Friday, December 2, 2022

Review: Is Final Fantasy X the Best Final Fantasy Game for the Nintendo Switch?

Note: These games are HUGE! So although Final Fantasy X: Eternal Calm, Final Fantasy X-2, and Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission are included in the bundle, we’ll be mainly focusing on the original JRPG, Final Fantasy X.

Almost 20 years after the initial release of Final Fantasy X on the Playstation 2, we took this old Chocobo for a ride. How does it hold up, and is Final Fantasy X the best Final Fantasy game on the Nintendo Switch? I had to find out.

I vividly remember playing Final Fantasy X for the first time in 2001 on my Playstation 2.

The first time I saw Yuna summon her flying aeon Valefor, I was absolutely amazed. It was one of those awe-inspiring video game moments: Wow… I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Even with today’s fantastically detailed titles, those video game moments are still few and far between.

On my Playstation 2, I spent countless hours journeying around Spira, leveling up my party, and fighting off hordes of fiends.

But when the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster bundle finally appeared on the Nintendo Switch in April 2019, I held back. I loved Final Fantasy X, but I was worried that returning to it after almost two decades would ruin it for me.

My reverence for it and nostalgia for those late nights with my first 3D JRPG had almost certainly glossed over the game’s shortcomings, right? I’d be frustrated with the clunky battle system and dated graphics, right? Right?

(To be fair, I also feel conflicted about paying $49.99 for an 18-year-old game that I’ve played before.)

But when it went on sale during the last holiday season, I had a beer or two and clicked the “Buy Now” button. Two days later, it showed up in my mailbox: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.

Still with me through this unnecessary preamble? Great.

To quote Tidus, “Listen to my story. This may be our last chance.”

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Switch Bundle

What’s in the box?

This is going to be understandably frustrating for some people, but the physical Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Nintendo Switch game cartridge only has Final Fantasy X on it. The cartridge comes with a download code for Final Fantasy X-2 that you’ll use to download the sequel from the Nintendo eShop.

When you start up the game, you’ll see a menu where you can choose which game to start up. From there, you can choose to launch Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X: Eternal Calm, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission, and Credits & Bonus Audio.

The Story

On the surface, Final Fantasy X’s story is simple enough: a team of adventurers go on a journey to defeat the existential threat to their society’s existence. But the longer you play, the richer the story becomes, morphing from an ordinary fantasy plot to a complicated treatise on the nature of reality and religion’s place within it. If that wasn’t enough, Final Fantasy X throws in a doomed love triangle for good measure.

Like other titles in the Final Fantasy series, the story of Final Fantasy X is an absolute triumph for the video game genre, and its characters will stay with you long after you complete your pilgrimage.

Plot Overview

Before you even start the game, Final Fantasy X opens, in medias res, in a broken world.

Series composer Nobuo Uematsu’s “To Zanarkand,” a quiet, gentle piece of music, provides the score for Final Fantasy X’s opening scene. A small group of travelers has gathered around a small campfire in what looks to be a dystopian war-torn hellscape, overlooking a long-abandoned metropolis.

You don’t know it yet, but over the next 40-50 hours, you’re going to feel inexplicably connected to each of these characters.

Tidus, the main protagonist, acts as the game’s narrator, filling in the backstory and explaining how the group got to this place of absolute desolation.

The story seemingly begins 1,000 years in the past. Tidus is the star of the Zanarkand Abes, a world-renown blitzball club, and he’s about to play in a blitzball tournament when the city is attacked and destroyed by an enormous creature called “Sin.” While fleeing the stadium, Tidus sees Auron, a warrior monk who knew Tidus’s father, Jecht. Auron gives Tidus a sword — “a gift from Jecht”— and together they fight off a swarm of fiends. Eventually, Sin overtakes Tidus and Auron, sucking them into its body like a blackhole and leaving Tidus stranded alone among dark, desolate ruins.

Eventually, Tidus winds up on the shore of the tropical island of Besaid. There, he meets a team of blitzball players and has the chance to show off his skills. One of the people he meets on the shore is Wakka, the captain of the local blitzball club. Tidus tells Wakka that he’s from Zanarkand, but Wakka explains that Zanarkand was destroyed 1,000 years ago. Wakka assumes that Tidus must be confused from his close encounter with Sin’s toxins.

Wakka introduces Tidus to Yuna, a young summoner who is about to embark on a religious pilgrimage to defeat Sin when it is reborn every ten years. Wakka is one of Yuna’s guardians, warriors who are sworn to protect the summoner throughout her journey. Summoners must visit towns all over Spira and pray at their temples to learn to summon aeons, huge magical creatures that battle on behalf of the summoner.

Before completely committing to Yuna’s pilgrimage, though, Wakka plans on playing in one last blitzball tournament. Wakka suggests that Tidus join him so that he may find someone who recognizes him at the tournament. After the tournament, Wakka becomes one of Yuna’s full-time guardians. Yuna asks Tidus to join her ragtag group of guardians on her quest, and over the next few hours of gameplay, more warriors join your party.

Yuna and her guardians travel through Spira, upsetting a marriage plot and gradually uncovering the truth about Sin’s origins, the Yevon religion, where Jecht is now, and Tidus’s mysterious time-traveling episode.

Eventually, Tidus learns a secret about himself that could upend Yuna’s pilgrimage, and he must confront an earth-shattering reality.

The story and world of Final Fantasy X is complicated and can’t be properly summarized in just a few paragraphs. Throughout the game, the history of the region and the characters’ connections with each other slowly come into focus as Tidus explores the Spira region.

The Characters

Arguably, the guardians and their interactions with one another make Final Fantasy X one of the most compelling JRPGs ever made. As the characters travel through the world of Spira, their individual backstories get filled in and gradually shine a light on the events that happen during the game.

Tied together through a commitment to the sacrificial pilgrimage, Yuna and her guardians literally and figuratively walk in the footsteps of the generation that came before them, but their fears and their passions complicate the story and force each of them to grapple with their desires and their responsibilities to Spira.

Tidus

Originally from Zanarkand, the game’s main protagonist, Tidus, is a star blitzball player who lives in the shadow of his father, Jecht. Jecht disappears when Tidus is a child, and his mother dies not long after, leaving Tidus alone. In Final Fantasy X, Tidus is an interloper in Spira, not understanding the culture or society, making him the perfect avatar for a player.

Yuna

The daughter of High Summoner Braska, the last summoner to defeat Sin, Yuna also lives in his father’s shadow. As she journeys through Spira, she visits Yevon temples and acquires aeons for the battle against Sin. As the story unfolds, Tidus realizes that Yuna intends to summon the Final Aeon, sacrificing herself like her father before her, to defeat Sin; however, Yuna’s love for Tidus and her connection to the rest of her guardians make her reconsider. As they get closer to the final battle, she’s tempted to give up on her pilgrimage and must make the most difficult choice of her life.

Rikku

An Al Bhed scavenger, Rikku saves Tidus when he arrives in Spira. Though it’s a secret for much of the game, Rikku is Yuna’s maternal first cousin. As an Al Bhed, Rikku understands how to use machina and becomes a pivotal member of Yuna’s traveling troupe of guardians.

Auron

A legendary guardian, Auron is the living connection between High Summoner Braska’s pilgrimage and Yuna’s. Along with Tidus’s father Jecht, Auron served as a guardian for Yuna’s father. Before joining Yuna and her guardians, Auron watches over Tidus as he grows up Zanarkand. As the oldest and most experienced guardian on Yuna’s pilgrimage, Auron acts as the group’s mentor.

Kimahri

One of the last surviving Ronsos, Kimahri has protected Yuna since she was a child. As her first guardian, Kimahri and Yuna have a deep connection to one another. He carries a spear, speaks sparingly, and is an outcast of the Ronso tribe. Much smaller than other Ronsos, Kimahri was bullied by the others and even had his horn broken off.

Wakka

The former captain of the Besaid Aurochs, Wakka finds Tidus on the shore of Besaid and introduces him to Yuna and the rest of her guardians. Wakka is a devout follower of the Yevon religion and joins Yuna’s pilgrimage, setting out to avenge the death of his brother Chappu.

Lulu

The party’s mage, Lulu is a skilled black magic-user. Along with Wakka, Lulu grew up with Yuna and is sworn to protect her as her guardian. Lulu has participated in one previous pilgrimage that ended with the death of her summoner before fighting Sin.

The Gameplay

Outside of battle, Final Fantasy X features a very linear progression, allowing you to explore narrowly defined “open” areas. For searching every nook and cranny of the “level” you’re in, you’re rewarded with treasure chests that hold weapons, armor, money, or other types of items.

In battle, the game uses the traditional RPG turn-based system. You hit me. Then I hit you. Then you hit me. Then I hit you again. For Final Fantasy X newcomers who are used to later Final Fantasy installments’ more hack-and-slash battle system, this old school mechanic might feel a little dated. But if you give it a chance, there’s a lot to love. Unlike the most recent Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy X’s turn-based battle system forces you to slow down and consider your choices strategically. As you venture further into the game, your enemies become stronger and more competent, forcing you to approach each battle with care.

As you battle, your characters gain experience and start to level up, another traditional RPG element. The twist here, though, is the Sphere Grid system, giving you the freedom to customize your characters any way you want… to a certain extent.

All characters begin at different parts of the grid and slowly expand and overlap, giving your characters some interesting attributes. For example, your warrior-type character can learn some black magic. These small nuances make each play through a little different.

As you visit different temples along your pilgrimage, you’ll encounter different trials. These trials are dungeon puzzles that mix up the gameplay a bit. While there aren’t any big baddies in these dungeons, the puzzles can be a little frustrating and time-consuming on your first play-through. The trials mainly involve Tidus picking up spheres and placing them in different alcoves to open doors and find secret treasure chests.

The Graphics and Performance

Before playing, I expected the graphics to be a little bit of a letdown. I remember the Playstation 2 version’s graphics being so incredible; the Final Fantasy X graphics that had been playing in my head for the last 20 years would almost certainly be laughable today, right?

But honestly, the game holds up. Seeing Yuna summon her aeons is just as awe-inspiring today as it was in 2001. (Save yourself some time and remember to switch to the short aeon introductions after a few summons.) Obviously, it’s still a game that came out in 2001, but it’s not bad. (I found some areas to be a little too dark, and I had to turn my Switch’s brightness to 11 to see anything.) My only major complaint with Final Fantasy X’s graphics is the sudden — and often jarring — transitions from the in-game graphics to the CGI cutscenes. Sometimes the in-game graphics would be spliced into the CGI cutscenes, making them look even worse. (See the wedding.) Unsurprisingly, the Nintendo Switch runs Final Fantasy X extremely smoothly.

The Verdict

Writing this review, I realized that I can’t truly be objective about Final Fantasy X. I have so much love and admiration for this game, but I can say that even 20 years later, this game is as fun to play as was when it was new. The story is still compelling and asks big philosophical questions that are just as relevant today as they were then. It’s hard not to be moved by this story and the pain of its characters. And when you find yourself approaching Zanarkand, the last leg of Yuna’s sacrificial pilgrimage, don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting a little choked up.

If you’re new to the series and want an introduction, this remaster is for you. This game encapsulates everything that was great about classic Final Fantasy installments and begins the pivot to the gameplay of its successors.

For me, Final Fantasy X is the best Final Fantasy game on the Switch. Final Fantasy X is gorgeous, the story is fun, and it modernizes the great things we love about the old games.

There’s no denying it: Final Fantasy X — not to mention Final Fantasy X-2 and the other extras that come inside the Nintendo Switch bundle — is a significant commitment.

You can easily spend 40 hours in Spira, but there’s also a decent amount of post-game content, too, pushing your playing time even further. For a lot of people — especially adult gamers with families — spending the equivalent of a normal workweek playing a video game is tough.

But because Final Fantasy X is on the Nintendo Switch, it’s a lot easier. The Switch’s flexibility means you’re not tied to a TV the same way you were with the original game on Playstation 2 or the subsequent Playstation remakes.

With the Switch, you can take Final Fantasy X with you, wherever you go. Whether you’re playing handheld on the sofa or putting in a few minutes before bed, the Switch helps you distribute your gameplay and still be a functioning human being who enjoys JRPGs.

Justin McGee
Justin McGee
Lifelong Nintendo fan. Follow me on Twitter @PuffyRedShirt

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