Final Fantasy X – Squaresoft – PS2 – 2002
I remember the day I bought Final Fantasy X. It was 2003 and the big present the Christmas before had been a Playstation 2 (quite possibly the single greatest present I have ever received in my life, thanks Mum and Dad!). It was a month or two into the year and I had made my way through the games that came with the system, Lord of The Rings: Two Towers, Spiderman: The Movie and Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 to be exact. I can’t quite remember why I had money, I was about 11 at the time so possibly leftover from birthday or something, but I do remember heading to Liverpool to buy something new to play. The first game on the list was Metal Gear Solid 2, which as you saw in the post previous was the main reason I wanted a PS2 in the first place. I saw a copy on the shelf of GameStation preowned and I thought that was that. That was until I saw Final Fantasy X for a similar price right next to it. Decision time! Did I realise that in my hands I had the two games that would go on to become my two favourite games? Of course not, and at that point the concept of me sitting and writing a list over a series of months would never have occurred to me. I had read so much about FFX in various magazines but I think I was still making my way through FFIX at that point so I was torn. A decision had to be made and I went for option c, buy both. I think that I split the cost with my brother who was desperate to play MGS2 as well. I got home and started making my way through two games that would define the rest of my gaming life and what a journey it has been.
Thinking back to that day and the young boy I was at the time, the thought of my life without Final Fantasy X in it makes me wonder how I made it through those first few years as a gamer. It played such a huge role in my life in the year or so it took me to ‘complete’ the game, as with most Final Fantasies I got stuck repeatedly on my first time through, and has continued to do so ever since. I mentioned in my piece about FFIX that the series would form the crux of my strongest friendships at the time, and X took this to a whole new level. I was round at Alastair’s house every other day getting help on tough bosses, playing Blitzball and exploring the world of Spira as a team. Every day on the walk to school we would chat about how we were planning to level our characters when we got home, a trend that continued with FFXII and more recently XIII. At the time as I was making my way towards the Final Summoning for the first time, I knew that FFX was probably my favourite of the series so far, what I couldn’t have expected is that 9 years on I would still be levelling my characters and still be uncovering once unattainable items.
Though I have not played through Final Fantasy X anywhere near the amount of times I have MGS2, there’s a big difference with this RPG. My playthroughs of FFX usually ‘finish’ just over the 100 hour mark. As of this article, I have 7 of these end-game saves on my memory card just shy of one play through a year since I got the game. It’s not the fact that I’ve spent well over 700 hours playing an RPG that surprises me, it’s the fact that this is such a linear non negotiable one. Unlike say Fallout or Mass Effect which can change given choices warranting multiple playthroughs, or even FFX-2 with its New Game Plus features, FFX is the exact same game each and every time I play it. I like it that way though, as it means that I know just about every secret there is to know about FFX, even if I’m not skilled or patient enough to pull it off. It took me two playthroughs to realise there were other Aeons outside of the main story ones, and now I can unlock all of them before I’ve even left Mount Gagazet. I power through the game to reach the Calm Lands when I play now, the most important landmark in the whole of Spira because of the Monster Arena which is located there. I’m at the stage where I’m adding and replacing nodes on the Sphere Grid in order to reach full stats for my favourite characters, it’s the sort of attention to detail I mentioned in my Pokemon article. I rarely go that deep into games, but in FFX i’m in so deep already I doubt I’ll ever be able to come back up to the surface.
I mentioned my favourite characters there, and given this is a story driven RPG after all, I obviously have to mention the incredible cast. Lulu is just the fiercest mage you’ve ever seen, she is so ballsy that she uses a moogle doll as her ‘weapon’ in battle. The fact that I know basically the whole script of FFX off by heart aside, her one liners are the highlights for me. Yuna is the real hero of the game (Sorry Tidus), her pilgrimage is the ultimate goal for most of the game, and she is a genuinely likeable female lead with a story that feels much more honest than anything seen in the series before. Every character has their charms, even Wakka and Rikku who supply the over the top action throughout the game, but there is one in particular who I would say is my favourite in any game. Auron is the most badass guy in games. He’s that bit older and wiser, carries a sword as big as him, wears epic shades, has just one arm in a sleeve and laughs at his own jokes. He is the man, and he pulls it all off without needing to be ‘alive’ at all. I just can’t deal when it comes to Auron, much like I can’t deal with most of FFX.
To put how I feel about Final Fantasy X into non games terms, if it were an band, I would be at every concert and have 12 different playlists on my iPod of different ‘Best Of’ collections. If it were a TV show I would force every single one of my friends to start watching it, lending out the collection of DVDs of the seasons I own as I cry on cue at every emotional moment. But FFX is not any of these things, it is so much more. I can picture the Sphere Grid in my head as I type this, the diamond shape that each stage of Black Magic make up, or the Lvl 2 sphere lock that allows you to skip between this path and that of Wakka’s accuracy themed path. I decided not to dumb down the various technical terms I’ve used in this article for this very reason, I wish that everyone could understand how wonderful it is knowing how many Wings To Discovery you need to customise Break HP Limit onto your armour (It’s 30 just so you know). Most people would have no idea what I was chatting about if I talked about shining the Celestial Mirror in front of the plant in Macalania Woods, and if they do I reckon their life is just a little bit better for knowing it.
I may have written a lot but I’ve barely touched the surface on exactly why no other game could possibly top this list. Year on year I play game upon game hoping to find it, and yet the best game I play always end up being this, a turn based narrative driven RPG that may not push boundaries, but understands what it means to be a game. Final Fantasy X, it feels good to be home.
How can I play it? – It’s pretty easy to find on preowned these days for a cheap price too, but it might be worth waiting for the HD re-release on PS3 and PSVita next year.