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Final Fantasy Retrospective: The PlayStation 2 Years

Final Fantasy gains a voice, and faith in the series begins to waver for the first time.

Final Fantasy X: Learning to Talk

The release of the PlayStation 2 was a huge moment for the video game industry. The system’s monolithic design was in stark contrast to consoles that had come before, and the inclusion of a DVD drive meant that the then-expensive new movie format was in reach for many consumers. The much hyped “Emotion Engine” chipset that governed the PS2 was touted as being the greatest boon to 3D graphics so far, and Square was eager to get their hands on it, even going so far as to render a famous CG scene from Final Fantasy VIII with real time graphics on the new system as a tech demonstration.

Final Fantasy X began development in 1999, crafted by a team of over 100 people. Many of these team members had worked on the franchise before over the course of the series’ lifespan. With Hironobu Sakaguchi still hard at work on the feature film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the bulk of the game’s scenario and design fell once again to Kazushige Nojima and Tetsuya Nomura, who had worked closely together on Final Fantasy VIII.

The story of the tenth Final Fantasy centered on two protagonists: the happy go lucky blitzball player Tidus and the calm and collected summoner, Yuna. When a monster attack threatens to lay waste to Tidus’ home city of Zanarkand he falls into a portal and mysteriously travels forward in time many years, ending up far from home and falls in with Yuna and her pilgrimage. She’s on a quest to defeat the monster known as Sin in Zanarkand, and since Tidus is looking for a way home they join up.

Final Fantasy X featured a huge innovation to the series—voice acting. Although games had been using full voice casts since the PlayStation days, the Final Fantasy series had remained silent up to this point. The implementation of voice acting added a new level of complexity to development. Not only did Nojima have to take great care in writing the characters in such a way that they would sound distinctive and believable when voiced, but there was the added issue of localization. Translators would need to make sure that they were not only getting the spirit of the original script across to English speaking players but the dialogue needed to fit into the animated mouths of the characters, much like an anime dub.

Tetsuya Nomura crafted a world for Final Fantasy X that recalled exotic vacation spots like the Bahamas and Thailand. For the second time in the franchise the setting of a Final Fantasy game had a real name—Spira. Spira was largely a tropical environment, although it also featured verdant plains and stark, white-capped mountains as well. The cast of characters largely reflected this tropical theme, with plenty of Bermuda shorts and bikini tops to be found. It was a huge departure from the medieval aesthetic of the SNES games or the sci-fi influences of the “modern” PSX titles.

Nobuo Uematsu once again put pen to paper to compose music for Final Fantasy X, but for the first time in his career he had some assistant composers in the form of Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. Uematsu was suffering from health problems at the time and felt that he needed some assistance, but he also wanted some new blood to create some music that wasn’t his style but would still fit into the Final Fantasy framework. The trio created 91 tracks for the soundtrack, including the vocal piece Suteki Da Ne, with lyrics written by Nojima and performed by Rikki, a Japanese folk singer.

Beyond the brand new visual style and voiced characters, Final Fantasy X also took a shocking new turn with its battle system. In short, the Active Time Battle system was removed entirely, replaced with a true turn-based battle mechanic. Party members and monsters took turns based on their speed, and a list on the far right of the screen showed the turn order. This would change as certain spells were cast or buffs such as haste were used.

Spells were a vital part of the battle system. While status affecting spells like poison and blind had been in nearly every Final Fantasy game, they were rarely useful, often getting resisted or missing enemies entirely. These spells were vital in Final Fantasy X, where powerful monsters could decimate a party if spells like Blind weren’t used to hamper their attacks.. Similarly, fast enemies needed to be slowed down lest they attack two or more times compared to the party. Between the turn-based fights, the need to use magic wisely, and the ability to swap party members in and out to tackle specific enemies, the battles in Final Fantasy X were far more strategic than many other games in the series.

In addition to experience points, winning battles would reward players with sphere points. These were used to unlock nodes on the Sphere Grid. These nodes would contain attribute boosters such as increased hit points or magic strength, as well as new abilities. Even though the Sphere Grid was largely linear for each character there were definite places where players needed to choose specific areas to grow a character. Since the six party members fulfilled versions of classic Final Fantasy jobs they would start out in areas of the grid that played to those strengths. However, power gamers could spend enough time to make a warrior like Auron use magic, or Yuna become just as proficient in black magic as white magic.

The popular summoned monsters returned, this time known as Aeons. Only Yuna could bring these massive beasts forward, as her role as a summoner was integral to the plot. For the first time in the series, summoning monsters resulted in them replacing the other two members of the party. They then became a controllable character, with their own commands and abilities. This gave players much more control in how summons were used, but it also meant that summoned creatures could take damage and even fall in battle.

Final Fantasy X was released in Japan on July 19, 2001. It was reviewed highly at various outlets, even scoring a near perfect score of 39 out of 40 in Famitsu magazine.  Even though the PS2 had a small user base when compared to the entrenched PlayStation the game far exceeded the estimates that Square had for their first PS2 Final Fantasy game. It went on to become the first game in the series to receive a direct sequel in 2002’s Final Fantasy X-2.

Final Fantasy X was released in America on December 20, 2001, selling well despite the fact that it launched just a few days before Christmas. At the time, many North American players turned their noses up at the voice acting, especially the voice for the lead character, Tidus. Their rejection of his character as a whole colored the early fan criticism of the game, with many diehard fans wanting a return to the stoic, surly characters like Cloud and Squall. As the years wear on, however, players often cite Final Fantasy X as the last “real” Final Fantasy game. Their argument at least has a little bit of merit, as the next game in the series would be a serious departure.

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01/01/2013 at 02:10 PM

Good times ^^


02/24/2013 at 12:14 PM

Final Fantasy X was my very first Final Fantasy. Hell, you could even say it was my first video game period. And is still my favorite to this day

And what's really weird is, it was released on my birthday. Coincidence? I think not.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

02/24/2013 at 12:20 PM

X seems to get a lot more hate these days for some reason.  When I originally played it, I loved it, and it's still one of my favorites in the series to this date.


02/24/2013 at 03:02 PM

I think XII is my favorite from PS2. I played that game the longest time just grinding. All the PS2 FF are great, even XI Online. Although I didn't spend much time playing that one. I liked them in this order : 12 > 10-2 > 10 > 11. 


02/24/2013 at 06:10 PM

I never understood all the hate FFXII gets. To me, FFXII felt more Final Fantasy than FFX did, even though that game is called the "last true FF game." Don't get me wrong, I liked X, but XII had so much more to do in it, had a very refined battle system that could have served as a template for future entries, and unlike X and XIII, you weren't rigidly locked into a long hallway. I wish they'd reassemble the XII team to work on Final Fantasy XV.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/24/2013 at 07:37 PM

I prefer X for its cast of characters and the strategy that comes with being able to plan out moves many turns in advance, but I loved XII as well. It also had a great battle system, and the world was a blast to explore, feeling almost as vast as XI's Vana'diel. But I didn't like any of the characters besides Balthier, and the License Board system didn't allow for a lot of specialization. By the end of the game, all of my characters were a hodge podge of abilities, which took away from any identity in battle they had.


02/25/2013 at 12:03 AM

Just love love love FFX. Great memories!

When the FFX HD version is released on the Vita, that's the day I get myself a Vita :]


02/26/2013 at 12:49 PM

My thoughts exactly!!!


02/25/2013 at 12:13 AM

Loved the article!

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/25/2013 at 12:30 AM

Thank you so much! It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun to put together. I have a companion editorial going up soon, and I hope it sparks some great FF talk.


02/26/2013 at 11:00 AM

When FFX released I really enjoyed it. I didn't finish the game, simply because my end-game file was corrupted (sigh), but I really liked the game. The colourful world was a nice change of pace and it looked spectacular on the new PS2.

I bought FFIX, HDD and all and I was one of those that didn't get passed the trial period. It sounds weird, but even in an MMO, I prefer a solo experience.

FFXII was a great game, and I'm a sucker for Ivalice so that all worked for me. I enjoyed the Gambit system, although the License System was a little lacking.

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