*Author's Note - Congratulations, you have just graduated College! The last four years of your life have been a Red Bull fueled haze of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Mario Kart along with the occasional midterm. Today, you enter the world as an independent, educated adult, which means all your income will now be going towards things like food and rent. Needless to say, you won't be buying any new games for a while. Lucky for you there's The Penniless Gamer's Guide, your map to gaming that's simple, fun, and most importantly, affordable.   

Final Fantasy X

Rated: T for Teen (for fantasy violence) 
Platforms: PlayStation 2
Current Price: Around $15.00

Final Fantasy X was one of the PS2's first blockbuster hits, and it's easy to see why.

The game was absolutely stunning, with exotic landscapes, a moving storyline, and (for the first time ever) voice-acting! Even now, ten years down the road, the game remains an impressive edition to the Final Fantasy series. If you're a hardcore gamer who's low on cash, Final Fantasy X is one of the first games worth dusting off and starting again.         

Story

X opens with a flashback narrated by Tidus, the game's leading protagonist. Tidus once lived in the utopian city of Zanarkand where he was a star Blitzball player (a sport that's a cross between soccer and water polo).

On the night of the championship game, the city was attacked by an enormous sea monster, and Tidus was swept into a mysterious light that transported him to the world of Spira.

There, he discovers that the sea monster, known to the people as "Sin", is greatly feared throughout the continent, and every ten years a disciple known as a Summoner undertakes a pilgrimage to fight and defeat it. Tidus immediately becomes smitten with a female Summoner named Yuna, and decides to join her pilgrimage as one of her guardians.

The plot is pretty simple at first, but gradually starts to peel back in layers to include political corruption, racial tension, and a budding romance between Tidus and Yuna. While deep, it's not overly complex, and the occasional narration from Tidus helps to streamline the tale for most gamers.

The pacing is excellent, ensuring that uneventful moments don't lag, and a number of well-timed twists keep players from getting too comfortable. Topping it all off is a cast of characters that are perfectly tailored to the Final Fantasy universe. Each has their own personality, back story, and appearance that give the game more color. Final Fantasy is known for its engaging plotlines, and X certainly did not disappoint.                   

Gameplay

Like many of its predecessors, the battle system in Final Fantasy X follows a turn based style of combat. Your enemies will wait for you select your attacks, execute them, and then retaliate with moves of their own.

Only three party members can battle at a time, and each character fulfills a different role within combat. Tidus, for example, is ideal for delivering quick, decisive blows while Lulu, the party's black mage, can cast a wide variety of offensive spells.

The setup encourages players to construct a team that suits their own style of gameplay, swapping in other characters when the situation demands it. It's a slow process when compared to modern day RPGs, but overall makes for an enjoyable battle experience.

Outside of combat, the game offers a number different ways for players to spend their time. You can collect special items, solve tricky puzzles, rack up a high score in the Biltzball mini-game, or simply re-watch cut scenes in the Sphere-theater.  Like most things in X, gameplay is simple, yet effective, and gamers will find plenty to do if they're willing to commit the man hours.     

Presentation

Upon its release, Final Fantasy X quickly became known for its breathtaking cinematics, and even today, developers are hard pressed to duplicate the feat.

Beautiful cut scenes are scattered throughout the game, usually adding weight to pivotal moments of the story. The voice acting (which was a new feature for games at the time) is still top notch by today's standers, and the soundtrack, often leading with soft piano ballads, is almost tangible.

The only place X shows its age is in the games basic graphics, but even these are nothing to sneeze at. All in all, the whole package looks good.        

For a game ten years behind the curb, Final Fantasy X still has plenty of style. It's a great RPG with a lot of replay value. If the game has been collecting dust on your shelf, or occupies some fonder gaming memories, why not save a little money and take a trip back to the world of Spira.          

*This article first published 6/29/2011