TGS: Final Fantasy X impressions

[03.30.01] » Details on new characters and summon spells, plus a look at the new battle system.

   Final Fantasy X was on display in playable form at the Tokyo Game Show, and Andy "The Man" Church was on hand to give Square's latest epic a spin. Based on his reports and additional analysis from his screenshots, we've put together a more thorough look at the two sections offered for play.

   As previously reported, the first area of the demo features Tidus exploring an underground area. Though the camera is static, it frequently changes positions to follow Tidus through the dungeon. A new Skies of Arcadia-style map charts your progress through the 3-D dungeon. Two bosses are featured in the underground area: a fish-like creature and an insectoid boss. Tidus battles the boss on the same screen in which he had been traveling. (Random battles, of course, still appear on separate screens, following a Xenogears-like "shattering screen" effect.)

   The second area is a tropical zone featuring Tidus, Yuna, and two new party members. The scenario begins with a battle against an impressive bestial boss; afterwards, the party is able to explore. Only three characters can fight at once; players can swap characters in the middle of battle by pressing L1. (It's not yet known whether switching heroes can be done at truly any time or if special conditions must be met.)

   One of the two new heroes is the promised Blitzball-wielding character; he has red hair, gray gloves, and green pants. He also has the most HP and the least MP, making it likely he's a fighting-oriented character. The other new hero is a black-haired character in a dark dress; she appears to be wielding a fan. This character is the opposite of the Blitzball fighter; she has lots of MP but little HP. Our extremely sketchy translations peg these new characters as "Wakka" and "Lulu," respectively, but don't be surprised if their official names end up wildly different.

   Three summons were available to Yuna: Final Fantasy mainstays Shiva and Ifrit, plus a brand new summon. The new summon character is some sort of purple winged creature; its name is something like "Valfaré". (If you can connect a name similar to this to any mythological creature; please drop us a line. And, no, it's not "Valkyrie.") Observant gamers may notice that the "Valfaré" resembles part of the original Final Fantasy X logo seen at Square Millennium; it's not yet clear if this is just a coincidence or a hint an an important story role for this new summoned creature.

   Once summoned, a monster remains on the screen until killed or recalled by the player. Each summon monster has its own HP and MP statistics; the summons have significantly more HP than a standard character. The other party members are removed from play while a summon monster is fighting, though Yuna remains on screen to lend moral support.

   In a first for the Final Fantasy series, summon monsters can be directly controlled by the player. Each monster has four abilities: a standard physical attack, traditional magic spells such as Fire and Thundara, a summon-style Limit Break attack (such as Shiva's Diamond Dust), and a special non-summon attack.

Ifrit's abilities:

  • Spells: Fire, Fira, Firaga
  • Summon Attack: Hellfire
  • Special Attack: Meteor Strike

Shiva's abilities:

  • Spells: Blizzard, Blizzara, Blizzaga
  • Summon Attack: Diamond Dust
  • Special Attack: Heavenly Strike (pierces the defense of heavily-armored enemies)

Valfaré's abilities:

  • Spells: Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Water
  • Summon Attack: Shooting Ray
  • Special Attack: Sonic Wing

   The summon attack can only be used after the monster's Limit meter is filled up; as in Final Fantasy VII, the meter fills whenever the summon monster attacks or is attacked by an opponent. The Limit meter fills very quickly in the TGS demo; this could be a demo-only tweak to better show off the summon attacks, however.

   As seen in the screenshots, Final Fantasy X represents a significant jump forward for the series in graphical detail. Character motion is still a bit stiff, but Square is still "working on it"; expect the animation to improve by the time the final version arrives this July. Gamers tired of the lengthy animations in most 3-D RPG battles will be happy to hear that FF X's are fast, with no lengthy movements between the heroes and monsters. Indeed, if the player does nothing but regular attacks, the action is non-stop.

   Details on the new battle mechanics are still sketchy, but it's safe to say that it's definitely not "pretty much standard Final Fantasy stuff." The ATB system has been replaced with a Grandia-style bar on the right-hand side of the screen. The bar seems to track when the turns of each character and monster will occur. Monsters are denoted with "M"s, summoned beats with "S"es, and human party members with their portraits. Pressing the R2 button allows the player to scroll down the list and see turns further in the future. The command window appears in the lower-left corner; while only three commands are shown at once, players can scroll down to access additional abilities.

   A big thanks to Andy Church, Gilgamesh-in-training.

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