Over the past three months I’ve played a lot of revamped, rebooted, or High Definition, upgrades of classic JRPGs. Some of them were for reviews, Xenoblade Chronicles, Soul Survivor Devil Breaker Vol 2, and another was just for fun, Final Fantasy Type-0. This week continues the reboot trend with Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster Limited Edition for the Playstation 4. At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review Final Fantasy X / X-2 has by far been the best of the bunch.
Originally launched in North America on July 19th, 2001 Final Fantasy X was the first game in the series to appear on the PS2. The game was welcomed in the west with critical and commercial success. In X you took on the role of Tidus, an introspective young man in his late teens that is prone to deep thoughts and the occasional temper tantrum. Tidus is haunted by the memory of his father Jecht that has gone missing 10 years prior to the events in the game and Tidus’s feelings of inadequacy by constantly being unable to live up to Jecht’s imposing standards. A story that far too many teenage boys have probably lived through first hand. X was also the first game in the series to feature full voice over work providing a voice to Tidus’s internal monologues which range from insightful to immature.
In addition to crafting an engaging story involving young love, the dangers of unchecked technology, and falls from grace, Square Enix does a splendid job of world building and creates a place in Spira that we want to learn more about as the story unfolds.
X involves a diverse cast of characters from the patriarchal Auron to the precocious Rikku and all manner of individuals in between. Final Fantasy games are known for their party and progression innovations and X held up that tradition. In previous entries to the series you would typically end up playing a handful of characters throughout the game and could have a wild variance in their levels by the end of the game. In others you could play through the game with just 3 or 4 characters and then get to the end and realize you had to grind the rest of them up in level to take on the final encounters. X helps to eliminate that problem with allowing players to switch between characters during combat on the fly. This character shell game also brings to play different strategies for tackling encounters. Some characters excel at taking out flying creatures, some work better at countering magical resistant mobs, and others are best for elemental attacks. While you progress through the story you will have ample opportunity to rotate everyone in to your active group and no character will be left behind.
To go along with a new combat system X also introduced a new character progression system, the sphere grid. In this updated version North America is finally introduced to the expert grid as well. The grid system places characters on a spherical grid with nodes that players can progress on paths to mix and match skills. In the normal mode characters are placed on different parts of the map and are subtly guided on where they should go to pick up their powers. In the expert mode characters can move about more freely but are left with the possibility of making a group of jacks of all trades and masters of none.
X-2 is the first Final Fantasy in the series to be a direct sequel. Like X it also has a great story exploring the ideas of loss and hope. The sudden disappearance of Tidus at the end of X has left Yuna bereft. Years later she stumbles upon the hope that Tidus might still be out there. This is Yuna’s story and it is one of growth. Unlike X there are only three playable characters in X - 2, Yuna, Rikku, and LuLu from X. Instead of being able to swap out characters mid battle to take advantage of enemies weaknesses these ladies can switch outfits. Instead of the sphere grid for character advancement X – 2 uses a garment system that replaces the sphere grid. X – 2 also introduces the ability of the player being able to chain attacks with the characters.
The remakes of these two classic games was masterfully done. Square Enix is no stranger to remakes and upgrades but they have outdone themselves with this iteration of X / X-2. From the orchestrated score, to the increased polygon count and improved textures the game is atheistically better in every way. If you missed out on playing these games on the PS2 this new layer of polish on these classic gems will leave you unable to guess one is 14 years old this year.
Gameplay - 9: Final Fantasy X was a fantastic entry in the numbered Final Fantasy series. The ability to swap between all of your characters in combat was a welcome innovation to the series. Finally bringing the advanced sphere to the west for character progression is another find addition to this remake.
Visuals and Sound - 9: This is the best looking reboot of an older JRPG out there. Not satisfied with just adding some spit and polish this game looks like it could have been made in the later years of the PS3, not originally for the PS2. The orchestral score also adds a new layer of depth to the games original sound.
Polish - 9: My only complaint with this game is the camera can pick odd angles to show your party and the battle field. Typically these involve big monsters when the camera has a hard time establishing a point of focus.
Longevity – 9: With its original debut in 2001 this game has weathered the test of time. Playing this entry it still feels fresh and relevant today. With two full games between 50 and 100 hours of gameplay each this game scores high marks for longevity.
Value - 9: Two excellent remakes for the price of one. It doesn’t get much better than this.