Final Fantasy X Was Less Complex Than It Seemed

I played Final Fantasy X all the way up to the end boss and loved upgrading my characters by activating nodes in the game's massive, complicated sphere grid. Little did I know that the sphere grid was really a group of primarily straight lines masquerades as something more convoluted.

FFX is an attractive game that proceeds at a brisk clip. It's fun and considered one of the better Final Fantasy games, full of interesting, likable character and visually impressive scenes. It's sphere grid is a signature element and one that I could have sworn represented how complex player's choices could be as they upgraded their party of characters.

Chad Birch at GameInternals untangled that grid, and discovered that its 828 nodes are really, primarily just a series of linear progression points. You can't branch from one upgrade to another as often as the sphere grid makes it seem, he writes:

"As it turns out, normal traversal of the grid is actually extremely linear. Multiple characters have stretches of over 50 nodes without any branches at all. Yuna's section does not really even include a single practical choice during her initial pass through it. Most of the interesting decisions on the sphere grid will be made with the special Spheres that allow you to warp to a different location, but those are quite rare, and a player will likely only acquire 2 or 3 of them in the entire main game."

Here's why that matters (emphasis added by Kotaku):

Because it is a character-improvement system, you are encouraged to use it whenever your characters gain any sphere levels, so you typically only make a few moves at a time. If you choose to save up many sphere levels before using them, you are forcing your characters to be weaker than they technically should be, so most players will not do this. Since moves are not being made in one long stretch, it is much less obvious how long it has been since you have had to make a choice, and the path certainly doesn't "feel" straight due to the node layout.

Head over to Birch's full post to see the rest of his analysis and to look at the massive reproductions he's done of the sphere grid, in tangled and surprising untangled form.

Straightening Out Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid [GameInternals]


    Is that the standard sphere grid or the advanced because there were two different options.

    Not to say I'd be surprised if even the advanced one didn't have that many options.

    XIII dose much the same thing. Visually the levelling system is very interesting but there is really very little variation in how most people would grow their characters.

    Which sphere grid? Standard or Expert?

      The article says it was for the North American version of the game, which only had a single grid that was similar to the European standard grid.

    I did notice this when I was playing. It was a bit like each character was forced to be a certain class for the first half of the game. I think if there was a few more warp spheres it would have made for some interesting combos.

    But in the end you can get almost all parts of the grid covered by all your characters. If you want a deep combo tree, I liked FF tactics because even if you had all the skills you could only choose two job sets.

    They obviously haven't played the version we got. The expert grid did away with this by starting everyone in the middle and letting you choose your own path. Yuna as a powerhouse was always funny.

      But once you started down a path you were locked into that path so it was still pretty linear. (If i'm remembering correctly)

    Totillo is a doosche. A bend does not a choice make.

    The only thing "HARD" about it was the time you needed to spend .

      1. Learn to spell.
      2. Learn to grammar.
      3. Leave Kotaku.

        Jimu. Name-calling? Really?
        Andy. Telling him to leave Kotaku because you don't agree with his opinion or the way he chose to express it? Bit of a knee-jerk reaction, huh?

        So all right both of you, your names are on the blackboard now and if it happens again, you have to get naked and mud-wrestle each other. Okay?

          I say they do anyway. Mark can referee in a black and white striped g-string.

          Sorry, Strange.
          This Totillo guy really wangs my doodle.

          Will try to keep my mindless name calling to a minimum, ma'am.

        "Learn to grammar"?

        Wouldn't that be "Learn to use correct grammar"?

    As I understand it, only PAL versions of the game had the advanced sphere grid.
    Still interesting to hear about some of the paths friends took when the characters were allowed to deviate from their assigned roles.

    What the picture seems to completely ignore are the various "locked" nodes that you can pass through when you acquire "key spheres" (which begin to become accessible at about the ~8 hour mark IIRC). These allow you to enter different areas of the sphere grid which is what gives it its flexibility.

    While it is most efficient to keep the characters on their own paths, if we only ever measured customisation by the most efficient way to build characters then every RPG in the world would be linear.

    In addition, while the "Warp Spheres" mentioned in the article are in fact rare, there are various other types of special spheres which allow you alter your characters in ways that break the boundaries of their default paths such as: "Blk Magic Spheres", "Skill Spheres", "Special Spheres", "Return Spheres" (in particular to go back to an old lock once you get the key), and there's quite a few others.

    Finally, when the characters finish their default paths, you have to choice to take them wherever you want, which is pretty much forced flexibilty.

    *dramatically throws off nerd glasses*

    "It’s fun and considered one of the better Final Fantasy games, full of interesting, likable character and visually impressive scenes."

    //does a double-take//
    Wh... what? I'd consider FF10 the weakest in the series since FF5. Big disappointment IMHO. I didn't find the characters interesting and likeable, I found them annoying and terribly acted. I guess the graphics were nice for the time, but the linearity of the game was a killer for me... I got similar feelings during FF13, but at least that was prettier and better acted.

      As a stand-alone title, FFX wasn't THAT bad. It just had a protagonist who made you want to punch him in the face every time he opened his mouth.

      The sphere system seemed pretty nifty back then, the battles were largely enjoyable and there was a story (even if it was a bit melodramatic and too Japanese).

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