Seven things I wish I knew before starting Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has arrived on PC, bringing Square's RPGs onto our hard-drives via legal means for the first time ever. They're both great games, particularly X, and if you're starting off for the first time, you might be a bit lost in its 15 year-old interface and slightly unusual approach to progression systems. Hopefully these tips can help you out.

1. Complete random battles, but grind later

Final Fantasy X's difficulty curve is near flawlessly mapped so you can fight through the story without having to stop and grind, particularly for the first half of the game. Don't sweat staying in locations and trying to rack up more moves on the sphere grid—as long as you're not fleeing battles constantly (this can bite you in the arse later in the game where there's nowhere to grind), and taking on enemies as they come, you'll likely be okay to push through the main story. The only exception early on? Make sure Lulu has the attack 'Fira' before Operation Mi'Hen—it makes the ensuing dull boss battle a lot easier.

2. Follow the obvious path on the sphere grid

FFX's progression system, the sphere grid, looks daunting at first but it's actually really simple. Treat it like a board game. You just need to move around it, activating as many nodes as you can as you go. This is where your stat boosts come from. If you feel lost, look ahead for spheres that grant new abilities and follow the path towards them. For Yuna, look for Cura, for Tidus, look for Slow. In Wakka's case, look for Dark Buster. Look for the abilities that are the obvious match for the character in question based on your existing abilities, and head towards them. You can't go far wrong in building up a decent party. Don't try and branch off, to turn Lulu into a physical fighter, for example—you start on the grid in the optimal position for her black magic abilities. Beginners should worry about their party being functional, not experimental.   

3. Get the destruction sphere in every Cloister of Trials 

This will bite you in the arse if you don't. To earn summons in the game, you're required to complete these puzzle rooms—they're all relatively simple. There's an optional objective in each one, to activate a destruction sphere and earn a new item. Always do this. Not only are the items in question either worth using or selling, but acquiring one of the best summons in the game, Anima, is contingent on completing this optional aside in every temple throughout Spira. Events transpire later in the story that make it very hard to return to the temples in question.   

 4. Blitzball is hard, but be patient

You will likely lose your first game of Blitzball—the opening match is a mandatory part of the story, as the Besaid Aurochs face off against the Luca Goers, and even as an experienced player it's tricky to win in that scenario. Your best experiences with this underwater football game will come later, when you've had a chance to learn what every stat abbreviation means (SH is shooting, PA is passing, and so on).

During the story before your first game, try and complete the challenge on the ship where Tidus tries to pull off a shot his father used to do—this adds the powerful Jecht Shot to Tidus's list of abilities. It makes playing Blitzball a lot easier. 

Blitzball is not a minigame played on the screen in 3D, as lovely as the players look swimming around in the stadium—that's basically an FMV. This is not really a game about reaction times—it's about positioning and numbers. You want to keep your eye on the map in the bottom right hand corner at almost all times, which gives you a reading of the position of every player. Start learning what proximity you need to be to an opponent to be able tackle them, or how close you need to be to the net to land a goal based on your forward's shooting stats. Make sure your team control is turned to manual using the in-match options. 

I recommend coming back to Blitzball at about the 20 hour mark of the game, when you have more money to recruit players, who are NPCs dotted around Spira. When it comes to player recruitment, as soon as you find yourself on the airship about halfway into the game, recruit the pilot, Brother—he's the best player in the game. Stick him in midfield instead of Letty. Also recruit your party member Wakka, who only becomes available once you're on the airship. He's a decent striker. Try and nab better defenders from teams like the Al Bhed Psychs and Luca Goers when their contracts are up—Letty, one of Besaid's default players, is a Sunday League player in what should be a Premiership team. He's garbage. 

Don't give up on Blitzball. You'll lose a whole bunch of your first games—but once you get it, it's easily up there with FFVIII's Triple Triad among the series' best asides. It's also how you unlock Wakka's best battle abilities. 

 5. Don't level up every party member

I've completed Final Fantasy X about six times, and I know now who's worth investing time in. Your priority party members should be Tidus (warrior), Wakka (warrior/support), Yuna (White Mage/summoner), Auron (tank) and perhaps Lulu early on (black mage, but she becomes less useful with time). Kimahri can be whatever character you want him to be, but you already have every RPG class covered with the other party members. He's inessential. Thief Rikku joins your team later in the game—while with some of the endgame challenges she's useful, in the early game she won't be as effective as the others in helping beat the tougher bosses. Don't waste too much time on her.

 6. Sell weapons and armour often

In random battles, you'll acquire a lot of junk weapons and armour with piss poor abilities attached to them. My recommendation is to sell absolutely everything you don't need. Tidus, in particular, doesn't really get any swords better than his default Brotherhood until later in the game—early on you want to focus on stat boosts to HP, strength and magic with your party's equipment. Keep bringing in that gil, and invest in some decent weapons or items instead. 

 7. Get Valefor's second overdrive

The first summon you acquire, Valefor, is different to all the others in that he has a second, more powerful Overdrive attack rather than just his default one, Energy Ray. Energy Blast can be found on Besaid Island if you go back there after Yuna has left for her pilgrimage (you can get the boat back via Luca and Kilika). Speak to the store owner in Besaid, who will say something about their dog finding something. Go track down the dog in the village, interact with it and you'll get a second, superior overdrive for Valefor. No, I don't know how the dog found a powerful magic attack, nor how it's able to carry the thing in its mouth.    

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.