Final Fantasy 10, I’ve found, is probably the most polarizing entry into the series. There’s a lot of obvious reasons for this. It’s polarizing because it does a lot right, and a lot not right. I feel I’ve made my point.
I know it’s cliche, but there’s enough meat on the bone here to do a pros/cons list.
- Sleek battle system that allows for instant character change. Interesting abilities. You can control summons. Repeat: you can control summons.
- That same battle system can feel very grindy, and once you discover that a character only gains experience if they perform a battle action, battles devolve into “make sure every character gets a hit in,” which is really annoying.
- The overall presentation is pretty wonderful. Graphics are great, battle animations are satisfying, the music is top-notch as always, and the dialogue is reasonably written.
- The voice acting is pretty terrible. Lots of awkward pauses, overreactions, deadpan lines; it’s almost a trainwreck. It gets a slight pass for being one of the first fully voice-acted games, but it’s really brutal at times.
- The Sphere Grid is probably one of the best character leveling systems ever created, only barely edged out by the Materia system in FF7.
- The Sphere Grid turns some off with its complexity, and it can bend your brain if you stare at it too long.
- The cast of characters is rather great; Auron is mysterious, Yuna is stubbornly optimistic, Wakka is fun, the list goes on.
- Tidus might be the worst main character in a Final Fantasy game, ever. Honestly, the best way to deal with this is to pretend Yuna is the main character (she sort of is, really), and pretend Tidus is just an idiot that the camera happens to follow.
- The plot is actually pretty great, if a bit convoluted.
- It bears repeating: Tidus might be the worst main character in a Final Fantasy game.
- Blitzball is a very interesting diversion within the game.
- Whoever thought underwater turn-based soccer was a good idea should probably be punched. In the heart.
OK, that was long, but that’s the point. There’s a laundry list of compliments and complaints to give Final Fantasy 10. I think the positives outweigh the negatives overall, and if you can get past the off-putting awkwardness of the voice acting, it can be a pretty great experience. Also, the Jecht boss fight music is ridiculous, and totally worth it.
One final thought: not being able to control the airship is blasphemy.
At this point, because this series is weird, I had finally gotten a chance to play Final Fantasy 5. I had briefly played the PSX port, but then had a Nintendo DS for a while, and played the GBA version on it. I’ve also since emulated it and played through most of the game. I can understand why it wasn’t brought over to the USA back in the 90s.
I had high hopes, as I knew FF5 had the acclaimed job system in place, and I enjoyed the hell out of it in Final Fantasy Tactics. However, I found it a bit clunky and much less interesting when applied to the typical Final Fantasy battle system. The game in effect had wild difficulty swings without warning, where there were fights that were just plain hard, but others that felt hilariously easy due to a single job choice.
The main character, Bartz (or Butts, or whatever), is largely uninteresting. The others are rather compelling however, but that doesn’t help a largely cliche story. It’s the typical fare of elemental crystals, and someone/something trying to disrupt/destroy/conquer the world. There is a large plot twist in the second half, but I had already experienced a similar twist in FF6 that was frankly far better executed and compelling.
Also, X-Death is probably the series’ worst villain, but in name and in practice. He seems like a far less interesting Kefka. Maybe Kefka is just an evolution of X-Death. In any event, he’s not terribly great.
One final thought on 5: while the graphics and sound appear to be in the middle of 4 and 6 (as one would guess), they don’t appear as polished as either game. The music is great at points, and strange in others. Sound effects aren’t bad, but aren’t nice and crisp like the others. And graphically, it’s “better” than 4, but not as appealing.
I’d still recommend it to series fans, but not as highly as most. Still a solid game, but not great, and maybe barely good.
At this point, I don’t feel I have played enough of any other Final Fantasy game to render a reasonable opinion. I have tried both 2 and 3, but never got much into them. I haven’t gotten to 12 yet, but probably will someday soon. I played through good chunks of 13, but don’t even really care to talk about it, as it was largely underwhelming and slow (oh, so slow). 11 and 14 were MMORPGs, and that’s a totally different genre and discussion. And I haven’t played any of the “sequels”; FF4: The After Years, FF X-2, or any of the Dissidia games, so I can’t really offer opinions as of yet. I do plan to play X-2 though, eventually.
What was the point of all this? Nothing really, just to reflect on an iconic series of games, and their effect on many and mine’s gaming tastes and influences.
Wait, there is one point. This game is probably better than all of them. Except Tactics.