The Ranking Final Fantasy series now moves to the PlayStation 2 with the tenth installment being the first to hit the newest (at the time) gaming console. That machine brought many huge changes to the series the biggest of which was the voice work for the main characters in the game.
Just like IX seemed to follow right behind VIII, X came not long after IX was released and was actually being developed around the same time judging by this logo that appears as the game fires up.
Here’s a look at the various box art the game released with.
Japan release box art.
NTSC (North American) art.
I have fond memories of walking into the Gamestop and grabbing this off the shelf.
PAL box art.
X also saw an International Version released in Japan which included the Dark Aeons not found in the original Japanese release, an expert Sphere Grid, new skills, and an addition to the story called Eternal Calm.
In 2013 (Japan. 2014 for US) Square did an HD Remaster of the International Version, and released it as a set together with a Remastered X-2 for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. This contained an updated soundtrack though the original soundtrack option is there. In 2015 the remaster showed up on the PS4.
This is the version I’m currently playing. It’s beautiful.
Tidus, a young star athlete in the water sport known as Blitzball, is pulled away from the world as he knows it one horrible night only to find himself amongst a group of people accompanying and protecting a young girl whose purpose in life is to defeat Sin, a monster that reappears every ten years bringing with it chaos and destruction. This odd group of characters also has a connection to the father that abandoned him as a child. Tidus tries comprehend the seemingly uncomprehendable and find a way to return to his home, which may no longer exist, while at the same time joining in the young girl’s quest to bring calm to the world of Spira.
GG: This is the first Final Fantasy for the PS2 and it came with an amazing jump in graphics but perhaps more importantly featured character voices. Up until now the voices for the characters were what you imagined them to be but with X actors were hired to provide voicework and really added to the character depth. With these voices the player is told the backdrop and details about the world around you as Tidus, the lead character, is just as unaware of what is happening as the person playing the game. With Spira, Square created a fully believable world and completely fleshed-out reality in regards to the beliefs and motivations of its inhabitants. The pacing is smooth and the balance between fighting, story-telling, and roaming Spira is well done. Grade: A
ASM: With X comes the “new” Final Fantasy. Now with more cinematics, voice acting, and graphics brought to the next level. Due to this, the story comes across with more impact, as Square expertly used all the above to great effect with the story of Yuna and Tidus, and the world of Spira. I honestly remember being pretty awed by the CG, especially of everything with Sin and Yuna. And honestly, I didn’t catch the twist until the end, so after everything that I invested, only to see what happens to Tidus…. yeah that was actually really well done. So well done that it actually forced Square to make their first direct Final Fantasy sequel. The world building was well done, and especially the overall design for locations, clothing, even language was very impressive. Grade: A minus
Having voices provided for each of the characters allowed Square to flesh out the contrasting personalities much more than the text-only games that came before. This was a risky option if they didn’t have a good script narrated by good voice actors.
Brash, outgoing and a bit cocky, Tidus feels like Zidane in a big body at times, but also comes with daddy issues, and a well done twist at the end. – ASM
At times, the real protragonist is actually Yuna, who is on a quest to rid Spira of Sin. Also, really cute. – ASM
The mentor of the protagonist he may be the only person in Spira who knows the full extent of what is happening. Well voice acted with great lines. “Farewell.” – GG
Wakka plays the big brother role to Tidus and has his beliefs challenged throughout the game. – ASM
Hottest black mage ever. Love her look and what Square did for her weapons is something I found I really enjoyed. She seemed cold-hearted at times but was also very cool-headed and wise. Balanced Wakka quite well. – GG
A member of the Ronso tribe of animal warriors, you start off by thinking Khimari is a badass until his backstory starts to be revealed showing he’s kind of the runt of the Ronso litter. – GG
A member of the Al Bhed tribe, and a tinkerer, she is also a cousin to Yuna. (Six degrees of Kevin bacon anyone?) – ASM
When he first appears in your story he seems like a very powerful ally and he actually becomes a party member in some places. However, like with many of the important characters in Final Fantasy games, things aren’t always what they seem. – GG
Sin was actually pretty cool in that he felt like an omnipotent boss that you would encounter but it was always a losing battle. He truly came off as a force of nature. – ASM
Favorite Character – ASM – Auron, flat out. He just came off as a bad ass, and you knew that he knew something and wasn’t letting on. He was a constant member of my party.
Favorite Character – GG – For me it’s a toss-up between Lulu and Auron. They both come off pretty cold but both have their charge’s safety in mind. Lulu is powerful right from the start and Auron has the grandest of entrances.
Least Favorite Character – ASM – Kimahri. I didn’t care for him, or his design, and so didn’t use him at all.
Least Favorite Character – GG – Rikku. Her posture. She needs a back brace. And her attacks were a mixed bag. Get it? She also joins as a regular party member later in the story which usually doesn’t help a character’s cause. Maybe Vincent from VII, because he’s so badass, avoided that late-arrival curse.
Character Grade by ASM – A minus
Character Grade by GG – A
The Battle System
X’s battle system, the last of the turn-based, had the party members with assigned roles or jobs (black mage, white mage, etc.) but the innovation here is that you didn’t have to choose a party of only three members and leave the others aside. Depending on what type of monsters you were facing, or a situation developing in battle, you would swap your characters in and out. The addition of a hud that showed the order of attacks meant you could see whose turn was coming and strategize accordingly. In several key fights parts of the environment were interactive and could be used in the fight against the enemies.
GG: Quite simple. Actually maybe a little too much so. Each character fares better against certain types of enemies. For example, Wakka and his blitzball are the best at downing flying enemies while Auron and his giant sword are what you need to defeat armored beasts. Lulu’s magic is your only real hope against elementals and Tidus dispatches the quick-footed. As Yuna is the summoner/healer that means Khimari may be the most versatile character in the game or, if you’re not careful, the most under-used and under-developed. Usually the random fights will feature three types of enemies so you just need to swap in the right character, however the animations for swapping characters in and out added to the lengthy times some of the battles took. It’s an interesting system for sure, but only the boss fights seem particularly challenging. Grade: B plus
ASM: The change from ATB to CTB (Conditional Time Battle) was a new convention, which had its perks, in that you could take your time to decide your attacks, as well as determine how the order would change. (This reminds me a bit of Grandia II where you could push back enemy turns based on attacks). Also you could swap out characters at any point. So it felt speedy, and more convenient than previous ATB games had been. On the other hand, you lost that sense of urgency and danger that the ATB would bring, so there was less pressure on making the right decisions, and so in a way less exciting. Grade: B
The Character Levelling System
X brought with it the Sphere Grid and variations of it carried on into games such as XII and XIII. Each character starts at different points on a giant grid. As you gain AP points through battles you use those to move your character from one node on the grid to an adjoining node then, using certain types of spheres you pick up in battles, unlocking a new ability or stat. At a certain level you can unlock pathways that allow you to gain skills that other party members have. You are given some choice as to how you want each character to progress and if you’re willing to put the time in, could have all characters unlock all nodes on that giant chart.
ASM: The Sphere Grid was new, but felt grindy to me at times. Honestly not one of my favorite systems. While the freedom to choose which route to go was a nice freedom, it would be hard to change routes as I recall, and there was a lot of grinding to get the spheres needed. While that was easier later in the game, I found it to be a bit of a hassle overall. Grade: B
GG: I really like the Sphere Grid and loved discovering new skills for characters. I remember chewing my nails when I felt I had to make a tough decision whether to proceed down a certain pathway or choose another. Because you earned AP and spheres consistently it felt like you were in the Sphere Grid menu constantly. [note: the HD remaster version gives the characters new abilities which allows them to extract sphere and you accumulate them much easier than in the original game.] I preferred to let them build up then jump into the grid at a Save Point. Grade: A
The Limit Breaks
In X the Limit Break as we know it was called Overdrive and for some party members involved, like VIII, the player contributing to the effectiveness of the Overdrive by actions such as timely button pressing.
ASM: Similar to VIII in that you had to do certain gimmicks like button pushing to increase damage. At this point, Limit Breaks have become standard, so aside from being pretty (thank you PS2 graphics) there really isn’t much else to say. Grade: B
GG: Again with the button pressing or, in Lulu’s case, analog stick rotating you had a say in how much damage was being dealt which isn’t really my thing. Being on PS2, they looked pretty great but only Tidus’ and Auron’s seemed special. Lulu’s and Wakka’s didn’t really benefit things much during the first part of the game. X also returned to allowing you to choose when to activate them, which is a must. Grade: B
Called Aeons in X they are a big part of the story. Only Yuna, the summoner, could summon these powerful beasts in battle.This was a bit of a letdown but did make for more strategy when choosing when to swap her in and have her summon or buff/heal. However, when summoned, they stayed on the battlefield and were used in the place of the regular party. You could choose what action you wanted them to perform and also build up their Overdrive gauge.
ASM: Aeons are an integral part of the story, and from X onwards we see a shift in how they are used, with the Aeon actually coming out and fighting as a whole, as if it was a party member. Also the designs were pretty stylized (thank you again PS2 graphics). Grade: A
GG: Summoning animations were amazing and in X we saw the introduction of the option to shorten them. This was a great addition to the series which should have been carried into the later games. Yojimbo was awesome if you made the effort to get him and the Magus Sisters hilarious. Grade: A
Mini-Games, Sidequests, and Extras
It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without these and X had a surprisingly large amount of them with the biggest, Blitzball, capable of being its own game.
GG: Blitzball can be quite addicting and a lot of fun. The rewards are great too particularly Wakka’s ultimate weapon. The Monster Arena was a great way to earn AP points while really challenging your battle management skills. Another impressive inclusion were the Al Bhed primers. Finding these throughout your world travels allowed you to slowly decipher the strange language and added replay value as your info could be compiled along with other game saves. Grade: A plus
ASM: While I did the Al Bhed primers, I couldn’t get into the mini games in X. I hated blitz ball, and at the end of the day never tried past the minimum effort needed to get past the events. While I did some of the monster hunting, by the time I got to the end game it was just too grindy for me. Things like dodging lightning just didn’t do it for me. Grade: C
Most Memorable Moment
GG: “Sin is Jecht”. That whole sequence which starts as the Blitzball tournament ends is pretty amazing. Auron’s arrival. Seymour’s Aeon. And Tidus’ freak out make for an impressive ten minutes.
ASM: Most of the CG is super impressive, but I think the biggest surprise was the Tidus twist. I just didn’t see it coming.
Moment we’d most like to forget
GG: The wedding.
ASM: The laugh that will never die.
Once again Uematsu was at the helm of the soundtrack for X but was not the only one involved in putting the soundtrack together. Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano are also credited for X’s score.
ASM: Uematsu’s final main number Final Fantasy soundtrack. Overall, it’s decent, but not one of my favorites. While I like At Zanarkand and Seymour Battle, things like the Jecht song didn’t really hit it off for me. I know a lot of people like that “rock” song, but it just didn’t do it for me. Suteki da ne was decent, but I feel like after IX, you could tell that Uematsu was tired overall, and felt like it showed in X. Grade: B
GG: At Zanarkand, the song that plays in the game’s first few minutes, may just be my favourite song from any Final Fantasy game.
The lyrical song in X, Suteki Da Ne (It’s wonderful, isn’t it) is also Yuna’s theme and is heard in different forms throughout the game. Uematsu did a great job of creating a soundscape for the world you find yourself in by combing organic sounds with futuristic sci-fi tracks. Another interesting addition musically is the track Otherworld which is the first time I’ve heard metal in a Final Fantasy game and actually may be a precursor to tracks found in other games like the Titan fight in XIV. Grade: A plus
GG: We expected big changes for Final Fantasy when it moved to the more powerful PlayStation2. What were your initial impressions when you slid the X disc into the disc tray?
ASM: The CG had leveled up, and Yuna was cute as heck. It was pretty as heck, I remember that. Thought how it started made it feel more monologue driven, from Tidus.
GG: Well, it is for the most part Yuna’s story told through Tidus.
ASM: For me the story was enjoyable, and I really remember being shocked at the twist, so to say.
GG: There are a couple good twists in there and you get to experience them and see Tidus experience them in much the same way. It really sucked me into the game’s world.
ASM: Yeah but at the same time there were major changes. This starts the path to linearity (no world map) and the turn base system was something in itself.
I remember the game also being really grindy too. The first or second time you fight seymour, I had to go back and grind to be able to beat him.
GG: That’s right! Many folks may not remember it but X was very linear. You just ran towards the red arrow. Maybe if was what Square had to do at the time as they dumped the backgrounds seen in the psx FF titles and went to fully game engine generated backgrounds. It was impressive at the time though resulted in very straight forward gameplay.
I remember having to grind to unlock skills but I don’t remember feeling stuck due to being under leveled.
ASM: That might be it, just for skills. I just remember the fight in the mountains with Seymour being hard.
GG: I remember that fight too. And I appreciated a tough fight when it seemed the regular battles were a bit on the easy side.
Did you appreciate the changes they made on this title or were they more than expected?
ASM: I think one of the the big changes was the addition of voice as well.
GG: Indeed. Until then the characters were fleshed out by your imagination. This time square did it for you. With mixed results.
ASM: What’d you think of the characters?
GG: Overall. I think they’re excellent. They are all different with their personalities and strong points. Other than Yuna, they are voiced well. I thin they did a great job on the characters in X. There isn’t one I dislike. What about you?
ASM: If anything, the only one that I didn’t use or care for was Khimari. I really liked the design of the clothes, etc. for the characters and Auron was simply the man. He was my favorite.
GG: They did a great job on the characters which was welcome after some of the characters on the previous games. Everything in the game just felt new and refreshing.
ASM: Well as we said before, FF changed, more noticeably from X onwards.
GG: Do you think this change was brought about because of the capabilities of the PlayStation 2 console or as a result of something else and, an even bigger question, do you think the way it changed was a good thing?
ASM: Well partially because of the PS2 but also because it seems that games were starting to lean towards the cinematic, movie experience. Maybe they didn’t think they could make a hit RPG in the old style.
As for a good thing I think it’s neither good nor bad but that there is a place for both the old and the new school.
GG: The jump to the new technology did allow them to make it much more cinematic and they took advantage of it. I didn’t realize how much a departure from the classic style Final Fantasy X was at the time as I was so wrapped up in the experience. I love what X is but also really enjoy the games that came before. I guess evolution is a good thing.
ASM: Yeah I didn’t realize how big of a change it was until we started this retrospective. Like I said I don’t think you can call it good or bad but just a new direction for the series, as it evolved with the technology. It has its own place for sure and should be viewed more for the game itself. Which then makes it hard to compare to games of old though…
GG: I still think you can compare some things across games (basically everything we attribute a rank to in this series). The biggest of these would be the story and I think X’s story is incredibly well done.
ASM: Yeah, it was actually well done now that I think back to it.
Came together a lot better than say XII did.
GG: Well, for each RPG whether final fantasy or not two things are important when it comes to the story. The world you create and what the characters do in it. I think Squate usually nails it in both regards and maybe X is their best work in this aspect. Let’s leave the talk of XII (my favorite) for next time.
ASM: X is an interesting game as I look back on it. It is truly a solid game, that is Final Fantasy, but definitely takes the series in a new direction, from style of story telling, expansive use of CG, and voice acting. This one I played through in English only because I didn’t have the ability to play imports on the PS2, so the wait for the US release was pretty rough, as I had some Japanese friends in college who were playing through the Japanese version. I enjoyed the story between Yuna and Tidus, which felt like it developed more naturally than say Squall and Rinoa. And yeah, the story twist is something that was really well done.
During our talks I realize this is yet another one I want to go back through and replay (I have the Vita remakes) but just lack time. But I also realize there are small things about X I didn’t like. The linearity (yeah, we’ll come back to that in XIII), the sphere grid, the boring or annoying mini-games (in my opinion), getting some of the best weapons. The lack of a world map! It also gets grindy at the end if you want to do everything, and to me it wasn’t an enjoyable grind. I guess I want to go back an enjoy the story, and skip the game play.
Regardless, it is a solid game though, and is easier to get into for players then our next game XII, whose gameplay was very polarizing for people.
ASM Final Grade: B
GG: In my heavy nostalgia for the psx Final Fantasy titles I may have forgotten how much I enjoyed X when it released. It is completely different and being the only Playstation2 Final Fantasy at the time I spent countless hours on it and don’t remember being disappointed. There is so much to do in this game and, yes, some of that involves grinding that you I think this game’s run time is considerably longer than those games that came before, though I can’t say that with 100% certainty. I can say that when I finally got to the ending all the time and effort paid off and having to say goodbye to Tidus and Co. was a sad moment. As ASM mentioned, X’s popularity spun a direct sequel though as I played that game I pined all the more for the Spira I knew, which had Tidus in it. As I started a New Game on the PS4 I was reminded not only how good the game looks, but how beautfiul it sounds, how gentle and sweet the love story between Tidus and Yuna, the depth of the personalities I spent all that time with, and the overall enjoyment X gave me. It was a stunning accomplishment for Square Enix at the time, setting the bar high for RPG’s on the new system, and remains relevant after a decade and a half have passed by. I really like this game.
GG Final Grade: A
Combined Final Grade: