Every now and then I give FFX a return. I don’t necessarily think it’s the pinnacle of gaming, nor the one with the strongest individual systems. I do think that on the whole, it delivers the most consistent and enjoyable experience of all the FF games.
I’ve had the FFX/X2 remake in Steam since it came out (and also on PS), so starting a new game is pretty easy. And with cloud saves, it’s even easier to remember what works and what doesn’t. A fun bit in FFX is the Al Bhed language, where a substitution cypher is required to read what people are saying. Using a previous save, you can load that cypher and start off clearly understanding everything. FFX-2 has a new game+ mode, but that’s because there are multiple endings. It’s a different take, a much simpler implementation that something like Chrono Cross’ (which does not get enough credit). So, all prepped and ready to go.
There’s an upside and downside to replaying a game. You can anticipate really cool moments (Luca’s cinematic), but also are never really surprised (the whole Jecht is sin bit). I prefer the more optimistic side, where it’s like reading a good book once again. And having 20 years of additional gaming experience certainly adds some flavour to the experience.
FFX is a rather linear game, all the way to Yunalesca. There are 3 battles in that linear path that are brutal if you are not prepared, and honestly, even if you are they are quite hard to manage. The idea of grinding out levels has some merit, but the structure is built so that it generally isn’t required – the random battles should get you where you need to be for any given fight. Post-Yunalesca you get access to a pile of side content that is practically required if you want to take on BFA and have a chance of success. Knowing how to tackle these side quests is super important, and I don’t think a “regular” player could find success here without some sort of guide.
And, as is with all FF games, the final stretch is completely disassociated with the rest of the game. The last zone can be left and returned at almost any time, and the point of no return is about 3 minutes of content from the final boss. It means ALL the content prior to that is relevant post-boss. FF12 has this. FF13 certainly does not. FF15… well that’s another story.
Oh, I should really mention that FFX is the only game without a crystal as a large piece of the story. No secret final boss, no giant crystals to block the path, no materia.
There are 3 major ones to track, and most of the smaller ones intersect with these. Some have aged well, others not so much.
Collecting Aeons – There are 3 hidden aeons to collect – Anima (who you know exists), Yojimbo (who is very interesting), and the Magus Sisters (required for another activity). In the normal game they aren’t too bad to acquire. In the re-release… they are crazy hard.
Collecting Celestial Weapons – Every character has an ultimate weapon which increases their damage and unlocks the damage limit on summons. There are 3 pieces per character, the weapon, the crest, and the sigil. Some are in simple chests, others require mini games to acquire. The Cactuar quest for Rikku is fun. The butterfly game for Kimahri, meh. Lulu’s lightning dodge requires some crazy concentration. And the notorious Chocobo dodger game for Tidus is rage inducing.
Monster Arena – This requires “capturing” 10 of each enemy in each zone, from the start to the end. You need a specific weapon to do so, and the last 2 zones are full of enemies that have tons of HP (multiple hits) and nasty counters (petrify, confuse, high damage). Once you have them, you can fight them in the arena. Collecting various groups of them opens up more difficult monsters, which provide more unique rewards in order to increase your power. If you want to hit for 99,999 damage per hit, then you’ll need to do the arena.
I am purposefully not including Blitzball. It’s more of a side game, whose purpose is best aligned with celestial weapons.
FF games have often had some sort of mini-game, often relating to summons, special weapons, and a long-term collection activity. Rarely are the activities intertwined, nor supported by even more mini-games. What’s really interesting to me is that FFX makes all the activities related to each other and does so at a level that no other is able to achieve. There’s nothing here that stands on its own, which takes a tremendous amount of design effort. It’s also interesting to see how the sub-activities don’t build entirely new systems that conflict with the rest of the game.
If I look at the FF12 hunting system, it’s an iteration to the Monster Arena concept, combined with the ultimate weapon hunts. FF13 in contrast, has both a hunting system AND an arena, the latter of which isn’t integrated into other activities. FF15 is more of a checklist of things, rather than a proper sub-game… plus the last quarter of that game makes no sense whatsoever.
It will be interesting to see how the trilogy remake of FF7 delivers on this model. Parts of it are there now, but the entire casino part is forthcoming and a huge part of the end game stuff (chocobo breeding). Those mini-games were heavily RNG influenced, which has gone out of style today. How they apply today’s gaming standards to that model is sure going to be fun to see.