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Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Review
Final Fantasy X made its debut over 10 years ago, with leading man Tidus pleading, “Listen to my story…” His journey centered on an awkward, budding romance with a summoner named Yuna and their struggle to stop Sin, a mysterious whale-like creature destroying the continent of Spira. It introduced us to a world full of spirituality, blitzball, and the sacrifices brave souls must make to secure peace.
Focusing merely on its narrative isn’t enough – Final Fantasy X changed the way we experienced RPGs with its fully voiced cutscenes adding a new layer of storytelling. It pushed boundaries and raised standards; like Final Fantasy VII, it was a cinematic turning point in video games. Square Enix is providing another chance to relive this defining moment with not only a visual upgrade, but also brand-new content previously exclusive to the international versions of Final Fantasy X and X-2.
Square Enix didn’t just raise the resolution and call it a day; the visual overhaul is noticeable. Barren areas now teem with detail, color, and life. Where blurry, green landscape filled the backdrops, shrubbery now thrives. Structures follow suit with additional detail, making them more realistic. Even the characters’ faces look more lifelike and expressive. The fresh coat of paint keeps everything on par with what we’ve seen from other PS3 games. However, telltale signs – like the characters’ awkward mannerisms – show that these are still PS2 games at their cores.
Sparking some ire from diehard fans, Square Enix rearranged and remastered over 60 tracks from Final Fantasy X. This is most noticeable if you’re intimately familiar with the original soundtrack, and the changes aren’t as jarring as I expected. Some rearrangements, like the infamous “Calm Before The Storm,” retain their essence with refinements, but it’s not all changed for the better. “Besaid Island Theme,” for instance, loses personality by ditching its memorable piano. Still, the arrangements don’t rewrite the songs; most of the time, they clean up the melodies and make the tracks more powerful while adding unnecessary instruments. Square Enix obviously wanted to update the music to make the same impact as the enhanced visuals. It doesn’t, but I appreciate the attempt to spruce up the collection even more.
Both X and X-2 feature content new to North America (but seen in the original international versions). Final Fantasy X adds dark aeons and the expert sphere grid, where not every character is entrenched in a set path. They all start in the middle of the grid, which makes it easier to customize characters. It doesn’t drastically change the experience, but having more control over your characters’ development, like setting Auron up as a healer, is a nice touch. Eternal Calm is also included, a short movie that provides context to how Yuna came to her decision to join up with the Gullwings in Final Fantasy X-2. It fills in some of the blanks and is a much better segue into X-2’s plot than Yuna’s concert.
Final Fantasy X-2’s international additions include new dresspheres, a creature creator, and fiend arena-battle tournaments. Its biggest offering is the Last Mission, which takes place three months after the end of X-2. Yuna, Paine, and Rikku are brought back together by a strange message urging them to ascend Iutycyr Tower. Last Mission is a roguelike dungeon crawler, where you try to stay alive and ascend as many floors as possible. After a set number of floors, cutscenes provide insight into what the characters have been up to since they were last together. The floors aren’t exciting, but the dresspheres and leveling system keep it fun. Last Mission is certainly a nice diversion, but not incredibly engaging.
Even years later, Final Fantasy X is still an exciting RPG, telling a compelling story with plenty of momentum. While the crazy girls-night-out theatrics of X-2 might still cause you to roll your eyes, the battle system is still fast and fun. For those who want the complete arc of the Final Fantasy X saga, the collection delivers. Even without a nostalgic lens, both games hold up well.