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SummaryOne good example of NOT killing a franchise
The GoodThe most noticeable aspect of the game, right from the start, is just how beautiful the game looks. The project took years to finish, and you can tell a good part of the time was spent polishing the character models and making the world feel real. Then again, ever since the games moved to 3D graphics they have always had a very real feel to them... it's something to expect when the name "Final Fantasy" is put on the label. Don't forget how great the video clips are, too.
It is also important to note that, while it has already had nine games before it, not including the handheld incarnations or Tactics, Final Fantasy X still maintains a very fresh and fun feel. Most other franchises that have managed to hit the tenth game have all failed in this aspect considerably, Might and Magic 10 gets an (dis?)honorable mention here. For example, instead of making miniscule or NO changes to game play, Square ditched the Active Time Battle system it has had for the longest time and used a turn-based system instead.
While on the topic of the new battle system it is important to point out that I did not welcome the idea of a turn-based battle system from the start. "Turn-based? How lame!" Instead of being a boring and simple system, it's very well thought out and fun. You also have monsters that have weaknesses to specific characters and while you can only have three characters active in battle, the game allows you to swap an active character with one of the ones that are sitting out. As for the summoned creatures this time around, they're called "Aeons" and instead of existing as flashy versions of spells they are actual controllable characters during battles complete with spells and abilities.
The characters in this game are also characters that you grow to care about as the story progresses. They have depth, the voice-actors who portray them do an excellent job most of the time, and you rarely have difficulty believing the characters would do/say what they do. This is a nice change from Final Fantasy 9, where the only character I could say I grew attached to was Vivi. As far as experience levels and making your characters more powerful goes, the old experience system has been changed slightly. Now you gain "ability points" and at certain amounts of AP you gain "sphere levels." With each sphere level you gain, you get to move the character along a grid and activate abilities as you go. It sounds restrictive, but there are several ways you can hop on to a different grid or activate "hidden" abilities.
The story is also enjoyable and keeps you interested, although it could have used a little more fleshing out and back-story.
The BadThe thing at the top of the "don't like" list is the very small amount of side-quests in the game. Those side quests themselves are small, or consist of doing very tedious things... like dodging 200 lightning bolts to get a special item. A lot of those tasks also don't have any clues giving you reason to do them, and I only know to do them because of playonline.com, Square's online strategy guide.
Resulting partially from the lack of several side quests, the game is also incredibly short. When you get to the final battle after only 40 hours it is sort of disappointing... not to mention the final battle is totally anti-climatic. Meaning, so easy it is impossible to lose. Fortunately you have plenty of difficult ones just before it.
The musical score gets a minus as well in this game, because there are a lot of themes that any Final Fantasy fan will recognize as simple remixes of previous games' music. Some songs were original, but enough of the music was remixed to make me disappointed.
Another minus, although it's not a big one, is that when you finally get the airship, the way you fly anywhere is by selecting the destination from a list. There's no soaring through the air with fun music going on in the background in this Final Fantasy... although I get a feeling it could primarily be because of budget and time constraints more than design.
The Bottom LineThis is one of the many RPGs any RPG fan will want to add to a collection. Final Fantasy fans will not be disappointed either. It has enough of the old mixed with the new to make existing fans happy and to create new ones. The voice acting is above average, everything is very pretty, and it rarely gets boring.
You can expect to see the same recurring names as in the previous games, familiar monsters, Shiva (who has never looked better!), and a multitude of other things fans like me will be looking for. These familiar things are combined with enough new things to keep Final Fantasy alive and kicking, unlike most other franchises that hit the double-digits.
Go get it, play it, and get ready for the next one... because if the next one is going to look any better I can't wait to see it.