The Sins of the Casuals

One of the most beautiful things about Final Fantasy X, or it’s new incarnation of FFX | X-2 HD Remaster, isn’t the graphics. It’s the way it lets players approach it and walk away at the end thinking ‘Wow, what a ride!’ after either 30 hours or several hundred hours.

If you approach it casually your Sin (the start of the final boss fight chain) will be rather tough to beat, but beatable, and you’ll plod on through to the end of the storyline suffering through a few Game Overs because you’re so close to the end, it might even be worth pushing Yuna a bit further along her bit of the Sphere Grid to get the Auto-Life ability to save you running out of Phoenix Down’s. Then you’ll be able to watch the credits roll, punch the air with glee, and tell all your friends what a great game it is.

You might even reminisce about some of the cooler systems in the game, like casting Reflect on a party member so that all incoming spell damage goes back to hit the enemy, or that time Auron did a massive 9999 damage Overkill on a Dingo. Final Fantasy X has some pretty neat tricks like that.

Really, though, you’ve just scratched the surface. Final Fantasy games run deeper than still waters and I wanted to run through a few things that more casual players might have missed, just in case they’re wondering why some of their friends are still playing the game months later when it really only takes a week or so to fly through it.

I’ll start with Dark Aeons. You might even have met one when you popped back to Besaid to show off your airship to the local peasants. These make Sin look like your first meeting with Lord Ochu in Kilika unless you missed him too by taking a more circuitous route to the Temple. But really, they’re only optional sub-bosses, a taste of things to come for the hardcore. There are 8 of them, beat them all to unlock the daddy of all Dark Aeons, Penance.

Other Superboss enemies are easy to miss. If you really, really must perfect your Al Bhed language training you’ll need to visit Omega Ruins, find it using the search function on the Airship’s map. This is where you’ll find the final Al Bhed Primer as well as the Omega and Ultima Weapon which could prove a challenge if you’re running around packing 5000 HP on each party member.

Then there’s Nemesis. Nemesis can hit all your party members for 99,999 damage with just one of its moves. You might need to grind a few more Ogres in the Calm Lands before going toe to toe with this one.

Fortunately, Final Fantasy X provides players with some awesome tools to take these bosses down, all of them missable if you’re just concentrating on finding out if Yuna can bring joy to Spira. You might have walked straight passed Belgemine on the Mi’hen High Road as you left Luca, you might not have entered that tiny alcove on the east side of the Calm Lands because you were following the red arrow on the minimap instead, maybe Blitzball wasn’t your cup of tea, maybe you were happy with the reward you got for dodging 5 lightning strikes in a row. But if you’re going for completion then all of these, and a lot of other things, are the keys to discovering the depths that Final Fantasy X can drag you down to.

Belgemine, for example, teaches you how to take the spheres you use to develop your characters on the Sphere Grid and use them to raise your Aeon’s attributes as well. Monster Arena (that little alcove on the east side of the Calm Lands) not only provides you with ample spheres to get this job done, but enables you to enhance the Sphere Grid even more by removing weaker nodes (like +200HP) and replacing them with more powerful versions (like +300HP). Blitzball, a way of life for some FFX players because they simply must have the Invisible Shot, Good Morning! and Jecht Shot 2 Techniques, gives you access to Wakka’s Celestial Weapon and extra Overdrives, and if you go out of your way to dodge 200 lightning strikes in a row on the Thunder Plains Lulu will thank you for it because the reward adds the skill One MP Cost to her Celestial Weapon.

Of course you have to find Baaj Temple, beat up a mini-boss, find a well-hidden chest and revisit the Farplane before you can upgrade Lulu’s Celestial Weapon to that stage, but we’re talking about a deep rabbit hole here that you have to search long and hard to find before you can even start tumbling down it. And Lulu’s Celestial Weapon is probably one of the easier ones to get hold of.

Remember, all of this stuff is optional, but should you decide to go hardcore the rewards include being able to break through the 9,999 damage limit, customise your characters with insane stats, not being too troubled about your whole party getting hit for 99,999 damage, and, just for fun, showing a Dingo what an Overkill really is.

At the end of your journey you’ll encounter Sin. It’s the same Sin that someone else got to in 30 hours of gameplay, whereas you might have taken several hundred. Sin will be a bit easy, but you won’t care. Watching those credits will feel extra special. And you will think ‘Wow, what a ride!’ at the end of it all. And when you tell all your friends what a great game it is you’ll secretly be hoping they’ve been there too so you can share the same experiences, if you’re face to face with them just look for that tell-tale thousand yalm stare.

That dual accessibility for both the casual and hardcore player is a theme that runs throughout most of the great RPGs, but it’s something that the Final Fantasy franchise in particular excels in and I personally think Final Fantasy X is one of the greatest examples.

Now if you don’t mind I have to go and beat up Sin. Just after I’ve captured six more Tonberries in the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth which is a little troublesome, I think the phrase “Karma’s a bitch” must have originated here. And tied up a few other loose ends of course. I might be a while …