Final Fantasy X HD: The magic returns

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Final Fantasy X

FFX Landscape Moonflow

Imagine being flung into an alien world, a thousand years hence. Imagine navigating a new society, with nothing left of your home but a few hauntingly familiar notes.

 

That is the premise of Final Fantasy X, whose Vita re-release (Final Fantasy X HD) is probably my favourite game this year. Imaginative and believable, the world of FFX stands head and shoulders over many other RPGs – its Final Fantasy siblings included. In fact, after 20 hours, I’d argue it outdoes the majority of games! Our window onto the story is Tidus: athlete, likeable if not especially bright goofball (1), and fish out of water. One day, he’s a champion blitzball player – think fantasy underwater soccer. The next, a monstrous fiend has levelled his city, and when he wakes, his home is no more than a myth.

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I choose you! Combat in Final Fantasy X

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Final Fantasy X

FFX Valefor in action

In my last piece about Final Fantasy X, I wrote about its biggest draw: its world, its story, and the way the two interact. What makes FFX a good game, not just a good worldbuilding exercise, is the second thing it does well: combat.

 

The principles behind the combat system are straightforward, but implemented well:

 

1. It’s turn-based, with turn order depending on speed – zippy characters move more often than slower ones.

2. The active party comprises three characters (out of a total of seven playable), and in one of FFX’s most distinctive features, you can freely switch characters during battle.

3. Each character begins with a distinct role and a unique progression upon level-up (they can eventually mix and match, while an alternate game mode allows customisation from the outset).

 

The net effect is the best battle system I can remember in a numbered Final Fantasy. Battles are fast to play (which is important, given how frequent they are) and not very difficult – I think the only game over screen I’ve seen was the result of a boss fight. At the same time, they require the player to do more than simply mash “attack”, an area where all too many JRPGs fall down. At its simplest, this is due to the need to target the right enemy with the right character (compare Persona). For instance, veteran swordsman Auron hits hard but has difficulty connecting against flying enemies, so I use him against armoured, ground-bound enemies instead. If the only enemies left are fliers, or resist physical attacks, then out goes Auron and in comes the black mage. In a more complex fight, I might open by using a support character to buff the party, swap him out in favour of a debuff specialist (1), and finally swap in the damage dealers.

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