I’m one of those weird people who managed to play the Final Fantasy games backwards, not really discovering the series until the tenth installment had already been released. This game was developed by Square and was produced by Sony Computer Entertainment and Square Enix, released in 2001 for the Play Station 2. I was barely a decade old at this time, and I remember I had just purchased the super thin version of the PS2 and was just itching for games to play on it. Luckily this game came along and was responsible for getting me hooked on the FF franchise. A remastered version, along with the game’s “so-so” sequel (I’ll touch on that later), was released for the PS3 in 2014. This is great because it offers gamers the chance to purchase this fantastic game, in high definition even, as the original game can be difficult to find.

I had no Final Fantasy experience going into this game, so I had zero expectations for the game, except a high recommendation from the guy at Electronics Boutique.  I still remember starting the game and thinking – hmmm, not so sure about this one. However, after about half an hour of cut scenes and background info, the game kicked off and I was addicted.

The game follows the journey of Tidus, a blonde spiky haired youth with a serious ego-complex, at least in the beginning of his story. He is the star “blitz-ball” player (a sport that seems like underwater quidditch to me) for the city of Zanarkand, and has quite a fan following – the ladies love him. As the game begins you can talk to some of his fans and learn a bit about the city and the sport, and then the game begins. This doesn’t last long, as a large sea-like creature attacks the totally bizarre fishbowl-like blitzball stadium, destroying the metropolis of Zanarkand. Tidus’ mysterious friend Auron swoops in and saves him at the last minute, taking him to the world of Spira – 1000 years in the future. Here Tidus will meet a group of comrades who, in pure RPG fashion, are on an ambitious quest. They are attempting to escort their friend “Yuna”, who may I say pulls off a fabulous kimono the entire game, on a journey to the city of Zanarkand to fight a monster named “Sin”. Sound familiar? Well it should, as this is the same city Tidus just time-travelled from after being attacked by a large sea-snake whose name also happens to be “Sin”. What a crazy coincidence…

Now, that all may sound a bit confusing, but it is just a sneak peak into this game’s awesome storyline. This game contains some crazy plot twists, which explain how Tidus arrived in Spira, how Sin was formed and how it can be killed, and what happened to Tidus’ family (most importantly his father) when he was young. However to avoid ruining this experience for you, I will hold off on more major spoilers (so go play this game!).

Combat in this game is, for all your Final Fantasy fans out there, not a real surprise. It uses a fairly generic turn based combat, which is a more patient approach to previous FF game’s active turn based system. I personally prefer not having to rush my decisions for fear of death, as I find being attacked while trying to issue commands to be fairly stressful. This system is nice as you have an unlimited timeline to give your characters specific commands, and change your mind if need be. Each character has their own strengths, so you must be smart about your decisions, as it is very easy to die in this game.   There are eclectic group of characters who keep your party well rounded.  My personal favourite is the super angsty and goth character Lulu is a savage at magic.  There is also a burly dude who saved Tidus at the beginning wh is your main brute force melee character. Tidus’ blitz-ball friend “Wakka”, no surprise here, throws his blitzball at enemies, which is great for any air-borne monsters who cannot be reached by a hand-held weapon, and players like Yuna are great for healing and summoning spirits she finds along the journey. You can switch your characters at any time in the battle, as only three are on the field at any given time, so strategy is seriously important. Gamers used to a quicker gameplay than this may find it a little slow at first, but I grew to enjoy it, as it is so much about strategy and decision making as opposed to the more hack and slash approach.

Things You’ll Like

The Storyline! The plot in this game is ridonculous, honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie. The emotion you feel in these characters, despite the sub-par graphic quality, is astounding, and I fall in love with its complexity every time I play it through. There is one plot twist in particular that really got me near the end, which deals with how the group must complete their mission, and this moment acts as a turning point in the game.

Along with the story, the music is also lovely in this game.   There is a really nice piano theme song that plays throughout the whole game, and each area and dungeon has its own composed mood. Music is important to me in video games, and this does not disappoint.

Another plus to the game is the upgrading system, which is called the “Sphere Grid”. When you gain enough Ability Points (AP), characters are rewarded with “Sphere points” to move around the grid. Now at the beginning the character’s path is pretty linear – you learn attributes that enhance that characters natural ability, whether that’s magic, strength, ranged attacks, healing, etc. Then once you have learned the core abilities of a character, you are given the opportunity to spread out into other characters “domains” as it were, and learn different types of abilities. So your main dark magic chick Lulu can also become a healer, or Wakka the ranged hitter can learn how to steal from enemies, etc. There is one character named Kimahri who is a Ronso – a big blue beast-like guy, who doesn’t have much of a natural path in the sphere grid, so from the beginning you can pick which direction you want to take him on the grid. Sounds a bit confusing but it’s not too hard, basically you get to customize your characters completely, making the experience different every time.


Things You Won’t Like

There is a major portion of this game called the “Cloister of Trials” that drives me insane. Every time you come to a new temple in Spira – and there are a lot of them – you have to go through these trials to allow your group entrance. Basically you have to touch these glowing glyphs on the wall and move them around to certain areas to make things move or change, etc. I have always used a guide for these sections, because I just cannot see how one could accomplish these on their own. They don’t really make any sense, and I would never just try it on my own as it gets so confusing. This is the one flaw in the game for me, and it is a big one. If you can muster some patience and get through these sections the game is worth it, I just wish these were never incorporated at all.

Don’t play the sequel. It’s called “FF-X2” and has the strangest plot, and a horrible combat system that is literally based on different dance moves (no joke). Players equip “dance spheres” allocated on their “garment grids”, and depending on the sphere they have different abilities. Two of the characters are from FFX, Yuna and her friend Rikku, and they have a pretty awesome warrior woman friend named “Paine”, but I just can’t get over the active battle via dancing. You’ve been warned.

Finally, boss battles in this game can be brutal. You can put well over an hour into a fight, and then die at the last minute. This usually results in me throwing my remote control across the room and giving up for a while, which is no way to enjoy a game. The finale boss battle is this three-part marathon of a fight, which can take an eternity to defeat. The ending of the game is so worth it though (plot twist, plot twist!), so beating the boss is important, it’s just far too time-consuming.

 Overall this is one of my favourite games, and a great asset to the Final Fantasy series. The storyline and the characters in this game are phenomenal, and the player feels sympathy and compassion for this group of people who are attempting to accomplish basically an impossible mission. In combination with some stellar combat and leveling up systems, the game is overall a winner. A few undesirable sections here and there (*cough cloister of trials, *cough), and time-consuming bosses, but the story more than makes up for it.