The Art of...Final Fantasy X Review
Something new...and brilliant!
If Final Fantasy IX symbolized what people believed Final Fantasy had been then the tenth entry represented the future of the franchise. However, I believe this is what the series had been about to begin with; pushing its art, core concepts and graphics forward simultaneously. The art of Final Fantasy X did this and so much more. It revitalized a series that everyone knew what to expect from visually and provided a new age style that looked more towards Japan's Pacific backyard for inspiration. As a whole, Final Fantasy X was one of Squaresoft's biggest accomplishments and its art direction even more so in terms of developing a game which reflects the best of its concept art.
As per usual the initial art, including the game logo, was handled by Yoshitaka Amano. Amano's role had always been to provide aesthetic continuity and the imaginative spark for the series. It is interesting then that the Final Fantasy X logo is so central this time to the colors, motifs and shapes found in the game. Yellow and blue are splurged across the logo, the colors of our protagonist and so much more in the game. Water dominates everything. It is undoubtedly one of the more 'artistic' logos found in any game and speaks volumes about it.
Other Amano art for Final Fantasy X is notable for its minimalism. Whether its Tidus battling underwater creatures or laying in shallow water looking at the sky, there is always a sketchiness and freedom of movement to the art. It is probably my favorite style Amano has employed and it adds to the emotional resonance of the game by allowing the viewers to soak up the significance of these moments. When Yuna is perfoming her sending, there doesn't need to be other things going on in the background, the weight of her actions is enough.
The characters of Final Fantasy X, many of whom were allegedly changed later in production, were designed by Tetsuya Nomura and exhibit a style of fashion that was completely new to the series. Let's take look at Lulu for example, shall we? Filling the role of the traditional 'black mage' she sports a long black dress that is actually made from dozens of black leather belts and although darkness dominates her dress it also features an elaborate flower pattern. This is and her numerous necklaces and stones complement both her mystical role and wider patterns of multi-layered fashion in Spira. In short, she is designed as both an individual and someone who fits into a fictional world. The way Lulu is presented as an in game model shows that the many details of her character design really matter and add color and tons of individuality. The same could be said for many of the main characters. The flair in their designs translates extremely well to a game which had the resources and technology to bring them to life. When Wakka grins his whole character design makes us feel it. When Yuna cries her wet and noble robes drag us down with her.
The world of Spira is arguably the most cohesive fictional world Final Fantasy has taken place in. One doesn't simply go from 'snowy' village to a 'desert' region which feature completely different climates and cultures. Like many aspects of its design, locations in Spira flow more organically into each other. From the south tropical islands of Besaid and Kilika, our heroes gradually make their way to the snowy and desolate north. Perhaps inspired by the geography of Japan itself, this gives a believable tone to the scenery and in turn the journey of the heroes. However, what makes the background art of Spira so striking is the fantastical nature of it all. Final Fantasy X isn't content to merely provide quality fantasy backgrounds but consistently presents locations that combine natural beauty, magical elements and technology in unique ways. From the controlled water-spouts of Zanarkand to the surreal nature of the Farplane, the background art always begs more questions than it answers. Even when not playing the game, the world of Spira is somewhere you want to be and live. The art almost perfectly walks the shaky plank between reality and fantasy.
The art of Final Fantasy X is truly something rare and significant, given that it takes previously established concepts and styles from a popular franchise and adds to them in so many new ways. The art here clearly had an enormous and positive impact on the final product, giving us an unforgettable Final Fantasy game. The lesson that anyone can take from this (let alone Square Enix at the moment) is that new ideas always matter and so does art which contains the spark and expression of those ideas.