last few have been a tad disappointing. Final Fantasy X was one of those 'Why?' moments for me.
After all, Final Fantasy X has a really, really good plot. Tidus is a successful blitzball player who lost his father years beforehand. Then, a great big demon called Sin attacks, sucks Tidus in, and Tidus is spat out a thousand years into the future. The story progresses at a nice pace, and is extremely interesting. The sad thing is that the plot is what keeps the game intact somewhat, as the gameplay and combat are a little flimsy.
Graphically, there is no doubt this was and is an extremely good piece of work. The characters are all very well realised, with their own tales to tell. A world, torn through religion, their only escape from the reality of a demon called Sin, is sport - blitzball. The game controls and the progression from some scenes to battles is nothing short of bliss. It's just... the battle system seems a tad bothersome. There are so many skills that often you find yourself trawling through large menus searching for the one you want. Which wouldn't be bad, after all, Squaresoft have made menus an artform... haven't they?
Sadly, no. FFX has some of the worst menus I've seen in an RPG for a while. The vast range of skills is a godsend, but most are fairly pointless and some just aren't worth using at all. What is usually a pleasurable experience quickly becomes a tedious chore, and you end up relieved and delighted when you find a piece of equipment that stops random encounters. Unfortunately, by that time, you're not far from completing the game.
Then, theres the sphere grid. The most radical departure, it is marred by the sad fact it will take you longer than the length of the game to build up the sphere grid for each character to a decent level. It is just too big. And then, once complete, you start deleting nodes to replace with stat boosting spheres - only then do you start having complete control over how you develop each characters strengths and weaknesses. At this point, you feel suddenly rewarded for your efforts - although it is too little, too late to shake off the fact that you know that it could have been so much better.
However, you'll find that you'll be playing blitzball a lot. A sport that so requires it's own game, Blitzball is a pleasurable, exciting experience and well worth taking the time to master. Building up your teams, playing the sport in the sphere and the attacks and defensive skills - it far exceeds the purpose it was meant to provide. Blitzball is fast, furious and the most fun sporting simulation I have played in a long time. (Which isn't saying much, as I'm not into sports games.) You'll waste hours on this small part of the game and not even know it!
So, FFX. What it excels at in terms of deep plot, wonderful character development, awesome enemies, wonderful summons, a great sporting game embedded with, and rich, sumptuous and believable settings; it wastes by being a little too bothersome in terms of battle and stat raising. It is not a terrible Final Fantasy, far from it. It is probably one of the best plots that a Final Fantasy has ever had, and left the plot-hole-filling and oddly insanely enjoyable Final Fantasy X-2 with a free reign on advancing and completing the story. It's just that the story cannot paint over the cracks that the complex game system has.
That said, after so many years of developing this game, you would have expected this to have been a more beautiful, less-painstaking experience. Those with patience and time will be richly rewarded. The rest will just feel left out in the cold. Me? I'll still be buying and playing these damned Final Fantasy games until the day I die... I'm just not so sure anymore if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
7 / 10