Final Fantasy X was the first game that I played in the series and it's still the one that stays with me most so let's revisit this iconic RPG and see what makes it so special.
Final Fantasy X was the first Final Fantasy on PlayStation 2 so it was a huge leap ahead in technology. The most noticeable improvements are the high resolution character models, voice acted cutscenes, and 3D environments. It also has a completely new battle system never before seen in the series but I'll discuss that later. There's an interesting system for improving your stats as well: the Sphere Grid. You can also steal to find unique items then use those items to improve your gear or your aeons; the big monsters that you can summon to fight in place of your party. Whereas in previous Final Fantasy games, the summons just lasted for one attack then they were gone, Final Fantasy X lets you command your aeons in the same way you can command your main party and they have their own distinct moves.
I recently played the HD Remaster and it looks even more stunning than its PS2 predecessor. Most noticeably, the environments are less foggy and have even higher resolution. However, minor characters' faces are low resolution which can look awful. That might simply have to do with my computer's graphic settings, though; I'm not 100% sure.
There are no real-time ATB bars during battle. Thus, you can take all the time you need for each character's turn. The turn order is decided by your characters' agility as well as status effects such as haste. You have the typical assortment of moves: Attack, Magic, Item, etc. Also, each character has their own overdrives which are special moves that they can deploy once the respective meter is full. Meanwhile, try to keep enemies' weaknesses in mind so you can deal the most damage. Enemies can have high physical defense or magic defense, be susceptible to their elemental weaknesses, and can be weak to status ailments such as poison.
Final Fantasy X's story is so good that it stayed with me 15 years after I first played it. It starts out in Tidus' hometown of Zanarkand where Sin (a huge invincible whale-like monster) attacks during a Blitzball match. Then, Sin whisks Tidus away to the world of Spira during an awesome cutscene where Sin seems to destroy the entire city while sucking its remains into its mouth. Tidus soon washes up near Baaj Temple where he is rescued by some Al Bhed then he's attacked by Sin yet again. Next, Tidus is at Besaid where he meets Yuna and Wakka. During their adventure, they travel to Zanarkand so she can defeat Sin. However, it's not the same Zanarkand that Tidus is from but rather the ruins of a city destroyed a thousand years ago.
Sorrow is clearly the central plot theme. Sin travels the world killing people mercilessly as Tidus gets taken from his home during a Sin attack and Wakka loses his brother Chappu while fighting Sin. Plus, Yuna lost her father when she was 7 and even the villain Seymour lost his mother when he was young. However, the story has its share of good moments as some parts are happy, funny, and uplifting.
Final Fantasy X has the most likable cast of characters that I've ever seen in a video game and also some of the best music. The summoner Yuna is seemingly the happiest member of the party and she said it herself: summoners are Spira's ray of light so that's why she tries to smile even when she's sad. I also love Wakka as he's extremely loyal to Yuna yet he's flawed to a point because of his hatred of the Al Bhed but he also has a huge heart. I want to mention just how cool Auron is, too. He carries a huge sword, wears black spectacles and an awesome red samurai outfit, and he seems to be holding back some cool Jedi secrets. On top of all this, there's a love story going on. It's very emotional and you'll enjoy it even if you're not usually into love stories.
Final Fantasy X has some of the best music that I've ever heard in a video game. I particularly enjoy To Zanarkand and A Fleeting Dream. The only letdown for me is that you never hear the main theme of Final Fantasy at any point in the game.
Anyway, on Yuna's pilgrimage, the party fights fiends and powerful bosses. That's most of what you do but there's a bunch of optional things that you can do as well. Chief among them is Blitzball. It's like football but it takes place in a floating sphere of water. There's also chocobo racing, a butterfly chasing mini-game, and lightning-dodging. Meanwhile, you'll find Al Bhed primers as you play that you can use to learn their language and you can get pretty awesome rewards for finding them all. Finally, there's a monster collecting side-quest where you need to fight monsters with special weapons in order to capture them.
In addition to the fun distractions, there are some super-bosses to take on and they're a lot more powerful than anything you fight in the main story. Speaking of which, if the main story takes you 40 hours to complete, it'll probably take another 40 after that before you're strong enough to challenge bosses like the dark aeons. As you can see, there's a dizzying amount of things to do even after completing the main story and that makes it all the more special, especially for those who like to get seriously invested in their RPGs.
I covered a lot of ground in this retrospective and in such a short time but it just goes to show how much you can do in Final Fantasy X and that's what makes it feel so special. It seems like the team at Square really made sure to change up everything from the previous installments and it all comes together to make Final Fantasy X a truly awesome experience.