Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Vita Review
Publisher – Square Enix – Developer – Square Enix – Genre – RPG – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
To some, Final Fantasy X is considered as the last great single player mainline entry in the series. After this, Final Fantasy XII truly reinvented the series with its MMO style mechanics that some series fans felt were too far removed from other games in the series, and then Final Fantasy XIII came along with its incomprehensible narrative and lack of towns, leaving many unimpressed at the first entry in the series for the seventh console generation.
Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD remaster bundles the often fondly remembered Final Fantasy X and its less well regarded sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, together, with beautifully remastered HD visuals breathing new life into the games, and Final Fantasy X’s excellent soundtrack has also been redone. It also comes with an audio drama, a brief film set prior to the events of X-2 and Final Fantasy X-2 Last Mission, a Roguelike minigame, all of which are pleasant enough extras.
Early last decade the games looked fantastic and, because of their lovely art style and the additional work that has been done in bringing the games into the HD generation, the remaster manages to hold up favourably against some earlier PS3 games. The lead character models have been enhanced and their facial features made slightly more expressive, and the FMV sequences still look extraordinary and are fitting spectacles that make important plot points feel all the more so.
Final Fantasy X’s music has been remixed and rerecorded with real instruments and, as such, it complements the game even better than it did the first time around, though purists will be disappointed that there’s no option for the original music included, and it’s a shame the same love wasn’t given to X-2’s tonally contrasting but memorable score as well. In terms of voice acting, the games are hit and miss, and it would have been nice to see some of the more cringe worthy acting replaced with better performances.
Final Fantasy X takes place on Spira, a world which is in constant fear of Sin, a huge sea creature that leaves destruction in its path. Protagonist Tidus ends up unwittingly whisked away from his own world to Spira, and of course ends up having to attempt to save it alongside a colourful cast of characters. Most of the characters are memorable personalities and fleshed out enough to be interesting, helped along further by some striking visual design.
Tidus himself is an upbeat teenager and talented Blitzball (it’s a underwater football like sport, in case you’re wondering) player, who has a strained relationship with his father. Wakka is a fellow Blitzball player, who is big hearted and is devoted to the Yevon religion. Lulu is a Black Mage who doesn’t freely show her emotions, Auron on the other hand is a charismatic middle aged warrior, who has plenty of knowledge about Spira, but isn’t always willing to share it with his companions. There’s also Kimahri , a part of the half man, half lion and very blue Ronso tribe, the cheerful Rikku, and finally the primary heroine is the kind and determined Yuna.
Yuna is a summoner, an important profession amongst the denizens of Spira, given that they’re the only individuals with the ability to defeat Sin and, as a result, bring about the calm, a jolly period that lasts for ten years, after which Sin returns once again to begin his destruction anew, they also have the major job of sending spirits to where they belong.
Spira is one of the series’ most well imagined universes, with contrasting races such as the Al Bhed, a technologically advanced people, who have plenty of friction with those that follow the religion of Yevon who believe that Sin has been sent as a punishment for relying too heavily on technology.
Whilst many have fondness for Final Fantasy X, some consider it to be the beginning of the series problems, for instance it was the game to introduce voice acting, and its adventure is a hugely linear one, with limited exploration, no overworld to wander and you don’t really get the opportunity to explore away from the narrative until the game heads towards its conclusion.
Final Fantasy X-2 meanwhile is the polar opposite to its predecessor. Whereas the original game is often sombre in tone, X-2 is a much more lively and light hearted affair, to the point that it feels more like a spinoff than it does a true sequel and, for many existing Final Fantasy X fans, the change was too jarring to digest, and will be for many yet to play the two games. It also addressed the main issue of its predecessor, the linearity making for a much more open game.
In terms of combat, Final Fantasy X threw away the Active Time Battle system from previous games in favour of the all new Conditional Battle system, a far more strategic and satisfying affair that allows you to switch characters in and out of battle to suit the situation at hand, bringing in the powerful swordsman Auron to take down the armoured foes for instance, using the black mage Lulu to deal with the elemental types, and the white mage and summoner Yuna to deal with injuries sustained by the party and to summon creatures to fight in place of the party.
Final Fantasy X-2 saw the return of the Active Time Battle system, but made it faster paced, and it is the definitive form of that particular system and is also satisfyingly contrasting to its predecessor. It has just three main characters, but there are however classes, which you can shift between freely during fighting, which helps to keep fighting diverse throughout.
In Final Fantasy X characters don’t level up in the traditional sense, and instead their growth is carried out on the circular Sphere Grid, an ingenious and compulsive system that has often been imitated but never bettered even by Final Fantasy itself. To begin with the grid forces you down certain paths, but as you advance through the game it will gradually begin to open up, allowing you the chance to deviate characters from their originally prescribed paths, for instance giving Black mage Lulu healing spells or, with enough work, making the mighty swordsman Auron into an equally powerful wielder of magic. If you want more freedom from the off, there is also the option for an expert grid, which sees all characters beginning in the centre, allowing you to have more immediate freedom in what role a character will play in the many battles to come.
Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD remaster is an exemplary reworking that fans will delight in returning to in their enhanced form and, since the mechanics are better than some modern RPGs, it’s also highly recommended to those that have never had the chance to play the two games, both of which are great, one of which, Final Fantasy X, is one of the finest that the genre has ever had to offer.