Listen to my story. This may be our last chance.
With those words, I returned to Spira as I started a replay of Final Fantasy X. Along the way I felt every emotion you can imagine.
Final Fantasy X is my favourite of the many that I’ve played in the much loved series of JRPGs. And the story is a large part of the reason for that. As you’d expect of a Final Fantasy game, this is an epic in which you save the world from an unimaginable force (in this case a colossal monster by the name of Sin).
But at its heart, it is a much smaller story. As Tidus’s opening words make clear, it is his story. He is a star blitzball player from Zanarkand. After Sin attacks in the opening scenes, he finds himself flung forward 1,000 years into Spira. Our journey follows him as he looks for a way to get home.
But this story also belongs to another. Tidus joins with Yuna, a young summoner on her own pilgrimage to Zanarkand in order that she may summon the final aeon, defeat Sin, and return peace to Spira.
As their journey progressed and their story unfolded, my heart soared and was ultimately broken. That a game can continue to move me to tears, even when I know what is going to happen, is a testament to the power of the story telling at play here.
A key part of this enduring emotional power lies in Final Fantasy X‘s music. The score is nothing short of a masterpiece, and in then remastered version available in this HD remaster, it really shines.
From the hauntingly simple piano ballad ‘Zanarkand’ to the plainsong of ‘Hymn of the Fayth’, Final Fantasy X embraces a range of musical styles to deliver a score that is full of emotional impact. One of the earlier points in the game (I’m determined to avoid spoilers for those of you who’ve not played it) is when Yuna performs the sending, a ritual to pass the souls of those who’ve passed away to the afterlife, following an attack by Sin on the island of Kilika. It helps to create a scene that is beautiful yet haunting.
Alongside this is a slick take on a turn-based battle system that still feels fresh to this day. The ability to swap characters in and out of your party during battle, and even to change which weapons and armour you have equipped on the fly, gives battles a fluidity and energy that isn’t always found in a turn-based JRPG.
Character progression, rather than using a traditional level system, is based around the sphere grid system. Characters earn points through battling in order to move around the grid, and use spheres to learn new abilities or improve stats. This really comes into its own in the later game, when you finish the main path for each character, and can unlock routes into different characters’ sphere grids.
What results is a system where playable characters do have a set job as default, but can become highly customisable. Want your white mage Yuna to learn dark magic? No problem, just have her start learning abilities from the relevant sphere grid. The options really are endless, and there will be plenty for me to keep going back to as I play through some of the challenging post-game content.
All of this keeps the game varied enough. Despite having played (and completed) Final Fantasy X before, and clocking up nearly 36 hours of playtime in the week and a half I’ve played for, I’ve never got bored.
That is a testament to one of the finest JRPGs I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. From the story to the music, the battle system to character customisation, there’s plenty to see and do. And for those who’ve played Final Fantasy X before, I think this Switch port is a very good reason to return to Spira and experience it all over again.