From a purely investment point of view, it’s a little unfortunate that the iconic RPG maker, Square Enix is releasing the Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster and other HD remakes on what is now a last-gen system, in the Playstation 3. Knowing that they will remain in your library and playable for the next ten years, might make forking out 40 dollars for a couple of games you’ve already played before, is somewhat more palatable. I do realize there are a lot of gamers that haven’t put their Playstation 3 into semi-retirement yet and that the install base and drastic difference in architecture make a Playstation 4 version highly unlikely. That being said, I’d personally rather have these two classic games on my new system.
In case anyone forgot, Final Fantasy X marked the long-running franchise’s debut on Sony’s Playstation 2 system, in 2001. While the visuals were stunning for the time, much of the gameplay was a return to the past. The narrative was fairly straightforward and the adventure was decidedly linear. Despite a lack of innovation in the fairly standard turn-based combat gameplay, Final Fantasy X is one of the more universally accepted titles over the last two console generations. Much of that can be attributed to a well-balanced and a nearly universally relatable tale, a feat more easily achieved without branching story lines.
So, what’s new in the Final Fantasy X Remaster? For those that played the standard release of Final Fantasy X, the most notable change is, that Square Enix decided to remaster the international version of the game. Final Fantasy X International was never released in North America and includes an advanced sphere grid option, new optional bosses and new abilities. The music in the remaster has also been remixed to the point that the soundtrack is significantly altered while maintaining the same themes. Of course you can’t forget the HD reference in the title. Though the textures are all HD and acceptable for modern screens now, in a 16:9 widescreen format, the higher polycount character models are still a bit angular.
On the other hand, The Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster does a better job achieving a more current looking aesthetic. The character models would look right at home in a new Playstation 3 game, though a few of the set pieces didn’t get the full HD treatment. The problem with X-2, for many fans of the series, is of course tonal. Though the Final Fantasy franchise has enjoyed a relatively equitable share of male and female fans, X-2 has often been dismissed as essentially a Final Fantasy game “for girls.” While it’s fair to criticize the narrative as occasionally nonsensical, the advances in gameplay are notable and as a game, Final Fantasy X-2 is truly a deeper RPG than its predecessor.
Unlike Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 allows players almost from the beginning to explore Spira at will. For the most part, players can choose how they want to tackle the adventure. There are a number of side quests, optional bosses, dungeons and mini-games. The combat is also more dynamic with active time battle system that allows for chained attack combos and the ability to interrupt attacks out of turn. The more limited cast eliminates the need for Final Fantasy X’s character swapping, and the mechanic is replaced, in X-2 with the ability for characters to swap roles in the party, through outfit changes. The inclusion of the international version expands those “dresspheres” and also introduces a Pokémon-like creature system.
As a package, the Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster, with well over a hundred hours of entertainment, is a pretty solid offering. The HD treatment to the textures and aspect ratio help bring the pair into more modern times, though it is worth noting, some of the cutscenes have been cropped in the effort and there are some occasional hiccups. Though the “Eternal Calm” Final Fantasy X epilogue video nearly put me to sleep, it is part of the cannon. X-2’s “Last Mission” mini-game is obviously more engaging. While both games do look like modern games, buyers do need to be aware that Final Fantasy X in particular does require a lot of old school grinding. These games were designed to occupy nearly a year of your life. If you loved either of them on the Playstation 2, you will probably love them even more on the Playstation 3. The PS3 and Vita versions do support cross-saving but are not cross-buy. Considering where the console generations are currently, I personally would have preferred a PS4 release.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on: Playstation Vita.