Monday, January 2, 2012

Why I Hate Final Fantasy X

I mention a lot about how I hate Final Fantasy X, but I've never really said why. Well, here's the post to solve that. To note, however, this will be a casual post; mainly because "hating" something in a form of entertainment is a rare occurrence with me. There are many things I don't like in media like movies, anime, manga, videogames, etc, especially since I like to try many different things, but I don't "hate" them, because I understand that there are people out there who enjoy certain things that I simply do not. I can respect something even if I don't like it. It's when I "hate" something that I don't have respect for it, and there are only two objects in media I hate: Final Fantasy X and the anime Panty and Stockings with Garterbelt. The reason for my hate of these two things comes from disappointment. I know, it seems childish, but when I see so much potential in something only to have it ruined by the very people who made it, it just causes this hate. My hate for FFX will be explained in this post. And if your curious, my hate for P&S comes from my disappointment that an anime with such a unique and awesome art style and visual direction was ruined by insane levels of smut, vulgarity, incoherence, and immaturity just made me hate it. Still, it introduced me to the awesome music of Teddyloid; so I guess it isn't all bad.

OK then, let's start on why I hate Final Fantasy X! But first, a bit of a disclaimer: I started playing FFX when it was first released on the PS2, but I didn't go back and finish it until last year. However, my hate for the game has nothing to do with comparisons to FFXIII or FFXII; it does, however, have to do with comparisons to FFVII and FFIX.

First off, as a lover of great gameplay, I was very disappointed by FFX's battle system. Sure, past FF games didn't do too much with the gameplay with the exception of FFVIII, but FFX justs craps all over the past implementations of variety and dynamics in FF battle systems by having the most simple and boring battle system in the series. You see, FFX introduces the element of switching party memebers mid-battle; this goes hand-in-hand with each character having specific abilities others don't. On paper this sounds pretty cool, but in battle (every freakin' non-boss battle) it all just comes down to this: "Oh look! A flying enemy. Better get Wakka in here. OK, that takes care of him. Oh look! An enemy with armor. Better get Auron in here. There we go. Oh! An enemy that glows red. I'll switch Lulu in here to use some ice magic. There we go. OK! I win!" That's it! For the entire freakin' game! There is no strategy at all because the game basically tells you which characters to use to win the battle. It makes combat feel completely pointless, like I might as well just have the computer do it for me since the processes of battle are so simple a child could figure it out. At least past FF games put enemies in front of me that didn't have specific weaknesses, or at least their weaknesses weren't immediately apparent. Sure, bosses require a little strategy, but it's nothing past the typical bread-n-butter of past FF games. One exception being the boss battle against Yunalesca; this is the game's one gameplay highlight for me, because it shows that FFX's battle system can actually have elements of strategy and challenge to it.

Outside of the battle system, there is one other factor I found very disappointing: dungeon puzzles. I'm not against having puzzles in an FF, especially since Square made the right choice of having no random battles during them; however, these puzzles are so annoying. Their structure consists entirely of pushing blocks and placing colored orbs in slots. The results are confusing, time-consuming, and just all-around annoying. It also doesn't help that the music that plays during these puzzle sequences gets very annoying very quickly. I'm sure many people will say I just suck at puzzles and that they were easy; well, sorry I'm so stupid. I've played tons of games with puzzles, and I still found FFX's puzzles just confusing. This is an element that should've just been removed or needed much better execution.

OK, that covers the gameplay since the game was basically just battles and puzzles anyway. Well, there's Blitzball, but that was more annoying that fun, especially with its slow pace. Now, it's onto the aesthetics of the game...

FFX's graphics were fine mainly because it was one of Square's first projects for the PS2; however, what is inexcusable, in my opinion, was FFX's weak art direction. FFX is just such a boring game visually, and coming out of the superb art directions of FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX, FFX's poor art direction just feels inexcusable. What's even more disappointing is that Square has done the Mediterranean art direction before with Chrono Cross, and that game looked stellar. The artists just did a very poor job of creating a good sense of place; resulting in a very forgettable game, visually.

FFX's soundtrack, like it's art direction, is very forgettable. A few stand-out tracks "To Zanarkand" and "Otherworld" are great, but that's it. If FFX had a main theme, I sure don't remember it. Remember FFVII's incredible main theme? Of course you do, because it fit the mood of the game superbly, as did the main theme of FFIX. FFX just has nothing. Nothing to show for it. It's OST just really lacked personality, imo.

Now, onto the biggest section: story and characters. In my opinion, in an RPG, the story and characters are just as important as the gameplay and aesthetics. And, to be honest, if FFX succeeded in this department, I would have probably forgave it's short-comings in the areas above; too bad this is FFX's worst department.

I'll start with the story. FFX's story could not have been more straight-forward. The game is literally a straight-line from start to finish, both in terms of it's gameplay (I'm OK with linear gameplay though) and how its story is executed. The one twist being the kidnapping of Yuna, which is dealt with very quickly. I get that the game is a pilgrimage, but the game just needed a lot more conflict. Furthermore, for a story that was supposed to focus on Tidus, it did a poor job of it. He is supposed to be our narrator in this story, yet the game never really feels like its from this perspective; its more like the player is omnipotent. Overall, the execution of the story just feels really poor; like all the writers wanted to do was to get to the "tear-jerker" scenes, show those off, and then work on getting to the next one. Heaven forbid the writers try to create some build-up to those scenes. You know why Aerith's death is so sad? Because we got to know her so well, and she showed how great of a person she was. Yuna, on the other hand, just came across as whiny and weak, but more on characters later. Overall, the story just felt poorly constructed and weak. I say this a lot, but I feel the story would have been SO much better if it focused on Tidus' relationship with his father. If that was the main focus of the story, and there was no crappy romance with Yuna (which is terribly executed btw) or all this talk about religion and stuff, it would have made for a great and personal story about a boy tying up the loose ends in his life before he died. If it did that, I probably would've cried at the end of the game when Tidus was holding Jecht's dead body; oh well. I'll give the game one piece of credit for it's impressive implementation of religion in the story; I liked how they remained consistent with the prayer motion throughout the game.

Now, onto the characters:

Auron - the one good character in the game. His lines were well written and well delivered. He has a great character design. And his aura of mystery was well implemented into the plot. His relationship with both Tidus and Yuna felt natural and was well executed. No complaints on my part here.

Rikku - not an annoying character, but really didn't need to be there. IMO, she cared about Yuna more than Tidus did, and if her and Yuna developed a stronger relationship, I think it would've been better for both characters. Overall, she feels a bit wasted here, as she's mainly used to bring about the Al-behd story-line.

The blue guy - yeah, I do not remember his name; something native-american sounding, I think. Regardless, easily the most forgettable character in the FF series I've come across. Other than that, there really isn't much bad about it him; it's just that he's not really important. I did like the scene where he found those two other guys from his village. Khimari! That's it. Just remembered.

Wakka - OK. Here's another character who felt out of place. Wakka is basically the buy who is bound by a duty but has unfinished business. Sounds admirable, except that unifinished business is playing in a blitzball game. It all just feels weak and annoying. I mean, he's supposed to be protecting the person who is set to save the world, and yet he wants to play in a sports tournament. The parallel I find to Wakka is Cid from FFVII, except Cid's dream was to be the first man in space and look upon the cosmos. THAT is admirable and romantic. Wakka is just this guy who wants to play blitzball and uses a ball in battle and it always shouting "ya!". His personality just feels forced. It's really uneccessary too considering we already have a hyper-active loudmouth character in the form of Tidus.

Lulu - Awesome character design! But pretty bland in all other areas. She is supposed to be the "onee-san" character of the group, which she kinda comes across in the beginning, but then she just falls to the background like Wakka and Khimari. She feels as tacked onto the cast as Wakka, but, hey, every party needs a black mage, right? Her execution could have been great, especially since she has a dark past, but since the story isn't about her, she's just there for magic.

Tidus - Oh man, does Tidus disappoint. As I've said before, I feel that Tidus could have been better implemented into the story if he focused solely on his relationship with Jecht, but instead, he somehow gets in a relationship with Yuna; a process that must have occurred off-screen, because I saw no build-up at all to their kiss scene mid-game. At first, it feels like Tidus was going to have a unique story to go along with his father issues, but that all just goes out the window when Yuna shows up. By the end of the game, Tidus feels less like a character and more of a plot device for the big twist at the end.

Yuna - I've saved the worst for last. Holy moly is Yuna a terrible character. She is just so freakin' weak! Yeah, yeah, people will say: "But she was going to die! Put yourself in her place!". Please! Many of FF's females have been put into terrible situations, and yet they faced them head-on. Terra had to deal with her bloody past, Tifa lost everything important to her, Aerith knew full well she was going to die, Garnet and Eiko lost everything they loved, and you know what they all did: they picked themselves up, held their head high, and fought for what they believed in. But, no, instead Yuna breaks down crying and find solace by kissing a boy she met two freakin' days ago. Just an awful female character. Yuna never comes across as a leader or role-model in the whole game, nor any character really deserving respect. I suppose Yuna's appeal is that she's one of those moe characters that one just wants to protect, and since the player is Tidus, they kinda get to protect her. Tch, whatever. Yuna was easily the most disappointing character of FFX because of just how weak she was; this was especially noticeable coming after FFIX's female lead: Garnet, who was a superb female lead, and arguably the strongest female of the FF series.

So, what does this all come down to: I hate FFX because it dissapointed in every aspect of game design, especially those that are most important for an RPG. And what makes it even worse is how superbly those aspects were executed by the the three previous games in the series.

I understand that FFX is one of, if not the, most treasured game in the franchise by the fanbase; however, I will probably never understand why, especially with such gems like VI, VII, and IX. I'm sure they all simply love the aspects of the game that I despise. Oh well, that's opinions. And yet I cannot simply respect it as that. Heh, it's childish, I know, but I really just don't "get it". How can people truly love this game? The conclusion I've come to is that FFX was simply many people's very first FF game, and, as a result, it holds many nostalgic memories for many members of the FF fanbase.

OK. That's enough rambling. I apologize to those who read this and love FFX. I just did this mainly because I was bored and felt like writing something; so don't take it too seriously. Though I am serious about hating FFX. Oh, how I hate FFX.

9 comments:

  1. I find it amusing that the two things you hate are things that I hold in high regard. I suppose it's fitting though considering the whole Other M thing.

    It's nice to see the reason behind all that hate though. It's also sad because Yuna is really one of the best characters in Duodecim too.

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  2. The thing is, I don't like hating things. I really don't want to. I'd really like to see the flaws in something yet still respect it for what it is. That's why I actually finished playing FFX despite it boring me very quickly and watched several episodes of P&S despite hating the first episode. I like to give things a shot, but these two things just felt awful. I couldn't find anything to respect; there were things to appreciate like some music or style, but those were nothing compared to their faults. I try to find the good in things and never hate, but FFX and P&S just drove me too far.

    However, to clear up any confusion, the reason I hate these things is because I have precedence with what they are. I've played many, many Square games before playing FFX, including several FF games, and I've seen several of Gainax's previous anime. FFX just didn't meet the quality standards previous games set for it. And while I've never been much of a fan of Gainax to begin with, I've always admired their art style and visual direction (I love it!), and I had high hopes for P&S due to its simple art style which would allow Gainax to execute their trademark visual fidelity without being held back by their past convoluted storylines. But, yeah, things didn't end up the way I wanted; in fact, to me, it felt like an insult to who Gainax was, and an insult to their art style. But, of course, this is me talking. Tch, I barely know what I'm talking about, especially considering how popular these two things I hate are. I just want to make it clear that I am by no means hating these things because their popular; I'd hate them even if they were universally hated.

    Another game I played recently that I almost came to hate was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Although, thanks to some great level design, I can still respect it.

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  3. No offense, but I kind of chuckle to myself reading your response. I think the reason I like reading your opinions is because our logic is often very similar even if our tastes are different.

    Your reason for hating FFX and P&S was very familiar to me and directly parallels my issues with Other M.

    I don't like hating things either, but sometimes your expectations betray you and if you feel justified in those expectations it can be hard to be convinced otherwise.

    I started out having a poor opinion of Skyward Sword but it's been getting steadily better as I play. Still, I feel like Zelda is a stagnant series and even the changes to SS are kind of too little too late to me. I wish I could help them design a completely new Zelda game.

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  4. My only problem with the way people criticize Other M is that everyone always brings up the story. And, they find that the story is the story is only criticism they need to justify hating Other M. That is what annoys me the most about the situation. I knew right away many people wouldn't like Other M; that was apparent from the trailers, but to complain about only the story and nothing else just feels like a poor argument to me, especially in a game that isn't an RPG, and even in RPGs there are people who don't like the story but enjoy the gameplay, Chrono Cross being a good example.

    I'm not saying this is how you criticize Other M. It's just what annoys me about the general fan base's hatred for the game.

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  5. UGH, bless this post. It frustrates me to no end how much people put this game on a pedestal. And i mean, that's fine, people can have their own opinions, but UGH. WHY. I can't understand it. But i didn't want to bash the game without playing it. So i did. I beat it and i still couldn't take it seriously.

    Speaking of how easy the battle system was because you could switch out characters as you pleased, you could also fully heal yourself at any save sphere. Seriously. Where's the challenge in that? what was the point of having Inns?

    And then traveling was a joke, because you could just teleport wherever you wanted to go.

    And being a very pious person myself, i was able to see the strong religious connections in the game. The Al Bheds could be compared to Atheists or somehow heathens to the church. And i love how they made an effort to take Wakka, a closed minded devout religious man, and show him that the Al Bheds were good people and shouldn't be cast aside as villains. I liked that. However, on the flip side, the game just took a huge dump on organized religion. Nearing the end of the game, every religious leader was either a fraud or evil and trying to get you killed. Then at the end of the game you encounter Yunalesca, inherently the "Mary Magdalene" of the game, and she too turns out to a demented monster, and is destroyed. If that wasn't enough, Yu Yevon, essentially GOD, is the ultimate villain, and just. Ugh. i was all sorts of offended.

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  6. You Idiot The Blue Guy (as You Say) is actually called kimhari ronso from the ronso tribe

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  7. Wow this got to be way longer than anticipated, please bear with me

    I feel like you missed most of the point of the story. This FF was kind of radically different, which is why I think there was a lot of knee-jerk hate early, but also why it became and remains so popular. This isn't the fantasy opera of days past,Tidus is a real character, not a generally nondescript badass ex-SEAL expy. He is purposely designed to be annoying early to better highlight how much he grows through the story, and imho he has some of the best character development of any character ever. Too often major personality changes are boiled down to hollywood style crisis, were if they don step up NOW everything is lost. He slowly grows into his roll as leader, and has to work through his father issues instead of getting an out like "yeah I was a dick but the manifesto explains why" or some other easy excuse. And that sets the mood for the rest of the characters, Waka and Yuna showcase the flaws in people, and how they can be strengths. Waka is also so "hyper" to be a real companion to Tidus that can geek out with him. Lulu is cold early from getting burned by Chapu's death, and is even more cold to Tidus due to similar appearance. Kimahri is introduced as the consummate badass "few words big stick" type, and it was a big deal when you earned enough respect that he talked to you. Then they turn that on it's head at the mountain (but to be fair i feel like there was so much wasted potential with him, and a major part of his history is introduced as a thowaway, unspoken line from an unamed NPC... ugh) as far as the awkward romance, I think the main reason a lot of people thought it was out of place is due to another major failing that people get (perhaps a bit too) hung up on,the, truly TRULY horrendous localization, they seriously dropped the ball. If you ever listen to the jap voices, you can tell things were entirely different. The biggest difference is Seymore. I feel like the localization team didn't have nearly as much time as they wanted, so they kind of threw together a completely new character for him with the voice actor that would be easier to deal with. He's less fruity, death fetished madman and more cool, dismissive embodiment of entitlement. Those smirks aren't meant to be smug superiority, it's amusement that the ants think they can struggle against him. A fine line, but an important one. Getting back on point, the other things to remember about the Tidus/Yuna relationship is that A) they spend a lot of time on the road/boats etc and B) they're both like, 17. Generally at that age things kind of fly through romantic courtship right on to honeymoon lovey dovey, another more realistic note for the series.

    Well that was supposed to reinforce the story but kind of got swept up by the characters. The story has some points all it's own though. Like I touched on earlier, this isn't a fantasy opera like previous installments. The party isn't really on an epic quest, they are just another group going about their jobs in a long never-ending grind, aside from the outsider Tidus. And that really sets up Spira, hell even it's name touches on this point. Life here is a constant spiral. A very long journey to a location that isn't too far away. But nobody questions it while they slowly grind nearer to the omnipresent shadow of death. Meanwhile, the maesters attempt to maintain order for centuries while slowly losing control, piece by piece. Another brilliant metaphor, they try to keep the world moving in circles, and maintain the status quo, but they never quite reach the same place the circle started, slowly... spiraling inwards to implosion. This creates an inserting opposing duality were the peasants are resigned to a fate they could change, while the maesters desperately try to stop a fate out of their control.

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    1. Cont

      Everything in this story is so mundane, partly to put in stark contrast to previous titles. To show that its a crapsack world, like FFVII, but a more insidious one. One were things seems fine and cheery on the outside, belying constant fear and drudgery. The extreme simplicity also helps to serve as a powerful foil to the Bellevere temple, highlighting the hypocrisy of Yevon, which is also apparent in their demand that the people accept death while the maesters seek to fight it. In all these, the art direction hit everything spot on. I especially liked that, like many RPG's the art tends to get darker. This not only imposes an ominous feel, but shows that you are needed to protect the cheery starting areas from the brooding latter stages. But here, it also shows the false security on the surface, a fragile peacefulness as easily disturbed as the surface of a pond. And after going into so much meta-meaning on spirals and duality/hypocrisy, and death, the game also seems to try to pack in loads with the water theme, though it's not as apparent to me. Maybe something to do with cleansing? Maybe the creators just liked water, who knows. But its clearly a super important part of the world,

      Story aside, I liked the gameplay. I didn't love it, but it was still nice. Was never much fan on ATB anyway. I feel like the rock/paper/scissor issue you brought up was a bit overmuch, but not all enemies fall into that system. Think I would have liked it better if the reward/punishment was brought down a bit. And the exp system was an interesting experiment, I think largely aimed at previous game's grinding. In this system there's still a grind, but now you can level more people per battle while ensuring i's not "free". The sphere grid did not deliver on it's potential but i still liked it. Would have liked it more if you had to make more critical decisions before endgame, there's little reason not to just dump into ever sphere on all the rids for a long time. And while the layout hid this fact from some, it's insanely linear. I don't mind linear gameplay, but I prefer options with customization, and this was cleverly designed to make it look like you had more options than you really do. Probably my biggest complaint is the insane grind of "minigames" for seals. I have never acquired the Venus seal and I probably never will, unless I decide to throw away a good 2-3 days and sit down with my emulator to abuse savestates.

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  8. Good post. I also did not like the story of FFX. It started off promising but as the game goes on the character development and storyline just becomes all over the place, it's also the reason why I played half way and then stopped for a long while until I returned to it. As you have said the Yuna-Tidus romance there were zero build up and while there were so much background for each of the character they didn't try at all to talk about it. Overall I did like the battle system the Aeon designs especially Anima were some of the best and most memorable but that's really about it. Till this day I can still remember 7, 8 and 9's story line clear as day but 10's I don't even remember any more. LOL and funny you talk about the blue guy because I also forgot his name.

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