Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster ReviewAmy Hazel
"Listen to my story. This may be our last chance."
A city dead for a thousand years. A small group of forlorn travelers sit just within its borders around a campfire, their weapons stacked neatly off to the side as if trying to forget - for just a moment - the last leg of the harrowing journey that awaits them. A soft, beautifully haunting piano melody gently threads itself into the hearts of all those who may happen to hear it. This was the first moment players witnessed as they stepped into the world of Spira all those years ago - and it is the first moment that greets them as they now return once again. With an evident amount of effort and care put into the remastered release, it is time to re-explore one of Square-Enix's strongest entries into their long running series of beloved games ~
Before diving into the unique qualities each game brings, let's take a look at what makes this version a worthy addition to any Final Fantasy fan's collection (even for those, like myself, who still own and could easily dust off the original PS2 games for replay). First-off, this is a game made for newer gen consoles: PS Vita, PS3, and PS4 (actually, it is also available on PC as well now). The stronger capabilities of these systems truly showcase the graphic and audio overhauls put into the game - character facial features, backgrounds, NPCs, and monsters all appear much more vibrant and alive and textures have been enhanced as a whole. While I cannot speak for the PC port, the PS4 version certainly shows off the work put into it masterfully and would be my recommendation! Outside of what the games look like, this is also the first time NA gamers are given the chance to play through the International version of the games. For those who may not be aware, this adds quite a bit of additional content to the games: an expert version of the sphere grid, Dark Aeons, extra mega-bosses to unlock and kill, the short movie Eternal Calm (which bridges the gap between the two games), additional dress spheres, Creature Creator, Field Arena Tournaments as well as the Last Mission (which ties up the finale of the second game). If you were anything like me originally playing these games, by the time all side quests, weapons and extras were finished the final bosses of the story simply went down by you showing up to the party; so let me say that the additional content adds a very welcome challenge! For example, when accidentally running into a Dark Aeon in FFX ends up with your party completely annihilated in one hit by a 999k attack, you realize you finally have something worth leveling up for!
Final Fantasy X was the first of the series released on the PS2 and it followed in the heavy footprints of some of the series most beloved games: FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX. Even despite that pressure, FFX managed to weave together a heart-wrenching story filled with twists and turns and characters that could be all too relatable. Seen through the outsider Tidus' point of view, his monologues told a unique perspective and his optimism and determination were hard to hate, even despite his cluelessness. Each character was so unique harboring their own strengths, weaknesses and beliefs and it showed how each one of them grew as the journey continued; as beliefs were questioned, rights abolished and even entire religions shattered. It is a story filled both with tragedy and laughter and is some of the best storytelling to be found.
Gameplay wise, FFX maintained its JRPG heart in a turn-based combat system. While simple at first, it definitely rewards those with a strategic mind later on using advantageous turns, character switching on the fly and a plethora of abilities and attacks between them all to finish off whatever monstrosity the party is up against. Outside of combat, the game is quite linear for about 90% of it and involves talking to people, obtaining quests and items and moving to the next area to further the story along. It does a very good job of never getting the player stuck during the linear part of the game so long as they do not run away from every battle presented to them; even if a tough boss does gives trouble, the ability to backtrack to an area with monsters to grind on for a bit is usually close by. It is a very well balanced system that negates frustration and leaves the level of difficulty up to the player. Of course, there is always plenty of exploration and mini games to do as well (hello, Blitzball!) which now have trophies associated with them for a little extra motivation.
Final Fantasy X-2 was one of the first direct sequels put out for a Final Fantasy game and while it held plenty of merit, it did receive its fair share of harsh praise as well. Taking place after the first game, players take control of the new and improved Yuna as she and her girl squad (consisting of the ever-so-peppy Rikku and tough-exterior Payne) run around Spira as Sphere Hunters and look for clues about Tidus' whereabouts. The entire feel of the game is quite different from its predecessor - the somber, in depth story of FFX is no longer present and is instead replaced with a light-hearted, mostly non-serious gallivant around Spira. Don't get me wrong, I love it and it is a fun, faster-paced game, but the two really cannot be compared in the story department. FFX-2 has it moments of seriousness as they discover a tragic past of two characters remarkably similar to Tidus and Yuna and the story unfolds itself from there, but for the most part it is simply a much lighter story to take in. It is interesting to see how Spira changed after the events of FFX and how people have both divided and come together since then; and of course meeting familiar faces is always fun!
Gameplay wise, FFX-2 also changed things up with ditching the conditional turn-based system and adding in a faster active time battle system. While this might take away some strategic calculations, it allows the characters (and enemies) to act swiftly in executing attacks, switching gears and even interrupting enemy actions. Based off of a time bar, it moves battles along quite swiftly and lets players really think on their feet. The addition of dress spheres and the garment grid system is also quite fun in that each of the three main characters can change their job class on a whim in or out of battle and learn to use skills the longer they use that class. Not only is it fun to see the girls change into their own variant style of dress sphere costume but they are all quite useful by themselves and in combination.
All in all, both games are solid entries into the franchise in story, combat and overall enjoyment. Granted, even playing the remastered edition there is truly no denying that this was once a PS2 game. The controls still have their wonky moments (and forget about using the right joystick to move the camera around) and even though the graphics are greatly improved it still isn't anything you could compare to what has recently come out on current gen. It is in no way a bad thing though! I want to play the games as they were originally intended - but of course, additional content and a bit of a makeover certainly doesn't hurt - but it wouldn't be the same it they completely remade the game, which is why a remastered version is perfect. Being able to listen to a remastered version of the soundtrack on my playthrough was a wonderful addition that didn't have to be there, but it only made it that much more enchanting as I went through each new area once again.
Whether you 100% the PS2 versions when they originally came out or if you have never even looked at the series before, this is a game that is worth playing. Even I had held off picking this one up because of how much I had played the originals...and I cannot even describe the feelings I got as soon as the opening scenes began and as I replayed through the journey. Every aspect of both of these games - the good and bad - simply culminate into an unforgettable experience. An experience worth revisiting. An experience worth having for the first time.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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