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]