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SummaryLinear, but still fun and beautiful, ya?
The GoodEver since Final Fantasy series reached the "mainstream", its creators have been paying much attention to visuals and cinematic presentation.
Final Fantasy X is no exception: the first thing you notice when you fire it up are graphics and cutscenes. The game does to Playstation 2 what Final Fantasy VII did to Playstation - pushes the console to its limits. Not only the character graphics are fabulous - the backgrounds match them fully. Part of them are still pre-rendered, but there are also some very impressive real-time 3D visuals.
CG movies are absolutely gorgeous; while many of them are simply technical "eye candy", some are really memorable thanks to their usage of camera work, visuals, and music. Yuna's wedding, for example, is truly a great piece of CG animation.
Narrative has always been an important component in Final Fantasy games, and Final Fantasy X certainly does not disappoint in this aspect. In fact, this is probably my favorite Final Fantasy story - a personal, romantic tale with a touch of melancholy and sadness that I'm always ready to appreciate.
The story is told entirely from Tidus' perspective, taking the shape of his memories about the past, with his reflexions and thoughts about what has happened to him. Unlike other Final Fantasies, where heroes come from different parts and join together despite having different motives, Final Fantasy X is fully concentrated on Tidus' personal experience. He is the only stranger, the only outsider, the one who has lost his home forever. All other heroes are presented more vaguely, more subjectively, the way Tidus sees them. This storytelling technique makes the narrative much less pompous and more delicately intimate than all previous Final Fantasies.
There are many plot elements here we've seen many times in previous installments of the series: romantic love, love/hate relationship, psychological conflicts, and so on. The narrative also deals with deeper issues, such as religion and its influence on people's lives. In the end, the story turns out to be quite poignant and powerful, more so perhaps than any other Final Fantasy story before it.
The game's setting is also worthy of attention. Spira, the world of Final Fantasy X, has an interesting Asian flavor. Temples, design of clothes, relationships between people - everything resembles Asia, particularly South China, India, or Thailand. The Al-Bheds with their sci-fi atmosphere and the opening futuristic part of the game form a sharp contrast to the serene beauty of other locations.
The gameplay underwent some refinement, with very interesting gimmicks added to it. You can switch all your party members during combat, so you are no longer stuck with three people you absolutely must use. Another innovation is absence of levels - you receive special points after each battle, which you can then allocate on a sphere board, activate spheres and increase the statistics of your characters. Each character thus followed a certain path on this board, gradually activating all available fields.
The good thing about this is that many of those "paths" were branching, and the entire board could be navigated by a any of the characters, meaning that you could theoretically have all your characters learn all the skills and abilities. I like this kind of open approach to character growth.
One thing I almost always mention when reviewing Final Fantasy games is the music. And as usually, Nobuo Uematsu created some beautiful stuff here. The piano intro is so beautiful that I even arranged it as a jazz song and performed it on the stage with my band.
The BadFinal Fantasy X is too linear. This is probably the game's most serious flaw. Lack of a world map and narrow hostile areas means that exploration in the style of earlier Final Fantasies is no longer possible. You follow a pre-determined path for almost the entire game; only before the last dungeon you finally acquire an airship. But you can't physically navigate it; all you can do is select a location from a menu.
Granted, there are optional locations with side-quests and optional bosses the series is famous for. But the sensation of exploring the world on your own is sorely missed. Remember how fun it was to drive vehicles and even breed chocobos to uncover more and more of the world map in Final Fantasy VII? Unfortunately, you won't have any of that here.
The introductory part of the game takes place in an awe-inspiring futuristic city. But the game soon abandons this setting completely in favor of a more "rural", less advanced civilization. I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the urban scenario never returned.