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Final Fantasy 10: fond memories of the classic RPG

Wednesday, 2nd April 2014 08:39 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Final Fantasy 10 is over ten years old and still one of our favourite modern RPGs. We run down the Square Enix classic’s finest points in a celebration of the adventures of Tidus, Yuna, Lulu, Wakka, Kimahri, Auron and Rikku.

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Popular consensus regarding the Final Fantasy series wavers with the ebb and flow of fashion. Final Fantasy 7 has gone from all-time classic to something to waggle your horn-rimmed glasses over while you talk up how good Final Fantasy 6 was. Final Fantasy 8 was going to be “four discs long with Resident Evil-style graphics”, but its confused themes and unpopular magic system have rendered it something of a red-haired stepchild of the series despite its boldness. Final Fantasy 9 was a return to the old school stylings we all said we wanted, but has gone largely forgotten by everyone except me (it feels like).

The same tides have affected Final Fantasy 10′s reception. The dizzying hype we experienced building up to its release held out for a while as we marvelled at the beauty Square Enix wrung from the then-new PlayStation 2, but crashed down bare months later. Suddenly it was all, “Hironobu Sakaguchi took a back seat on this project” and “dodging lightning is stupid” and “the sphere grid is broken” and “that scene with Tidus and Yuna laughing is fucking creepy”.

Well, bollocks to all that. We are not at home to irony around here; we do not feel the need to distance ourselves form things we like out of insecurity that someone will judge us. We are grown ups. Final Fantasy 10 is fantastic.

Here are a couple of reasons why we have eternal love for the adventures of Tidus and co. Spoilers follow.

And we’re off.

The aesthetic.

Square Enix’s avowed intent with Final Fantasy 10 was to break away from the generic medieval European look of many fantasy worlds. Personally, I don’t think Final Fantasy 6, 7 or 8 suffered from that at all, but 10 certainly made great strides in depicting a world with a more South-East Asian flavour in the mostly coastal inhabited regions of Spira. (Don’t ask difficult questions about why hardly anybody lives in the great empty plains where the monster from the sea can’t get to them. The explanation is as silly as it is unsatisfying).

The characters.

Final Fantasy 10′s ensemble cast are varied and interesting and for once that makes some kind of sense. In the story, Yuna’s crew of protectors were chosen for their skills and their relationship to her, rather than just being dragged along by events. For once, someone found a decent justification for throwing a chirrupy blonde into the mix beyond “she happened to be there at the time” – and all the character save the giant kitty cat have decent, complex motivations.

While your mileage may vary, Final Fantasy 10′s party is certainly memorable. Wakka’s stoic cheerfulness and respectful pursuit of Lulu are only part of the story; his little brother issues make him a perfect companion to Tidus. Lulu’s unsuccessful first pilgrimage explains a lot of her reserve and need for control, and her warmth, when it shines through, is touching. Auron is – well, that’s one of the great spoilers and certainly explains a heck of a lot.

Look, one of the characters has a dress made entirely of belts and fights with stuffed toys; if you want to argue about that you go right ahead.

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The first time I saw this I had to have a lie down.

The Sphere Grid

Yes, the Sphere Grid is a bit broken. If you put in the time (a lot of time) you can ruin the game utterly. But really, if you’re going to spend the hundreds and hundreds of hours required to erase all the low-stat spheres and replace them with major ones, you probably deserve whatever you get.

In the meantime, the sphere grid grants a genuine sense of progression. Later Final Fantasy games (notably Final Fantasy 12 which is excellent even in its unfinished, cobbled-together, confused state, and I don’t care to argue with you on this) refined on the theme, making it far more flexible and customisable, but this early-proto version was fantastic in that every few levels felt like you were actually achieving something. Much better than just watching a bar fill up.

It must be said though, Kimarhi’s also-ran starting position, where he’ll always be slightly less good at whatever path you choose than the character with a head start, is a crying shame – because who doesn’t want an eight foot blue horned lion in their primary party.

The music.

Regular series composer Nobuo Uematsu isn’t above sneaking memorable singles onto Final Fantasy soundtracks. Final Fantasy 10′s Suteki Da Ne is a corker, and that cutscene still ranks. Apart from that, Final Fantasy 10 made some bold departures from franchise norms with its score – the opening cutscene with its heavy guitars was shocking at the time, and remains memorable.

Also, I know all the words to the Hymn of the Fayth and I will sing it to my children.

Blitzball.

This is a controversial one, because a lot of you hate Blitzball. It’s certainly not easy to get into, but once you get the hang of it, start gaming the system, and begin recruiting in earnest it actually turns into a pretty cool little sports management sim – only everyone is underwater? Somehow? It’s much more fun than Triple Triad et al, anyway.

Page two is packed with spoilers, so don’t click through if you’re yet to experience Final Fantasy 10.

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8 Comments

  1. Michael Ireland

    Dodging lightning bolts is still stupid. *rips out his manly locks in frustration*

    Still a great set of games. I think I must have been one of the few people that ran to FFX-2 before FFX though…

    …wat? Don’t like at me like that!

    #1 4 months ago
  2. salarta

    I started listening to Final Fantasy music again lately, especially FFX music. I may abhor the remaster for trying to force FFX-2 into acceptance, but I can at least say it did make me nostalgic for the old Final Fantasy. I might play my PS2 copy of FFX some time soon.

    FF8 is increasingly gaining acceptance. The main reason people hated it when it released was people expecting a repeat of FF7, unaware that Final Fantasy doesn’t work that way. Today, people play it without expecting it to be like FF7, which allows them to appreciate it more. FF9 was also kinda maligned because of ridiculous expectations, but it was an incredibly fun and meaningful throwback, and a much needed reorientation of the series after the prior two entries started heading into a futuristic direction.

    Aesthetic: I wish more games had an Asian style approach. That was an excellent shift for Final Fantasy. Up until then and even after then, the majority of RPGs only included Eastern and Japanese themed areas as a small sub-area of a world predominantly Western and European themed. Valkyrie Profile is a good example of this, as is Final Fantasy IV’s Fabul and Eblan compared to Baron, Troia, Damcyan and Mysidia.

    Characters: Listening to the character themes, it’s just so stunning to me how well they symbolized the characters. Lulu’s creepy mysticism, Rikku’s cheerful innocence, Yuna’s sullen purity, it’s all there. It makes me a little depressed thinking of how thoroughly each was squandered in FFX-2, to get Lulu out of the way, turn Rikku into a giddy hardly-dressed spaz, and Yuna into a teenybopper. I always wondered about Lulu in particular, because her entire aesthetic is completely unlike anything else in all of Spira. You don’t meet anyone else with red eyes, or Gothic fashion sense, or that can manipulate dolls. She is 100% unique to the world, which makes her such a paradox. And no, I’m not including Paine, because she may as well not exist as far as I’m concerned unless a real FFX-2 is made some day that uses the characters properly. :P

    Sphere Grid: I tried to think of and find any other games using this approach recently, after I played Tales of Xillia and enjoys that. I only managed to find FFX, FF12 and Tales of Xillia fitting the mold. Too bad more games don’t make it possible to do something like this.

    Music: As I said, excellent. Otherworld was an awesome and entirely unexpected new direction. Every single game before FFX had a symphonic piece for major boss battles, but then here comes FFX, completely breaking expectation with rock. This worked well, and was made by Uematsu, unlike the attempt to force in pop music for FF13.

    Blitzball: Other people I know loved Blitzball purely for Blitzball’s sake, and would’ve even bought a game devoted exclusively to Blitzball if it was available. Myself, I found it okay, but kinda distracting from the main game.

    Aeons: I’ll agree here, aeons were great. Last time we had a real BOND between summons and the characters in any way was in FF6, so we went a long stretch where the summons were mostly just fancy summons. Also… uhh… Yuna’s trials inspired quite a few dirty fanfics. Whatever a person might think of that, the important part is, it made the connection between summoner and summon deep enough that people noticed it as a connection.

    Seymour: He’s astoundingly creepy. A thought: how much creepier would it have been if Seymour was female throughout everything he did? Maybe that’s just me. I don’t think this would’ve gone over well though, and for good reason. It would’ve been taken as suggesting lesbianism is bad, and that’s not something anyone with a heart wants people to think. Overall, as he was presented, Seymour felt to me at the time like a Sephiroth mock-up.

    And that’s my long spiel. Hopefully some day we get a real FFX-2 out of Squeenix, something that treats the world of FFX with the respect it deserves and understands who these characters really are instead of being some fangame where the director forces his own wet dreams onto the franchise.

    #2 4 months ago
  3. Alex Donaldson

    It’s got nothing on 9, but this is still a very special game indeed.

    #3 4 months ago
  4. eTitan

    @Alex Donaldson

    I think it’s mostly depending on which game was your first to be honest :) I love them both, FFX was my first though so it has a special place in my heart ;D

    #4 4 months ago
  5. CharlesLupula

    I wonder how many of those dirty fanfics were written by Salarta.

    Anybody read the scary RE slash fiction he wrote that Michael directed me to once? Yikes.

    Anyway, this is my favorite of the FF series, despite the bullshit that is Blitzball. I love the story it tells. I love that it has a racist religious fanatic as a heroic character (seriously…Wakka is like someone’s well-meaning but incredibly ignorant uncle). I love the music (although I still think XIII and XIII-2 have better music).

    The only two negatives I can give about the game is that the last boss is ridiculously easy and Blitzball. I cannot express how much I hate it. I remember when I first played and you have to play the game in Luca, I remember vowing to just quit FFX altogether if I had to play Bltizball long enough to win.

    That said, I love X and I love X-2 (and I gleefully rub it in the faces of the sad little fanboys who were sad that their waifu was disgraced somehow…not that I’m talking about anyone in particular). I very much hope the audio drama leads to X-3 on PS4. I also hope that if that gets made, Rikku keeps the look she had in X-2 and Paine shows up for the ride, even if it’s a more serious, darker story than X-2 was.

    #5 4 months ago
  6. salarta

    @eTitan That’s a pretty good rule of thumb. I noticed when talking with a lot of fans of certain franchises that more often than not, they’ll site the very first game they ever played in the franchise as the “best” one.

    My theory is that these people are associating just finding out about series concepts for the first time with quality itself, which is why you can have a lot of cases where people tout the worst entries in a series as being the best, or where they claim older stuff is terrible just because it doesn’t conform to what they think it should be based on their first exposure.

    #6 4 months ago
  7. brotherhoodofthewolf

    @Alex Donaldson in your opinion ;)

    #7 4 months ago
  8. ManuOtaku

    Final fantasy x was my first final fantasy game, so i cannot speak about it without nostalgia and bias. I did Like xii, but not as much. Lets not get into Xiii, lets say Iam dissapointed, hope the new ones embrace their former shape alas Bravery Default.

    #8 4 months ago

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