I've been waiting for the right time to step back into Spira. Final Fantasy X remains one of my most beloved Final Fantasy games, but I'll admit I was a bit hesitant to return to it. The game is so intertwined with my early days of the PlayStation 2 because it redefined my expectations for games in terms of graphics and cinematic storytelling; setting a new bar. Obviously, I knew going back I wouldn't feel that way, even with the fresh coat of paint with HD enhancements. I've seen so much innovation in video games and technology since then. Thankfully, that wasn't the only thing that attracted me to Final Fantasy X. I've always been enamored with how heavy the tale becomes during Yuna's plight and how the cast grows together to support her through it.

Stepping back into Final Fantasy X's world reminds me how breathtaking Spira is; the land is inviting with its bright and warm colors. Right away, Tidus is in all his hotshot glory, signing autographs while on his way to a blitzball game. I'm reminded from the get-go how much I enjoy the Tidus' narration. But let me be frank, he still grates on me. I sigh and laugh just as much - if not more - at his obvious angst and daddy issues. But I know it's all for a bigger payoff and character growth in the story. In fact, I wish more RPGs gave a glimpse into characters' minds and their true feelings during certain situations. You can never know what someone is thinking, so I appreciate not having to assume it.

After all these years, I still find myself in awe by Final Fantasy X's opening. Auron looks like a complete badass as he calmly walks through the streets as Sin is about to destroy Zanarkand. The way Sin's attack parallels an intense blitzball game on Tidus' end is still fascinating. The energy and gravity of what is about to occur is all-consuming. You can't look away, and the game gets you right in the middle of it quickly, barely giving you a moment to catch your breath. More RPGs need to put the pedal to the metal like this. Final Fantasy X has a good flow of action, even when you're still trying to get all your party members.

Playing through again I can also understand why Final Fantasy X gets a lot of flak for its awkward scene direction. I agree a lot of the characters' mannerisms can be unrealistic and jarring, and it hits me even more playing now. However, the awkwardness works for Tidus and Yuna, since they're both in that googly eye, 'I have a crush on you' stage. I'll still even defend that awkward laughing scene. After seeing it again in full context, it's still cringeworthy, but it also says so much about the burden that Yuna has as a spirit summoner. I still find myself smirking throughout as Tidus tries to play it cool with Yuna but still comes off as a big dork. I appreciate these lighthearted moments because it's a feeling we all can relate to.

The small moments stuck out to me the most during my recent playthrough. I'll always remember how I wanted to make Wakka a hero as he said goodbye to blitzball, the trek through the seemingly endless Mi'ihen Highroad, spending my time dodging lightning bolts and racing chocobos for ultimate weapons, and watching Wakka and Lulu come to terms with the loss of his brother. I will admit I was more engaged with blitzball in my previous years. I just don't have the patience for it now; it's too slow-paced for my taste. But that doesn't take away from what it does for the world. Part of what I love about Final Fantasy X is that it takes common staples of life, like spirituality and sports, and creates its own takes on them. That's part of what's so immersive about it; you're doing all you can to understand this world's rules and how it plays into the main storyline. The sense of discovery of the foreign land speaks for itself.

Revisiting this high-definition Spira is thrilling and brings memories flooding back, but I'm also taking away new insights. Even more powerful is seeing how some elements remain their full potency. I still find that Yuna's role adds a sorrow to the journey that's hard to ignore. As a spirit summoner, she has to dance when people die to help their souls move on. She can't be her own person; she's strapped to this role. Going through the Cloister of Trials and seeing Tidus ascend from a selfish kid to her guardian still greatly impacts me. Every so often, it's great to revisit games you loved as it further cements why you fell in love with them in the first place. The beautifully remastered continent of Spira and the dark story it carries are just as enthralling as ever.