What makes Final Fantasy X and X-2 RPG greats is their approaches to gameplay. Combat in Final Fantasy X utilized a new approach to turn-based combat, called the “Conditional Turn-Based” (CTB) system. Instead of an active turn-based system that focused on being quick and accurate, CTB allowed for players to time their moves more strategically without a time restriction and constant threats of attack. You could see who’s turns were coming up (friend and foe) and in what order. While not entirely innovative, it affords the player time. In that alone, it removes the instinctual aspect to mash the X button over and over to mindlessly enter the “Attack” command to finish encounters.
The summoning system also made some changes in Final Fantasy X. Instead of being used more as a single grand attack, summoned Aeons take over in place of the party, and have skills and attributes of their own. Just like the regular cast, they have unique Overdrive attacks that deal great amounts of damage that can be used at the proper time to “Overkill” enemies. Doing so will wield greater rewards, something that was missing out from previous Final Fantasy games; bonuses for doing better than the average.
Which leads to one of my favorite parts of Final Fantasy X; its leveling system in the Sphere Grid. Instead of having a set level between 1 and 100, the sphere grid is a spiderweb of statistical upgrades and abilities players can earn. Each character starts out in their locked-out part of the grid, earning one additional movement of space forward (and up to 4 spaces backward) along their section per sphere grid level earned though experience points. Statistical and ability nodes inhabit the grid, which can be unlocked by Power, Mana, Speed (etc.) Spheres dropped by enemies. Characters follow along their path, boosting their stats, until they reach the end of their section. After this is completed, they can proceed into another character’s section via special unlocking spheres, in turn (for example) allowing a black magic-based character in Lulu to receive the strength and abilities of Auron later in the game.
Although cleverly hidden in its linearity, it is a wholly brilliant idea in its approach to bringing something new to character advancement. The job system, as versatile as it is, restricts the stats and abilities of characters under its employ from most other sorts of use. After enough time in Final Fantasy X, one is free to create as many different types of parties as they want. Min/maxing party members has never been so creative and delightful, especially for seasoned players. The expert sphere grid, making its first appearance in a North American version of the game, allows for even more freedom right off the bat and provides a challenge for veterans by limiting the maximum stats available for its characters.
Final Fantasy X-2, once again, went down a different path. Active time battle system returns with a twist, as planning attacks can result in combinations that do more damage and potentially stun foes (depending on the attacks). Furthermore, playing into the fan service this time provides an oddly satisfying character battle aptitude change in Dresspheres. It plays like the Job class system, but on the fly; each of the three playable characters can change their abilities, play styles and dresses at the click of a button. A thief build can quickly change to be more of a bard-like class by changing outfits. The more abilities and items of that set are used, and the more enemies are destroyed, the stronger the character becomes using that specific play style.
The dresspheres are held on Garment Grids, which designate what and how many of each dressphere a character can use and is equipped with. While the whole notion of the customization being tied to what the characters are wearing is inherently silly to me, I can respect what the intention was behind it; something completely unheard of and fun to play along with. The freedom to switch entire styles of combat was appreciated, and in conjunction with active battle made fighting much more exhilarating than once thought at the outset.
Final Fantasy X and X-2 shared some things in common. In the good side is bonus gameplay content additions. Long were the days North American fans waited to get a crack at Final Fantasy X’s Dark Aeons and Penance, while X-2 fans now have the chance to play the roguelike Last Mission. Each featured minigames, including the fanbase-dividing Blitzball. It was necessary to dive into (pun intended) in order to obtain certain key items for Final Fantasy X, something those who do not like sports objects to. Most importantly, both titles provide tens of hours of deeply enjoyable gameplay.
However, there are some negatives to both Final Fantasy X and X-2 that cannot be ignored. Loading times are long. Basic NPC models do not feature an upgraded polygon count like main characters do (fans in Blitzball stadiums are 2D cutouts). Basic environmental and non-rendered background textures, plus character animations, appear as leftovers of the PS2 era. Cutscenes cannot be skipped, essentially forcing you to revisit hours of footage while limiting replayability. Some of the key songs from the game’s iconic soundtrack (especially early on) are now worse, with no option to switch between soundtracks new and old. While “Eternal Calm” provides just reasoning and story justification leading into the events of Final Fantasy X-2, the 30 minute audio drama that follows the ending of that game’s story is so terribly laughable that it reads more as the fan fiction of an angst-filled teenager than as a serious attempt at the possible continuation of the Spira story.
Those who have completed either Final Fantasy X or X-2 before will be just in picking up this collection. These are the people that understand that turn-based combat can be used effectively as a legitimate system to run an RPG, even though it may not be as prevalent as it once was. There is enough content of substance that justifies a double dip, especially at a price lower than most brand new games. One can easily knock out 70 hours completing these two grand tales on repeat playthroughs and get caught up in the wonderous world of Spira once again.
Final Fantasy X and X-2’s newcomers are in for a treat. The vibrant world that sits in front of you is filled with joy, sorrow, loss, adventure and, ultimately, satisfaction. If you are crunched for time and must play only one of these games, make sure it is Final Fantasy X. Not only is it canonically significant in its tale, but provides perhaps one of the best Final Fantasy games in the entire series. The cast is strong, the story is memorable, the gameplay is fantastic and the soundtrack (for the most part) is breathtaking. This is Square Enix at its best, and at an accessible price for two great games…
…Now is the time to shape your stories! Your fate is in your hands!
(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)