We added a lot of “new” to Final Fantasy X. This was the first Final Fantasy game to be built in full 3D, we introduced new presentation types, a new combat system … it even came out on new hardware. It also spawned the first direct sequel in the series’ history, Final Fantasy X-2.
This game was just as fresh and had a completely different style, tone, and structure than the rest of the series.
I worked as a producer on Final Fantasy X and its sequel. Both are available on PlayStation Now in Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, I decided to share some memories of working on these special games.
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X was the first game in the series developed for the PS2. There are always problems and solutions when dealing with new hardware, and this certainly applies to Final Fantasy X.
PlayStation 2 effect
One key decision we came across was related to visuals. While the PS2 offered a significant increase in power over the original PlayStation, the hardware specs were still limited, so in order to display the new graphic style, we had to choose whether to prioritize the resolution or the number of colors.
Initially, we thought it would be helpful to use more colors – we thought it would help us portray Spira’s world really vividly. However, when we looked at trends in games from other companies released while we were working on development, it became clear that fans were hoping for next generation games with higher resolutions.
As a result, we switched from focusing on the number of colors to the highest resolution of the game – and we did it about six months before the deadline!
This meant that we had to make major changes to the game that we have done so far, which was a big risk from a graphical point of view. Luckily, our excellent programmers and designers have done an amazing job.
In the end, Final Fantasy X was born in high definition, and we were able to achieve the high quality graphics that you expect from a next generation console.
A world in a spiral
The new visual style added other challenges as well. For example, Final Fantasy X was the first game in the series to not have a world map – that’s because the game was built in full 3D, which is expensive!
As game creators, we sometimes have to make decisions that balance game design with rising production costs. In this case, deleting the world map was the most realistic solution we had.
Our previous games, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, were set in worlds inspired by steampunk and sci-fi, respectively, so we wanted to do something different.
This may also be the reason why art director Yusuke Naora came up with the concept of creating a world with an Asian touch, and this was the inspiration for Spira.
New battle plans
This was not the only departure from Final Fantasy X tradition – we also reinvented the combat system.
The previous few games used the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, in which players could perform actions whenever a bar fills up in real time. In the new game, we wanted to create battles with more strategic depth than ever before.
The designer who worked on the combat system also worked on Front Mission, and he was very experienced in creating strategy games, so we switched to a turn based system instead.
We also changed how the character works by introducing a mesh of spheres. This allowed players to manually upgrade their characters by selecting upgrades from the grid. I’ve been a big fan of board games for a long time and wanted to recreate that analog feeling of moving pieces and filling the board with them.
Making our voices heard
One new feature that I personally was very passionate about was the introduction of voiceovers. I mentioned this on my last blog, but I was a little annoyed that Final Fantasy VIII was not dubbed.
We achieved more realistic visuals and sounds, but when I think about the scenes in that game, I think they would be even more emotional if they included voice acting. This became the driving force behind Final Fantasy X.
Of course, this was the first time we recorded voice-overs, so it took a lot of work to bring it to life. It is now common practice to have each actor enter the recording booth one at a time and then record all of their lines separately. However, we once asked several actors to go to the studio at the same time and record conversation scenes together.
Because of this, I think we were able to achieve a natural performance, despite the fact that this is the first time.
Final (fantasy) thoughts
Ultimately, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished with Final Fantasy X. I think it’s an iconic game – in terms of script, graphics, cinematography, sound, voices and motion capture, it achieves the perfect cinematic quality that was in Final Fantasy X. Aspired to a fantasy TV series.
I think the style honed here helped define the look of future Final Fantasy games. One of them was Final Fantasy X-2.
Final Fantasy X-2
After Final Fantasy X, it felt like we didn’t want the world of Spira and its characters to end in the same chapter, and we wanted them to take center stage and further flesh it out.
That’s why we started production on Final Fantasy X-2, the first direct sequel in the series’ history. We decided to explore the world that became peaceful after the events of the previous game and tell a different story.
Instead of a theme from the previous story that delves into a specific relationship, such as between a man and a woman or a parent and a child, we wanted a bright and light-hearted story that would give the game a fun tone.
“Seagull Wings” are going
This optimistic attitude is reflected in the playable characters. Unlike previous games in the series, Final Fantasy X-2 has an all-female group: Yuna, Rikku, and the new character Pain.
Many games of the time, not just Final Fantasy, had male protagonists, and I wanted to tell the story of Yuna as a strong female character. I thought it would resonate with even more players.
The tone is further enhanced by the structure of the game. Unlike Final Fantasy X, where you follow the drama in a linear fashion, quests in Final Fantasy X-2 can be completed in any order. To further increase the variety, we have increased the number of mini-games available in the game.
I remember the hardest part was making Sphere Break, a strategically deep coin game. One game designer working on everything, including programming, alone!
Dress to impress
In terms of combat, Final Fantasy X-2 has moved to a new version of the ATB system, which allows players to plan their attacks for combos and more effective attacks. You may be wondering why the system has changed from the previous game? This is because the combat designer has changed!
The assistant game designer from Final Fantasy X took over the sequel and wanted to use a different system.
An important element of the new system were dress spheres, which allowed the squad to seamlessly switch between different roles in combat. For example, Yuna can transform from a damage shooter to a healing white mage, a thief, or a host of other options in the heat of battle, each accompanied by a flamboyant change of outfit.
This system arose in part from the storyline of the original Final Fantasy X. In this game, the Summoned ended up disappearing from the world, so transformations were the way to work with the immersive visuals that players had come to expect.
As for the animations themselves, we turned to the genre of children’s TV shows in Japan, in which characters transform or take on new forms. The best part of each episode is the dynamic character transformation, and we took inspiration from that.
What’s in a name?
It may sound strange, but one of the biggest problems we faced with Final Fantasy X-2 was what to call it. A sequel to the main game was unheard of, and when we proposed X-2, the company was initially worried about being mistaken for Final Fantasy XII and declined. From then on, they certainly fell in love with him.
Ultimately, the game generated more controversy than other Final Fantasy games – I suspect this is partly because its flamboyant and pop focus gives it a completely different flavor from other games in the series.
But I think the way Final Fantasy games try to break away from preconceived ideas is something really great about this series, and Final Fantasy X-2 is a great example of that.
Both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 are available for stream and download from PlayStation Now…