FFX was a game I’ve wanted to play since my college days, when I saw someone playing it in the commuter lounge on the PS2 they brought from their dorm room. I always had watched it and it looked interesting but not having a PS2 for years and eventually losing interest…thanks to FF14 and FF14 I rekindled my interest in other Final Fantasy games. During a steam sale 2 years ago I purchased this game but due to a huge otome game backlog I never touched it…until about 2 months ago when I finally decided to sit down and see what the greatness was all about. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed. If you’re a hard core FFX fan I suggest skipping this review, because as a first time player in 2018, a lot of things bothered me and really took away from the overall enjoyment. Also this review will contain spoilers so read at your own risk. Since my husband pretty much played this game together with me, I’m having him write his thoughts in green.
The story is, our hero Tidus is a Blitzball (a terrible game which I will discuss later) champion and during one of his games his city Zanarkand gets attacked by Bevelle. The fayths, a bunch of people who sacrifice themselves to do some magical shit, then suck everyone in to “preserve” them in a dream which makes it seem like Zanarkand is the way it used to be before it’s destroyed. They also summon a monster called Sin to protect from the invasion but end up going out of control and kinda running wild all over the place and destroying anyone headed for the “remains” of Zanarkand. In order to create the Sin though, Tidus’ dad Jecht sacrificed himself and merged with Sin. From wikipedia:
Summoners are tasked with destroying Sin with a creature known as the Final Aeon, sacrificing themselves so that Spira can enjoy a peaceful period known as the Calm until Sin is reborn. Unbeknownst to most of Spira, the Final Aeon is always made from the fayth of one of the summoner’s own guardians, and it is possessed by the spirit of Yu Yevon, Sin’s creator, to be transformed into a new Sin after the previous Sin is destroyed. After the Final Aeon destroys the body or armor of the previous Sin, Yu Yevon possesses the Final Aeon and kills the summoner. The possessed Aeon’s power is then used by Yu Yevon to create a new Sin, with Jecht being the current incarnation during Final Fantasy X. The mental effort necessary to create both Dream Zanarkand and Sin essentially wipes Yu Yevon’s mind clean, overwriting it with his final command: summon Dream Zanarkand and continuously create Sin. If Sin is destroyed, he then recreates it by possessing the Final Aeon (which would be the last primal Yuna obtains in this case Bahamut) that defeats it. In the end, Tidus’ group use the aeons to weaken the disembodied spirit of Yu Yevon, and destroy him. At the end of the game, the party must fight and destroy each aeon possessed by Yu Yevon in order to draw him out into the open so that he can be destroyed, and thus Yu Yevon does not possess an aeon, leaving him unable to create a new Sin. This final death of Sin marks the beginning of the Eternal Calm, as Spira is freed from its long cycle of death and destruction.
Now 1000 years later, Tidus wakes up in Besaid with no memories of what is going on and slowly begins to realize he’s somehow traveled through time into the future. He meets up with his crew of Wakka, Yuna, Lulu, Auron, and Rikku as he progresses into Yuna’s quest of obtaining all the summons to “send off” Sin back to heaven sacrificing herself. Throughout this journey Tidus learns that Sin is his father, and everyone wants to try to change the fate of Yuna who has to end up sacrificing herself in order to complete the summoning. Somehow during this journey Tidus falls in love with Yuna, probably because he sees her getting NTR’ed in front of him by Seymour, a weird hair pedrobear who you have to kill 4 god damn times in this game because he’s like a roach that just keeps coming back….all because every time he runs away before Yuna can send his soul off to rot in hell. 😂 Anyways, they do the thing, they defeat daddy Sin, Yuna sends him off, the fayths are tired of keeping up dream Zanarkand and everyone goes home – including Tidus who’s like sorry Yuna, gotta go back to the sea of LCL cause you know I’m not supposed to be here anyway cause I pretty much died 1000 years ago. The end.
Honestly now that I think back, the story is actually alright, but because of all the irritating distractions in the game, some rage inducing trials and boss fights, I actually stopped focusing on it and forgot what was mostly going on until I stated writing up this review. What a shame. The other issue is the story is too linear in a sense where you cannot go exploring anywhere – until right before the FINAL BOSS FIGHT. The most enjoyable parts for me were the desert and calm lands cause they were actually large enough to kinda run around in and not just follow a narrow curving path.
The game didn’t let you go around the world and explore anything. There weren’t really any side quests until the very very end but by then I was like “no I’m gonna finish this game idgaf about getting some grindy ass weapon wtf. 😂” Needless to say going from map to map with the same repetitive “fight durdles, see a cut scene, fight a boss, do an annoying trial” pattern got really exhausting and boring.
I don’t really have any issue with the linearity of the game. That’s just a design decision. The whole thing just gets weird when you’re about an hour from the end of the game and then the game tells you “btw you can now fast travel anywhere and do sidequests and minigames and secret dungeons and all that stuff if you want.” Like, I probably would’ve wanted to do that DURING the MSQ, both to mix (hurrrr) things up and also to get some more levels and gear, but when it’s the very end of the game I want to you know, complete the game. Similarly, some of the things like the Monster Arena felt like the kind of thing you would have wanted to do over the course of the game but now that I’m at the end I’m not going to care to go back and smack around level 1 Goblins to fill out my bestiary.
Ok the one reason everyone raves about the HD remaster because they say the graphics are smoother and crisper, high resolution etc etc. HOWEVER all of the faces had been apparently REMADE and they lost ALL their emotions! They went from looking like game character to creepy animatronic robots. I searched youtube for people’s old playthroughs of FFX on the PS2 to make some comparison images:
Needless to say due to the lack of emotion and life from most of the characters, I couldn’t take any of the emotional scenes seriously. I’d just be like wtf is going on with X’s face most of the time so that was a huge factor of why I couldn’t get into this game. It’s cool that everything looks clean and smooth, but it’s not cool to get some 3rd rate 3D modeler to remake the models in such an awful way.
I mean it’s fun to dunk on the weird Hall of Presidents faces on everyone in the remaster but look, think about how this is just 4 years later from FFVII and all those blocky chunks and they managed to make pretty expressive faces in such a short timeframe. Games these days don’t even really look that different from ones 4 years ago! We’re almost going back in time when we look at almost 20 year old graphics and how we somehow end up looking worse than something meant to be played on like a tiny CRT TV on a system with less power than like one of my old phones.
I decided to go for the RETRO experience and put on the non-remastered, original music on during my playthrough. Now I can’t get that awful battle music out of my head. ( ﾟдﾟ) After hearing a comparison, in retrospect I should have gone for the remastered songs. That said most music in the game was forgettable except the annoying battle music which popped up every time (including the dumb glass shattering sound prior to it 😂), Suteki da Ne, Zanarkand BGM and the extremely out of place fake Sephirot song during the Sin battle. Yea I know FF14 is years after FFX, so likely the Sephirot inspiration had to have come from this game. 😂
I mean, at this point we’re at 30 years of Final Fantasy games, so even getting a pair of songs that stand out and get into the compilations is above par for the course. Not everything is gonna be FFXIV, of course (where every couple months we get a zillion great new songs). Hell, FFXIV is an extreme outlier among video games in general, not just Final Fantasy games here.
This was possibly the most rage enducing part of the entire game. First of all, the trials were for YUNA to get her PRIMAL. Yet for some reason I find myself controlling tidus to move balls around and push pedestals around and ride a rage inducing escalator that makes me fall off the edge 10 times over and over because the game response in the steam client is god awful. Most of the trials felt like an incredible waste of time and I had no idea how it was relevant to Yuna getting a primal…..wouldn’t I don’t know, FIGHTING the primal to win his power over or something make more sense Yea?? At least FF14 got that part right. The final trial was stupidly memorable because it basically made me play floor tetris. 😂
One of my favorite video game articles ever is about all the mechanics in Bioshock Infinite and how like…there is no purpose to them at all to the game thematically. That’s all I could think about here with the Cloisters. The main plot of the game is that Yuna needs to make this pilgrimage with her guardians to learn the way to summon all the aeons so like…why is this then done through Tidus completing some lock and key puzzles? That’s even before getting into how poorly designed the trials are to begin with. Like…why did you even decide to do this? These were another example of why I was bad at Amnesia in that I could often figure out what needed to happen to advance the game, but could not make the game necessarily do that. In the previous case, it was because I could figure out that I should investigate the mystery but not that the way to investigate the mystery is to hold boys’ hands, while here I could figure out what ballz needed to go into which slotz, but good luck clicking the X button with the right timing to get off of the magical monorail in time.
General & Battle System
Probably the thing that ultimately was the nail in the coffin was the system. I’m not even complaining about the turn based battles but pretty much everything else. For example there were multiple areas like Thunder Plains where just walking around you get zapped by lighting, knocked down and have to get up and keep running. Trying to run to a god damn save sphere, I got zapped 4 times. Only after finishing the game did I discover there were PC mods that just make you auto dodge this bullshit – but you have to ask yourself why even add this idiotic feature in the first place? If that wasn’t bad enough, for some reason before the final battle, I was thrown into this area full of spawning icicles that if they spawned on top of Tidus, I’d be forced into a stupid hard boss battle so I basically ended up just running away the whole time….as I attempted to collect 10 glowing orb things. This was made EXTRA difficult by the god AWFUL camera in this game. I could not spin the camera to see where the icicles were or see the whole field – it was auto spinning for me whether I liked it or not. In other parts of the game, there would be pillars or walls blocking my view and hiding things chests, al bhed primers and even PATHS. I got lost near Pedrobear’s pedocave and ran in circles because I didn’t realize that there literally was a path UNDERNEATH everything because my entire camera view was blocked by a stupid cave pillar. (ノ｀Д´)ノ彡┻━┻
This is probably a good time to talk about THE GRIND. I get the point on some of these areas the first couple times, so then having to do this stuff over and over and over again is just adding tedium rather than any kind of fun or challenge or whatever. It’s the sort of thing how a more modern game would say, stop shooting lightning at you on the Thunder Plains after you’d demonstrated that you know how to dodge it. We intentionally were not doing the high-level content since we identified that it’s primarily grind, and then on top of that you can usually figure out pretty quickly how to turn any of the grind in this game into pure Progress Quest where you’re getting items/gil/xp/etc. through a completely streamlined script.
There are certain times of the game where you will be forced to use certain characters (like Rikku or Kimahri) and thanks to a guide I followed I found out and quickly swapped them in to give them exp. Thanks to the steam version, I kinda plowed my way through most of the game spamming Yuna’s primal’s limit breaks and 1 shotting everything……until I had realized nobody was getting exp except for her. Needless to say when she got kidnapped I was having a REALLY BAD TIME so I was forced to start swapping characters in out to make sure they got skill grid points so I could level them up. ( ﾟдﾟ) Nowhere in the game does it tell you this, so if you were playing completely blind you could theoretically somehow reach end game and be screwed because all your characters have the skills they did when you first started the game. In FF14 for example, you cannot do certain trials/battles unless you meet the correct ilvl. In FF10? you can go as far as you want with nothing leveled until you reach a point where everything just 1 shots you and you’re kinda screwed. The game doesn’t let you go back to lower level areas until you are right about to defeat the final boss so…….use your save slots generously and save a lot. 😱 You can of course still steam roll things with Yuna’s primals if she’s around just make sure you let the other characters get an attack/buff turn in and they will get the same exp for the fight.
Here’s another modern game change. If you’ve got a party-based game, the xp is generally pooled or distributed evenly to everyone. You quickly realize that the optimal thing to do (which we of course did not do since we wanted to reduce the tedium) is to swap everyone in first to do some random attack or buff. But this is a pretty common bad design decision, where players are basically “forced” to do a kind of trick every time since it’s always correct to do so. So there isn’t any added depth or complexity because of this, just one more step that you always have to do each time.
One other glaring issue I had was the overdrives. I mean it’s really awesome the game let me spam them non stop with turbo mode and that I could speed up the whole fight 4x to save time. However some people’s overdrives were basically unplayable on a keyboard. The 2 worst offenders were Auron and Lulu. Auron required a crazy key combination which when doing on a controller looked fairly easy, but trying to find letters on a keyboard and press the arrows with a horrible latency failed every time. For Lulu’s limit break, pressing the left and right keys did absolutely nothing and never filled the bar at all failing hers as well. Because of this Lulu and Auron ended up being the least used characters for me and since there wasn’t really too many end game battles requiring the use of them or their skills, I finished the game barely touching their sphere grid.
Another systematic nuisance that came up during Yunalesca’s battle was CUT SCENES. Again, because I was not aware of mods that let you skip the cut scenes I was forced to watch all cut scenes if I had not saved after they played. While with most battles you could save right before the battle, for some reason Yunalesca had a cut scene right before her battle so your save was always BEFORE the cut scene. Needless to say, on my first attempt to fight her, my husband had this brilliant idea to have Rikku use a healing bomb while everyone was zombified which ended up 1 shotting my party. (*’д’c彡☆))Д´)ﾊﾟーﾝ After I restarted the game, I loaded my most recent save which was of course……before the lengthy Yunalesca cut scene forcing me to watch it AGAIN. In retrospect I should have probably tried using the auto save – but who knows if that saved before or after the cut scene had ended. Regardless, annoying.
Fortunately, most of the story battles in this game are pretty easy, and of course they’re even easier with the Steam turbo mode active. But imagine being a n00b back in the day where this stuff would actually be hard, and possibly need multiple tries to complete any of the boss fights. It would probably add hours of time to your playthrough of pointless stuff that you’re not even watching while you go get some Mountain Dew and Doritos to munch on while you wait.
One last thing I nearly forgot to talk about was Blitzball. During FFXIV live letters a lot of people would always request a Blitzball game at the gold saucer saying it’s so awesome and amazing. After I had a chance to play the required Blitzball game per the story, I convinced myself that I would never play this crap again. Not only were the controls unresponsive and wonky (which could also be the steam client issue) but insert all the annoyances with the camera and after googling a guide apparently if you just hid behind the goal post, the NPCs would break and just basically do nothing. I had ended up shooting a goal simply because the NPC who could have easily intercepted it just…stood there….and did nothing. I was told you are supposed to ultimately lose the first Blitzball fight but I won and Waka even got the trophy but because the game expected you to lose, the “winning” scenes weren’t much of anything and that just added to the pile of disappointment. Needless to say at every save sphere thereafter when it asked if you wanted to Play Blitzball I noped the hell out.
When we would look around at posts to see what we should do with the Blitzball segment, there were a lot of polarized responses about how “omg this sucks its so hard i can never win qq” and “omg teh funnest minigame evar i want a standalone game!!!11one”. But ultimately it’s got that same problem that I talked about earlier where no matter how many layers of customization and complexity the game layered onto it, it turned out that there was one unbeatable strategy that you should always do every time. Of course, I also need to point out that in order to do said unbeatable strategy you need to succeed in a little minigame that comes out of nowhere that you get one opportunity to do and which you’ll probably fail the first time you try. Not because you’re a n00b that’s bad at the game but simply because you’re not expecting this to happen and by the time you finish reading the instructions you’re probably not quite sure what exactly you’re supposed to do in the QTE that follows. And like many, many times in this game (such as finding one of the items for Yuna’s best weapon at the very start of the game before you’ve even met her), you’d never necessarily expect that this is an important scene that you get only one shot at.
I heard the words “oh boy that sphere grid” way before playing this game and had no idea what it meant until I started. Now I know what they mean and honestly it’s one of the dumbest and unnecessarily confusing parts of the game. The sphere grid is literally a skill tree that you just unlock skills/boost HP/MP/Attack by using items you receive from killing durds in the field or boss battles. The unnecessary stupid part is for some reason the entire thing just SPIRALS in many confusing directions but in reality it’s actually LINEAR. Because of this you constantly had to figure out where the next spiral was and it was possible to then accidentally spiral into someone else’s grid even if you didn’t intend to. Now for MOST of the game, this really doesn’t matter however once you get to the VERY END there’s a very important skill that Yuna needs HOLY. When I reached Yunalesca’s battle (which to me was the most cumbersome battle in the whole game) I did not have holy. I had to make with what I had randomly picked up from my sphere grid, so feel free to watch my twitch clip if you are in the same predicament. My tips for “necessary” skills for the final few battles are make sure Yuna (or someone) has Esuna, Dispell and Holy. Make sure Kimahri (or someone) has DOOM. I forgot who I used Lancet on to get Doom from but man was it useful as hell on the final boss (despite being mostly useless on durdles out in the field).
The sphere grid pulls off the difficult challenge of being almost entirely linear, yet also still giving you a few opportunities here and there to get messed up and stuck in a trap build. Tidus randomly ended up in Yuna’s area and didn’t get his final Quick Hit attack. We were about to use up all of our level 4 key spheres to unlock a skill for Yuna (because if it’s behind so many of them it’s gotta be good right?) until we googled it just to be safe and found out that it’s really just a kind of steal that would’ve been redundant since we have Rikku anyway. I heard a lot of people tout the customization aspect of the sphere grid, but as that incident showed me it’s actually a flaw since branching out like that just ends up muddying the characters and removing any of their definition if they can all “do anything.” The spiraly layout itself makes it difficult to tell what exactly you’re doing, both in that the paths themselves are kinda tricky to follow along with how the vast size of the grid makes it hard to tell where you are/should be going.
Finally, if we assume that it really should just be linear, the physical process of leveling the characters is completely tedious busywork. You have to select the character, click move, click one or two spheres over, click confirm, click use, pick an orb, probably click use again to use another orb (and of course, there’s only one orb you can ever use on these.) I saw one calculation that if you Progress Quested it up and maxed out all of the characters it would take something like 6 hours just to go through their sphere grids clicking all of this crap.
Unfortunately I found this out AFTER I finished the game but apparently talking to your party members in a certain order actually raised their affection and would be the deciding factor of who throws Tidus his Blitzball during his limit break. Seeing how I pretty much talked to every one of my party members in completely random order during our travels….somehow that caused Lulu to have the highest affection and she became the dedicated ball tosser. I didn’t mind because thanks to her overdrive being completely unusable at least she got to have some action in the game. 😂
The reason we talked to everyone was partly to see what like flavor conversations they had to say or if they’d give us random items, but also simply because as I’ve said before it was often hard to tell what exactly we had to do in order to make the game progress. Unlike modern RPGs, there are no quest markers or journal, and while the game is very straightforward and linear on a high level (we always know that what we “should” be doing is going to the temples and learning summons), it’s not clear at all what we might need to do so that say, Yuna will finish up training with someone and rejoin us so we can proceed.
And while it’s a modern game, this reminded me of the bad sequel to one of my favorite American otome games, Ryuu no Jidai Tsuu where I would constantly insult Merrill because she was an annoying character, but the game had a similar like “talk to character = raise affection” mechanic and then suddenly she shows up at the Hawke Manor in heat and its time for a completely unexpected eroscene.
God bless the dude who made this guide because it was the most extensive and helpful thing in order to complete the game. Just remember when he says hit “X” it means press the “ok” button so in the steam client this ended up being the key C. Overall the systematic frustrations and crappy faces kinda took a lot of the game from me. I was too focused on “annoying durdle battles” and “gotta find Al Bhed primer somewhere around here” that I had almost forgotten why the hell we were traveling and why the hell there was a war between Al Bhed and Yevon. The lack of facial expressions also was a huge hinder towards seeing the romance blossoming between Yuna and Tidus but it also didn’t help that aside from the few scenes together at the start, they barely had any moments mid game together – particularly after she got captured. I won’t go saying this is the worst game ever, but there were definitely moments where I just thought クソゲー…and almost ragequit lol. It’s a shame I guess I’m just spoiled by more modern MMOs and having recently played Nier Automata there were so many “improvements” over these types of archaic game systems that going back to this style was just frustration. I thought about a similar turn based style MMO I played called Real Rode, but the systematic stuff didn’t frustrate me as much because I guess 1) it had more otome elements/scenes 2) the graphics on the characters weren’t offputting. The PC remaster had a lot of great features to help make the painful parts easier and to make the game go by quicker (I had 31 hours clocked for the whole thing as of this post)….however the face remodeling really killed the charm that the characters had and may have potentially been what could have made the difference on whether I ultimately enjoyed the game or not.
Years ago I heard a joke that “every Final Fantasy game is the worst one” and now I understand this even more now that I’m up to 5 of them played now. Stuff like the story made a lot more sense in FFX compared to FFXV, but then we take like 20 steps backwards with encounter design, combat, etc. And even the stuff that we were like “this is stupid, next” I can totally see being so kewl in the context of Back In The Day. If you were 12 and had 5 hours to kill every day after school it would be fun to grind out all the Celestial Weapons and fight the superbosses and stuff, but not when you want to see the end of the story so you can play your next game. Similarly, we asked a friend “lol how did you even manage to get through the stupid monorail temple or the Yunalesca fight back on PS2 without the Steam features?” and her response was “wait that was how you got Bahamut? I don’t remember any of the stuff you’re saying.” Soooooooooo yeah I’m guessing that people forgot the grind and frustration and only remembered having a lot of feels when they finally ki…ki…ki…(omg this is so embarrassing to say)…kiss.
Now we’re gonna play FFX-2. From what we’ve seen so far, the pros are “more open world” and “more freedom/sidequests”…but the cons are “the uncanny valley faces are back baby. they’re good again. awoo (wolf howl).”