Final Fantasy X

  • by Mike Weigand
  • December 14, 2001 00:00 AM PST

Does Final Fantasy X hold up on the PlayStation 2? We think so. The first Final Fantasy of the series on the PlayStation 2 is an all-out winner. FFX may have squeaked in at the last minute, but it easily ranks as the best RPG of 2001.

As the first Final Fantasy RPG conceived for the PlayStation 2, X arrives with the usual lofty expectations and almost-secure perfect scores. But numbers are hardly the point: Final Fantasy X is a memorable, fantastic adventure that falls short in key areas that could have benefited from fine-tuning -- namely control tweaks and unpolished graphics.

You play the role of Tidus, the star player of the aquatic fantasy-sport blitzball, a hybrid of soccer and football. Immediately following an eye-popping opening cinema, Tidus is transported 1000 years to the future and finds himself the reluctant protector of a "summoner" -- magicians who control various monsters and specialize in exorcising stubborn, unruly souls. A cast of colorful supporting characters comprises the remainder of your party from pint-sized, hyperactive Rikku, who asks nothing but questions, to battle-weary Auron, who seems to know everything yet remains tight-lipped while his sword does the talking. Well-cast voice talent aids character development, despite a few whiners and sour notes. The game's also cleverly loaded with Fantasy icons -- chocobos, cactuars, moogles, and someone named Cid. This Fantasy is painfully linear, and despite numerous side-quests and mini-games, you don't need to engage in any extra-curricular activities in order to reach the conclusion. As for the turn-based blitzball mini-game, which is this adventure's card contest, you'll either love it or hate it.

FFX has its own unique character building and battle systems -- two of the best innovations in the series. Instead of a traditional level-up system, where characters automatically receive new spells and abilities after battle, players are rewarded with points that convert into spaces that are used to move across the Sphere Grid -- a gigantic playing board. The system not only enables more customization per character, but it also enables more latitude as -- conceivably -- all members can learn every spell and boost attributes in all areas. During combat front, players can swap any teammate from the fighting troika during battle. Although the ATB (Active Time Battle)-- a hallmark off the FF series -- is absent, you won't miss it.

Even as Final Fantasy X's climax hurriedly approaches -- capped by an anticlimactic final battle -- the narrative remains engaging every step of the way. And regardless of its technical shortcomings, FFX may have squeaked in at the last minute, but it easily ranks as the best RPG of 2001.