Part 12: Episode IX-2: Grid My Sphere
Happy Mother's Day! Let's talk about game mechanics! Namely, Final Fantasy X's leveling system: The Sphere Grid. Rikku gives an overly long, mandatory tutorial prior to the airship salvage operation. But that is boring and at the time was rather useless. So let's have a shorter, somewhat more relevant tutorial now that the game is just about to get out of the tutorial prologue segment. Kinda...
The Sphere Grid can be accessed at any time from the main menu. It is right at the top, so you know it's important!
And here it is in all its glory. The Sphere Grid is Final Fantasy X's leveling system. Basically, you've got this great gigantic game board looking dealie you move around to enhance characters' stats and learn new abilities by activating special spaces, or nodes, on the grid. Simple enough, but pretty fun.
In order to move around the grid, each character must earn Ability Points (AP) to earn Sphere Levels. AP is basically experience points earned in battles. In order to earn AP, a character MUST participate in a battle. No earning sympathy experience from sitting in the sidelines. Everyone has to attack something, cast a spell, sneeze toward a bad guy, or waggle their cock, whatever. As long as they jump into battle and do anything, they'll get AP.
Every time a character gains a new Sphere Level, it means they get another move on the grid. Sphere Levels are a consumable commodity. There aren't traditional experience levels. If a character has a Sphere Level of 3 and then moves two spaces, his Sphere Level is now 1. It is important not to squander Sphere Levels. Once you spend the points, there's no getting them back. And you need to spend Sphere Levels to go back in the grid (1 sphere level for 4 spaces backwards) if you miss something. So don't fuck up!
Now onto Nodes and Spheres. Nodes are spaces on the grid that will buff characters' abilities. They are activated by spending Spheres on 'em. Each type of sphere can be used to activate certain corresponding nodes.
- Ability Sphere - Activates Skill, Special Ability, and Magic spell nodes. Basically cool new moves for everyone.
- Speed Sphere - Activates Agility, Accuracy, and Evasion stat nodes. How fast you get a turn, ability to actually hit enemies without whiffing attacks, and ability to avoid attacks.
- Mana Sphere - Activates Magic Power, Magic Resistance, and MP stat nods. How powerful magic is, how well a character can take a lightning bolt to the face, and mana pool respectively.
- Power Sphere - Activates Strength, Defense, and HP stat nodes. How hard physical attacks hit, how well they can be defended against, and how many hits before a bad guy makes you fall down.
There are a few more spheres than that, but that's it for the basics. Spheres are dropped by enemies for the most part. But there is no short supply of jerks to slaughter for 'em and I don't recall ever really wanting for any (of the basic ones) during the course of the game.
Anyway, as far as activating nodes goes, based on our position on the grid we can activate any nodes on that space as well as the space before and the space after it. So by having moved two spaces from Tidus' starting position, we can earn him the ability Cheer. This is quite a nice little ability. It buffs Attack and Defense for the duration of a battle and it can be stacked up to five times.
And we can also raise his defense by one point. That's nice too, I guess.
If we blow the last remaining Sphere Level to scoot forward another space, we can also hit up an extra point to Tidus' strength. That doesn't sound like much, sure. But the Sphere Grid...
It is REALLY fucking large and Sphere Levels come fairly regularly to advance forward. In addition, each character actually shares this one huge Sphere Grid. They just all start in different areas and for the most part advance along specialized roles.
Here's Rikku's starting position over to the southwest of Tidus. Now, sharing this big ol' Sphere Grid does indeed mean that characters can hop from their grid and start learning abilities from other folks' territory.
This is done by utilizing Lock nodes which are unlocked by (far more rare) Lock Spheres. We...don't really need to worry about any of that until pretty much the end game when playing normally. You can pretty much complete the game just sticking to everyone's specialized part of the grid before branching off. Tidus is basically the Fighter type character (edit: with a shit load of weird time related buffs making him close to a Ninja I suppose but FUCK YOU, I'm not referring to Tidus as a ninja anything), Rikku is a Thief, Auron is a Badass, etc. Of course, that won't get you through the end game optional crap. But again, this isn't much to worry about at the moment since it is far, far into the future.
Well, that's pretty much it for the basics of the Sphere Grid system. I'm sure this opens the floodgate to some mechanics sperging. Feel free. I'm really not any kind of expert on exploiting this game's systems yet.