Straight off the bat I’m going to say that I’m a little shocked and appalled that 20 years have gone by since the release of Final Fantasy X, a game I remember being hyped to play long before it came out, and one that felt like a huge leap forward for the classic Japanese RPG series. Now it’s older than the entire franchise was when it was released. Time, why must you punish us by continually progressing?
Final Fantasy X was the first entry in the beloved Square series to come to PlayStation 2, and was the first game in the series to break away from pre-rendered backdrops to fully three-dimensional backgrounds. It was also the first game in the franchise to use voice acting; something that many fans were unsure of when it was first announced. Until this point the series was well known for a particular style, and many were worried that this new, modern entry wouldn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game. Luckily, upon release it became a huge success.
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The story takes players to the world of Spira, a place inspired by Japan, Thailand, and the South Pacific. These influences would inspire both the look and feel of the game, which along with the leap in technology made the game stand out amongst its brethren. We play as Tidus, a star Blitzball player who is transported to Spira from his home of Zanarkand following an attack from the monstrous entity known as Sin. Shortly after arriving in Spira, Tidus becomes the bodyguard to Yuna, a young woman who’s set out to defeat Sin.
The game still followed many of the main gameplay elements of previous entries in the series, presenting players with a large world to explore through a third-person perspective as they take control of Tidus. Most importantly for fans, the game retained the core combat element of the series, whereby the player is able to assemble a team of three characters to use in turn based fights. The game also retained the random combat encounters that was a staple of the franchise.
Final Fantasy X did, however, add some new features, including a Blitzball mini-game, where the player is able to compete in the fast paced underwater sport. Whilst being an optional part of the game in the later stages, Blitzball is an important part of the story early on, and thanks to this it encouraged players to go out of their way to seek out these mini-games, where they were sometimes completely forgotten in previous series entries.
Upon release Final Fantasy X was showered with critical acclaim, with many gaming publications giving it near perfect scores. The game was praised for the bold new innovations to the series, including its voice cast, and was seen as an improvement to a formula that, whilst popular, had become somewhat unchanged over the previous entries. The game still retains a high score on Metacritic today, with a score of 92 out of 100.
Due in large part to its success it’s also one of the few Final Fantasy games to get a direct sequel and was the first to do so, with Final Fantasy X-2 released on PlayStation 2 just two years later. This sequel shifted players into the shoes of Yuna, who along with two returning squad mates from the first game search for Tidus across Spira, whilst also trying to prevent the country from falling into politically motivated war. Both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 have received HD remakes over the years, first on the PlayStation 3, and most recently on the Nintendo Switch.
Final Fantasy X was something of a gamble for Square when it first came out, as they introduced a lot of new elements to the game, and took a very different approach to the type of story they wanted to tell. It not only worked out well for this game, but has gone on to become one of the most important entries in the franchise as the games that have come after it have taken many of these elements into their own structure. Final Fantasy X is one of the most important entries in the series, and one that will hold a special place for many fans.
Final Fantasy X was released in Japan on 18th July 2001, and in the UK on 24th May 2002.