On the weekend I went in and took out Jecht and Yu Yevon inside Sin. I don't know if those fights are ever hard; my party didn't get attacked in any of the stages. It was actually pretty tedious having to summon in all of my aeons one after the other, watch the animations, and then have them die in one attack from Rikku. Over and over, 8 times. All told my saved game ended up with something like 94 hours played on it. In some senses this is less than my previous plays which is weird since I actually filled the sphere grid and killed extra challenge bosses this time. But it doesn't track time spent in deaths and I sure died a lot in long fights or by getting surprised by unknown challenge bosses. I do think I played a lot less blitzball than it previous games, and I didn't get Lulu's ultimate weapon which takes forever. But this playthrough was definitely well over 100 hours of actual time spent playing, which is really good for a single player console game!
Kimahri was in my party for most of the game, right up until I started really grinding out stats. Then the fact I focused him on magic first made him terrible. His ultimate weapon, which I got, doesn't have 1 mp cost on it and spells cost a lot of mana. I would definitely make Kimahri into a beater next time (or maybe a thief) and probably ignore magic entirely. It just scales so terribly!
Eventually you are going to get max stats on everyone, so the real differences between characters are their ultimate weapons and their overdrives. Yuna is the only one who can summon, which is a thing, and Tidus/Rikku/Wakka are required to use in some fights, including one of the harder arena fights. Tidus and Wakka have the multi-hit physical overdrives so they're the best. So for end game stuff I feel like you should be using 3 of Tidus/Rikku/Wakka/Yuna. Rikku's overdrive does some awesome things but it costs consumables and I hate using those even when it makes sense to do so. Lulu is terrible because her ultimate weapon is stupidly hard to get. Kimahri has bad mods on his weapon, but the counterattack stuff is actually useful on Penance so he's not a terrible option. Auron has the only ultimate weapon with first strike and he has a powerful overdrive (inflicts armour break with 100% chance on anything that isn't immune) so you can't really go wrong with him either. He definitely helps to grind stats.
I didn't like a lot of what changed in the international edition. I hate the way they implemented the dark aeons. They were often put into positions that blocked useful items and there was rarely any indication they existed. Dark Yojimbo was fine because you could run away once he spawned if you didn't want to fight him, but most of the others were game overs with no warning. I lost a lot of capture progress by bumbling into some of the dark aeons and that frustrated me. I did like that they added in really hard fights that took some planning to beat. I like ribbons.
I still like the story in this game. I guess I don't really understand why Yu Yevon wants Spira to be such a disastrous world. I guess he has everyone living in fear and worshipping him as a god so that's something. Praise Be To Yevon!
The combat system is really where this game shines. It is the best. The hot tag to bring in the right character at the right time is a really good twist. No real time element is awesome. You get to see the turn order, you get to make a plan, you get time to think.
The music is also very good. I don't think it's the best sound track of the series but it's very good. I was actually sad how fast I killed Jecht because his battle music is incredible. So much so that I'm going to link it here so you can take a listen.
I'm a little sad that the ending really seems to be the same as the last two games. The main character and the female love interest get separated right after the final boss fight... Will they ever see each other again? Then you get a normal ending cutscene where you see the cities and the other characters and stuff. Then it looks over... But wait! There's the main character after all! Hurray! You beat the game so you get handed the princess! It isn't quite the same here since Tidus doesn't reunite with Yuna. But he was supposed to disappear entirely and they do show him being alive at the very end.
The graphics in the original game were a big step up as the first game in the series on the PS2. The remade HD version, on the PS3, also has graphics that are a big step up. This game is gorgeous.
As far as mini-games go there are a ton of them in FFX. Some of them are really annoying, like chocobo racing and lightning dodging. Some of them are awesome, like catching monsters to build challenge bosses and blitzball. I still think the card game in FFVIII is the best mini-game they've ever done but FFX might well have the second and third best ones. There's a reason I keep playing this game and always end up with over 100 hours played, and it's the mini-games. And the combat system, which plays a big role in the monster catching mini-game.
I am sad that I didn't get all of the PS3 achievements for the game. I didn't dodge 200 lightning strikes. I didn't get 5 treasures in the chocobo race. I didn't play enough blitzball to get all of Wakka's overdrives. I didn't find all of the Al Bhed primers (some can be skipped if you don't find them in Home before it gets destroyed). I didn't fill the sphere grid on all 7 characters. And I haven't watched the video that bridges the plot between FFX and FFX-2. I will do that last one, but the rest get left behind for now. Maybe Byung will want to finish up the other tropheys? It is his PS3, after all!
Where should this game go on my list? Well, I know for sure it's going above everything except maybe Final Fantasy VIII. VIII has the better story, the better characters, the better music, and the better mini-game. X has the better combat system, the better leveling system, the better graphics, and has more gameplay depth with the two awesome mini-games. And it's not like each game is really bad at anything the other is best at... (Except maybe the draw system in FFVIII.) So I guess really it's going to come down to if I want to give the edge to the combat system or to the story. It turns out I just identify so much with Squall that I have to go with VIII as the top game. So Final Fantasy X gets to slot in at #2. I can't imagine it gets knocked out of that spot ever, but who knows!
Next up... Final Fantasy X-2! It's a little out of order, but I want to play it on the PS3 and keeping it extra time without using it just to play a GBA game seems pretty stupid.