Final Fantasy X

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 18, 2006

Filed under: Game Reviews 27 comments

Pixy is just not down with Oblivion, and also has this to say:

There are two groups that know how to make a good computer role-playing game: BioWare and Japan.

Fair enough. I might give a nod in the direction of games like Fallout and Planescape: Torment. Not fabulous, but both had a lot of new ideas and took some chances. But in any case, Pixy is right: Americans can’t make good RPG’s. (BioWare is Canadian)

The problem with American RPG’s is that they aren’t. Diablo and Dungeon Siege are both successful games, but there are no roles to be played. No roleplaying, you see. They are threadbare stories with vague or nonexistant characters. They have their own appeal, but it has nothing to do with telling a story or meeting new characters.

In fact, Diablo is about killing lots and lots of monsters and searching for cool loot. The game itself has more in common with playing slot machines and bargain hunting at antique stores than it does with classic D&D.

Which brings me to Final Fantasy X.

I’ve ranted about this game before:

FFX was my first exposure the the franchise, and it left a big impression on me. It has a massive, richly-detailed world. I'm talking Lord of the Rings-sized fantasy world, here. Futhermore, it is a truly unique world. This isn't some third-generation Tolkienesque D&D ripoff. This isn't goblins with six-shooters, or Elves in space. This is a whole new kind of world with its own ideas about magic, technology, and culture. The world of Spira has different languages, religions, sports, ethnic groups, political struggles, clothing styles, and inventions. It is full of characters that are amusing, whimsical, frightening, sad, and inspiring.

The game is a technical wonder as well. Even now, years after its release, it still looks great. The voice acting is superb. The pacing is excellent. The game is a fantastic experience, and is even fairly accessable to people new to the genre.

I should add that under no circumstances should Steven Den Beste be allowed to play this game. The plot is… highly unusual and would generate the mother of all “too many words” if he were to follow the story of Tidus. (I’ve actually been thinking of doing this myself. I’m revisiting the game now and I’m still noticing little scenes and details I missed the last five times through the game. I have some explanations for the end of the story that I’ve been meaning to inflict on others for some time now.)

These screenshots are from one of my favorite moments in the game, when Yuna performs the “sending”.

I seriously doubt we’ll ever see an American game company come out with anything as ambitious, as large, and as deep. American RPG’s are inept when it comes to telling a story, and too obsessed with Tolkienesqe folklore to go out and try something new. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tolkein mythology, but for crying out loud: We’ve been there. Go do something else already.


From The Archives:

27 thoughts on “Final Fantasy X

  1. Dan says:

    Yep. I couldn’t agree more. and on a related note FFVII Advent Children is due out on the 25th
    just typing it makes my pants tighter. also even cooler than that. this months issue of Game informer has confermed that Sqaure-Enix IS remaking FFVII for the PS3 but it will be using the unreleased FFXII battle system


  2. Pixy Misa says:

    Yep. :)

    This is what I wrote when I finally escaped its clutches:

    Anyway, that said, Final Fantasy X is the best computer game I’ve played in some time, and has probably the best storyline of any game I’ve played. I can see why people are (or were) so fanatical about it – there’s always a Yuna or three in the cosplay contest at any anime convention. After a visually impressive (if slightly odd) start, it really sets its hooks into you. By the time you’ve reached the end, you’ve spent fifty or more hours with the characters, and seen them sacrifice friends and love and eventually themselves in order to save the world. It’s not a happy ending either, nor should it be; but it’s a good ending.

  3. Pixy Misa says:

    Plus, Rikku is a babe. ;)

  4. Pixy Misa says:

    Heh. Thanks.

    I vote we pool our resources to buy Steven a PS2 and a copy of FFX just to see what happens.

  5. Eric says:

    If you like the FF series, another game from Square that’s really awesome is Xenogears. This game goes into such detail with it’s characters and plot, that i believe the action,and roleplaying percentage is like(and this is a rough estimate)75%(RP)-25%(action). Even though that sounds like this must be boring it’s not. The battle system is still the traditional turn based it’s still fresh, and unique. It uses a combo sytstem, which is a bunch of attacks that you learn and use by hitting different button combinations, obviously. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is If you like The FF series, this game rates among the best of said series(which ever one you perfer).

  6. Shamus says:

    I vote we pool our resources to buy Steven a PS2 and a copy of FFX just to see what happens.

    Seconded. I’d chip in, just to see what happens. I just picked up FFX for $12 (my old copy was scratched) so that thing should be cheap. I wonder what the PS2 is going for these days…

  7. HC says:

    I’ll join the pool (though I think we should throw in FF X-2, as well: cosplay as a critical game mechanic – he’d love it).

    I would suggest, though, that many Japanese RPGs leave very little room to create one’s own character, a joy I would expect that the author of Free Radical understands quite well. Role playing isn’t an activity located in the computer – it’s an activity located in the mind, and may be supported by both elaborate scripts and freedom to improvise.

    American RPGs – and by this I mean that tradition that claims its line of descent from Rogue through Nethack, the Ultimas, Wizardry, the Fallouts, Planescape: Torment, and the Elder Scrolls – tend to err on the side of player freedom. On the one hand, this means that you aren’t railroaded; on the other, as more freedom is afforded, it becomes progressively more difficult to meet that freedom with well written plots and characters. PS:T and Fallout struck that balance best, to my eye, but there is surely room to differ here.

  8. Sorry to disappoint you folks, but I don’t have enough energy to really get into computer games these days. (And I never got into console games at all.)

  9. Shamus says:

    I would suggest, though, that many Japanese RPGs leave very little room to create one's own character, a joy I would expect that the author of Free Radical understands quite well.

    Ok, you got me there. In JRPG’s, “creating your character” means giving them a name.

    Maybe I’m being unreasonable in that I want the character-creation freedom of Fallout, the freeform travel of Morrowwind, the randomized environments of Diablo and the visuals, characters, and storylines of FFX.

    Lulu: If you try to get everything, you’ll end up with nothing.

    Tidus: But I WANT everything!

  10. Dan says:

    “I dont have enough energy to really get into computer games”
    No offense Steve but how freaking lazy are you. I mean thats like saying I dont have enough time in the day to blink.

  11. Dan says:

    It occures to me that a better idea occures to me. We should start a money pool to buy Dan a PS3
    eh. eh. wink. wink. nudge nudge know what im sayin

  12. Shamus says:

    Sorry to disappoint you folks, but I don't have enough energy to really get into computer games these days. (And I never got into console games at all.)

    You seem to have your mind made up. :(


    On the other hand, perhaps we could put our money together and get Dan one of these.


  13. . says:

    Dan, don’t insult a man with health problems for wanting to take it easy.

    Also, by the way, I’d personally be much more inclined to classify JRPGs (or, more commonly, Console RPGs) as Story games (rather than RPGs). You almost never have a significant outcome either on the unravelling or the resolution of the story. I find these games enjoyable for the same reason I find a book enjoyable — I enjoy the story and find it compelling.

    Computer RPGs are almost universally of a different stripe — Computer RPGs are typified by their emphasis on multitudes of optional sidequests. In games like Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, and so on, I often find the main plot to fall by the wayside due to the sheer number of sidequests and their lack of relationship with the main plot. Typically I find that I am unable to finish games of this nature because there is simply TOO MUCH to do, and not enough effort in integrating it with a compelling storyline. In the sense of giving the player the option to develop their character through nonessential behaviors, it does allow the player to “Role play.” However, I’d argue that the typical setup of a CRPG, which gives the PC abstract game awards (XP) for completing sidequests tends to encourage a strategy of “do everything.” Many games try to have quests only “good” or “evil” people can do, but this, again, does not really substantially alter the fact that a person is rewarded for bland completionist play rather than IC play.

  14. Dan says:

    How am I supposed to know he’s ill. People gotta tell me these things.
    You know that part of your brain that says don’t say/type that it could be misconstrued and thought of as rude. Ya that part doesn’t work on me. For that I’m truley sorry….you bastard

  15. Shamus says:

    You know that part of your brain that says don't say/type that it could be misconstrued and thought of as rude.

    I know smileys are lame, but they do a lot to let people know you’re just having fun with them and not spoiling for a fight. I use them whenever I’m worried that what I’ve said may be taken the wrong way.

    You bastard.


  16. Eric says:

    oh no a virtual fight, everyone backup, they’re gonna virtual throwdown. awww snap, steven just jap slapped dan. Dan recovers, and counterattacks with his patented thunder clap attack. people it’s a conversation and you have to realize Dan is a racist.

  17. FlameKiller says:


    i have no idea what games BioWare made, but it is good that Canada is on the map of gaming. Me Canuk! if someone can tell me some games that BioWare made it would help my post X Mas shopping. i agree with the point that Japanese games rule. i also prefere Anime to any show that amarica can come up with, (Besides Numb3rs).

    one saying i have for FF is “That Guy Aint dead till the body fades away!”

    i have only FF4 advanced for GBA. this comment applys(to my knowlege) only to the older pixalated games.

  18. Otters34 says:

    Way late, but the Baldur’s Gate series is known to be quite good.

    Also, Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic.

  19. Brandon says:

    I would argue Japanese “RPGs” aren’t RPGs either. You have few choices. Your character roles are chosen for you and all you do is fight the battles and watch what happens. Where’s the role-playing in that? It’s more like role-watching with mechanical support. I like these games, but they really aren’t RPGs. Frankly, the older computer RPGs with more open worlds were much more RPG-like, even with the lack of story.

    So I would say, at this point, that what we’ve come to know as RPGs aren’t, and that the US and Canada are the only countries capable of producing RPGs in the more traditional sense any longer.

    Play Troika/Sierra’s Arcanum and see how high the genre can go in terms of combining role-playing with story elements.

  20. As a longtime JRPG player, I can honestly say that they’re not what I would consider actual RPGs at all. Just adventure games with very few puzzles and a battle system. But as I also like adventure games, this doesn’t bother me as much as it does most RPG purists.

    I agree with the ancient comment above, the one that recommends Xenogears. Don’t be fooled by the Xenosaga legal-grey-area quasi-prequel series, ‘Gears is an experience that has to be enjoyed. If only the battle system weren’t so clunky…

    Though nobody asked, I suggest the Persona series. Their stories are definitely not typical of the RPG scene, Japanese or Western, and they’re rather dark and surprisingly mature for games that insist on looking so darned hip. The third game’s battle system is also among the most interesting and invested turn-based systems you’ll find outside of a tactical RPG.

    Persona 3. It’s good.

  21. Relayer71 says:

    Late to this party but…

    I’d still consider SOME JRPGs as RPGs – definitely a step up from Adventure games. Consider Star Ocean Till The End Of Time.

    The story itself is a bit linear but you can explore the world map freely. You have a choice in customizing your characters with more than just weapon/armor choices (the game gives you points with every level up that you can use to focus on Defense, Offense, HP, or MP along with selecting special moves/spells that also level up with use).

    Other games do this as well, such as the aforementioned Persona 3. FFXII in fact does this extremely well with it’s impressively large and open game world and it’s Hunter Guild sidequests.

    Those JRPGs that give you a bit more freedom in customizing your character stats and don’t FORCE you on a strictly linear path (point a to b, EXACTLY) and have better-than-basic battle systems that allow for varied tactics to me qualify for the RPG descriptor. They’re just different from their Western or PC counterparts.

    Both types have exceptional titles as well as poor titles. And some emphasize one or more aspects (story, stat management, customization, item-hunting, story freedom, etc.).

    But as far as TRUE RPGs, there aren’t really that many to begin with. I can only think of Arcanum, PS:T, Fallout…basically the classics. Most PC RPGs, and especially the more modern ones are no different than most JRPGs in that there really isn’t much in the way of choice & consequence.

    Even in the Elder Scrolls games which promise to let you “Live another life, in another world”) the main plot and even all the optional guild/faction quest lines are linear. You’re just given a choice in which to do but none of your decisions really change any parts of the quests.

  22. Zeta Kai says:

    I don’t see a direct means of contacting Seamus, so I’ll just post this here, in the hopes that someone will ever read this. I’m a huge fan of both the D20 system & FFX (despite their arguable flaws). I spent much more time than is truly healthy, & I managed to combine my passions into a single project. Please check out Final Fantasy X D20, which is a total conversion of the world of Spira into a D&Dv3.5-compatible ruleset. All races, all classes, all Aeons, all monsters, all bosses, & all arena creatures are fayth-fully represented & statted out, as well as Blitzball, legendary weapons, & much, much more. A PDF will be available of the entire project soon. Enjoy!

  23. Steve says:

    I agree with moving on from Tolkien mythology except… Dragon Age Origins by Bioware is Tolkienesqe as a ‘Stand Fantasy Setting’. Still a fun game. Keep up the good work!

  24. RCN says:

    My 2 cents:

    I’d like to add that you’re wrong when you say Final Fantasy has a complete original story completely unrelated to prior fantasy. Final Fantasy, like any JRPG, borrows immensely from prior fantasy, but while in the west our RPGs usually borrow from the semi-nordic Tolkienesque universe they borrow from their own set of legends (mostly originated from China).

  25. Samael says:

    I have to disagree. Square is terrible at making characters. They can draw them. They can attach wacky voice tics to them. They can make a lot of really overblown dramatic things happen to them. When it boils down to it, though, that’s the sum of what a typical Final Fantasy character is: a piece of artwork with a wacky voice tic with a lot of explosions going on in the background. The majority of Square characters are monochromatic personalities with little or no backstory and no reason to particularly care about them. They have no internal conflict and experience no growth throughout their adventures, except in the most shallow sense of the word (“I have decided… you… are not… orcs.” – Steiner, paraphrased).

    To be fair, however, most people don’t really seem particularly big on character development. They’re happier to be handed a badass and pointed at a horde of monsters to go slaughter, although they will, on occasion, accept Joe Normal who becomes a badass through trial and tribulation. Note that, despite what Akira Toriyama would have you believe, taking a level in badass does not constitute character growth. An adversary who wants to destroy the world isn’t necessarily a character foil, nor is having a tragic amnesia-ridden past a foil if it fails to particularly bother the character most of the time. When it comes to writing characters who genuinely seem to be laboring to get over the hurdles in their life, Square just doesn’t tend to do aim in the direction of nontangible hurdles — they prefer obstacles you go through with a sword.

    “But what about Cloud–” Cloud could have been an exception. I say he “could have” and not “was” because of how clumsily and obtusely delivered Final Fantasy VII delivered its story. I honestly hope Square goes back and remakes the game (like they’ve said they never, ever will) just for a better translation and some polishing of the dialogue. That might make all the difference. Of course, then they’ll probably insert minigames between the dialogue. Press X to Advance Plot!

    You know what I liked? Planescape: Torment. You want a good role-playing experience? Try that. It’ll take a few patches to make it work properly, but storyline it has. And hey! It was an American company!

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