Throughout my life, my favorite video game was Final Fantasy X. In particular, however, one mini-game in the game meant a lot to me — Blitzball. I know not everyone who has played the game loves Blitzball, but I loved sports and I loved Japanese RPGs. I also happen to love sports anime like Kuroko’s Basketball, but I wish I realized that when I was younger.
Blitzball is a game that heavily divides much of the Final Fantasy community. Some people absolutely hate it. There is one section of the game where you are forced to play blitzball, and it’s incredibly difficult because you’re given an underdog team playing an elite team — the difficulty of the game underscores that plotline. Statistically, your team is lackluster compared to the other team and a combination of luck and strategy you know nothing about can get you over the hurdle.
For those who have never played Final Fantasy X, Blitzball is a game of underwater soccer, with rugby-like elements. Six players on a team go into a sphere of water and try to score goals, and they can be physically aggressive and attack each other.
According to Austin King at ScreenRant, Blitzball has built a “large cult following within the fandom.” I am part of that large cult following. For some reason, the sport can be played at all times of the game. I don’t mean to spoil much, but there are times of massive crisis and upheaval in the plot of the game, but one constant is you can always play Blitzball. This comes even when there is massive religious persecution of the protagonists, and bar a small portion of the game, you can still play Blitzball.
In addition to the actual game, there is heavy management that comes into play, which anyone who has played the NBA 2K series or FIFA. You sign free agents onto your team and have to re-sign your players on contracts. You have to teach your players techniques and manage the skills they come into each game with, and select the best players with the best special skills and attributes to fit your team.
Every experienced Blitzball player knows how overpowered Brother is in the early stages of the game. Every experienced Blitzball player knows how Nimrook is the best goalie, how the Kilika Beasts, who are absolutely terrible early in the game, become the best players in the game later in the game. Experienced Blitzball players know how Jecht Shot, while effective, takes way too long to best optimize time management.
Blitzball does not feel like a mini-game. In fact, it just feels like an actual game, and King advocates for Blitzball to be its own game. Blitzball to me was so enthralling and so addicting, but once you got the basics and the complicated Tech Copy system down, the game got very easy. There are various challenges you can take to make the game more difficult, like playing with only the original Besaid Aurochs and playing with the players from different teams. A great Blitzball channel, Blitzball Mania, is an entertaining walkthrough for many Blitzball challenges and playing with different teams.
However, it’s nice to see your team build, level up, and improve. It is entertaining, but Blitzball was also very time-consuming when you played the game. Playing one game of Blitzball often takes 15–20 minutes. And it’s very easy to get sucked into playing the game for hours if you wanted. In the words of King:
“Blitzball was practically already its own game, and it could work great as a standalone Final Fantasy spin-off.”
I completely agree. Other Final Fantasy mini-games have gotten their own spinoffs, like Chocobo Racing in Final Fantasy VII. Blitzball would work very well as its own mini-game, and I argue it would be very successful since it would be Square Enix’s first serious foray into the sports genre, even if it’s just an iOS or Android game.
Blitzball is the best mini-game in Final Fantasy
Blitzball stands alone as an immersive mini-game where you can completely escape the storyline and take a break from the many demands of grinding. The only other serious competition in Final Fantasy video games is Triple Triad, the card mini-game in Final Fantasy VIII. Triple Triad is great and strategically challenging. But it can’t stand alone as its own game like Blitzball.
Blitzball has two versions: the Final Fantasy X version and the Final Fantasy X-2 version. The Final Fantasy X version is much more focused on gameplay. However, unlike most sports games, you cannot simulate a game in Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball. As anyone who has played FIFA, Madden, or NBA 2K can attest, playing through a season would be absolutely miserable if you couldn’t simulate through some games.
In Final Fantasy X-2, you can simulate and focus more on the management aspect. I am far less familiar with Final Fantasy X-2’s Blitzball. Some posters on a GameFaqs forum say Blitzball gets quite tedious and too easy the more you play, and I agree. For people who think it’s too difficult, the RNG factor can seem to scheme against you.
Blitzball is its own world and much more immersive than Triple Triad. While popular opinion on Blitzball is divided among people who love it (like myself) and people that hate it, you cannot deny Blitzball’s ambition. And the sport plays a major part in the storyline, unlike Triple Triad. Blitzball is at the core of two protagonists’ identities: Tidus and Wakka. It’s much more than just a game — it’s a progression where the quality of each player changes. Players that are great in the beginning (Tidus, Wakka, Brother) become mediocre towards the end, while players that are terrible in the beginning (Larbeight, Isken, Vuroja) are the best towards the end.
Just because Blitzball was the best mini-game of all time does not mean it couldn’t be improved. But I pray for the day Blitzball as its own game is released to the mass audience. I would pre-order and pay however much money necessary to get it, and I suspect many other Blitzball devotees would do the same.
Originally published on April 27, 2021 on SUPERJUMP.