In many ways, it is difficult to divorce the cultural impact of Final Fantasy X from any of my personal thoughts on the quality of the game. When FFX was released for the PS2 in 2001, it revolutionized the RPG genre. Beyond Pokemon, FFX was my introduction to the RPG genre, so my nostalgia for the game is immense. But to my shame, as an easily distracted kid, I only played enough to see the end of Tidus and Yuna's pilgrimage. Therefore, it was with great excitement that I started my playthough for Retro Encounter.
Everyone who listens to the podcast knows my supreme disdain for all things blitzball, but this is really a wonderful compliment to the quality of the game. Sure, the game has its fair share of awkward dialogue and is overall fairly linear, but those are relatively minor quibbles. The reason I dislike blitzball so much is because in my mind, it's the only blemish on an otherwise wonderful game.
With a dynamic combat system, captivating story and endearing characters, it is easy to see why FFX was so engrossing then and is just as entertaining now. FFX represents one of those rare gems that are fun to both play and watch. After over a decade of hearing people discuss the ending, it was a joy to see the culmination of all the plotline threads come together. Square allowed many of the plots to simmer the perfect amount to maximize their emotional resonance.
Although I can understand the common disgust over game companies releasing all of their classics in the form of HD remasters, I am happy to see the rerelease of Final Fantasy X. FFX is a game that should be experienced by every generation of video game players.
I wanted to give Final Fantasy X a second chance. Back when I first played FFX (...2004?), I was disappointed in its lack of traditional character levels, dungeons, and world map, and thought very little of its cast. When the staff voted FFX as the second Retro Encounter game, I thought I'd be joining the podcast panel as a dissenting voice. I resolved to finish the game anyway and see if the years had been kind to the game I rushed through eleven years ago.
I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, I still wish Final Fantasy X weren't so linear, but I was more appreciative of its gorgeous color palette and smooth combat than before. I plumbed the depths of the new sphere grid and had fun experimenting with characters' leveling paths. I tried out some endgame quests and was quite astonished at how much stuff there was to do; FFX isn't oppressively linear, it just takes a while to hit its stride. FFX isn't my new favorite in the series, but I'm much warmer on it than I was when I played it a decade ago. I'm glad I gave it another shot.
...plus Blitzball's one of the greatest RPG minigames ever. Pay no attention to the haters elsewhere on this page.
I joined the crew at the last minute and didn't get the chance to play FFX while we were recording, so my memories of the game are a little hazy. My first playthrough back when it was released in 2001 was something of a revelation for me, though. I had never before played an RPG with full voice acting, and the scale of the visuals and cinematic storytelling are still to this day one of the most significant leaps for the series, on par with the jump between FFVI and FFVII. There were plenty of memorable characters and moments, and the ending is one of the best in the series. I remember liking how the game rethought established mechanics from the series, like removing the active time battle system and giving the player more options when building their characters via the sphere grid (even if those options in the original release ended up being somewhat limited). I didn't like the way they implemented Blitzball, though the concept was certainly very cool, and the music was occasionally a little hit or miss, though I liked it well enough to buy the soundtrack. Suteki Da Ne remains one of my favorite theme songs in the series, even though I didn't speak a word of Japanese when I first played through the game and heard it.
I did try replaying FFX a few years ago, and I sadly was not as into the story as I remember being back when I was in high school. Perhaps I just wasn't feeling the nostalgia, or maybe my tastes had changed a bit over a decade or so. Even so, I still feel like FFX was a landmark game, not just for Square Enix but for all RPG developers. It showed that things like voice acting and cinematic design could work in RPGs, and it also showed that RPGs could evolve and still hold on to some of their older traditions at the same time. It's not my favorite Final Fantasy, but it definitely has a place in my top ten and possibly even my top five.
I make no pretense about the fact that Final Fantasy X is my favorite entry in the series. It's by no means perfect, and even I will admit a lengthy list of faults (even if Mike did kind of convert me to Team Blitzball), but no other Final Fantasy title has meant quite as much to me. The setting is interesting, the characters likable, the ending tragic. It has one of the best combat systems to grace any RPG, and there's a surprising amount of depth to its gameplay systems if you're willing to dig a little deeper. I loved returning to the world of Spira and talking about it with the Retro Encounter crew, and I'm certain that I will experience Tidus' story again.