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Posted on Dec 27th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under gaming, final fantasy


The first Final Fantasy game I completed was the Playstation version of the first game in 2012. I hated it. I've written about the insanely high encounter rate in that version of the game before, but it bears repeating because I never see anyone else mentioning it. Last year I played the PSP version of Final Fantasy IV on one of my Vitas and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I knew the series deserved a second chance and I'm glad I gave it one. With those two completed, I've been thinking for a long time about which game in the series would be next for me. All of the games seem interesting to me, and each title (except for IV and VI maybe) has its fans as well as its major haters. Although I thought I might skip to the Playstation era of the franchise, I decided to go to the Playstation 2. I remember the time I was a guest on the Collectorcast, Chris spoke highly of Final Fantasy XII but Bil was very persuasive making his case for the tenth game in the series. So a few weeks ago I decided once again to play through a Final Fantasy title, once again on the Playstation Vita. This is not a review, as I am not finished with the game, and I don't think I'd want to review this game even if I was. Rather, I feel a desire to share some thoughts on this very strange game.



I love playing games with an old-school strategy guide if I have one. I knew I had a guide for X-2 but I had to dig through the pile to find my copy of the guide for the first game. I didn't know when I started the game but this holy document would prove indispensable for my playthrough. I'm using the Bradygames Official Strategy Guide published in 2002. It is in good shape and even has the poster as well as a one piece of copy paper with someone's notes on it. This game is extremely linear. That's not a problem for me, but wait a minute, I thought FFXIII was "Final Fantasy Hallway." For the most part, the maps in FFX are all straight or slightly curved lines. There is almost no room for exploration. I was really taken aback by this. So, you may be wondering why I need a strategy guide. It turns out FFX is the kind of game where if you take two steps in the wrong direction, you may trigger an hour's worth of cutscenes with three boss battles in the middle. It's also the kind of game where you can miss out on huge items if you don't talk to a specific person or open a chest that you cannot see on screen. Combine these two things with the fact that there is pretty much no backtracking, and a guide is the way to go.

Thank you, random person who played this game many years ago.

So here I am, playing FFX on my Vita with a strategy guide. It's weird though, sometimes I just don't feel like lugging around that guide with me. What happens then? I grind. I listen to podcasts and grind. I listen to music and grind. I watch YouTube videos and grind. I grind on my lunch break at work. I may get in two to three hours of grind in one day. This is stupid, and I know that. Once the game is done, all that time I dumped into it will be for nothing except hopefully an easy endgame. The guide eggs me on to grind in certain spots by literally telling me "hey, this is a great place to level up." The game has a very unique leveling system that fuels my addictive grinding. Instead of earning experience and increasing character levels, you earn AP from battles to increase sphere levels. Each sphere level can be used for one move on the Sphere Grid, which is akin to a skill tree from a more modern game, except that all of your skills and stat increases are on it. Each character has his or her own section of the grid but there are ways to move into other characters' sections and double dip on their skills and attributes. 

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Gameplay sample from Ashe10 on YouTube

The combat has its own quirks as well. There is no active time battle that I quite enjoyed in FFIV. On the surface, this is a standard turn-based affair. However, there is one very important part of the battles which you must take advantage of if you want your party to level up evenly. AP is only earned in battle if the character does something, and it can be anything. A character can block, use an item, or even attack and miss and he or she will still earn AP. If the character is not used in a battle, he will not earn AP at all. When you're grinding as much as I am, each battle becomes a merry-go-round of available party members so each can share in the AP haul. The swapping of characters is useful during multi-stage boss battles where specialization is required, so in that respect I really appreciate it.

When it comes to the story and characters, I feel like this is a "you had to be there" situation. I'm trying to put myself in the mind frame of the early 2000s. I really can't stand the main character, Tidus. He is a truly unlikable, impulsive moron of a character. His voice acting is very annoying, and his costume looks terrible. The rest of the other characters fare a little better, but the only ones I really like are Lulu and Rikku. The cutscenes are horrible and there are so many of them. What makes them bad is voice acting that sounds like every sentence was recorded separately and then put together after the fact. None of the conversations sound like a natural conversation people would have in real life. It's like a bad dream.

I've put over forty hours into the game at this point and I'm ready for it to end. According to my guide I'm almost there. I didn't even get into the main mini-game, Blitzball, because I only did it once and didn't enjoy it in the slightest. I'm praying that I won't be required to win at Blitzball to finish the game. The generally positive reception of this game has me a bit confused. It is nowhere near as good as FFIV. Is it because the graphics were revolutionary at the time and those who played it at launch have forgotten about its flaws? It is the first game in the series to contain voice acting. Did that help players bond closer to the characters at the time? I really don't know. I don't hate this game at all, but I don't think it's that great. The Sphere Grid and the fact that it is on the Vita keeps me coming back and pushing to the end. I'll be happy when it ends and I can move on to another game in the series, perhaps around this time next year. Have you ever played this game? Was it back in the day or more recently? What are your thoughts on it?


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Comments
 
Sad to see the game disappointed you the way it did, because for me, it was one of my favorites in the series (while I haven't played all of them, I have played almost all of them). I understand you qualms with the Tidus character, but I would encourage you to play through the entire game, because most of his character development occurs in the late stages of it. I also would say that while there's not an open world type of exploration, there is plenty to find as far as secret items, and the lore of this story. I think where this got it right was all the NPC's that feel important to this world and its story. There's also a bevy of hidden items that encourages you to explore every crook and cranny.

I will agree with you about the switching characters to gain AP. It can be annoying, but I've played the game so much I'm used to it, and over time, you get used to how to troll enemies so you can get all characters in as quick as you can. Also, a word of advice to cut down on your grinding, go for 'overkills' every chance you get. You'll level up way faster.

For me, the game really picked up its intensity after I found the Jyschal sphere. But the other point that might affect your opinions on the depth of the experience is when you climb Mt. Gagazet and begin to enter Zanarkand. A lot of incomplete story threads come together at that point in the game, and unless you just hate the game, I would say play it through to that point before judging its narrative.

I think where this game really shines is that if you let yourself get drawn into its world, there are a lot of secrets to find that augment the narrative. The more you find these optional additions to the story, the more you appreciate the history behind the main narrative, and the further you get in the game, the more you'll appreciate the character motivations, as until certain events occur in the story, admittedly those motivations will seem shallow.

There will be a point when you will have the option of revisiting past areas, many of which will have new paths, as well as some optional areas. Taking the time to do this will help with that exploration itch. But save, because in the HD versions, a few of these areas have Dark Aeons (incredibly difficult super-bosses), though usually those encounters are triggered through an NPC interaction.

I am very interested in knowing just where you're at in the journey after reading your comments. If you haven't reached Zanarkand yet, play through that area, and see if at least a few of your opinions change.

My other comment for you is that you definitely need to try FFVI if you like IV. While it's not without its own flaws, it is an excellent experience, and if not for Chrono Trigger would probably be considered the best RPG of its era.

One last note- While you don't have to play blitzball to complete the game, like any mini-game there are plenty of powerful items you collect by playing it. But DON'T try to do this without recruiting a few new members for your team. In my experiences I replaced nearly all the original members of the Aurochs, and if possible get Kyou, Ropp, and Brother, as they are massive upgrades to the roster.

Not expecting you to change your mind, hopefully these opinions give you another perspective.
 
I mentioned it to you before, but I always really enjoyed FFX. I played it back when it first came out in 2001, and I revisited it about 5 years ago via the HD remaster. Personally, I think the game still holds up really well.

As far as the comparisons to FFXIII and its linearity, FFX is a linear game for the most part, but it does have some branching paths here and there that are worth exploring, and there is a lot of post-game content that is worth going back and doing. As far as I remember, FFXIII doesn't even have those small branching paths, and there isn't really any side- or post-game content other than some tacked-on monster hunts at the end. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but that's how I remember it.

FFX's combat was always a highlight of the game for me, and I think it was somewhat revolutionary at the time and is still influencing some JRPGs even today. It was the first game that I can remember that allowed you to swap party members mid-battle, and the turn order that is represented by character and enemy portraits that was introduced here is always something I like to see in turn-based RPGs. Sure, it's a little bit of a shame that they did away with the ATB system, but being able to manipulate the turn order with your attacks introduces a different layer of strategy to the combat. As far as the 'merry-go-round' of swapping in all your characters during battles, why the hell would you even do that? It sounds extremely tedious. Just rotate your characters between battles and only swap them in and out as needed. It sounds like you're probably already extremely overpowered through all the excess grinding you've been doing anyway, so don't artificially make the game more tedious for yourself than it needs to be.

I'm sure you can reference your guide to see what post-game content might be worth doing when you get to the end, but there are some extra Aeons to unlock and of course each character's ultimate weapon. You fortunately won't have to play blitzball again unless you really want Wakka's ultimate weapon, but I wouldn't recommend going for it. I didn't like the blitzball minigame either, and you have to play a ton of it to get Wakka's ultimate weapon. As EZ Racer mentioned, you can make it manageable by recruiting some better players, but I'd wager that you'd have no interest in revisiting blitzball, and I'm not going to try to persuade you otherwise.

As far as your complaints about the story, I feel like this is a common area where other people tend to have more issues than I do, not just with this game, but with games in general. I never thought FFX had a particularly great story, but I never had any real issues with it either. Sure, Tidus is an impulsive moron, but I feel like that's kind of the point. I also really don't understand your issue with the cutscenes, but to each their own.

At any rate, good luck with the rest of the game!
 
Guys, thanks so much for the comments!

I just finished the game. My opinions as written didn't change too much, but I did enjoy hopping around the world map with the airship before taking out the final bosses. I only got Yuna's ultimate weapon but didn't go through the trouble of activating it. I got all the 'almost ultimate' weapons and armor by using the secret x and y coordinates on the map, and they were pretty great.

I was so relieved when EZ-Racer commented that I wouldn't have to play blitzball to beat the game. I saw a tweet yesterday that called it "math class disguised as a sport" and that's kind of how I felt about it.

By the time I got to the end of the game, I was indeed OP as hell. I just really liked the Sphere Grid and how you could kind of break the game with it. Once you have Yuna jump over to Lulu's most powerful spells and get them both Doublecast, you got a freakin gangster squad that can put down anything the normal part of the game throws at you in one or two turns. For a lack of key spheres, I didn't even get some of the skills like auto-life and zombie attack.

Steven, I don't really know why I felt so compelled to have every character touch each battle rather than just having something like an A team and a B team. It didn't feel super tedious to be honest.

I appreciate you guys' perspectives on the game, and believe me, I tried to keep in mind that this game is almost twenty years old. The story never ended up gelling with me but I ended up liking the more serious toned characters (Lulu, Yuna, and Auron) a lot by the end.

For sure I had some issues with this game, but there's no way I would have spent almost seventy hours with it if I didn't have some love for it.
 
Cool man, glad you finished it and had an overall decent time with it even if it didn't connect with you like it did for some of us. Ironically, if you had asked me to recommend a Final Fantasy game to you a while back, FFX would have been my suggestion due to its more linear and streamlined nature. Now I feel like I'm not sure what should be your next Final Fantasy, but I will just say to keep Lost Odyssey on your radar. Many consider it to be the unofficial Final Fantasy XI, and it feels like how the series would have progressed had Square not changed it up so much with the actual sequels.

Also, as much hate as FFX-2 gets, I'm sure you'd probably like it for all of the 'girl power' it has Smiley
 
Good to see you finish it. Pretty much any of the FF between 6-10 are well worth the time. Considering your issue with the grinding on FFX, I wouldn't recommend going for VIII next, because the way you have to grind on it will likely be a turnoff. But any of those are worth a try because they all do something very well. Good luck on your next adventure.

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