Platuesdays: Final Fantasy X

It’s been a while since the last one, hasn’t it? At Underlevelled we’ve been hard (relatively) at work earning more platinum trophies to simultaneously brag and complain about, and for the return of this feature, resident madman Sean chose to revisit one of his childhood favourites and grind his way to the platinum ore at the centre—enduring hours upon hours of farming, monster hunting, and underwater rugby all the while. That’s right, it’s Final Fantasy X!

Released back in 2001, Final Fantasy X marked the franchise’s first entry on the Playstation 2 and was the first game in the series to feature voice acting. Whether or not said voice acting was good is left up to one’s own interpretation, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. I have extremely fond memories of playing FFX as a child, though I was never really very good at it. The furthest I ever got was the first battle with Seymour, which I could never win because I had absolutely no idea that I’d just unlocked the Shiva summon which makes the fight a lot easier. Since then I’ve improved at the game by a fair amount, and have beaten it twice. Younger me would be so proud (RIP young Sean, always in our hearts— Dave).

On my second run-through of the game I decided to give the Platinum a go, because how bad could it be? The hardest bosses could all be toppled with Yojimbo, and I could probably get a hang of the minigames after a bit of learning? Well, about a hundred hours later I came to understand that while the Platinum wasn’t as brutally difficult as some might make it out to be, it still required a hefty amount of effort to hear that oh-so satisfying -ding!- of a final trophy pop.

Pictured: A fresh, naive Sean, thinking it’s going to be a smooth and enjoyable Platinum Run.

Final Fantasy X isn’t a terribly difficult game by any means. When you’ve got a good grasp on your abilities, understand the flow of certain battles and do your fair share of preparation, any battle is winnable without too much stress. Mostly. Finishing the story was a rather smooth ride: I only encountered a few road bumps along the way such as the infamous Seymour Flux and Lady Yunalesca battles, but even those ones didn’t pose as much of a challenge when I came prepared and ready to roll. By the time I was done with the main plot I had a powerful, high-level team that could reliably overcome any obstacle that stood in my path… Or so I thought. Most of the trophies were straightforward, requiring you to collect all of the Al Bhed primers, deal a certain amount of damage, fulfil stealing and spending requirements and the like. Nothing too bad, really. However, it was the endgame content that really pushed me to having to work for that Platinum, which is what the bulk of this Platuesday will be focused on.

Monsters and Aeons and Fiends, Oh My!

Final Fantasy X features some pretty gnarly optional fights that can be a real kick in your teeth if you don’t know what’s coming. Situated in a lonely corner of the Calm Lands is the Monster Arena, which lets you fight fiendishly difficult monsters crafted by capturing certain amounts of fiends in every area of the game. Simply capturing the prerequisite fiends was a task itself, since some of them had noticeably lower spawn rates than others.

The reward for capturing fiends are the Original Creation monsters, which are a noticeable step up in difficulty compared to anything else you’ve fought. These things hit hard, and if your team is not sufficiently strong enough then even the first Original Creation you face will prove to be a great challenge. That being said, they’re not impossible and with enough grit and training, you’ll overcome most of them. In fact, you’ll be fighting them multiple times in order to achieve the Platinum, but we’ll come to that part later. Your reward for completing the arena is a fight against the superboss Nemesis, which will net you the Overcoming the Nemesis trophy.

Get used to seeing this guy.

Final Fantasy X’s take on summons are the Aeons, which are creatures conjured from the dreams of sleeping folk who sacrificed themselves in order to facilitate the procedure. The Dark Aeons are creatures conjured from your worst nightmares. Waiting to pounce on you should you return to areas once traversed, the Dark Aeons are, well… dark versions of the Aeons you already know and love, but sporting a cooler, darker colour scheme and monstrously high stats that make them a true menace to defeat. If you missed out on collecting the destruction spheres during your first trips to the Temples of Yevon, then you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you when you return to get them later on.

By the time I encountered most of them I was already a high level with good equipment and abilities so they weren’t trophy-killers, but they did prove to be a significant challenge, with Dark Yojimbo being a particular standout. See, Yojimbo is an Aeon that has the potential to perform a one-hit-kill move on any enemy, including bosses. If you are suffering defeat after defeat against a creature then Yojimbo can simply be paid to perform his Zanmato attack and finish the job quickly, provided RNG is on your side. I admit, I had to resort to this when dealing with Dark Anima, Dark Bahamut, and the game’s final, FINAL boss, Penance.

It feels cheap and dirty, but oh so satisfying. And cheap.

Dark Yojimbo must be defeated five times in a row in order to truly achieve victory, with no saves in between. Its attacks are devastating and its extremely high evasion means that even just landing a blow on him can be difficult, which grows to be a real pain if your stats aren’t up to snuff. Of course, you can always try and use your own Yojimbo against it but the odds of pulling off 5 consecutive Zanmatos are so low that’s not really a strategy you can rely on. It falls to good old strategy and raw damage in order to win, with clever usage of Rikku’s overdrive and plenty of lucky hits needed to bring down the greedy swordsman five times. Defeating the Dark Aeons will allow you to challenge Penance and earn the Perseverance trophy.

Many Many Minigames

Final Fantasy X’s minigames live on in infamy thanks to their rather unique mechanics and inclusion as part of the requirements for unlocking the game’s ultimate weapons. Opinion on the minigames is split straight down the middle, with some fans finding them to be an enjoyable break from the main game, whilst others dread the mention of such things and hear the associated music in their sleep.

Blitzball is the sport of choice in Spira, and plays a big part in the backstory of the protagonist, Tidus. It’s like a sort of underwater rugby that involves swimming around a giant water sphere and throwing the ball into the opposing team’s goal. It looks a lot cooler in the cutscene than it actually does while playing, and many players take issue with the somewhat obtuse rule and number-favouring matchups that make it difficult to play if you don’t put the time into learning it. There’s exactly one mandatory game of Blitzball that is required to progress in the story, but a victory isn’t required, so you can simply AFK it if you so please.

Since I wanted the Platinum trophy though, I had to win a lot of games that would eventually reward me with Wakka’s celestial weapon. You’re able to recruit players on your travels and recruit a kickass team, and it wasn’t long before I had a squad of blitzers that didn’t lose a single game. Honestly, I found the game itself to be quite fun, if easy but the number of required matches really started to add up towards the end. By the end I was almost playing the game on autopilot, winning matches 9-0 with little effort. Winning a tournament nets you the Show Off! trophy, you’ll need to win a lot more than just the one for the Platinum.

Unlocking Lulu’s celestial weapon involved having to dodge lightning on the Thunder Plains 200 times in a row, which sounds a lot worse than it actually is. Years ago a clever exploit was discovered which allows you to manually trigger a lightning bolt by running over a certain spot in the area, and that’s exactly what I did. It got a bit nerve wracking when I was close to the finish and had to try and keep my focus without stressing out, but I did it in the end. After 200 bolts have been dodged, you’ll earn the Lightning Dancer trophy for your troubles.

Catching butterflies is required for Kimahri’s celestial weapon, which proved to be quite troublesome since it’s done under a strict time limit and navigation throughout the forest was tricky unless you knew the exact route. After about half an hour I finished the minigame and earned the weapon, but then learned to my dismay that it wasn’t even required for the Platinum! Oh well, at least I went through the effort of doing it anyway.

Tidus’ celestial weapon is perhaps known for being the most egregious to obtain, and I would have to agree. In order to get the coveted Cadalbolg, you must complete a series of Chocobo-riding tests, and then win a race against the trainer with a time of 0.0 seconds at the finish. This already sounds ridiculous since that’s an impossible time to achieve normally, but it gets worse. First off, the Chocobo handles like absolute ass. It will run in a straight line until it doesn’t feel like it anymore and then decides to randomly turn in another direction, prompting you to flick the stick to correct its course. You have to be incredibly precise with your stick-flicking (sounded less dodgy in my head) in order to pick up the balloons which shave seconds off your time, which is what allows you to achieve that 0.0 score. Unfortunately, the course is peppered with seagulls that you will come to absolutely hate and hurl fully justified insults at (just like real seagulls—Dave). These things are like heat-seeking missiles that fly straight at you and stop you dead in your tracks, costing precious seconds. These absolute spawns of the devil will ruin your day and likely cause many, many failed attempts. By some divine miracle, I was able to get a lucky run and complete the course after about 40 minutes of attempts, but it certainly wasn’t easy. This was by far the most frustrating part of earning the Platinum. Finishing the course nets you the Chocobo Rider trophy.

Just seeing still images of it makes me angry.

The Final Grind

With all of the difficult stuff out of the way, it was time for the final push towards the platinum. I’d collected all the collectibles, beaten the beastliest beasts, and finished all the minigames. The final hurdle, which proved to be one of the most tedious things I’ve ever done in a videogame, was finishing the sphere grid with every character. For the uninitiated, the sphere grid is Final Fantasy X’s levelling system. Using spheres that are gained from defeating enemies or picking them up as treasures, you can fill in nodes on the sphere grid which grants the character stat boosts or new powers. Each character shares the same grid, starting out in different sections of it that lead them down their own recommended path, ie. Lulu’s path starts in the Black Mage area of the grid. By the time you reach endgame, it’s pretty easy to just take characters anywhere and essentially have every single character learn every single ability, which is exactly what you need to do to earn the Perfect Sphere Master trophy.

Look, there’s a lot of nodes on the sphere grid and simply filling it for one character can take a long time. Earning the spheres is really not an issue since you can just farm them in large amounts at the Monster Arena with special AP-tripling weapons (which can take a fair amount of grinding to get) but the sheer amount of nodes that need filled means you’re going to be spending hours monotonously fighting the same few enemies over and over again, going into the grid, filling nodes until you run out of spheres, then repeating the process.

Here’s a diagram of the full sphere grid from EIP Gaming. There’s a lot.

I ended up watching multiple movies whilst filling the grids, including the first few Fast and Furious films, Scary Movie, a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and more. It was a long, drawn-out process that would have made me give up if I hadn’t had already done the hard stuff first. It sucked, but I suppose that made the final trophy pop up even sweeter in the end.

Final Fantasy X is probably one of the easier Final Fantasy Platinums since it doesn’t have any obscene requirements such as the Hail to the King trophy from FFIX, or the insanely tanky monsters from FFXII. It was difficult in parts thanks to certain minigames requiring a level of finesse for really specific aspects and a deeper understanding of the battle systems to succeed over hard monsters (if you don’t want to use Yojimbo). If it wasn’t for the insane sphere grid grind at the very end then I’d recommend a Platinum attempt to any fans of the game, but those who get easily bored of long grinding processes would take absolutely no joy in it. It was a mixed bag of an experience, since it’s still a fantastic game that I adore but the frustrating minigames and sphere grid completion really dragged near the end. It ultimately felt satisfactory when all was said and done, however. I’m glad that the next time I play the game in future I’ll be able to simply enjoy it at my own pace and then put it away after the credits roll without any need to do anything afterwards!

Sean Hollyman is an avid fan of action figures, videogames and sometimes other things too. When he's not labourously trying to earn platinum trophies for games that he otherwise probably wouldn't care about, Sean can often be found taking photos of his Transformers in embarrassing situations.

Favorite Food: Roast Dinner
Least Favorite Food: ANYTHING with mayonnaise in it


Sean Hollyman is an avid fan of action figures, videogames and sometimes other things too. When he's not labourously trying to earn platinum trophies for games that he otherwise probably wouldn't care about, Sean can often be found taking photos of his Transformers in embarrassing situations. Favorite Food: Roast Dinner Least Favorite Food: ANYTHING with mayonnaise in it

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