As an 80s kid, I never had the pleasure to play the original Final Fantasies that were released on home consoles, mainly the Famicom and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and that proved to be highly popular in Japan before spreading to the West where they grew bigger and larger with the release of the SNES. Luckily, I had a small experience with a spin-off called ‘Mystic Quest’, a lackluster and highly toned down release, that introduced me to the FF lore, and made me aspire to one day fall in love with the franchise.
Enter the CD-ROM era and the birth of the Playstation which brought with it the birth of a sensation called ‘’Final Fantasy 7′; all the rules changed and JRPGS moved from being an obscure and niche genre to a worldwide sensation. Today, we have reached the 14th installment of the series, but one episode stood the test of time and remained cherished in the hearts of many: Final Fantasy X. Originally released on the PS 2 to critical acclaim despite being called a bit linear, it launched with an international version and a pseudo sequel called ‘’X-2’’ that was a bit underwhelming but fun nevertheless. Today in 2014, we have an HD version of these two games on the PS3 and PS Vita, and are we in for a treat, new comers and fans. This release is a must have to anyone with interest in the series.
Before we start, let me answer the simple question of why Square Enix would choose to make an HD remake of X/X2 rather than of the more alluring Final Fantasy 7: FF X/X-2 can easily be ported to HD due to their 3D models, while FF7, regardless of the the high demand from fans worldwide, would need a complete remake which is a time consuming effort for Square Enix. Where older games in the series had crude models that were too old to be simply ‘remastered’ with a fresh coat of paint, Final Fantasy X was the first game in the series whose in-game graphics resembled the CGI of its cutscenes.
The HD remaster done on these games is a real visual treat. Never had I seen such a vibrant display of colors and details in a game this old, and believe it or not, I was able to notice some details that I missed out on in my initial playthrough, meticulous as I am as a gamer. Some locations felt fresh and brand new, and the enhanced facial details, remixed sound track as well all the extras from the international version make this remaster a huge value for your hard earned money.
The game follows our heroes Tidus, and Yuna, a shaman princess, on their quest to save the world from a horrible fate, and also one of self discovery. The quest introduces you to some larger than life characters that join your cause, including Auron who is the most beloved Final Fantasy character of all time for me.
Final Fantasy X possesses a very interesting plot twist or two, and while the story might be old for some, it is quite a treat to see the events unravel via CGI cutscenes in widescreen mode, something many other HD ports had failed to accomplish. This HD remaster package’s presentation is very polished with attention to minute details in every aspect of the game, and if I were to nitpick, I’d say that the inability to skip cutscenes is a bit of a bother, especially since some of them are long and usually precede a hard boss fight. This may irritate some gamers, especially Vita users who are usually pressed for time or trying to conserve battery power.
Another minor issue lies in the music that though entirely remixed and incredible in its own right, some might wish they had the option to revert to the original music instead. Speaking of minor issues, the lack of touch support in the sphere grid for the Vita seems weird and questionable, considering the game has touch support during battles and one would think something as immersive as the sphere grid would be touch enabled. This brings to mind that the game is rooted as a console release rather than a full-on portable one. Again, I am nitpicking and save what I have mentioned, this FFX/X-2 remaster is a flawless package.
To the uninitiated, Final Fantasy X is a JRPG that uses turn based combat to fight monsters, using physical and magical attacks, with a party of three characters at a time that can be swapped on the go. Each character is strong in certain elements that can be leveled up via a grid sphere that opens up to upgrades and stronger attacks.
Final Fantasy X-2, on the other hand, uses the technique of dressing your character in different clothes to adopt specific roles that are not character locked. The fight system in X-2 also is more dynamic with the ability to sync attacks, and it is believed that this is the game that gave birth to the modern fighting mechanics in present Final Fantasy games.
As impressive as X-2 is, however, it still is more like a tangent to the original X, with a rather banal story and overall feel. Regardless, it is still a great standalone game and since it comes bundled with the original, which in turn is released in its international format with more quests, loot, and a rogue like bonus game, makes up for a fully fledged package that is worth every penny paid for it.
There is really not much left to explain about this Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD remaster. What you are getting is a wonderful remastering of two stellar games that are a shining example of what a JRPG should be.
FFX stood the test of time and is made even more breathtaking with this release, with the Vita version standing out due to the incredible quality of its OLED screen and the ability to play this game on the go. In addition to the great controls and amazing graphics brought to life by the superior Vita technology, the game is cross save, which means that if you so happen to own the ps3 version as well, you can easily continue your game during your commute to work or break hours, and in my case when the power goes out in Lebanon. It is just a shame this game is not cross buy since both versions seems to complement each other.
Releasing this game as an HD remaster is a smart move from Square Enix after a set of mediocre Final Fantasy titles, and with X/X2 being a shining examples of the essence of the series, one can only hope that future games in the series can return to the amazing roots that this game was rich in.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 are what Final Fantasy games are and should be: Flashy, smart, fun, addicting and with an amazing cast of characters that compliments a rich story that sticks in your mind for years to come. Brilliant.