The A 90s Kid YouTube channel started streaming in July with Final Fantasy XIII (yes, that one), and I’ve had more fun than ever making videos. We’ve been lucky to attract a wonderful community that’s as positive as they are fun. My goal was to pound through the backlog (and new titles) alongside viewers that offer expert advice and a good time hanging out.

After finishing the XIII trilogy (an experience made infinitely better with our crew) we held a vote for the next Final Fantasy game we’d play, ruling out FFIX as I’ve been picking my way through that one for the past two years on Vita. FF X was the popular choice and I was excited to finally experience it completely. I gave it a whirl a few years back but checked out after the first few hours and never returned. Would I hit the same wall and be forced to trudge through through sheer loyalty to those that voted?

I love hearing about someone’s favorite game, and in this case, their favorite Final Fantasy. Games offer such a wide variety of experiences, and this epic franchise rarely shies away from making drastic changes. It’s aways intriguing to hear the reasoning behind a favorite. Often a player’s first will stick so resolutely that they can’t help but fall in love. VII was my first and the story/music/characters/setting hits a warm spot in the nostalgia neurons of my Midgar-loving brain. I greatly prefer sci-fi to fantasy, and mixing the practically cyber-punk environment with magic has been my favorite combination since Shadowrun blew my mind.

FF X comes up often as a favorite. It was an early game for the most popular console of all time: The PS2. For many it was their first foray into the series, but it was also the franchise’s first step into voice acting and a more mature way of presenting cutscenes. There’s a very steamy kiss sequence that went much further than the series had ever seen. It’s a mature step forward.

I love observing the past/present/future of each FF game. For example, in X, the static character animations are reminiscent of PS1-era games. Developers weren’t focused on making the characters do much more than stand in one place and wave their arms around, yet they still manage to convey heartfelt emotion when needed.

Voice-acting would be standard moving forward. The linear progression and lack of exploration hinted at the controversial first quarter of XIII. Swapping in characters with very specific abilities also reminded me of XIII’s large party and specific roles. Heck Tidus even looks and acts like a cross between Snow and Hope.

But X has many unique elements of its own. Square Enix may be a Japanese company, but they rarely feel like Japanese or Asian games. X’s bright colors and south-asian inspired locales are still a breath of fresh air. Many characters bow and address each other with etiquette that feels quite Japanese (from my limited understanding). Rikku, Wakka, and Yuna are some of the rare FF characters that look like they could be from Asia.

The turn-based system ditched the active mechanic for the first time since IV. I thought this might slow down the action but I appreciate the level of control and strategy it offers. In IX I’ll often command a character to heal another with a potion, only to have them killed before the action takes place. I watch helplessly as a potion is tossed uselessly on an unconcious body. In I know exactly when the actions will take place. There’s even a handy turn list in the top corner so I can plan my moves in advance. It feels more like chess, with less left to chance. I dreaded going back to turn-based after loving XIII’s up-tempo strategy, but has provided plenty of rewarding battles (once you’re leveled up enough to be strategic).

I’ve praised XIII plenty, but absolutely outclasses it in storytelling. XIII overwhelmed me with too many pieces, Fal’Cie jargon, and an over-arching narrative of Gods that I still don’t understand even with our helpful experts in Discord.

keeps it simple and focuses on the human reaction to big moments. It’s paced extremely well, doling out enough to keep it compelling, but not overwhelming with too much exposition. Things happen and the characters react. It’s magnificent show-don’t-tell. Tidus can be annoying but he’s a young hot-shot athlete completely out of his element. There’s a few cringe-worthy moments but often he’ll voice the exact question I was thinking. He’s not perfect, but he does the job well enough as an audience surrogate. Plus, starting as a whiny brat gives him room to grow ;).

We’re nearing the end of our Final Fantasy playthrough if you’d like to join us. We’re passing through the Ronso mountain at the moment. I’ll miss the gang when it’s over but still enjoy the anticipation of the final confrontation. Speaking of which, the game handles the main antagonists quite well. They’re present very early, and have their own arcs to go through. I’ve enjoyed them much more than IX’s constantly shifting villains. In VII I loved the long pursuit of Sephiroth the bad-ass, but in I despised one of its key villains the moment I saw them. It was a love-hate however, as I quite enjoyed the journey.

I’ll post another review once I’ve completed the game, and will keep checking in like this each week or so.

What’s your favorite Final Fantasy?