I believe that Final Fantasy X is the last game from Square that is really, awesomely good. It was all downhill after they joined Enix, in my opinion (I hope Final Fantasy XIII redeems them). Even FF12 was only average, to me. Anyway, this game is fantastic. Why? Well, let's find out!
Graphics (score 10/10): The graphics are really excellent for the PS2. I believe this game boasts the second-best graphics on the PS2, next to Final Fantasy XII. Although FFXII has the technically better graphics, FFX has much more creative and unique environments, so it's more graphically impressive to me. I guess it's kind of the difference between staring at a shimmering forest made out of crystalline trees and filled with iridescent swirls of light versus a big field filled with...grass...and just grass. So, FFX makes very good use of the graphical capabilities that it does have.
Music (score 10/10): Excellent, just excellent. The music is really quite beautiful, with my favorite song being "To Zanarkand". I even went and bought the soundtrack. And yes, I even like the song "Otherworld", which I've heard some people hated. Now, as for the voice acting... I thought it was great. Why do so many people hate on the voice acting for this game? I really can't figure it out. Other than the scene where Tidus and Yuna engage in fake laughter (it's cringe-worthy, trust me, but at least it doesn't last very long), the voice acting is top notch. I really found no faults with it. If you want to hear truly awful voice acting, listen to some scenes from the first Grandia game (on a side note, I got slaughtered with unhelpful votes for my review on that game; go figure).
Characters (score 10/10): Characterizations are excellent; everyone has a distinct personality and is well-portrayed. I know that everyone likes to complain about Tidus being a "crybaby" and whatnot, but I don't really think that's the case. To me, he's a realistic protagonist. With Final Fantasy 7 and 8, you had protagonists who were already used to battle, and who already had military training. It makes sense that they were used to dealing with stress (whether they actually handled that stress well is arguable, though, but that just makes them that much more interesting as protagonists). Tidus is just an average guy who is suddenly thrown into extraordinary events. In this light, I think his reactions (and subsequent narrations) are very realistic and appropriate for his character. I mean, he was living the good life before (he was a star athlete and living well, for the most part); why wouldn't he be unhappy about getting thrown into a world, which, through his eyes, must've seemed very inferior to what he just came from?! In fact, if he had immediately adopted a hung-ho, "this is so much fun" attitude, I would have found it very questionable. That being said, if he had been excessively whiney, it would've been annoying, but I don't really think that he is. As for the other characters, they all have subtle nuanced personalities, with the standout character being Yuna. So much of the story has to do with her, and she is extremely well developed. I love the fact that this game actually gives us a female character who is quiet, mature, and actually wears clothing that covers her breasts. Seriously, I get so sick of game developers thinking that all female characters must show cleavage, so it's awesome that Yuna actually has a real personality and isn't just eye candy. Not that eye candy is always bad or anything, it's just that I like to have some variety. I really love Yuna though because she is such a strong character without being a stereotypical gun-toting bad-ass female. She simply has a strong will and is dedicated to her morals and beliefs without being closed-minded. To me, she embodies what a "strong female character" should be rather than what Hollywood thinks that term means (ex. Large busted, cleavage exposing woman who wields guns). Once again, I have nothing against seeing that kind of portrayal once in a while, but there needs to be other kinds of heroines too. Too bad they ruin the good thing that they have going here in X-2, the sequel (see my review of that if you want to see how they screw over these fine characters). Whew, enough of my soap box. Overall, I think the characters are excellent, and yes, I even loved Tidus.
Story (score 10/10): This game's story is just awesome. It's one of the best RPG stories ever told, in my opinion. At its core, it's about a group of people coming to question the things that they have always believed in. I really enjoyed the themes of questioning traditional power structures and religious doctrine that is in place in the world of Spira, as well as themes of sacrifice, death, and hope. I don't know if the developers intended this, but you could almost interpret this story to be critique of real-world religions. The game even deals with the idea of prejudice in it's portrayal of the Al-Bhed. On top of these fine thematic elements, the plot keeps you engaged with various twists, culminating with the biggest twist of all at the end of the game. I'm not going to spoil that just in case you haven't played this game, but suffice it to say, it was so emotionally gripping that I actually cried at the end. Well, the story is awesome. What more can I say?
Battle System (score 10/10): The battle system is pretty unique compared to previous Final Fantasy games. Of course, I'm not talking about the turn-based fights; they're pretty similar. I'm talking about the ability to switch party members in the middle of battle. In previous FFs, you pretty much picked a party of three people and stuck to them, never using any other characters. In FFX, they actively discourage this by making each party member have very specific strengths and weaknesses, and having a variety of enemies that require everyone's skills. The fact that you need to switch people mid-battle to accommodate for different enemy types means that you really need to use everyone equally. This is a nice change of pace from the older games, although I still like doing it the old way equally well too.
Gameplay (score 10/10): This is a bit of a catch-all category for me. Let's see...FFX is very well paced in difficulty level, the controls and camera angle are good, and there's a wealth of interesting sidequests to take part in. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. My only small complaint would be that I wish there was a way to skip cut scenes. It's annoying to have to sit through a long cut scene again when you have to re-do a boss battle. Other than that, no complaints at all.
Overall (score 10/10): NOTE this score is not an average; it's my subjective overall score. FFX is a fine and excellent game. In my opinion, FFX is one of the best RPGs out there, and definitely should be added your collection if you're an RPG fan. And for its (currently) cheap price, you can't afford to pass this one up!