Looking back, I cannot believe it has been 13 years since the emergence of Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2. It feels a lot less than that, purely because to this day I still remember the many hours I spent with the game. With that in mind, you can imagine my excitement when Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster was announced. So when the Vita version was handed to me for review, I was curious to see if I would still love it like I did back when I was 13, or was it a case of some memories are best left untouched? Read on to find out.
Game: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
I am a huge Final Fantasy fan, heck scratch that. I am a huge fan of all JRPG titles, regardless of reputation. Give me a good story, decent gameplay and I’m sucked in completely. This is exactly why I loved Final Fantasy X back in 2001, and after playing it extensively over the past week or so, I have to say it still holds up now as one of the best JPRG stories ever. Final Fantasy X takes place in the world of Spira, where you control a young teen named Tidus. He is a star blitz ball player who has been sucked into the world of Spira from his hometown of Zanarkand by an enemy only known as ‘sin’. Over at Spira, Tidus gets acquainted and makes friends with the likes of Yuna, Lulu, Wakka and more as they embark on a quest to discover how to get back to Zanarkand. Final Fantasy X offers the lot. Romance, check! Humor, check!, Suspense, check!
Once you have caught breath, there’s also Final Fantasy X/X-2 on offer. Square Enix pulled a masterstroke with Final Fantasy X’s story, but I felt they could’ve done a lot more with Final Fantasy X-2. Set two years after the events of X, Final Fantasy X-2 places you in the role of Yuna, who along with Rikku and Paine, has joined the sphere-hunters who go by the name of the Gullwings. Much of the story goes for a more light-hearted approach, and it’s actually interesting to revisit all of the places in Spira to see how they have transformed.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is not just a simple PS Vita, the developers have spent a lot of time making sure that it stands up today. Character models, especially the main ones, have been upgraded extensively, looking very impressive overall. Throughout my experience with Final Fantasy X and X-2 I found both games to use the power of the PS Vita very well, giving its OLED screen the perfect chance to show off the fantastic visuals.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 fans will surely remember the CGI parts of the game. I remember watching the Tidus/Yuna love scene when I was 13, thinking “holy crap, this is awesome” It is testament to the developers then that I still think that to this day. How they have improved the visuals? Well, I couldn’t say but I can say that I have seen anything better on my PS Vita to this day. This collection is precisely what it says on the tin, it’s a HD Remaster in every sense.
One of the things that most stand out about Final Fantasy X/X-2 (more so X) is the fantastic soundtrack that accompanies each title. The famous Spira song of prayer to the fantastic theme-tune. It was the perfect soundtrack to the perfect game, one I play even to this day, listening to it on my daily travels. When I heard that the soundtrack had been mixed up, I have to say I wasn’t very happy. Having played through it all now, it’s with pleasure that I say that the core of the soundtrack is still there in abundance. Would I say that they have improved it? No. I still feel that they could’ve left it as it were. The voice acting is more of the same really. It was decent back when it was first released, but now it’s a bit hit and miss. Still, Wakka remains one of my favorite characters to listen to, ya!
There is no better feeling in JRPG-land than to see your work pay off as your characters become stronger and stronger, giving even the best bosses no chance. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster reminded me why still to this day it has the best levelling up system in any JRPG that I have played, period. That is not to say that it is easy mind! Lose your way and you will be struggling against the easiest fiends you come across. Why is it so good? That is purely down to Final Fantasy X’s fantastic Sphere Grid system. As you battle against fiends and bosses, your characters will gain points that allow you to move on the Sphere Grid. Going forward, and as you plough through the grid, you’re able to use different spheres in order to strengthen your character all round.
Ability Sphere’s allow you to learn new abilities whilst Power Sphere’s will up your strength of defense. The Sphere Grid is absolutely massive, and will take you weeks, maybe even months to fill, but it is completely worth it. If you are already accustomed to the Sphere Grid, once you start a new game in Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, you are given the option to choose the normal or expert Sphere Grid. The expert one is even more complex, giving you options at every turn. Final Fantasy X-2 unfortunately never followed suit and offers you the use of ‘Dresspheres’. These allow characters to transform themselves into different outfits so they can use different abilities. Black Mage will give you the ability to use magic whilst Warrior will give you more strength.
Final Fantasy X also has the best, most strategic turned-based battle system that I have come across. It gives you the ability to tag-in your allies at any turn, whilst also giving you time to decide which strategic approach is best for you to take. The battle system also allows the use of ‘overdrives’, powerful signature attacks that give out a wealth of damage. These overdrives are very useful, especially against bosses and with Yuna’s Aeons that you can summon. These Aeons are collected throughout the game at different temples as you go through the rather difficult puzzles known as the Cloister of Trials. Final Fantasy X-2 attempts to take elements of the great battle system in X, but messed it up completely. Strategy is replaced by the need to think on your toes as the gauge bar fills up for yours and the enemies turns. Spend too much time considering your next move and your enemy will have no problem wiping you out in an instant. Gulp!
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a collection that deserves attention, and a lot of it at that. Both games together span over 100 hours, easily. With the many side quests on offer in both titles, the ability to collect the character’s ultimate weapons and secret aeons, this will certainly stay in your PS Vita for months to come. Maxing out the sphere grid and collecting all of the available dresspheres is a huge task in itself. You’ll probably still be tackling that when Final Fantasy XV comes out!
My love for Final Fantasy X remains as strong as it was back when it was originally released, and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster made me appreciate Square Enix’s work even more. I found Final Fantasy X-2 slightly disappointing, but only compared to the huge standards Final Fantasy X set. Both titles offer an extensive amount of game time, and the improved visuals making it a true HD remaster. If you have yet to play Final Fantasy X or X-2, then I strongly advise you to pick this up right now! It’s the JRPG genre at its amazing best. I have one thing to say to Square Enix, Bring me Final Fantasy X-3, ya!