Thursday 4 June 2015

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered

When referencing the Final Fantasy series in previous reviews I've never held back on what my initial opinion of Final Fantasy X was. I didn't like it. After really digging into the series with Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX and then the Playstation release of VI, I expected a lot from X. My favourite part of the series has always been its open-world, getting lost it in and finding secret areas. Final Fantasy X didn't have an open-world. In fact, I found its world to be incredibly small and disappointing. It was essentially a glorified corridor-like world, and that, coupled along with the cheesy love story, kind of put me off. I finished it though but moved on to bigger and better things. So upon playing this remaster of both Final Fantasy X and X-2, it marked my second play-through of Final Fantasy X since its release back in 2002. The question is, has my opinion of the game changed over those 13 years, and if so, is this remaster worth your money? Read on.

Developed by Square Enix and out now on Playstation 4 (it was released last year for Playstation Vita and Playstation 3) comes Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered, possibly the best gaming remaster collection since Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection. It's going to be a bit tricky to review this release, as included on the disc is both a HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and its direct sequel Final Fantasy X-2. They both have a lot of similarities in terms of setting and characters, but each stand apart in other ways such as gameplay and tone. 

The story of Final Fantasy X HD begins with a game of blitzball; a futuristic game of footy that's played inside of a giant water ball, cos why not? Leading the charge in the game is Tidus, our spunky spikey haired protagonist, voiced wonderfully by James Arnold Taylor. The city in which Tidus lives is the sprawling utopia known as Zanarkand, but it's soon attacked by the gigantic creature Sin. During the destruction of Zanarkand Tidus is sucked into a mysterious portal. He wakes up in a world completely unlike- yet strangely similar- to his own. After meeting Wakka, a cool dude voiced by the chap that plays Bender in Futurama, Tidus eventually finds himself partnering up with the summoner Yuna. This is also a world that is being ravaged by Sin, and Yuna intends on putting a stop to the creature using her powers. Only happy to come along in order to find answers, Tidus aids Yuna in her journey in bringing peace to Spira. It's a pretty decent set-up for a Final Fantasy game, and Final Fantasy X-2 HD takes place shortly after the events of it. I won't give any spoilers away here as some of you may be playing this for the first time, but Final Fantasy X-2's story isn't as strong as Final Fantasy X's, but it's still a treat if you enjoy your first game in the world of Spira.

The first time I played Final Fantasy X I hated how there wasn't an open-world to run about in. I still dislike it, but during this second play-through it didn't kill the experience for me. Perhaps the new High-Definition visuals helped, but I found the world to be far more interesting, detailed and atmospheric than I initially thought in 2002. There's a great sense of geography and culture here throughout the world of Spira, as I found myself really getting lost in towns, chatting with all the residents and really enjoying the diverse locations, races and designs of the world. Whether I found myself back at Besaid Island simply kicking back and watching the shimmering endless ocean, or dodging lightning bolts on the treacherous Thunder Plains, it was a joy to jump back into this world. Needless to say, the game looks bloody great, and even looks far better than the HD remasters previously released on PS Vita and PS3. As expected for any JRPG out there, gameplay for both games revolves around two major areas- exploration and combat. Exploration is pretty straightforward, and though an open-world would have really made this game special, the linear worlds on offer here are enjoyable and fun to roam around in. On your main quest during both games, you'll constantly be sidetracked by random ruins to explore, ultimate weapons to unlock, various side and fetch quests, optional bosses that can be defeated and unique items to be found. Both games are near identical in this regard, but when it comes to combat there's a world of difference between the two. In Final Fantasy X combat is the usual turn-based type, and with three party members able to be on your team at any one time, it ultimately falls in line with basics of Final Fantasy combat 101. However, you advance and level up your team members by using the Sphere Grid; a system that essentially presents the player with a map-like chart of connected spheres. Each sphere is an unlockable power, magic or ability, and through advancing in the game you'll make your way through a desired sphere pattern, ultimately taking on some abilities while passing others by. This system works incredibly well in Final Fantasy X, as by the end you'll have a very uniquely crafted array of abilities for each of your party members. Personally my team consisted of Auron as the muscle, Lulu as the black magic back-up and Tidus as my healer/attacker. It worked out pretty well, and is a vastly different team than what I had back in 2002.

Final Fantasy X-2 on the other hand changes up gameplay a bit. At its heart it's somewhat similar, but whereas Final Fantasy X lets you assemble a team of 3 characters and even lets your change that line-up in mid-battle on the fly, in X-2 you're locked to the same 3 characters for its entirety. This sounds pretty restricting, but with the introduction of “Dresspheres” that's not an issue. Though your trio of characters remain the same in, by finding, unlocking or buying Dresspheres you can essentially let characters take on a new persona, look and fighting style. It's really quite impressive how different these play-styles are too, as one minute you can have Yuna clad in white robes with healing magic at her disposal, then you can instantly switch to the Dark Knight Dressphere, which basically turns her into a tank-like fighter. Dresspheres breath choice and variety into the game, and dare I say, even ends up bettering Final Fantasy X's combat.

Also worth noting is that apart from the obvious visual upgrade, both versions of the games in this remaster are the "International" versions of the respective games. Basically that means they're the most complete versions of those games, with extra missions and extended endings included. Also on this disc is Final Fantasy X -Will-, a new audio drama that takes place after the events of Final Fantasy X-2. Finally, both games have completely remixed soundtracks, though your are able to freely switch between the original soundtracks and these new ones. Personally I prefer the originals, but it's nice to have the option.

Overall this is a fantastic HD remaster. Both games look absolutely stunning and I can honestly hold my hands up I admit I was wrong about Final Fantasy X. I loved it. My criticisms still hold to a certain point, but I loved getting back into the world of Spira. Though Final Fantasy X-2's story is incredibly lacking at times, the overall journey here over both games is very much worth taking. Yes, both games are a little bumpy at times, but they still play incredibly well, and give many modern JRPGs a run for their money. Whether you're already a die hard fan of Final Fantasy X, a newbie to the series or someone who didn't enjoy it back in the day, give this remaster a shot. It's a lovely little package of action, adventure, humour and drama.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered proves I'm a gobshite with a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster at CeX

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