Thursday 3 April 2014

Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remastered

Since it's release in 2001, Final Fantasy X has maintained the lofty title as not only one of the best in the Final Fantasy series, but also one of the best RPGs of all time. It was the first of the franchise to feature voice actors – much to the joy and equal despair of the fan-base – and a mostly cinematic driven plot. All of this was achieved without losing any of the freedom that the Final Fantasy franchise is praised for. It was no surprise when it was announced that this much-loved entry – and it's divisive sequel were to be given a fresh coat of HD gloss and re-released. But as became apparent as soon as I started playing, this was much more than a bog-standard tarting up.

I can kick off proceedings by saying that this has to be one of the finest transfers to HD I've ever seen! The character models have all been updated – Now when out of cut-scenes or combat, characters wont look as if they've fallen face-first into a skip full of jagged rocks. This sometimes can show an unflattering contrast between the main characters and the rest of the NPCs, all of whom weren't important enough to be given faces. The environments have all received a loving update too, with reworked backgrounds that look crisp and shiny, lending new levels of depth to the world. I was also pleasantly surprised the first time I entered a battle and noticed that all of the music had been remastered too, immediately giving me a fan boy pang of excitement for when I’d eventually hear my favourite tracks forty hours down the line.

The story follows the exploits of the summoner Yuna, in her quest to save the land of Spira from the enormous, evil sky-whale Sin. She is joined on this quest by – amongst others – Meg Ryan-lookalike and overall whiner Tidus, in his quest to be mad at his dad for the 50 hour duration of the first game. Despite my hasty summary of events here, the character driven plot and individual stories that take place during the game seem to have a level of maturity, scarcely seen in the series since Final Fantasy 6; you really do see growth take place parallel to the story arc and that's a genuine joy to watch.

At this point I have to acknowledge the irony of the sequel; Final Fantasy X was the first in the franchise to be given it's own follow-up game, yet Final Fantasy X-2 is so juxtaposed to it's predecessor in story and feel that I can't help but think it would have been better as a standalone game. The story lacks nearly all of the seriousness and gravity that made the first so compelling, with events ranging from non-serious to downright goofy at times! There were moments in which I was sure that Square Enix had farmed out the story to a group of lonely, teenage fan fiction writers. I just stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed at my TV screen as I saw a character I knew well from FFX act in ways I could only imagine in my wildest cheese-nightmares! It's not a bad story, it just doesn't feel like it belongs with it's predecessor.

Stories aside, I enjoyed the gameplay of both games a great deal. The battle system of FFX – while a little dated now – still stands out in the franchise for it's strategy-orientated, slow-paced mechanics. The sequel trades this for a faster style of combat, seeing the return of ATB bars, which fans of the series will immediately recognise as being used in games four through nine.  So no marks for originality, but this faster-paced ATB system can be a lot of fun when you get the hang of class-switching in battle, while keeping on top of healing and levelling your classes.

So is this worth it? If only for FFX I’d still have to say definitely yes! Though the originals would be cheaper if you bought them individually on the PS2, the updates to the HD release make it the best possible way to experience the story for the first time, or to give in to nostalgia and experience all over again.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 raises the bar for HD remasters and scores a 4/5, [★★★★☆]

Thomas Lee

Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remastered at CeX

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