Final Fantasy X Part 1: Favorite Fantasy

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 9, 2016

Filed under: Retrospectives 204 comments

Final Fantasy X came out on Steam this year. I hadn’t played it in a decade. I wasn’t sure if the game was as good as I remembered, or if I was suffering from long-term nostalgia distortion. I changed careers in the last decade, moving from programming to writing about videogames. (And also still programming.) The indie revolution happened. Today I spend more time playing more games, and more time pondering them after the fact. As a result, probably half of the games I’ve played in my life, I’ve played in the last decade.

Naturally I wondered: If I revisited FFX, would I see it differently? It’s possible my initial perception of Final Fantasy X is hopelessly warped, or simply out of sync with my tastes and standards as they exist in 2016. The only way to know for sure was to play it. So I did.

I discovered that the good parts were better than I remembered and the bad parts were worse. My initial take on the game was basically correct, but now I think I’m better at drilling down and figuring out why the various parts did or didn’t work.

I’ll do my best to explain things to those who haven’t played the game, but this series is primarily aimed at people who are already familiar with the material. Obviously I’m going to be spoiling everything.

The Final Fantasy Franchise

Before we go off to fight Satan, let's just all stop and reflect on how ridiculously we're dressed.
Before we go off to fight Satan, let's just all stop and reflect on how ridiculously we're dressed.

I’m not an expert on the franchise. FFX was my first experience with it, and since then I’ve played a few others. FFX is my favorite by a long ways. I anticipate the first question from all of the fans of the series will be a run-down of what I’ve played so that they can appraise the degree to which I am full of shit and the extent to which I am hopelessly biased. So here’s a quick take:

Final Fantasy IV: It was actually an adventure getting the hardware to run this game, but in the end I only played a few hours.

Final Fantasy VII: It’s my second-favorite of the series. It was charming and strange and I liked all of the non-Cait Sith parts. To say more would probably require giving the game its own full write-up.

Final Fantasy VIII: I found brooding protagonist Squall to be a little too off-putting. I couldn’t tell what the author wanted me to think of him, so I couldn’t even tell if he worked. The story was just a little too strange for me. When we got to the time compression stuff I ran out of space in my brain for random mysterious bullshit and kind of gave up. Then I found out that all foes auto-leveled with you and I lost all interest. I really loved the look of the school / airship, though.

Final Fantasy IX: My playthrough ended when a PS1 memory card diedProbably the same memory card that was part of the FFIV story mentioned above.. But I think I’d have given the game another try if I’d been able to connect with it emotionally. I didn’t have anything against the game. I just didn’t love any of the characters, and these games live or die on our connection to the characters.

Final Fantasy XII: I didn’t like this game on my first try. Aside from Balthier, the characters seemed to lack flavor. But I’ve been itching to replay it and see if my opinion has changed now that I’ve absorbed a bunch of other JRPGs.

That’s it. I haven’t played anything newer than XII. I’ve never played any of the mobile games, or the MMOs, or the really old games, or any of the dozens of spin-off titles, or the board game, the clothing line, breakfast cereal, political party, religion, or whatever else Square Enix has done with the brand.

Unlike long-standing fans of the series who played them as they were released, I binged on most of these over the space of a few short years, and played them completely out of order.

The First of its Generation

How the HELL did you get up here, Auron? And WHY?
How the HELL did you get up here, Auron? And WHY?

FFX was the first Final Fantasy of the Playstation 2 console generation. It hit the shelves in North America over a year after the PS2, so it wasn’t exactly a launch title. But it was still an important system-seller and acted as proof that this new machine would be “worth it”. It was indeed a massive step up visually. I’d say the in-game cutscenes look more detailed than the pre-rendered cutscenes of FFVIIIAlthough maybe that’s just due to just the step up in resolution, which was pretty big.. Which is astounding, considering the games were only 2 years apart.

This is more remarkable than people realize. Yes, “The hardware is faster so of course the graphics are better” is the predictable response. But the impressive thing here isn’t just the step up in graphics, it’s the complete overhaul of the entire art pipeline. Between Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X, you’ve got new tools being used to make new kinds of models that use new animation techniques that key into the new voice acting and lip-sync, not to mention new texturing techniques. So much new technology had to be invented and mastered during this time period. It was a time of rapid change, and it’s amazing this game came out this polished, this large, and looking this good.

I missed all of the consoles between the Atari 2600 and the Playstation 2. By 2001, I was a diehard PC gamer pretty much by default. I had to keep my machine up-to-date for my work, and so I never saw any reason to spend any money on these odd machines that could “only” play games. FFX was the first game that made the case that I’d been missing outGrand Theft Auto III was the other big contributor to this..

Being a Playstation 2 title also means this is the first Final Fantasy to be fully voice-acted. This was an obvious move for a team that was so enamored of making high-quality cutscenes, but it also created a certain tension with the conventions of the series. One of the long-standing traditions was that you can name the characters as they join your adventuring party. That’s fine when the dialog is text, but creates problems when everyone is voiced. It would be difficult and awkward to try and write the scenes in such a way that nobody ever used anyone else’s name. You’d end up with people referring to each other by job title (Summoner, Black Mage, etc) which would probably make the player wonder why the game bothered. Why ask me to name the character if the name will never be used?

But they were perhaps shy of abandoning the practice completely, so they allow the player to name the Aeons – who aren’t really characters – and the main character. So the main character is named Tidus by default. The player can change it, but it doesn’t matter because the name is never used. On the rare moments when someone needs to say his name, they instead call him, “New guy”, or “Star player of the Zanarkand Abes”.

This means there’s some disagreement on the proper pronunciation of “Tidus”. The cast called him Tee-dus, but most English speaking players will see the word and assume it’s Tie-dus. Voice actor James Arnold Taylor talks about this in one of his videos:

Link (YouTube)

Apparently the English pronunciation came from the guy who did the voiceover for the original English trailer. He decided to pronounce it Tee-dus, and the mostly Japanese-speaking people who hired him simply accepted it. So that version of the name stuck when it came time to hire the cast for the English version. Again, this was just how they referred to him behind the scenes, “I’ve got to go read some more lines for the Tee-dus cutscenes.” It never appeared in the game.

As I said above, I haven’t played any Final Fantasy since XII, but the fact that the most recent one has the name of the main character in the title is probably a good indication that they have abandoned the practice of having an awkwardly player-named main character. The whole point of the feature was to give you a sense of agency and authorship over the world, and that only works if the choice is reflected in the game itself, so I don’t think this compromise actually benefited anyone.

This is Not Hard Science Fiction

So we've got six medieval-style burning braziers. (A guy comes in on Thursdays to refill those.) Then we've got a small electric lamp on either side of the door. Then there's an eye-searing floodlight in the next room, which is angled up for some reason. Another strange detail in this scene is LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE.
So we've got six medieval-style burning braziers. (A guy comes in on Thursdays to refill those.) Then we've got a small electric lamp on either side of the door. Then there's an eye-searing floodlight in the next room, which is angled up for some reason. Another strange detail in this scene is LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE.

I know it’s pretty strange to have this as a follow-up to my Mass Effect series. This is a completely different kind of fiction. If we’re measuring videogame science fiction in terms of hardness, then I don’t care how you categorize the difference between hard and soft sci-fi, Final Fantasy belongs somewhere on the “Jell-O” end of the spectrum. It makes the emotionally-driven Star Wars look like Star Trek. It’s basically a big fever dream of insane ideas, all glued together with outlandish but lovable charactersYour mileage may vary. Particularly in this game..

But I think this actually works as a nice compare & contrast with Mass Effect. This game makes a couple of the same blunders, but emerges mostly unharmed because it knows what it wants to be and it didn’t try to change genres mid-story. A major plot hole in one kind of fiction is just a trope in another, and it all comes down to how well the author accomplishes what they set out to do.

I bring this up because I’m worried some people might be expecting this to be another merciless catalog of plot holes, mistakes, and annoyances. But that’s not what this series is about. There are a lot of strange story beats in Final Fantasy X, and while some of them hurt the story, for the most part this series is about finding things that are curious and different, rather than listing things that are wrong or irritating.

THIS IS NOT A PLOT HOLE. It's just REALLY strange.
THIS IS NOT A PLOT HOLE. It's just REALLY strange.

This is a world that runs on emotions and Rule of Cool. And that’s fine. While the game is ponderously long, it doesn’t spend much of its running time explaining the mechanics of Spira. It’s actually pretty breezy when it comes to worldbuilding. It doesn’t waste time explaining how Blitzball stadiums work, or how people learn magic, or where food comes fromAlthough I assume that – being a coastal society with no farms – it must involve a lot of fishing, or who makes these ridiculous clothes, or what sort of scientific wizardry is required to maintain some of these haircuts. And this is okay because – unlike Fallout 3 – none of that is part of the plot of the game. This is about the characters, their relationships, and (occasionally, when we have time for it) about their efforts to save the world.

Final Fantasy stories create this odd feeling where you’re basically fine with where the story is going, until the moment where you try to explain it to someone else and as the words come out of your mouth you realize just how unapologetically ludicrous the whole thing is. FFX in particular is really good at spacing out the individual doses of crazy so you don’t realize just how much you’ve absorbed until you’ve overdosed.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick apart the world of Spira. I mean, that’s kind of what I do. But Spira doesn’t need to make sense in the same way that Council Space (Mass Effect) or the Nilfgaardian Empire (Witcher 3) do. It can run on nonsense magic, as long as we understand what the characters want and why they’re doing the things they’re doing.



[1] Probably the same memory card that was part of the FFIV story mentioned above.

[2] Although maybe that’s just due to just the step up in resolution, which was pretty big.

[3] Grand Theft Auto III was the other big contributor to this.

[4] Your mileage may vary. Particularly in this game.

[5] Although I assume that – being a coastal society with no farms – it must involve a lot of fishing

From The Archives:

204 thoughts on “Final Fantasy X Part 1: Favorite Fantasy

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That's it. I haven't played anything newer than XII. I've never played any of the mobile games, or the MMOs, or the really old games, or any of the dozens of spin-off titles, or the board game, the clothing line, breakfast cereal, political party, religion, or whatever else Square Enix has done with the brand.

    What about the webcomic?

    1. Hal says:

      Ah, good times. I read that obsessively in college. My one complaint about it is that it started as a sort of send-up of the conventions of the game, but went way off the map as things progressed. Which is fine, but a lot of it got . . . I dunno, weird.

      1. Kylroy says:

        As with Order Of The Stick, you can only function as a pure parody for so long. OotS shifted gears to telling it’s own fantasy epic, 8BT shifted gears to dada weirdness.

    2. Cinebeast says:


      Or, I dunno, my “teenagehood” or something. Still.

      8-Bit Theatre (and Bob & George) basically shaped my idea of fourth wall breaking humor and long-term storytelling. I owe them a lot, and I try to reread them every year if I can.

      1. bobbert says:

        Well, I guess I am re-reading Bob & George today…

  2. MichaelGC says:

    Woohoo! It’s not PAC-MANâ„¢ Championship Edition DX+, then.

  3. Mokap says:

    Am I the only person who called him Tidd-us?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes.Everyone else calls him meg.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why ask me to name the character if the name will never be used?


    1. Daimbert says:

      That’s not as bad, though, because they ask you to give a first name to personalize it and then can use the last name so that you can be addressed by a reasonable name instead of as various equivalents of “Hey you!”. Here, you specify the only name(s) that identify you personally but then the voice acting can never use it.

      That being said, the EA sports games — at least the hockey ones — recorded a number of common first names that the sports casters can use to talk about created players, so altering things isn’t impossible — but then that’s a lot easier to do in a sports game that has to have the ability to swap names in and out in precisely those cases and where it’s a simple, one word inserted into typical and standard phrases. It’s a bit different in cut scenes and dialog responses, where you don’t have a set structure and aren’t so repetitive.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The last name thing gets really awkward in Bioware games though. When your love interest only calls you “Shepard” but you always call them by their first name, I can’t help but wonder how close the two of you are really are.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, that’s the one place where the last name thing gets really awkward [grin].

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Eh,if you grew up watching x files you stop finding that odd.

        3. Joe Informatico says:

          If that kind of exchange is written and acted right, it can work as a sign of affection instead of weirdly distancing brusqueness.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The problem isnt that everyone calls you commander shepard.Thats an elegant solution,it works.The problem is that they were too lazy to put the first name you entered on that plaque.So you have a plaque that reads “commander shepard” right above the one that says “adm david anderson”.

    2. Also Deus Ex. Sure, you can have a name! That’s nice! Enjoy it until the game actually starts, at which point, WRONG! Your name is JC Denton. Suck it up.

      1. Alecw says:

        JC Denton is a code name!

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Bethesda almost had the right idea with naming your character in fallout 4.But they missed the most obvious solution:Have all the voice actors that you want to use the players name record their slow reading of the alphabet.Then,when the player enters their name,pick just the first letter from it and have the npc say stuff like “Hey S,come here”,or “Top of the morning miss J”,or stuff like that.On top of that you can record the defualt two names as well which would be used in full when its not changed.Its simple,but effective.

    1. Poncho says:

      It’s just so challenging coming up with and executing a good solution to the fully voiced cast problem without attaching a recognizable title to the main character. “Sole Survivor” is the protagonist in FO4, but no one ever calls you that. They fumble around with their faction titles or NPC-specific nicknames.

      It’s funny hearing Codsworth call you “Picard” or “Titties” or “Bacon” but the novelty wears off pretty quick — and it ultimately reminds you that this isn’t a real RPG experience but a playground with RPG-like rides scattered about.

      1. Josef says:

        We have had decent-is voice synthesizers for a few years/decades now. I wonder why haven’t they been used in any game yet?
        They sound kind of robotic? Have a game set in the world of robots.
        You need emotional delivery? Have the important lines voice-acted and ran through a filter and have rest synthesized.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          I’ve wondered about this myself. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to hook up an existing synthesizer (much less time than doing full voice acting), and then just make sure you run all your dialog through it to ensure it can handle it. It’d be absolutely perfect for some kind of robotic AI companion for the main character, or as you’ve suggested, in a world of robots.

          Just go in with the right sense of humor and don’t try to be too serious (because no matter what you write, some of it will inevitably sound funny synthesized), and it could be quite the fun game.

      2. Decius says:

        If you name your character Nora Codsworth will refer to you as “miss Nora”. Regardless of your gender.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If we're measuring videogame science fiction in terms of hardness, then I don't care how you categorize the difference between hard and soft sci-fi, Final Fantasy belongs somewhere on the “Jell-O” end of the spectrum.

    Im pretty sure that no matter how you classify genres,this series was never sf,but fantasy.Otherwise,the name of the games would be doubly oxymoronic(the “final” part doesnt work when you have more than one).

    1. Primogenitor says:

      For hard/soft scale purposes, sci-fi and fantasy are equivalent.

      But personally I think Final Fantasy is that weird definition-defying thing where it ends up both – technology-as-magic and magic-as-technology.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        In FFX, sure, but in some there’s a pretty clear cut between them, like Final Fantasy 7 (soul-powered reactors notwithstanding)

      2. Dev Null says:

        It’s an argument that holy wars have been fought over – and I’ve no desire to refight them here – but I’ve never considered technology to be the deciding factor between fantasy and sf. I’ve read and watched plenty of science fantasy over the years; Star Wars being a classic example, and I’d argue Star Trek belongs in the bucket as well. The difference, to my mind, is a lot of what Shamus refers to as world-building in these articles. In fantasy, the author makes up some (possibly-ludicrous) premise for their world (magic works, FTL, etc.) and then tells a story in which that premise is the setting, but is largely irrelevant. In SF, they try to build a world in which everything logically flows from that premise. Star Trek tells a story of a universe in which FTL travel and AI exist, but doesn’t ever tell us how that universe works – and in fact is often inconsistent – which doesn’t matter at all because the lack of consistency enables more stories which were the point. Ian Bank’s Culture books repeatedly ask the question “What if FTL travel and AI existed?” and try to figure out an answer (often a different one, from book to book.)

        As I say though, for any given n fans of the genres, you’ll get n+1 definitions for the difference; YMMV.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          Although Max Gladstone makes an interesting argument that a lot of recent fantasy is meticulous about its rules and internal logic while a lot of recent SF is about awe and wonder.

          This only fuels my stance that genre is largely marketing based on superficial elements (spaceships, robots, and computer hacking are SF; dragons, swords, and pre-industrial settings are fantasy), hence the way book covers are “coded” for subgenre. “This book has a spaceship on the cover so if you liked that other book with a spaceship on the cover, you should totally buy this one!” “This book has a glowering guy on a throne! You liked that other book about brooding guys and thrones, right?” Etc.

          1. Dev Null says:

            Good article; I hadn’t seen that.

            Yeah, I emphasized the spaceship-fantasy side of the spectrum, but there is definitely a lot of… (speculative spellslinging? To coin a term?) on the other end. Look at Jim Butcher, for a good example. We don’t know entirely how magic works in his worlds, but it definitely follows rules, and he definitely likes to play with the “if this works, what then?” kind of questions. (c.f. necromancers and dinosaur skeletons…)

            Also, if I in any way seemed to be disparaging about the SF/fantasy blend, that was unintended. As with Shamus’ comments on how things worked in FFX that drove him crazy in ME3, it’s all about the author/creator being true to what they set out to make: I like Star Wars, and Banks, and Butcher, and Tolkien.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I agree with you about the distinction,sf tries to explain its world,fantasy doesnt.But I still put star trek in the former,because while the explanations are often silly and contradictory,they still at least try to explain their mcguffins of the week.

          As Ive mentioned the last time we had this discussion:episodes 4-6 fantasy because force is just magic;episodes 1-3 kind of dipping into science fiction because of midichlorians.

          But this doesnt say anything about the quality of it,just the method.So,I could be wrong about final fantasy,since I never played a single one.But I think it just treats its magic as magic,without explanations.If so,fantasy.If it tries to explain it in any way,oxymoron.

          1. Dev Null says:

            I think Star Trek goes back-and-forth quite a lot. What pushes them more into the space fantasy camp for me is the fact that they rarely seem to feed the consequences of the explanations they do give back into their world-building. For instance: transporters. They have a couple of great episodes which lean more SF-y where suddenly someone notices that transporters are more than just a convenient way of doing scene changes, and they do something like resurrect the dead using transporter buffers. And they tell a good story with it. And next week, they’re back to ignoring the transporters again because… well, because everyone suddenly being immortal kind of messes with this week’s plot. They have a hand-wavey explanation for how it works, but they don’t really care about the consequences of it working that way, because that isn’t the story they set out to tell.

            I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It comes from the episodic nature of the stories they’re telling, and certainly the amount of this sort of thing varies quite a lot between the series (the ones I’ve watched, at least.)

          2. Alexander The 1st says:

            Having played quite a few of the Final Fantasy’s, but not having finished a lot of them, from what I understand the main thing Final Fantasy does is have magic, and technology, but at some point magic ends up powering technology.

            At some point in the games I remember, at least, it pretty much becomes an alternative form of electricity in one way or another. Or at least would be simpler that way. Basically the “But how does it work?” aspect is often delegated to the answer “It’s magic. Let’s move on.”.

      3. Joe Informatico says:

        I like SF Debris’ definition where science fiction and fantasy are the two directions of a continuum. Even the hardest of hard SF has to have a bit of fantasy (or at least speculation) otherwise it’s no longer SF, but a technothriller or some other “grounded” genre. And even the most fantastical fantasy has to be somewhat grounded or it crosses over into surrealism or psychedelia. Most SF&F works fall between those two extremes. “The degree of separation between Star Trek and Star Wars is at most 3 shades.”

    2. GrinOfMadness says:

      The idea behind the Final Fantasy series is that it seemed to be more of an Anthology where each iteration of the game took place in its own universe with its own rules (hence why each game had different mechanics) and each one was under a different (but possibly similar) world ending threat that would result in a “Final” adventure to resolve it. It wasn’t until FF X-2 came out that the “Final” joke became reality. Then FF XIII upped the ante on that one :|

      1. Syal says:

        From Wikipedia:

        Though often attributed to the company allegedly facing bankruptcy, Sakaguchi explained that the game was his personal last-ditch effort in the game industry and that its title, Final Fantasy, stemmed from his feelings at the time; had the game not sold well, he would have quit the business and gone back to university.

        Other than that, there were a lot of eighties games playing off the Dungeons and Dragons naming model around then; Ghosts and Goblins, Might and Magic, Swords and Serpents.

  7. Solism says:

    Will you be covering the Sphere Grid and other battle mechanics in more detail? I know you covered it way back in 2006, but it wasn’t as detailed. I’d be very interested in your views on it today.

    1. Shamus says:


      Also, I forgot I’d written that. I should go back and see what I said.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        You talked about ‘guages‘ a lot, it transpires. A guage is one of the monsters, I suspect.

    2. Galad says:

      Whoa there, look at Mr. I’ve been following Shamus since the start ;)

      1. Chris says:

        Is Shamus Hipsterism a thing? “Oh yeah, he was cool back when his diatribes were only 4000 words. But then he got all mainstream with his critical novellas. I’m into 5 word game analysis now.”

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          I'm into 5 word game analysis now.

          “Ten out of ten –”

          1. Chris says:

            You’ve made me sad.

          2. Decius says:

            You can play a dog.

            Latest in a hit series.

            They paid for more advertising.

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          Replace “only 4000 words” with “about the latest anime”, or “bemoaning DRM”, or “covering his D&D campaign” and you’re on the money.

          1. I miss the anime analysis…

            1. Deadpool says:

              Me too!

        3. Cybron says:

          “Yeah, Shamus really jumped the shark when he dropped the ads. What, does he he’s TOO GOOD for Google’s soulless and indifferent ad machine and ther questionably automated bureaucracy???”

          My own dose of ‘before it was cool’ would be that when I started reading, Shamus actually still wrote about D&D.

      2. Solism says:

        What can I say? I’m a badass :P

  8. MichaelGC says:

    Obviously I'm going to be spoiling everything.

    And forgetting the jump break thingy! :D

  9. Sougo says:

    Shamus if you didn’t know before, FFXII HD is getting release next year for ps4! It’s the same deal as FFX HD but the international version have massive overhaul to it’s progression system. Sadly, they didn’t touch up anything narrative wise though.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The guy who would have been the one to improve the narrative left the company mid-development. So improving it wouldn’t be possible outside of just allowing the current writers there to do fanfiction.

  10. Grudgeal says:

    My household belonged to Nintendo, not Sony. I never played the Final Fantasies after III/VI on release, but I did play FFX later when I inherited an old PS2 from my brother, so it’s going to be interesting to see the take of someone to whom FFX was ‘the big thing’ of that console generation.

    I do, however, have a very similar relationship to Tales of Symphonia and the Tales series than the one Shamus has to FFX. Tales of Symphonia was a big deal on the Gamecube at the time, and I have tried some of the other Tales games because of it (Phantasia, Legendia, Abyss) but not any of the latest games. And since it recently got re-released on Steam I’ve been replaying it. The game does not have a very good story, the plot twists get sort of crazy after a while, but it works as long as it can instill emotional appeal.

    One difference between FFX and Symphonia, though, is the gameplay. Symphonia’s combat is real-time, sort of like a fighting game’s, and ten years has been murder on my old man reflexes.

    1. mechaninja says:

      Final Fantasy III/VI is best Final Fantasy.

      Seriously, Shamus, you should give that one a shot. The spoiler is such a mind expurgation, unless you’ve been steeped in gamer culture for so long that you know about it, in which case it is still something.

      1. Syal says:

        I was a little surprised he’d played 4 but not 5 or 6. I liked 4, but it’s probably worse than everything that came after it* , and 5 and 6 are both high points.

        *(as with every game in the series, it is both better and worse than 8.)

        1. Muspel says:

          He did play VI. There seems to be a typo in the article– when it says FFIV, the link is to an article about FFVI, so I’m assuming he just mixed up the order of the roman numerals.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,its nice to see that you are keeping the tradition of not breaking the text on the main page.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      It’s so hard to remember to do. Plus the last thing you want is to finish the final proof of an article by messing up the formatting with a page break.
      That’s why I always put the page break in during my first draft, just so I don’t forget later.

  12. Hal says:

    I enjoyed FF4 back in the day, but that is mainly nostalgia. I recognize it as an enormous bucket of plot contrivances now. Still a lot of fun, though.

    The very first game is interesting, but I realize it’s not for everyone. It’s almost like a D&D style dungeon crawl. You even get to pick your character classes before starting the game, which improve with “prestige classes” later on. The mechanics can be annoying; a lot if them were streamlined or modernized in the later adaptations. Consider trying it out if you find your “to play” pile growing thin.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      There’s also the fact that it’s glitched to hell with several effects that don’t even work remotely as intended. Sadly it’s not even like six where the glitches are hilarious. That game taught me how to properly respond to evil trains.

      1. Hal says:

        Which effects didn’t work in FF4? The only one I can think of was “Curse,” which didn’t really do anything in the SNES iteration. That and the twin magic, which never worked well in any iteration of the game I played.

        But yes, when life gives you demon trains, you put them in a suplex.

        1. Hal says:

          It occurs to me you might have meant FF1 had effects that didn’t work as intended, which is absolutely true.

          1. Decius says:

            Which effects in FF(null) didn’t work?

            1. Hal says:

              Off the top of my head: Any effect boosting dodge rate or boosting weapon damage (Such as RUSE or TMPR) didn’t function properly. The elemental weapons didn’t actually deal more damage against their intended targets. (For example, the Giant Sword didn’t do more damage against Giants.)

              There might be more, but those are the ones I can think of.

              Other odd mechanical things might not necessarily be bugs, but they were close enough. Certain spells had such low success rates that they may as well have been non-functional in the first place.

    2. Felblood says:

      I’ll second the idea that FF I is all about the dungeon crawl. The meat of the game is about conserving your resources, and tuning your strategy to each encounter type so that the minimum amount of resources are consumed.

      This is a game were potions are too weak to be worth wasting a turn in a battle, and healing magic is too precious to waste outside of battle, but victory may hinge of knowing when to break those rules of thumb.

      In many ways, it is a more direct ancestor to Skyrim than anything else in the Final Fantasy line-up, complete with convenient, one-way exits at the end of many dungeons, except for the ones where you really need one.

      1. Hal says:

        Indeed, conservation of resources was one of the primary elements of the game, which is what often made it so very frustrating. For example, bag space was a limited resource; each party member only had 4 weapon slots and four armor slots, for both wearing and carrying. This became an issue as the game progressed, because you presumably wanted to fill all four of those armor slots with something to wear. But if you found something new, you couldn’t pick it up; you couldn’t even know what it was you were picking up until you cleared out a slot. Even worse, some of the armors had on-use effects in combat that were really useful. But keeping it around meant passing on more useful armor.

        That issue was changed in later games to give you a big, generic inventory, but if you played it on the NES, you knew the pain.

        In any case, I think the character classes were what gave the game so much replayability. Since each character class had different strengths and weaknesses, running through the game with different combinations of them often produced very different experiences. A Warrior/Thief/White Mage/Black Mage game is going to play very differently from a Warrior/Monk/Thief/Red Mage game.

        My favorite playthrough was a Warrior/Warrior/Warrior/Red Mage. Lots of raw power, even if there was an extreme dependence on item effects.

        1. Henson says:

          I can’t imagine playing without a White Mage. EXIT was a godsend in the Temple of Fiends.

          1. Hal says:

            The Red Wizard can learn Exit, so it’s not impossible. It’s just one of the last spells he can learn, so you’ll spend a lot of the late game desperately wishing you had it.

        2. Attercap says:

          I did an all Black Mage party once. The first couple hours of the game were just running in and out of Cornelia, leveling up enough so I could cast enough spells to walk to the next town. I know I got through the first fiend but can’t recall if the grind wore me down shortly before or after the second.

        3. Deoxy says:

          One of my favorite playthroughs was the all monk party – basically the exact opposite of your all or nearly all fighter party. The early game was a pain, but after the class upgrade… yeah, 4 masters just ANNIHILATE everything. Only downside is complete lack of magic, so items become very important.

          All white mage or all warrior (or any combinations of the two) isn’t bad either, actually. All black mage actually sounds like some special kind of punishment…. and I’ve beaten the original Dragon Warrior with NO EQUIPMENT, so I know grinding.

    3. GloatingSwine says:

      It basically [i]is[/i] a D&D dungeon crawl. The whole monster manual is in there.

      Including some things they had to change from the Japanese release to avoid legal action from TSR. (There was a Beholder, which is one of the few D&D monsters that TSR actually owned, its sprite was replaced with the EYE).

      1. krellen says:

        The DnD monsters that are wholly original are, I believe, the Beholder, the Mind Flayer, the Gith and the Yuan-ti. Those are what make something “Dungeons and Dragons”.

        (The Spelljammer setting prominently features all of these except possibly the Yuan-ti, and is thus the most “DnD” setting, incidentally.)

        1. Felblood says:

          Somehow they managed to keep the Mind Flayers as Mind Flayers, even in the re-release.

          Also, King Astos is totally a Drow, but nobody calls him that, so it slides.

  13. Daimbert says:

    Two thoughts:

    1) This was one of the early games I played when I got a PS2. I made it a significant part of the way through and kinda enjoyed it, although character wise I liked Yuna and Lulu and didn’t care for Tidus much. But, as was my wont at the time, I never finished it. I tried replaying it later and found that the temple puzzles annoyed me so much more that time around, and so quit playing it, and have come to the conclusion that I probably never will (I maintain a list of games that I’m actively planning to finish sometime, and while Fatal Frame 2 and Fatal Frame 3 are still on the list, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 have been dropped).

    2) The biggest difference between voiced and not voiced, for me, was between Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant. In Shadow Hearts, you could rename everyone — except Bacon — while in Covenant, because of the voice acting, you couldn’t rename ANYONE, while made the game a lot less personal for me and so a bit less interesting. It’s what solidified my opinion that, in general, voice acting is just a bad idea, taking more away in losing personalization than it adds to a game (although I’m almost certainly in the minority with that opinion).

    1. Trix2000 says:

      I think it’s a trade off, so it really depends on one’s preferences for the experience. For instance, I liked Shadow Hearts but never felt like renaming or personalizing anyone. They were their own characters in my mind, so changing the names didn’t seem necessary. Consequently, Covenant changing this had no effect for me – and it was, to me, a lot more immersive because the voice acting gave the characters a lot more… character.

      But again, that comes down to preferences. I tend to prefer more static stories where I can “roleplay” someone else’s character – JRPGs being the primary cases of this. To me it’s akin to being a part of an existing book/movie/or other story. Compare that to WRPGs and similar that are much more open-ended on the roleplaying front, letting the player decide for themselves who they are playing – with the world and story conforming to their choices. It’s more like a tool to help the player create new personal stories.

      Two different styles of play with different advantages and disadvantages, as well as appealing to different audiences and preferred experiences. One can enjoy aspects of both, but I suspect everyone prefers one style over the other to some extent.

      It’s much of the reason I love seeing voice acting in games, even if I can definitely see the disadvantages they have for other people. It just fits more naturally in my preferred playstyles.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Well, I thought that the text parts — there was some limited voice over in some cutscenes — built the characters pretty well. Admittedly, you can do more with a set character with really good voice acting, but a lot of the voice acting really doesn’t manage to do that. I can think of only a small set of characters off the top of my head where it worked (Yuri and Gepetto from Covenant, Varric from DA2 and Inquisition). But I agree that, when done well, it can work. But it takes away from your ability to personalize AND fix their mistakes by interpreting the tone of the sentence the way you think best fits the character they’re presenting.

        Ultimately, we’re agreeing here: there is a trade off in play here. But even acknowledging the benefits of voice acting, I’m not sure that the benefits outweigh the detriments. Voice acting is more expensive, can ruin a game if done poorly, and limits personalization, and its only benefit is that it CAN be more immersive and more expressive of character when done well.

        Admittedly, that ship has pretty much sailed, so I’ll have to live with it [grin].

        1. Trix2000 says:

          I think most of the downsides of voice acting are that it’s really easy to do wrong, not that it has, by itself, too many problems.

          I’d also include that it’s very limited by technology and resources, which depending on the project can decide whether or not voice acting will be a good choice. Sometimes it can be better not to have it at all, as opposed to limited sections (or less resources spent on it, resulting in lower quality).

          And while I get the argument that leaving the voice blank opens things up to player interpretation, I’d argue that’s not strictly necessary… at least for standalone characters. Not so much for player-created/shaped characters, but even then I think it’s entirely possible to make it work… IF it’s done right, which is incredibly difficult. Nigh-impossible in some circumstances, which would make those good cases for not including VAs.

          But I think provided unlimited resources and a proper craftsman, it would nearly always be a good choice. Too bad we don’t live in an ideal, perfect world, though. ;)

  14. Darren says:

    You didn’t like any of the characters in IX!? The characters are what makes that game work! I’m just…wow. I’d be morbidly fascinated if you were to get the Steam version and give us your analysis.

    Regarding improvements in visuals, have you seen the trailer for the HD version of FFXII that’s coming next year? It looks astonishingly good; like you, I think that FFX is a big step up from the preceding titles, but XII’s HD version doesn’t even look like it could’ve been from a PS2 game.

    One last question: did you ever play X-2? I’m in the minority of actually preferring it to X and am always curious to hear people’s opinions on it.

    1. Harold says:

      I think he meant he was indifferent towards them, rather than outright disliking them.

  15. Abnaxis says:

    Then I found out that all foes auto-leveled with you and I lost all interest. I really loved the look of the school / airship, though.

    True story, I never even knew the foes auto-leveled with you until I brought the game up somewhere else as a counter-example against auto-leveling and someone pointed out to me that the enemies actually do scale with your party level.

    Most of your power in VIII comes from the somewhat-impenetrable junction system, so even when foes auto-level they are *weak.* The only thing the auto-leveling really does is scale the rewards for one-shotting the weak random encounters.

    1. Henson says:

      The junction system remains one of the most original leveling systems I’ve seen in games, and such a shame I’ve not seen it since. It had MASSIVE problems in FF8, partly due to how long it took to explain and understand everything, partly due to how it de-incentivized the casting of spells, mostly due to how drawing magic worked, but I’d love to see someone take another crack at it. The options for customization could be amazing.

      1. Hal says:

        The summoning system (were they Aeons in this game, or something else?) was more annoying to me. That ended up being the most effective approach to combat, but it required button-mashing during the summoning animation (but don’t roll over your meter!)

        I assume the intent was to make that portion of the game more interactive, but to my mind, all it did was give me frustration and hand cramps.

        1. Henson says:

          I liked choosing and learning new GF abilities, and I liked how they were the story reason for why all these schoolkids could cast magic (though the late-game dues ex story reveal ‘GFs make us lose our memories’ was BS). But yeah, casting summons over and over was a pain with those ungodly long animations. Boost can go die in a fire.

          But I disagree: I found the most effective approach to combat was to go with regular attacks. Keep your character level really low, un-junction your HP to get it to minimum value, re-junction to 9999, and trigger your limit breaks over and over and over again. Huge damage output, and FAST. Especially with Zell.

          1. Dev Null says:

            I like the idea of being able to level up your girlfriend, but having her steal your memories sounds kind of misogynistic for my tastes…

          2. Abnaxis says:

            At the time, I even liked boost. Young-me was weird, and prided himself on his ability to mash buttons really fast. Not sure what I’d think of it today, though. My guess would be that if they re-released FFVIII on PC I would be fine with it, I would just program a macro to mash while I held a button

              1. Felblood says:

                O. M. G.

                There’s a way to play FF8 without that accursed resolution from Hell?

                I might have to grab a copy someday. Y’know, budget allowing.

      2. Victor McKnight says:

        Yeah, I knew several people who played VIII that simply WOULD not accept that spell casting was bad (because it lowered your stats). The system was a bit impenetrable, especially when paired with the GF ability system.

        But, at some point I may have… *cough* purchased a strategy guide. It made the same no-casting of spells argument. It didn’t matter to my friends though. In Final Fantasy you cast spells. Its what you do. So both I and the guide were wrong.

        1. Henson says:

          Which is kind of the problem. Why have spells in the game at all if you hardly cast any? Might as well junction stats to jewelry.

          1. Syal says:

            I think the idea was you would junction some spells and cast others, but the spells worth casting were also the spells worth junctioning so that wasn’t really how it worked out.

            The worst part was that you couldn’t throw away magic; you had to cast it all before you could clear the space for a stronger spell, and the game pretty much incentivizes always drawing 100 spells, so you’ve got a lot of casting to do.

  16. sofawall says:

    I actually had a similar opinion of FF12. Balthier couldn’t quite carry the entire weight of a JRPG on his shoulders alone, but he is certainly right up near the top of the list for favourite JRPG protagonists.

  17. Spojaz says:

    “But they were perhaps shy of abandoning the practice completely, so they allow the player to name the Aeons ““ who aren't really characters ““ and the main character.”

    Wait, was that holdover genre tradition actually foreshadowing for the twist?!?! That might be brilliant, or an accident.

    1. Syal says:

      Although 10 wasn’t the first game in the series to limit it that way; in 8 you could name Squall, the GFs, Angelo the Adjective Dog, and a ring for some reason, but none of the other main characters.

      1. Felblood says:

        I’m sure this is not true.

        It’s definitely possible to rename Rinoa, becasue I saw a guy rename her to a nasty slur in order to turn the dog tutorial into a weird misogynistic mad-lib.

        I definitely remember that.

        1. Syal says:

          I don’t remember if you can rename Rinoa. If you can it’s only her and Squall.

          The dog skills use the dog’s name, are you sure that wasn’t it?

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      I’d say that was an accident, but it might not be. Who knows, with these people? Especially considering the amount of stuff hinted at or just out of sight in this game.

  18. Chuck Henebry says:

    Where you wrote Final Fantasy IV, I think you meant FFVI. I clicked on the link to your 2008 post, and #6 is the game you’re talking about there, not #4.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      What’s the difference?

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Well, depending on when he got the game, what number was used to denote it.

        It may have been FFIII, or FFII.

  19. Tizzy says:

    I agree, the braziers look silly. But then I think of the many variants of the fake fireplace I’ve seen in people’s homes, and silly or not, the braziers are not shocking any more.

  20. The Rocketeer says:

    Because I’d be remiss if I didn’t take every chance I could get to pimp it out:

    If you loved Final Fantasy XII, or hated it, or like parts of it but couldn’t stand certain mechanics, or if you lost motivation part-way through, or if your PS2 died while fighting the final boss, or any point in between, you might consider reading my Let’s Play of the game, which is helpfully posted on this site’s forum. Be warned: it’s 75,000 words written all but entirely during nights when I chose to slam a Monster or two instead of sleeping, in between working 10- or 12-hour days. And it shows. But I’m still somewhat fond of it.

    Final Fantasy XII: A Travelog of Ivalice

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Bookmarked! Nice one.

    2. Retsam says:

      I wonder if Shamus could be convinced to allow this writeup to be posted as a series of guest posts if it were augmented with screenshots to match the format of Shamus’ and Rut’s current postings. It’s such a nice writeup (at least, as much as I read before I bailed because I just can’t kill that tiny part of me that wants to take a third shot at actually getting more than halfway into that game), it could use a better home than a series of forum posts.

      1. krellen says:

        That series’s tagline doesn’t really fit the tone Shamus uses for his site.

      2. The Rocketeer says:

        Yyyyyyeaaaah, while you flatter me, I think you might be in a minority that doesn’t include the author, much less the host.

        And frankly, FUCK gathering screenshots. Most time-consuming part of any LP, especially one where I practically said, “‘Editing?!’ new phone, who dat???” while chugging a third Monster at 5:30 AM. Christ, those were some rough years.

        1. Guile says:

          Don’t sell yourself short. It’s a good LP, man. Maybe not ready for a Hugo or anything, but I’m working my way through all 60,000 words now.

      3. If you try, just remember that Vaan and Penelo aren’t the main characters, thankfully. :P

    3. Kalil says:

      I scrolled down specifically to see if anyone else had linked this. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces of video game writing. I can’t recommend it enough.

      1. Kalil says:

        “After killing some rats, because this game has zero self-awareness AND forgot that it already had an entire tutorial dungeon, Vaan runs into Penelo. Penelo is that standard JRPG character who’s waiting to be Vaan’s girlfriend when the game grows the balls to pull the trigger on a real relationship.

        This never happens.

        Penelo scolds Vaan for being an irresponsible shit, then sends him to a bar to become a poacher.”


  21. tremor3258 says:

    To be fair to picking apart Spira – that’s an important aspect of the game’s own plotline thanks to the outsider perspective we follow, so you’d have to do it anyway.

  22. whitehelm says:

    To be fair, I don’t think allowing Lightning’s name to be changed would’ve helped FFXIII give the player any sense of agency anyway.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Lightning is a fine name. Changing Hope to Mope and Vanille to Neapolitan might have been worth it though.

  23. Radkatsu says:

    On names: Tidus’ name in the JP version is ティーダ (pronounced Teeda). Likewise, Rikku’s name (リュック) is pronounced effectively as Ruck (yes, as in rucksack). I think the localisation team did a good job making them less silly, heh. It’s common for JP names to be fairly substantially different to whatever the localisation teams over here come up with for western audiences, in any games, not just FF.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      Especially when they’re going for “European-ish names” like in Fire Emblem.
      Good grief do they had to change so many of those to be actual names.

      A good example of this is Crimson to Scarlet.
      They were clearly just picking neat-sounding words for “Crimson”.

    2. Muspel says:

      Rikku’s name in Japan might been intended to sound like “Luck”, given that she’s the resident thief/item user.

  24. Decus says:

    FFX is interesting and definitely succeeds with a lot of stuff but I think its biggest weakness is probably the fact that they used its script just before Spirits Within. You could really tell that they were experimenting with and learning new camera techniques in FFX and a lot of it is very amateur, off-putting and sort of ruins scenes. The english voice acting further hurts the pacing by having to attempt to lip-sync with the japanese. If there is any FF I want them to fully remake it would be FFX since it needs it the most. The dialogue alone would be worlds better if it wasn’t translated to match the lip flaps, leading to PS1-era “we were too lazy to write our own compression algorithm for the text so enjoy us fitting everything into the same amount of bytes the japanese used even though english needs more” dialogue.

    The second biggest weakness of FFX is something you’d probably only get if you’d played FFVII, FFVIII and FFIX before it and then watched Spirits Within. That is, the scenario writer wrote each story from the “same place” so to speak, all as ways for him to deal with the passing of his mother. Taken individually each scenario has strong, emotional moments where you can really tell that this is the case but even without knowing why–not knowing anything about the scenario writer–the scenes weaken if you’ve played all of the previous games since they can feel like re-treads and not always great ones. This is especially the case with going from FFIX to FFX and probably a large part of why you’ll hear huge fans of FFIX disregard the entire story of FFX and it may even be part of why FFIX just couldn’t click with you since you’d played every other FF first. It might also have coloured your experiences of FFVII and FFVIII in ways different from those of us who played in order.

    I’m not entirely sure how I’d have felt about FFXII if I wasn’t already in love with Ivalice or Tactics Ogre, but personally I was never one to be bothered by Vaan’s place in the story and vehemently reject any notion that his place in the story is flawed. The closest major piece of writing to put my feelings on the matter to words was a wonderful FFXII LP that examined the story through the lens of the monomyth. Beyond that, most of it is just love of the world for me since I’m the sort who loves talking to NPCs and really exploring. FFVIII was great with that and changing up NPC dialogue as you progressed and FFIX was interesting there as well but FFXII just has so much more to offer there that that alone makes it an amazing experience for me, especially considering that the world is clearly a matsuno world despite the development hell surrounding it.

    1. IFS says:

      Good to see there’s someone else out there who doesn’t hate Vaan. FFXII was my first FF game and I quite enjoyed it, Ivalice was a great setting to explore and the gambit system was really cool. I also didn’t mind Vaan as much as some people do, he’s certainly not the main character (that would a toss up between Ashe, Basch, and Balthier) but his character arc and friendship with Ashe played an important role in her own. The tutorial section before you met Balthier was far too long though.

  25. Ringwraith says:

    Pssst, people should get Wild ARMs 3 (it’s PS2 on PS4 though).
    It’s a really nice JRPG that takes many of the conventions you’d expect but flips them in subtle ways, even in the combat mechanics (MP to cast spells? Nonsense!)
    Also doesn’t expect you to grind, even lets you skip a bunch of battles as its own system!

    Focuses on a smaller cast too (of four), so everyone gets equal screentime.

    1. Mintskittle says:

      If I ever have to travel, I have a small entertainment kit containing a PS2 slim and four games, three of which have permanent places in the kit: Final Fantasy X, Wild ARMS 3, and Dragon Quest VIII.

  26. John says:

    So, um, I get that this series is probably going to be mostly about plot, character, world-building, and such, but what does the player actually do in Final Fantasy X? I mean, it’s a JRPG, so I figure you fight in a bunch of random encounters, maybe move the party around on some kind of map, fight in a bunch of random encounters, maybe solve a puzzle or two, fight in a bunch of random encounters, fight some bosses, fight in a bunch of random encounters, maybe do a fetch quest, fight in a bunch of random encounters, and maybe fight some optional extra-hard bosses. Am I wrong? (Am I unnecessarily reductive?) I admittedly don’t spend a lot of time following Final Fantasy discussions on the Internet, but somehow the only things I have ever heard about this particular game have to do with the story or the fact that there’s some kind of underwater-sporting-event mini-game. I never hear anything about the actual mechanics or what the experience of playing is actually like.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      JRPGs usually are mired in their own jargon so it makes talking about specifics difficult.
      Although X is a rare Final Fantasy that is entirely turn-based and switches to the next action immediately, with some actions in battles taking longer to ‘recover’ your turn.
      (Most Final Fantasy games progress in real-time, rather than just switching between the next person in the queue, which means you can delay things to sync them up, or certain actions actually take time to perform).

    2. krellen says:

      You are 100% spot on.

      Well, 90% spot on. You left out “fight in a bunch of random encounters.”

      1. John says:

        Y’know, I want to like JRPGs more. Once upon a time I watched a friend play a lot of Chrono Trigger and it seemed pretty darn cool. Story! Colorful characters! So when, as a genuine adult-type person, I finally acquired a system that could play JRPGs I went on a mini-binge. I bought a JRPG–Breath of Fire, as it happens–played through a couple of times, liked it enough to buy the sequel, liked the sequel more, played through that a few more times, bought Lunar, played it once, and . . . just sort of stopped with JRPGs. Lunar is supposed to be–or at least was marketed as–this beloved classic, but it made virtually no impression on me.

        The problem, I think, is that I dislike JRPG combat–and frequent random encounters merely make the problem worse. I suspect that the reason I played the Breath of Fire games more than Lunar, despite Lunar having what was probably the more competently told story, is that the Breath of Fire games had more interesting mechanics and mini-games outside the combat. But the combat in all three games seemed to boil down to (i)spam strongest attacks, (ii) heal as necessary, (iii) repeat until everything dies. Random mooks and bosses all died the same way. The only real difference between a boss fight and a random encounter is that bosses have stronger attacks and more hit points.

        I’m sure that there must be JRPGs out there with more interesting combat, but I fear I may too old and too tired to care. That, and I’ve just plain moved on to other genres–SRPGs, for example. (What can I say? I love maneuvering little dudes around the battlefield.) Still, if Final Fantasy X has interesting combat–by which I mean each combat encounter is full of interesting decisions and there’s no one-size-fits-all path to victory–I’d love to hear about it.

        1. krellen says:

          It does not. Japanese folks seem to enjoy repetitive gameplay, as a lot of their games have it.

        2. Deda says:

          I find the combat in wrpgs to be way more repetitive, look at the fallout4 let’s play that’s going on here right now, every single fight is literally “attack enemy with currently equipped weapon until it dies, use healing item if health is low”, jrpgs usually require to use different strategies for different enemies

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            A few points:
            First,the thing we see in fallout 4,it all happens in real time.You press a key,your character does an action.You dont have to wade through three separate menus just to punch someone.
            Second,the regular difficulty is really easy,so you can do whatever no matter what enemy you face.Its not so on the hardest one(well,for a bit,then you get overpowered and it is).
            Third,and most important,fallout 4 is barely an rpg,and even if you classify it as one,its an ACTION rpg.You are basically comparing apples to oranges.

          2. John says:

            Games like Fallout–not that I’m endorsing Fallout in any way–at least allow you to manuever in real space. And since fights take place in different spaces, that creates the possibility that different fights have different optimal strategies. In the JRPGs that I played–an admittedly small set of fairly old games–all fights had the same optimal strategy. Or at least you could get away with using the same strategy over and over again. Without having to grind, I might add.

            If there are JRPGs where that is explicitly not the case, you should totally tell me what they are–and if it’s not too much trouble why. That is exactly the kind of thing I want to know.

        3. Ringwraith says:

          Some JRPGs are better about it than others.
          Ones with visible encounters on maps are generally better than simply random encounters (although Bravely Default just lets you change encounter rate at will), and sometimes battle systems can lend themselves to fast do-or-die fights.
          Games which let you restart on any failed battle often aren’t afraid to pull punches. (FFXIII does this, it’s a very finely-tuned difficulty curve).

          Long final dungeons which are padded out, and may also be a huge difficulty spike requiring grinding to scale, (Final Fantasy does this all the time), can hop off into the sea though.

        4. Vermander says:

          To me it’s always seemed like the combat in JRPGs is completely divorced story-line. It always feels like a distracting sideshow, or in the worst cases tedious busy work you have to complete to see the next part of the story.

        5. tmtvl says:

          In Chrono Trigger spacing is kinda important, but you can’t move your characters around, so it’s less important to the battle system than in Live A Live or Grandia 2 (haven’t played the other Grandia games, so dunno ’bout them).

          ShinMegaTen (Shin Megami Tensei and their spinoffs, Persona) are very hard games where elemental attacks and buffs/debuffs are way more important than physical attacks.

          Finally I’d like to say how very sorry I am that Lunar was one of your first jRPGs. That drive anyone away.

          1. John says:

            Wait. You seem to be suggesting that in the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona games de-buffs actually work sometimes. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is the only JRPG or Japanese SRPG I have ever played where that was true. Even in my beloved Tactics Ogre, status effects are usually a waste of time, only to be used when it isn’t actually possible for a character to attack directly.

            You just blew my mind.

            1. Ringwraith says:

              They’re super important in mainline SMT games (which are hard games), as they’ll stack multiple times, and in IV, as there’s no defence stat, the only way to reduce your incoming damage.

        6. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          FFX has an interesting take on turn based combat, I think. Firstly, each character, if using the standard sphere grid (aka levelling up system), has strengths and weaknesses that need to be taken into account or you’ll be staring at a game over screen really fast. You can’t just use the same trio and expect to flatten everything (unless you grind, but then, what game doesn’t do that?).

          There’s also the fact that all actions have a hidden time cost (the more powerful the action, the longer until it’s your turn again).

          Personally I’d say there plenty of variety in the combat, but YMMV.

        7. Felblood says:

          Okay, I love the writing and the world of Lunar, but it’s combat engine is not great.

          Every encounter that isn’t a tedious slog is a miracle of brilliant encounter design.

          Don’t get me wrong, every now and then, these mechanics come together to form something really interesting, but mostly they are just tedious and unwieldy.

          If you want a JRPG where combats with trash mobs are fast and fairly smooth, Final Fantasy X might be just the thing.

          Especially for the first 10 hours or so, most non-boss enemies can be one-shotted, but only if you use the right character and move for the situation. Some of the random encounters later on naturally are a bit longer, but I rarely found a particular monster outstaying his welcome because he had become too easy to fight. Rather, I’d enter a new zone and meet a powerful enemy, and around the time I could kill one just by doing what I’d already found worked, it was time to move to the next zone.

          Also, you left out, “perform an elaborate, globe-spanning ritual to summon a super-powered, optional boss. Upon slaying said boss, receive a really powerful item, which you obviously don’t need, if you managed to beat that boss.”

    3. Xedo says:

      Like a lot of FFs, X is relatively easy. You can just keep farming xp to overwhelm most roadblock bosses, although there are three or four that will wreck the unwary player. As such, the game becomes a lot more friendly to a larger audience that doesn’t need to talk about combat/character management, which is why I think people don’t talk about what players DO much. However, there’s a lot of mechanics in the game that can really transform your approach to the fights. FF10 has a community-developed challenge to play the game without ever using summons (very powerful ways to fight) or the sphere grid, which is the system that builds up your stats and abilities, which is only possible because of all those other facets to the game’s combat.

      The gameplay mechanics that you’ll master for a No Sphere Grid challenge, and that are still very useful when normally playing, are exploiting enemy weaknesses, manipulating overdrives, summoning aeons, customizing weapons/armor, using consumables, manipulating the turn order (delay enemies, slow enemies, haste allies), at least off the top of my head. This is also the kind of game that rewards spending time in your menus customizing character stats and gear. I’d compare it with, say, Diablo 3 (although nowhere near to the same extent in complexity), where the gameplay is attacking and using abilities, but is dependent on spending a lot of time setting up your passive skills, abilities, ability runes, gear, and gear enhancements to have synergy with each other in a way that requires understanding of how everything works together.

      1. John says:

        See, when you put it like that it actually sounds pretty interesting. I love micro-managing my character’s (or characters’) equipment and abilities. Heck, my favorite part of Neverwinter Nights was using a spreadsheet to design new character builds. (For a while there, I had a serious problem building characters around the Divine Might feat. Er, in that I just couldn’t stop doing it, not in that it was especially difficult to do.) I doubt I’ll ever get around to playing Final Fantasy X–or indeed any Final Fantasy outside the Tactics series–but I genuinely like hearing about this stuff.

        1. Xedo says:

          If you really want to get into this stuff without playing the games, try looking up some let’s plays of low level final fantasy runs. Standouts include FF9, which is particularly crazy because bosses don’t drop xp, so you can win the game at level 1, and FF8, where because enemies autolevel with you, you’re actually at your MOST powerful at low levels.

          These types of runs requires such intense knowledge of game mechanics that it sounds like a completely different experience from a casual playthrough. There’s a huge community for this stuff, and I don’t like to play that way but I love seeing what these people can do.

          (BTW, other JRPGs with crazy good combat mechanics I could talk about way too much – Bravely Default, Trails in the Sky, Trails of Cold Steel, Xenoblade Chronicles X.)

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Please, do talk about Bravely Default. I got bored and quit that game around the ten hour mark because it felt shallow, I’d love to hear what I was missing.

            The Brave system was dull because it was almost always optimal to go Default-Default-Default-Brave*4, and in combat I fell into the JRPG rut of “If wounded: heal, else: use best attack; repeat until victory”. The closest thing to depth that I saw was the monk who had that two-turn attack-boosting buff which incentivized “Default-Default-Default-Brave*4(Buff, attack, attack, attack)-Brave*4(attack, attack, attack, attack).

            1. Ringwraith says:

              It scales up, although some of the more bizarre challenges don’t arrive until near the end when it falls into the repetitive sequence JRPG pitfall while trying to make a point about some of the tired aspects of JRPG design.

              Although some bosses before then just prove one strategy doesn’t always fit all. Like when they counterattack you to death if you try and brave repeatedly.

          2. Guile says:

            Trails in the Sky, what?

            I love that game for its story and characters, but it’s combat is awful.

            1. Xedo says:

              What can I say, I really enjoyed the orbment system. It was a flexible system that let me transform the party’s spells and strengths. And the craft/S-craft system provided another layer of complexity onto the combat options.

              Some of the fights were incredibly BS though. Especially with enemies that could summon more copies of the same enemy.

    4. Syal says:

      That’s the meat of it, but there’s also an exploration element to the games. Treasure chests in out of the way places, tiny collectibles that blend into the ridiculously colorful background (I accidentally pressed the interact button once and found an item I hadn’t noticed at all), people to talk to and bags to kick.

      Gameplay-strategy wise, it’s pretty set in how it wants you to do things; the main characters have specific builds that correspond to specific enemy types (there’s a fast character to pre-empt fast enemies, a high accuracy character to hit high evasion enemies, etc.), and the game spends too long explaining the concept of getting certain people to attack certain enemies (“Save that one for Sir Auron” ‘I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, GAME!’). Then you get more spells that shift things around a bit, overdrives that change over time (how it changes differs with each character). Also Pokemon-style levelling where characters only get xp if they did something so there’s a little bit of incentive to mess around.

      But as Xedo mentioned above, you can beat the game without leveling up, or without using summons, or with just one character, or a myriad of player-based restrictions that can alternately spice things up or drag them directly into the mud.

      Also it’s got, like, dozens of optional superbosses. I think it has more superbosses than all the previous games combined.

  27. Dt3r says:

    Great timing! I was just finishing up reading an LP of FFX, so its fresh in my mind.

    I’m curious what you have to say about the Macalania to Bevelle part of the game. I remember it having really awkward pacing, where the party hops between locations without regard for time or distance.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      And, in that part of the game, no one’s actions- ally or enemy- make the least damn sense. Whole section of the game reeks of running out of time and money, trying to fit in the broad strokes of the original plan with no hows worked out.

      And thanks for plugging Dark Id’s LP of the game; if you hadn’t, I’d have remembered sooner or later.

      1. Dt3r says:

        Exactly. There’s also a literal jumpcut right after beating a recurring villain, with no mention of what happened after the fight. The fight ends, and now you’re suddenly in a different location.

        It will be an interesting comparison to see Dark Id and Shamus complain about the same game.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Are you sure you replayed it recently? Because it is explained what happened between the Macarena Temple and the next location. Unless you mean something else?

          You beat Seymour, he dies, but isn’t sent, so he stays as an unsent. You killing him makes the Guado go ape-shit, and your party is forced to flee the temple. On the way, the Guado have a monster ambush you, that monster destroys the ice of the lake, making you fall under the temple. There, you see that Sin was nearby listening calmly to the hymn, and then Sin takes you to Bikanel. There you see the Guado fighting the Al Bhed over the summoners, they got Yuna, you go rescue her, which leads you to Bevelle. What part isn’t explained?

          1. Dt3r says:

            I was referring to the second time you fight Seymore, at the end of Bevelle. You kill him (again). The party knows he’s unsent, but instead of sending him you just suddenly end up back in Macalania woods.

            Although now that you mention it Sin picking you up under Macalania and dropping you off in the middle of a desert doesn’t make much sense. You’re under a bunch of ice, Sin appears, and then suddenly you’re in the middle of the desert. Somehow you hitched a ride, but the transition is so abrupt that it reads like the writers wanted to move you to the next location but didn’t know how to get you there.

            1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

              But then that’s not between Macalania and Bevelle, as your original post said. And at that point you’re the most wanted criminals in Spira in the heart of the enemy stronghold, there’s no time to send him. There’s also the fact that everyone’s faith in Yevon, bar Auron’s, got shaken pretty hard, if not shattered. They don’t know what to do.

              As for the other one, you’ll notice that that’s what happens every time Sin moves the party. Zanarkand to Baaj Temple? Same thing. Al Bhed ship to Besaid? Same thing. The party basically passes out due to the toxins, and they wake up somewhere else.

              1. Dt3r says:

                Macalania to Bevelle, inclusive. The scene was at the end of Bevelle.

                The party knows Seymore is evil (sphere from Jyscal).
                They know he’s unsent (having killed him previously)
                They know the only way to “kill” unsent is to send them.
                So the party has a goal to defeat and send Seymore. They defeat him and then… we’re somewhere else. The party has a clear goal, but we’re not shown why they failed to complete it.

                Honestly, I would have been satisfied with a short 30-second scene of the guards showing up and running the party off. The writer should have shown a concrete reason for why the party failed.

                1. Kalil says:

                  My impression is more that at that point Seymor is somehow cheating his way out of being sent – when he is defeated again on Gagazet, it looks pretty damn final, with everyone making ‘farewells’ to him. And yet when you enter Sin… There he is /again/.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Currently reading that myself as an introduction, having never played a Final Fantasy game myself.

    3. Grudgeal says:

      Wait, The Dark Id did a FFX LP? I still re-read his others on occasion. They’re a riot.

      1. Dt3r says:

        Yep, I was surprised too. He also just did a Drakenguard 3 LP.

        1. Syal says:

          At last, a weak excuse to post this!

  28. Phantos says:

    “Final Fantasy IX… I just didn't love any of the characters,”

    Between quitting Undertale and this, do you just hate loveable, well-rounded, 3-dimensional characters?

    Shamus, I love ya, but if you didn’t like the cast of FFIX, then you weren’t playing it right.

    1. krellen says:

      Maybe it’s generational. I like 9, but the characters I liked the most were Steiner and Beatrix, who you don’t really meet until like halfway through the game.

      I also don’t have the connection so many people seem to have with Undertale. It was okay, but the actual gameplay was drek bullshit, especially the fact that True Pacifist is literally impossible your first playthrough. And not a single character really had that “omg I love them” moment so many others seem to have had with the game.

      1. Cybron says:

        The events of True Pacifist don’t make sense without the events of the normal end preceding them. On a mildly related note, I always thought the game was done a disservice by the tendency of players to focus on the two extreme endings. There’s a surprisingly large amount of possibility space in the “normal end” (who you killed, how you behaved) and the game goes pretty far to respond to that. But the way people talk about the game, you’d think it was pushing super hard to go all one way or the other, like most games with moral choice systems (Mass Effect etc).

        I didn’t think the gameplay was amazing or anything, and the random encounters certainly started to drag if you spent too much time in one location. But I thought the boss battles were pretty fun. Did you dislike them? I also felt like it was a step up on JPRG combat, but I usually don’t like JRPG combat so maybe that’s just me.

        1. krellen says:

          I really don’t like twitch in my turn-based games.

          Having to kill Asgore when I’d gone the whole game without doing so is bullshit, and an unfair challenge. And Photoshop Flowey is a bullet hell level that REALLY has no place in my turn-based RPG.

          1. Cybron says:

            Yeah if you hate twitch gameplay then it’s probably not going to be much fun.

            Flowey’s bullet hell is bullshit, but it’s about as much a fight as your typical final fantasy final battle with auto-revive. Dying doesn’t matter because it advances the fight anyways.

            I don’t see how Asgore is at all an unfair challenge. Even on pacificist you’re still playing the dodge the bullets mini game constantly. And it’s not like you can be undergeared, the best equipment in the game is lying on the floor a few rooms away.

            1. Syal says:

              It’s unfair in that the game has trained you to expect there to be a peaceful solution when there isn’t. I died twelve times trying to find one (purposely; everyone tells you the fight is kill or be killed so I figured the solution was ‘be killed’ a bunch.)

              1. IFS says:

                I mean the fight opens with him literally breaking your peaceful resolution button, and if you survive long enough trying to talk him down he straight up tells you that your only choice is to fight. I actually really like the Asgore fight being that way, it drives home that the monsters you interact with are people with their own motivations and in Asgores case he’s far enough in on his crusade that you can’t convince him to stop on your own.

                1. Syal says:

                  The Toriel and Undyne fights both make you look for non-standard solutions because the obvious ones don’t work, I figured Asgore was another one. If the fight couldn’t be avoided then there should have been a previous fight that couldn’t be avoided. Make a Flowey fight where you can only dodge his attacks by hitting him before they arrive. Something to suggest that you really do have to use the command you’ve never had to use before.

                  Especially when the text changes based on how many times you died, which is a false positive about the solution panning out.

                  1. IFS says:

                    If anything I’d say the Undyne fight was preparing you for Asgore, you don’t talk her down you run away because you can’t just talk her down. Plus she and other characters warn you that the case will be the same with Asgore, and unlike with Undyne there is nowhere to run your exit is behind him and you can’t leave while he’s alive.

                    I will concede that the game keeping track of how many times you’ve died to Asgore is a bit misleading and certainly threw me off when I played, but it does eventually stop counting up and Asgore’s response to you telling him never changes regardless of how many times he’s killed you.

                    1. Syal says:

                      The message changes every five deaths up until you hit ten, from ‘sadly’ to ‘grievously’ to ‘pitifully’. Added to the “you know, we don’t really have to do this just yet” lead-up conversations, and Undyne’s date conversation about Asgore always just passively dodging in sparring, there’s a definite feel that you should be able to avoid this somehow.

                      …I’m confused about what I should wrap in spoiler tags.

          2. Deda says:

            I usually don’t like it when they do that either, but the turn based elements in undertale are so light that I wouldn’t call it turn based combat at all, it would be more accurate to say that it’s a bullet hell game that’s presented to look like a turn based rpg (considering how leveling works you can’t really call it an rpg either). The thing that’s different in the flowey fight is the presentation, the gameplay is almost exactly the same as the rest of the game.

            I’ve seen that people liking the gameplay in undertale depends more on how much they enjoy bullet hell games than turn based rpgs, I like both of those so it worked for me.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        My big problem with the gameplay is that becuase it was such drek, the player was incentivized to kill everything, because that’s faster, and gives more XP so that future boring fights will also be faster. And “kill everything” is the exact opposite of how Undertale wants to be played.

        1. Cybron says:

          I really disagree about “how Undertale wants to be played” – see my above comments about endings. Maybe the marketing or the community emphasizes a pacifist playthrough, but the game itself is pretty open to organic decision making. There are a lot of neutral endings. One of my favorite endings is the one where Alphys ends up in charge, because it’s the only time I found Alphys to be a remotely likeable character. Getting that ending requires an aborted genocide run.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            but the game itself is pretty open to organic decision making

            Even granting that, a reaction of “Ugh, more combat, I’ll kill ’em, just get it over with” is as much a problem for a game that wants you to make choices as it is for a game that wants you to pick pacifism.

            The neutral endings serve to illustrate that the Best Ending is the one where you save everyone, the Worst Ending is the one where you kill everyone, and as you kill more and nicer characters, you slide further from Good Ending to Bad Ending. The game might let you make decisions, but it’s clearly judging you if you don’t pick the decisions it likes.

            [nitpick]It needn’t be a Genocide run, you need to kill a bunch of named characters, but the Alphys ending lacks the requirement that you kill every random encounter.[/nitpick]

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              The neutral endings serve to illustrate that the Best Ending is the one where you save everyone, the Worst Ending is the one where you kill everyone, and as you kill more and nicer characters, you slide further from Good Ending to Bad Ending.

              I strongly disagree.The genocide ending is the best ending.In fact,Id argue thats the only real ending.If you finish the game in any other way,you can always just reset it,and everything is forgotten.You are stuck in this loop forever,picking different endings that mean nothing.But if you do genocide,you are finally free of the loop,you get to actually finish the game,and leave it in a final state.

              And even if you reset it then,which is harder to do than with any other ending,your choice is still remembered by the game.

              Also,the character most talked about,the one that came before you and started this whole thing,a total genocidal maniac.Everyone lies to you how they were kind,and everything was hunky dory,and stuff like that.Only in the genocide route do you find the truth,and how they want to destroy the world.Only the genocide route is honest with you.

              Plus,the most difficult and weirdest boss fight is in the end of that path.

              But players have been conditioned that the best ending in any game must be the one where all the npcs get to be happy.So everyone assumes that the best ending of undertale is where everyone gets to bask in the sun for a few minutes before they get shoved back into their neverending loop of lies and self delusions.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                How does that ending have more finality than the others? Because it takes a few more button presses to reset it? There’s no “permanent ending”, the loop ends when you stop playing. Characters beg you not to reset out of a particular ending so that it can be permanent.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Its not just more button presses,its the fact that the game literally ends after that.It closes itself,and even if you run it again,all you get is a blank screen.Only after 10 minutes do you get a choice to reset,and even after you do,that choice is still not erased like all the other choices.All that makes it way more final than any other ending.

                  But even if we ignore all the meta things,in universe that ending has more finality.In the endings when monsters go to the surface,you are told that everything is good now.But the game (conveniently) forgets that up to that point it told you how humans waged war against the monsters and forced them underground.So whats going to happen when the monsters burst out once more?Peace?Highly doubtful.Another war is far more likely.So bringing the monsters to the surface solved absolutely nothing.

                  Destroying the world,on the other hand,while a bit* draconian,does solve the conflict once and for all.No need to wonder what happens after,because everything is obliterated,nothing happens.By its very nature,destruction of the world has more finality than anything else you do in it.

                  *A bit* of an exaggeration.

                  1. Ninety-Three says:

                    At the end of The Last Of Us, when the scientists say they’re going to immediately kill Ellie to make a cure, that’s obviously a terrible idea marking them as lousy scientists who shouldn’t be trusted to so much as tie their shoelaces right. But it’s not supposed to be, that’s meant to be just how science works in this world, the author’s intent is clear. In fact, it would seriously undermine the narrative if they were terrible scientists.

                    The same applies for the monsters surfacing peacefully: it’s obviously stupid, but Undertale is a cartoonishly optimistic game and the situation it’s presenting is clearly supposed to not end in a war. The “Good ending” isn’t good if you think about it, but that’s a result of the audience thinking about something more than the author did. If you think about it, the exploding Death Star resulted in an apocalpytic rain of fiery debris on Endor’s moon, but that’s obviously not the movie’s intent, and while it may be an entertaining digression, it’s not productive to bring that up in an analysis of Star Wars.

                    And I hope you realize your argument makes you sound like an anime villain. “I’m sick of the world containing lies, so I’m going to blow it up. This is a good planending.”

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      But no one in the last of us clearly tells us “These guys are hacks”.In undertale,the previous war is a fact.Also,considering all the hidden things in undertale(sans is heavily implied to be someone from the mother series),I doubt that the audience thought about stuff more than this author.

                      As for the ending,I never said that genocide is a morally good thing.Rather that its presented as the true ending to the game.This makes it the best ending in the sense that other endings are less final.

                    2. Syal says:

                      The Pacifist ending is a hopeful one; things went bad last time, but most of those people are gone now so maybe it’ll work this time around. The whole game is about changing the monsters’ outlook on what humans offer them. Maybe there will be another war, but from the monsters side there no longer has to be.

                      But Genocide is the *real* ending; it’s clearly designed to be played last, it throws the hardest challenges at you and it has a “you’ve gone too far to ever go back” feel to it the others don’t.

                    3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      Note: the scientists being wrong is an idea present in the text of The Last of Us. Specifically, audio diaries found in the area make Joel’s decision MUCH more justifiable from a utilitarian perspective.

          2. Syal says:

            Well, if you get any of the Neutral endings you’re pushed to replay and get closer to the Pacifist or Genocide ending, depending on which one your latest choice would have led you. And they’re the only way to get True Resets.

            But yeah, there’s a lot of different Neutral endings if you go through.

            I think that Alphys one just requires killing all the bosses.

            A fun one was genociding all the monsters but sparing all the bosses.

          3. Ninety-Three says:

            I finally found the quote I was looking for. Straight from the creator of the game:

            UNDERTALE is basically a game about accepting and befriending people that are different than you.

            So yes, Undertale wants to be played pacifist-style.

    2. acronix says:

      Isn’t it interesting how you equated ‘didn’t love’ with ‘hate’?

    3. Shamus says:

      I didn’t say I “didn’t like” them. I said I didn’t LOVE them.

      The Undertale connection is apt. I felt about the same. “This is cute. Kinda nice. But I don’t feel a pressing need to find out what happens next.”

      Also, I didn’t make it more than a few hours in FFIX before the memory card died, so I hadn’t met them all.

      1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        Do you remember at what point you stopped in Undertale?

        I make a solemn vow not to tell you that you ought to play further because “it gets good later.”

        Though I might mention (in spoilers) if I think there is some point that might have grabbed you or others further down the line, if you don’t mind me asking.

        Its a common problem in rpgs.

        I stalled out in Wasteland 2 for so long that I ended up starting over.

        I have a play through of Baldurs Gate II (the later expansion, Shadows of Amn I think) that stalls in the desert town.

        Pillars of Eternity almost lost me when I hit the city but I kept pushing through that one.

        I think I’m going to start a forum thread on this one.

        1. Shamus says:

          Shortly after meeting Papyrus.

          1. Syal says:

            Probably wouldn’t change your mind, but you might want to push through to the Papyrus fight; the non-Toriel boss fights are the highlight of the combat.

            1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

              Oh yeah. There’s some stuff during and after that boss fight that I think would particularly appeal to Shamus’s sense of humor.

              Like all the dates you go on. Especially the one with Papyrus. It reminds me of some of the jokes Shamus likes to make on Spoiler Warning.

              I think he’d especially appreciate The way they all react to you trying to date them. The fact that none of them are actually interested in you that way but they all try to humor you.

              I will say you don’t need to play this game but if you’re confused about the love for it, its because most of the stuff that makes it really memorable comes much later.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          For me,it took a whole playthrough in order to truly get on board.Finishing the game once in pacifist mode made me think its an ok little game,but not that special.Only after seeing the difference between pacifist and somewhat shitty path have I really started liking it,and only after starting the genocide run did I start thinking that its a really good game.

          So yeah,this game can take quite a bit to “become good”.Which isnt any kind of endorsement.

          1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

            I warmed up to the characters fast enough for that to carry me through. I was looking for something pleasant and upbeat and this is such a game about hugs. I think I needed that at the time and I think probably a lot of Undertale’s more passionate fans did too.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Between quitting Undertale and this, do you just hate loveable, well-rounded, 3-dimensional characters?

      Ummm,no.I like undertale,its a good game,but those characters are definitely not universaly lovable(the only one I really loved was sans,and only because of his end fight),and only a few of them are well rounded and 3 dimensional.

  29. PatPatrick says:

    Never really liked FFÐ¥, but don’t remember why. Maybe because of game world design or setting. This is the first of Final Fantasy, which im not completed (played every game from FF4 to FF12 exept online one). Probably just got tired of the endless teen love stories =)
    p.s. my favorite one is FF9 (cause it’s a pinnacle of old FF that went before FF7), so i strongly recommend it to everyone.

  30. Genericide says:

    I’m definitely interested in this series! FFX is a favorite of mine and I love RPGs in general, so there’s that. But there’s also a lot of interesting grounds for discussion. Reading the comments reminds me that Final Fantasy, and the entire JRPG genre in general, is one of the most widely polarizing out there.

    Every opinion you could possibly have on what JRPGs are good, what makes a good JRPG, or even if JRPGs are good in the first place is represented here. The combat, the story, the setting, the characters, the leveling/progression, all of them suck/rule for every entry for specific people. I don’t have anything specific to respond to here, but I’ll be watching these posts and their comments with interest.

  31. Burning says:

    This is going to be interesting for me, because it’s the first game you’re doing a long form commentary on that I’ve actually played.

    I shared your observation

    “Final Fantasy stories create this odd feeling where you're basically fine with where the story is going, until the moment where you try to explain it to someone else and as the words come out of your mouth you realize just how unapologetically ludicrous the whole thing is.”

    with my family, and we all agreed that sounds pretty much right.

  32. Deadpool says:

    The blog post says FFIV but the link to the adventure talks about FFVI…

    Personally, 4 is my favorite. Then 6, 5 then 10.

    I have very fond memories of 10 even if my girlfriend at the time was super weird about that game…

  33. MadTinkerer says:

    “That's it. I haven't played anything newer than XII.”

    So you’ve played the very last good one in the series so far.

    Here’s a quick summary of what happened: XII’s story is actually unfinished, though it’s impossible to tell without 40+ hours of play time. Most of the main story is completed, but the rest of the intended story was done as a lower-budget DS game because they had gone so over-budget with XII. This did not matter to me because as far as I’m concerned XII is the best game in the series bar none. It has relatively minor issues with story pacing and character development, but the game parts are my favorite RPG ever.

    I love Final Fantasy XII more than Ultima VII. No game was able to replace Ultima VII as my favorite for decades, even though I really liked FFVII and loved FFIX. Then I played FFXII, and as a game nothing can touch it.

    Now, because XII went over-budget and had an unfinished story, Squaresoft decided that for the next game they would make sure to have a finished story as the highest priority. The result is the worst Final Fantasy of all time, one of the worst RPGs of all time, and… well… I’ll let Jontron say it for me.

    XII is not without it’s flaws. But avoiding those flaws resulted in XIII’s horrible… everything.

    XIII is so bad that even the people who actually liked it realized they really didn’t want more than one of it. XIII is so bad it made me decide that X is actually good by comparison, even though I agree with pretty much all of the points Spoony made about X (I wanted to post a link but the whole series is down right now? Might be a WTFU issue).

    (XIII would make a fantastic Spoiler Warning season. For a few hours. Do not attempt to complete the game. You don’t have the pain tolerance to do so.)

    I’ve ranted about how and why I don’t like Tidus at all as a protagonist elsewhere, and most of my other objections with X were that it just wasn’t quite as good as VII or IX. I didn’t hate the game itself, it just wasn’t overall as good as the ones that came before it, and it was the first FF I decided I probably wouldn’t replay again. It didn’t help that eventually XII came along and made X pale by comparison in every way (except for the one caveat that X’s story actually concludes properly).

    I’m actually carefully avoiding getting hyped for the imminent release of Zodiac Age on Steam, in case they mess up the port. Also, while a lot of people like the redone class system, and the classes were apparently what the original team wanted from the beginning, I actually thought the license grid was basically perfect for what I wanted. But even if Zodiac Age has serious problems, I’ll still have XII on PS2 no matter what.

    I really need to stop writing about Final Fantasy and go to bed.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      XIII is so bad that even the people who actually liked it realized they really didn't want more than one of it.

      Right, because a handful of people saying something represent all the fans.

      XIII is much better story-wise than most other FF games, IMO. It has a story it wants to say, said story is on a time limit, and the game enforces it by having the characters chase their goal(s) and nothing else.

      1. Corsair says:

        And other FF games didn’t have a story they wanted to tell? Look, the goals and the time limit, that’s all well and good in a movie. But FFXIII is a bad joke, it’s an angst-fest anime strung together by a terrible combat system and the world’s longest hallway. I played ten hours of it and if I hadn’t been livestreaming it I probably would have started chewing gravel.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          When the story is, “The world is about to be destroyed! Let’s do all the side quests in the world first, it’ll wait”, you get a story that no-one takes seriously. Why do you think so many people think stories aren’t important in games? It’s because of crap like that.

          Yes, XIII’s story is what you describe if you just take everything at face value and never bother to go further than a quarter of the way through the game.

          What’s so bad about the combat system?

          As for the hallways, as I said, they’re there to serve the narrative. The characters don’t have the time to go dick around or visit places, and for once a game made that into a gameplay element.

          1. Guile says:

            Well, the hallways were probably there to save on budget. Lack of shops and towns and things, likewise.

            But they did pull double duty as a device to serve the narrative’s themes, and I quite like the story the game tells.

      2. Cliff Granite says:

        XIII has a terrible fucking story.

        The gods want the PCs to kill the thing that’s keeping everyone alive.
        PCs go ‘What? No!’ and hit the road.
        Gods demand the PCs kill the thing.
        PCs go ‘Hell, no!’
        Gods demand the PCs return and kill the thing.
        PCs go ‘No, but we’re going to come back and sort you out’
        PCs return, sort the gods out.
        PCs then say fuck it and kill the thing anyway.
        Game ends.
        Final cutscene plays. The hollow moon inside which everyone lives falls from the sky. Everybody doesn’t die because PCs suddenly have superpowers.

        That is a fucking terrible story.

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          PCs then say fuck it and kill the thing anyway.

          Did you miss how the god they just sorted out fused with the thing? They had to do it or everyone would be dead for sure.

          Final cutscene plays. The hollow moon inside which everyone lives falls from the sky. Everybody doesn't die because PCs suddenly have superpowers.

          Then you really didn’t pay attention. They didn’t ‘suddenly have superpowers’, it’s the same power they were supposed to use to destroy the thing, except they used it to save people instead.

    2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      I believe Spoony himself began his FF13 review with an apology to FFX because he didn’t know how bad it could get.

    3. Miral says:

      FF13 is probably my favourite game in the series, although the sequels less so. (Ok, the storyline is insane, but it has both the best character designs and the best battle system.)

      FFX and X-2 come in second-equal (best characters and best levelling system), VIII third, and XII fell off the bottom because I hated it so much. I haven’t played the others, but I did finish all of the above except for XII.

      Everything is subjective.

  34. Rayen says:

    Shamus have you ever messed with any of the kingdom Hearts titles? I find them a good introduction to JRPGS. Disney makes it familiar enough to stick with it while the Final Fantasy elements (and characters) are weaved throughout the game. I love KH more than any of the FF games I’ve played, that’s makes me a horrible person to some but I have to much fun to care.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      I’d say they’re too much action oriented (considering it’s real time fighting) to be a good intro to JRPGs. Story-wise, yes, but not gameplay-wise.

  35. GeorgeMonet says:

    Final Fantasy 10 is one of those games which could be vastly improved simply by removing every male character. Every bad character and huge plot hole revolves around a male character. The out of place sport minigames? Those all revolve around male characters. The horrible Titus? He’s a male character. The awful stupid villain you are never allowed to kill or Send? Male. The ugliest character in the game with the largest mullet who only cares about the sport minigames? Male.

    If Final Fantasy 10 only involved Yuna’s quest to gain all the summons and then realize that she shouldn’t have to sacrifice her life to a religion that she found out was fake then the game would have had a tighter and much better story and dropped all the horrible pointless quest revolving around Titus, one of the worst characters ever.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      So thats why they made ten two.

  36. Sleepyfoo says:

    So I read this when they were coming out, and rather liked your take on FFX. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the game.

    I humbly request, time and inspiration allowing, you do a ff9 or ff7 longform analysis like this. If you can’t, no worries.

    While I’m making requests/suggestions, I’d also like to see Rocketeer’s Travelogue of Ivalice posted on the main site, rather than just the forums.

    Thanks again for this FFX analysis.

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