When it comes to Square Enix’s massively popular Final Fantasy series, there are few entries in the franchise that are more beloved than Final Fantasy X. Released in 2001, Final Fantasy X combined ground breaking graphics with excellent gameplay and became a smash hit on the PlayStation 2. Heck, it was so popular that it spawned the series’ first ever direct sequel with Final Fantasy X-2. Now, more than a decade after their original releases, both games have received upgraded re-releases through Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster.
Set in the sprawling world of Spira, Final Fantasy X focuses on the quest of Yuna, Tidus and company to defeat the ancient and monstrous evil known as Sin. In order to do so, they need to track down the Final Aeon, which is hidden somewhere in this massive world. Along the way there will be weddings, betrayals, time travel and plenty of young love. Perhaps the fact that this plot has a little bit of everything is why it was so massively popular back when it first came out.
Taking place following the events of Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 once again reunites us with Yuna and Rikku, but also introduces the newcomer Paine. Without spoiling anything, the trio are on the search for a former ally who was thought to be dead. However, while the world of Spira has not changed much since the first game, the people have. Following the death of Sin, the citizens of Spira have taken to “machina” in order to advance civilization. This rise in technology has lead to several different political groups sprouting up and getting into conflicts with each other.
While I did say that the storyline that takes place throughout the Final Fantasy X saga was popular, I never said it was particularly great, as each game features its own glaring issues. The first game suffers from some bouts of awkward, stilted dialogue, and a main character in Tidus who comes off as more annoying than he really should be. It also doesn’t help that, much like more modern entries in the series, it perhaps takes itself a bit too seriously, considering some of the more out-there moments that its story provides. Granted, this re-release also brings the Eternal Calm short movie stateside, which helps fill the gap between X and X-2. It’s worth watching at least once, if only to get a better understanding of the story, but it does drag on a little bit, even though it isn’t too long.
If you’re like me and don’t prefer the angst-y nature of Final Fantasy X, then perhaps the jarring tone shifts Final Fantasy X-2 provides will be more to your liking. Considering the game starts off with a J-POP concert, X-2‘s story of political and clan warfare can be surprisingly gripping at times. However, the game has trouble sticking the landing when it comes to moving between light-hearted comedy and serious drama.
Much like the storyline, the gameplay found in Final Fantasy X & Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster is more or less the same as their original releases. Of the two, it’s the first entry’s combat system that will feel the most familiar to fans of traditional RPGs. Using the Conditional Turn-Based battle system, combat plays out in a turn-based fashion with your party and the enemy alternating moves. Players can also switch out their party members at any time, as well as summon “Aeons” in order to assist them. It’s a very no-frills system and while it may not be as advanced as the battle systems featured in more recent titles, it still works perfectly.
Although it is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 features a totally revamped combat system that focuses on the fun world of outfit changes. Since there are only three main characters, each member of your party can switch between different classes by changing their clothes. Each outfit features unique attacks and abilities, which allows for players to use each party member to their own desired ways. Combat also plays out in a more active fashion, as attacks can be performed at any time, provided they are ready, even if an enemy is preparing to attack. It’s still a fairly traditional combat engine, but one that is once again pulled off well by Square Enix.
One of the major reasons people are interested in this re-release though are the remastered graphics that both games are receiving. While both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 are not going to look as good as more modern PlayStation 3 games, no matter how much effort was put into them, they both look excellent for games that are over a decade old. You can tell that Square Enix put a lot of love and effort into making each game shine. Of particular note are the character models for the main party members, as they all look spectacular. This may have come at the expense of the NPCs, which look particularly dated, but that’s something I’m willing to live with.
The world of Spira has also been completely redone and the new coat of paint provided looks particularly great. The muddy textures that could be spotted originally have been taken care of, too, meaning that now almost every nook and cranny is up to par. The FMVs, which still hold up pretty well on the PlayStation 2, have also been remastered. Some of them have been stretched out to fit the widescreen ratio though, which isn’t that much of an issue, but it is noticeable at parts.
The score for Final Fantasy X also received a noticeable overhauling. While some may prefer the non-remixed tracks of the original game, I enjoyed this new score. As someone who remembers the songs from the original release, these updated tracks help sell the fact that I’m playing a new version of the game. Conversely, while Final Fantasy X-2 did not receive new tracks, the game’s original score still holds up remarkably well.
In addition to offering two huge titles in one compact package, Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remastered also boasts a variety of additional features that were previously unavailable in North America. Fighting against the tough Dark Aeon boss battles and playing around with the deeper Expert Sphere Grid helped make playing through Final Fantasy X more enjoyable and the Creature Creator system introduced in Final Fantasy X-2 is also fun to play around with, albeit not necessarily integral to the experience. Playing through the rogue-like “Last Mission” chapter of X-2 also provided a fresh experience for the series and is well worth trying out at least once. Of course, this release also features trophies for both titles, as well as cross-play between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, which are both much appreciated.
While not as groundbreaking as they were when they first came out, both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 have held up remarkably well over time. Both games are still an absolute joy to play through and even with some storyline issues, are two of the finest RPGs to be released since the turn of the century. The HD remastering and bonus content only make this package even more of a bargain. So, if you consider yourself a fan of the genre at all, you owe it to yourself to pick up Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster.
This review was based off the PlayStation 3 version of the title, which we were provided with.