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Final Fantasy X: the endless spiral

Final Fantasy X: Auron
(Original image source: SCEA.)

Final Fantasy X complete!

Final savegame before the showdown(s) with the Ultimate Bad Guy(s): 44 hours 58 minutes.

As with the other Final Fantasy games I’ve played over the past few months, there’s a lot to like about the game. The presentation is top-notch and there’s certainly plenty to ooh and aah over in the complex world Square created.

But there’s also a lot about the game that’s unappealing. Comically overblown and overlong (and unskippable!) cinematics seemingly directed by a 12-year-old, a hero with daddy issues, a crackpot villain with mommy issues, secretive characters with secrets they’ll only reveal 12 hours after the player has guessed them, jejune commentary on the hypocrisy of religion, another new set of hoops to jump through to get the same set of spells that are utterly useless against bosses who just won’t stay dead …

Story-wise, the start is chaotic, the plot complicated, the themes obfuscated but the experience would have been a whole lot more palatable if the gameplay wasn’t mired in Final Fantasy tradition. This is all the more incongruous as FFX’s story is all about not succumbing to false comfort and having the courage to break free of an endless spiral of meaningless tradition.

There’s a moment close to the end of FFX that perfectly encapsulates the baffling gameplay decisions that often mar JRPGs.

The player is moments away from confronting the final set of bosses but before he is allowed to continue, he is made to collect objects which gift items and abilities that are by no means essential. Said objects, which must be collected one at a time, disappear and reappear at a different location after a short period of time. During this sequence, spikes randomly pop out of the ground which subject the player to a combat encounter with foe(s) who could one-shot the entire party. Finally, the camera, for no reason whatsoever, rotates around the player avatar in such a fashion that the player will have little idea where the object to be collected lies.

There’s nothing story-related about this terrible scenario. It’s just arbitrarily dumped into the endgame mainly to irritate the player, and this is the only area which the developers succeeded at brilliantly.

The rest is Final Fantasy tradition: familiar, safe, comforting and for the all the bombast and pyrotechnics, unremarkable.

And that, as they say, is that.

Posted in Games, PS2.

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