You may have seen that we did a review previously on these titles, and are asking yourself “why is Chandler reviewing this collection again if Heath did it last week?” That’s a great question. Heath’s review was the Vita review and was also based on Japanese version of the games. This second opinion is based on the North American PS3 disc-based version.
The Final Fantasy series brings with it much debate among its fan base. Which one is the best? The worst? Which one deserves an HD remaster the most? I’ve come to accept that Final Fantasy is never really final, and as Final Fantasy VII was the game that drew me into video games as experiences that were more than just toys, I’m ok with that. While you’ll probably hear most Final Fantasy die-hards begging for a remake of Cloud’s tale that we’ll never get, Square Enix have still carried the legacy of the past forward by bringing the celebrated Final Fantasy X and its direct sequel to 2014 audiences.
Some may see Final Fantasy X as the beginning of the downfall for the Final Fantasy series. It has fairly ‘corridor’ based gameplay for the first portion and it was first to earn a direct numbered sequel, which many see as the seed for the FFXIII trilogy. However, FFX is also seen as having done a number of things very right. It was the first to bring us voice-acting, it was the first to abandon a traditional leveling system and allow you to have more character customization, and the battle system is patently simple yet hides a deeper complexity without getting too obnoxiously confusing.
As a huge fan of Final Fantasy X, I found myself recalling every little detail as I began playing again, and yet it had been over a decade since I had last played this title. Individual lines said by characters, hidden areas and items, menu options; the entire game came flooding back to me as if I had just played it last week. This fact alone screams to me just how great of a game Final Fantasy X was, and still is. I have played many hundreds of games since I last took a stroll through Spira as Tidus, Yuna, and their respective parties, so for it to come rushing back was a wonderful concoction of euphoria and nostalgia.
For those who are getting into Final Fantasy X for the first time, I urge you to read the original reviews for each game. As in Heath’s review, I am not going to dive deeply into the ins and outs of each of these games on a content and mechanics level. There are some aspects of these games that are decidedly early 2000’s, and don’t quite marry up to modern day standards. You have to realize that you are playing a classic, and with a classic comes the quirks of the era in which it was created. Get past this and you’ll uncover a true gem lying at the heart of Tidus and Yuna’s story.
This release includes the International versions of the games that most North American players did not get to experience the first time around, so there is plenty of fresh content, even if you played one or both of these extensively before. X-2 seems to be a lot more loaded with extra content, with the ability to swap out party members for creatures that you capture, as well as an 80 floor dungeon. X gives us the Expert Sphere Grid as well as Dark Aeons, which are additional boss battles spread across the game, particularly when returning to old areas. I found the Expert Sphere Grid option in X to be difficult to use and often had to grind to get where I wanted to be. While it gives you more freedom, if you are not carefully planning, you will find yourself significantly underpowered fairly quickly, though I suppose that’s why they call it the ‘Expert’ Sphere Grid.
Overall the added content is like listening to a slightly remixed and extended version of your favorite song. You’ll love some additions, hate others, but overall it’s still got enough of the original content that you enjoy it anyway. Speaking of music, the games have both had their soundtracks remixed and remastered as well. In some cases it doesn’t even feel like they touched the songs, with the original piano version of To Zanarkand serenading the opening cinematic. In others, it was jarring to have my nostalgia be sidelined by a bizarro version of the battle theme After a short time I got used to the new version of the battle theme, the victory music, and the various themes for each area, and the music started to grow on me. The new music is really not bad at all, it just takes getting past holding onto old memories to enjoy it.
Heath’s review for the Vita version mentioned framerate drops and skips, and many readers wondered if the PS3 suffered the same ailment. I am happy to say that I failed to notice any of these issues at all . Both cutscenes and gameplay were smooth and the visuals look nothing short of gorgeous. If Square Enix knows how to do one thing right, it would be HD remasters. Considering the amazing job they did on Kingdom Hearts HD, there was very little question of how good a game of Blitzball, an attack by Sin, or a pop concert by Yuna would ultimately look, and they proved my faith in them well placed. The only issue that even slightly bothered me was the obviously lower polygon count of secondary characters. With how great the main cast looks, secondary characters can end up looking a little bit silly with their faces being drawn on textures rather than 3D models. This really didn’t affect my experience, but was noticeable nonetheless.
HD visuals aside, revisiting Final Fantasy X and X-2 is a great thing that should not be missed. For fans, the International versions bring a bevy of new and unexplored features, and a wave of nostalgia. For newcomers, this is a great opportunity to finally play this coveted classic. Bring in the fact the the HD visuals look nothing short of stunning more than a decade after the game’s original release, and you’ll find that Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster is yet another reason to keep your PS3 running.
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