Final Fantasy X and I have what you might call an “on again, off again” relationship.
It’s the first Final Fantasy game that I ever tried playing, but then I gave up after dying one too many times on the Mi’ihen Highroad. (It took an embarrassing length of time for me to figure out the Sphere Grid system for leveling up.)
Over the years, I became acquainted with some of the characters through the Kingdom Hearts series and the Dissidia games. I’d also watched Noah Antwiler’s lengthy review/rant about the game. And then, at long last, I purchased the PS4 remaster and played it again, for real, while streaming on Twitch.
The verdict? Overall, it was a fun experience, and I love Tidus and Yuna to pieces. But it’s not my favorite Final Fantasy title.
Let’s start with the story and characters. Tidus is living the dream as the star player of the Zanarkand Abes (he introduces himself in this manner a lot), for a sport called blitzball. But on the night of a big game, his city is attacked by a flying, Godzilla-style monster called “Sin,” and when he wakes up, he finds himself in an abandoned temple. The people who find him claim that his home doesn’t exist…because it was destroyed a thousand years ago.
So Tidus struggles to adjust to his new life in the world of Spira and figure out a way to get back to Zanarkand. Along the way, he meets up with Wakka, a fellow blitzball lover who recruits him for his underdog team, Yuna, a summoner who has embarked on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin, and Yuna’s guardians, Lulu and Kimarhi. They are later joined by Tidus’ mentor, a former guardian named Auron, and a girl named Rikku, who has been trying to stop summoners from completing the pilgrimage for her own personal reasons. And thus we have our party.
Eventually, Tidus becomes one of Yuna’s guardians as well, and through his new friends, he learns about Spira’s plight. Every ten years, they are attacked by Sin, and a summoner must journey to the ruins of Zanarkand to defeat it. After a period known as the Calm, Sin is reborn, and the cycle begins all over again. But is that really all there is to it? Could there be a permanent way to defeat Sin? And will Tidus ever get back to his Zanarkand?
So yeah, I adore Tidus. I know lots of gamers hate him. I understand why lots of gamers hate him. His voice sounds whiny sometimes- yes, sometimes– and he has his stupid moments. But I enjoy him so much, partly because of his flaws. When he got up and started yelling through a bullhorn that the Besaid Aurochs would win the Blitzball Cup, just after hearing an announcement that they’d never so much as won a game, I couldn’t stop laughing. Sorry, Tidus Haters. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on his likability.
Plus, his romance with Yuna is heartwarming. As a summoner, Yuna carries a heavy weight on her shoulders. Summoners in Spira dedicate their lives to defeating Sin, prepared to sacrifice anything and everything for their people. As such, it’s rare that Yuna or the people around her consider her own needs and desires. But Tidus is an outsider. He has no expectations for how Yuna should act or how she should serve him. He constantly asks Yuna what she wants to do and checks in with her to make sure that she’s okay. And Yuna is one of the first people to believe him when he says he’s from Zanarkand. They talk things out and listen to each other.
The music is just as beautiful as the love story, although this game is notable in that it’s the first main Final Fantasy title that did not have Nobuo Uematsu composing the whole score. He did some of the tracks; others were composed by Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. Many of the tracks are some variant of three gorgeous themes: “To Zanarkand,” “Suteki da ne,” and “Hymn of the Fayth.”
The turn-based battle system has a fantastic feature: the ability to switch out party members in the middle of combat. This especially comes in handy because many of the enemies are specifically designed with one character in mind. Auron is the heavy hitter. Lulu uses offensive magic. Yuna is the healer and can take out difficult enemies with the aeons that she summons. Wakka hits airborn enemies with his blitzball. This allows for a more balanced party, offering everyone a chance to level up at some point.
On the other hand, the lack of exploration in this game surprised me. I enjoyed having the chance to fly around the worlds in Final Fantasy VI and VII. In X, you don’t get to control an airship until the very end of the game, and you can only visit a specific set of locations on the map. Up until that point, you follow a linear path on your journey through Spira. While this wasn’t a deal breaker for me, I did miss at least having the option to explore.
Now, there is one aspect of the game that I hated: blitzball. It should have been fun. And I will fully admit that I might not have gotten full enjoyment out of it because I wasn’t playing it right or took the time to understand the ins and outs of the game. But the time that I spent playing in the tournament wasn’t fun.
Blitzball is Tidus’ favorite sport and the tournament is one of the biggest events in Spira. It’s a game played in a giant dome of water. The players swim through the dome and try to score points through each other’s goals.
But when you finally get to play, most of the moves happen automatically. You’re encouraged to set your characters to automatically move around in the dome, and then you watch the players swim around. You get a chance to try scoring or throwing the ball to another teammate, but mostly, it’s just watching the players move around the dome. I never really felt like I was in control as I tried to play. When Tidus and the party got cut off from the mini game due to story reasons, it was the greatest punishment of all time.
Final Fantasy X might not be a perfect game, but I did enjoy most of it. The characters and the battle system are very enjoyable. I cannot compare the PS4 remaster with the PS2 or PS3 versions because I didn’t spend enough time with either of them. However, the game looks beautiful, and the remastered soundtrack sounds great. I’d rate it 7.5 out of 10 blitzballs.