It’s been 10 years since Final Fantasy X made its debut on the PS2, and it made waves back then much like that fat kid at the pool party who couldn’t cannonball right. Luckily, when the original game was out, I was old enough to remember the story clearly while still naive enough to not have an appreciation for one of the most popular RPGs of the early 2000’s. I had been hyped up for the release of this game since I got to play the demo at E3 2013, but fate would see to it that I don’t get what I want without putting up a little fight. After a short delay due to technical obstacles, the game finally found its way into my PS3 in all of its nostalgic glory.
The HD remaster brings a slew of extra content for the games, especially for American fans. International versions – which were Japan-only rereleases – of both games come default, which means extra bosses, abilities, as well as the obvious visual update. The most interesting and significant change to X by far is the expert grid system, which looks just like the original except that the layout of the nodes are arranged differently in a way that allows complete freedom over how the player wants to advance the party without the need for teleport spheres. All characters start in the center of the grid and can go in any direction right off the bat. Even if a character is sent down their normal path, deviations can be made at any time, provided the right key sphere node is unlocked. X-2 doesn’t boast anything game-changing like the expert sphere grid. However, it does make up for it with a couple new dresspheres, garment grids, and the Final Mission, which was only included in the International version.
In terms of how the game looks, any NPC or fiend still look as they did ten years ago with their 2D faces and conjoined fingers and, even when a fully rendered character is on screen, they sometimes open and close their mouths out of sync with their dialogue, much like an old Godzilla movie. Worst of all, in-game hair still looks like it’s made of papier-mâche, and clips into anything it can get itself into. The game’s saving grace is that, despite the still-rough graphics and ham-fisted voice acting, the story and how it is presented wins me over again and again, as if all those negative aspects of the game were never there to begin with. Lazily rendered NPC’s paired without the original Japanese audio is nearly cringe-worthy. Fortunately, only one of these things are a problem X-2, but this is because the graphics were drastically improved by comparison in the original version and not to the credit of the remaster.
“…the expert sphere grid plays a huge role in making a unique experience for every player.”
For Final Fantasy X, the turn-based battle system truly stands the test of time, especially because it stands out among the last few Final Fantasy games where combat involved a more “active” role in combat. Sitting on a couch, and planning out a pattern of attack, all while eating lunch is a lot more fun than mashing the X button like a brainless zombie for 10 hours is what I’m trying to get at. Politically incorrect jokes aside, the aforementioned expert sphere grid plays a huge role in making a unique experience for every player. For example, Yuna can become a black mage or a fighter if she travels down Lulu or Auron’s normal paths. Also – and I know this is going to sound absolutely crazy – Khimari could potentially be useful.
X-2‘s active battle system may be more comfortable to fans of real-time action RPG’s. The dressphere system may not have been the most well-received aspect of the sequel, but I think it was actually an intriguing way to work around having a party of only three in battle and it definitely kept the story focused on the Gullwings. On top of this, each dressphere is unique, serving a different role in battle so the main gals are able to cover each others’ weaknesses and shortcomings. This also allows for some balls-to-the-walls plays such as making everyone go berserker, which is a dresssphere that trades defense for massive gains in strength and evasion. Gameplay aside, X-2‘s story was by no means one of its strong points, partly due to the fact that its mere existence means taking a hot, steaming dump all over the ending of the previous game. Even so, the game stays entertaining through the aforementioned combat systems and mission-based story advancement. This keeps players engaged within small pieces of story along with side quests and minigames that give instant gratification in the form of special rewards.
An interesting series-within-a-series of games, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a must-have for Final Fantasy first timers as well as seasoned veterans who want to take a stroll down memory lane – a $40 stroll to be exact. While X sports forgettable visuals but a compelling and desperate story to back it up, X-2 shows its strength with its unique and engaging gameplay.
Available on: PS3, Vita; Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix; Players: 1; Released: March 18, 2014; ESRB: T; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site