Final Fantasy X Turns XX – What Makes It So Good
Final Fantasy X has turned 20 years old this week, and while the occasion is not getting the buzz that a franchise anniversary would garner (think Zelda, Pokemon and, ahem, Metroid), it’s an event worth celebrating, especially for Final Fantasy fans. Whether you agree or disagree, a vocal majority consider X to be one of the shining jewels of the franchise. To celebrate the occasion, today we’ll be looking at the ten reasons that X is so great (and maybe 1-2 little weaknesses as well)
The Best Bits
1. The Laughing Scene
I know it’s been memed to death, but for as cringe-inducing as the famous laughing scene between Tidus and Yuna is, it’s also a key moment in the narrative, a clear galvanising of a budding relationship that becomes the core pillar of X’s narrative
2. The Sphere Grid
I’m an unabashed Final Fantasy IX fanboy, and I’ll shout till I’m blue in the face that it does everything better than any other Final Fantasy entry, except in the realm of character leveling. The Sphere Grid system is fantastic, a board that every character in your expanded party is placed on (at different starting points), and gradually navigates as the XP rolls in. At first, it seems fairly linear until some spheres emerge that allow you to knock down some walls, or until your first fork in the road appears; suddenly Lulu can become a physical beast (no innuendo’s intended), while Wakka has the means to become a magical maestro. There are layers and layers of depth to be found here, and as you get deeper into the game it becomes increasingly tempting to just max the whole thing out. I did, did you?
3. The Setting
Spira is in-Spira-tional. Yep, horrible jokes aside, the world of Spira is a stunner, the jump present from PS1 era titles to what was possible on the PS2 was jaw-dropping at the time, and it still holds up fairly well today, as evidenced in the remastered collections. The cutscenes still shine even today.
4. The Combat
Some recoil at the idea of turn-based encounters, and let’s be honest, they’re generally not as satisfying as they once felt back in the day, especially for those of us, twenty years on that grew up playing these games and have significantly less time thanks to work, children, relationships, etc. Final Fantasy X however, despite the turn-based system underpinning it, still has a way of feeling fast-paced and punchy. It’s never long before your next turn is up, and with some strategic play, you can manipulate the encounter to get in ahead of your opponent’s next strike. Play smart, and you’ll find yourself playing through it quickly as well.
5. It spawned the first sequel
Yes, X-2 isn’t as good as the core title, and it sewed the seeds for Square-Enix (the Squaresoft) to try direct sequels in the form of XII-2 and Lightning Returns which are straight-up abysmal, but X-2 was a solid title with an upbeat tone and feel, and leveraged the core foundations of X in a fascinating new way. The Dress-sphere system possessed its own incredible depth and feels good to play. The fact that recent reports suggest that Square-Enix might be thinking about doing an X-3 have me excited because the world of X still has so much more it can tell
6. THAT SOUNDTRACK
Regardless of your thoughts on the playing experience of X, it’s hard to ignore the unbelievable quality that is the game’s soundtrack. From the opening of ‘To Zanarkand’, the rollicking metal-inspired ‘Otherworld’, the character themes, the serenity of strolling Besaid Island, the haunting music playing during a ‘Sending’, “Suteki Da Ne”, and so many more wonderful tracks are sure to get your heart in a twist. It’s emotive in a way that few games have ever achieved, including many other entries in the Final Fantasy franchise
7. The Extra Content
For a game that is incredibly linear compared to many other entries (except perhaps XIII), there’s a surprising amount still to do within the constraints of your linear path. From Blitzball (more on that soon), the ultimate weapons, secret bosses, and more, there’s enough to more than fulfill your needs from this release.
Need I say any more. What an absolute champion this guy is! Riddled with character flaws, including a race fuelled hatred of the Al-Bhed, Wakka is a bubbly guy who has lived a largely sheltered life that has only ever been about Blitzball. With Tidus’ arrival, things start to flip upside down for him, forcing Wakka to re-evaluate his life, his beliefs, and become a better person – and he does so, in such a wonderfully endearing way. The hatred leaves him, and he’s better for it.
Though the final battle underwhelms a bit, the concept of Sin, an entity that grew out of hand by its creator, thus indiscriminately attacking cities around the world that it deemed to be becoming too reliant on machina (machines). The only way you can destroy Sin is to summon the Final Aeon, defeating Sin once and for all… only for it to return again years later, and the cycle begins anew. The cycle needs a circuit breaker, and that’s where Yuna and the team come in.
10. A Fish Out Of Water
As with most video games, and in fact most forms of entertainment, the world is an unfamiliar one, with lots of new jargon to keep track of. Final Fantasy X’s lead character Tidus, just like the player is a fish out of water having been ripped from his own world and into this new one, so like you, Tidus is learning much of the world’s goings-on at the same rate you are. It’s a good feeling to be connected with the vessel you’re largely assuming for this story for there to not be that disconnect between the two of you. It just works
And The Not So Good Things
1. The Linearity
Another thing I touched on earlier, Final Fantasy X is incredibly linear, only opening up dozens of hours in, and even then, there aren’t a great number of good reasons to backtrack. The world of Spira is fantastic, but once you’ve passed through an area, there’s little reason to go back, and that’s one of the saddest parts of the experience. As previously outlined, there are some cool things to do, it’s just a shame that you can’t bring those other side-quests back to earlier parts of the world and explore earlier regions in fascinating new ways.
I said earlier we’d return to this, and sadly, not for the best of reasons. Blitzball, no matter how hard Squaresoft tried, didn’t play well at all. It was awkward to control, incredibly difficult to master, and even then, there’s still a bunch of variables out of your control. As a fictional sport, it’s amazing, and I wish there were a way for it to work in our world, seriously someone, find a way, but to play in a video game, it’s not that crash hot.
So those are X reasons why X is so great, and 2 that are a little less positive. The title has enjoyed its 20th anniversary this week, are you feeling as tempted as I am to explore Spira yet again? Or maybe for the first time? Sound off and let us know!