Platform: PC (reviewed)
Previously Released: PS4, PS3, PS Vita
Publisher: Square Enix
I played a lot of Final Fantasy as a kid. A LOT. I got into gaming around the time Final Fantasy VII came out, though I was too young to appreciate what it was trying to do. Once I got past that part of my life, I bought Final Fantasy VIII on a whim and I was instantly in love. Eventually, playing VII, VIII, IX and X simultaneously became a yearly ritual as each time I would find additional nooks and crannies that I had missed on previous playthroughs.
Life has changed a lot since then, so it’s been quite a few years since I’ve returned to Spira, but I have to say that the PC version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is the best version of the game(s) you are likely to find.
Final Fantasy X is one of the greatest games ever made:
Final Fantasy X is the real prize of the package. It is the quintessential example of RPG design excellence. Final Fantasy X is the perfect balance of difficulty and accessibility, allowing anyone to grasp its simple party rotational concepts, but providing a solid escalating challenge as the game’s enemies grow stronger.
Grinding levels (or Spheres in Final Fantasy X’s case) reap significant rewards, as it’s a simple matter of putting enough time will merit becoming the most powerful force in the game. Some might bemoan the idea that you can become overpowered in Final Fantasy X, but it doesn’t come without putting in a lot of work.
Every single character in the game fulfills a distinct role that translates seamlessly from battle to the narrative. The main character, Tidus is your typical Speedster that can hit high evasion foes at the outset of a battle while you also have your Black Mage, Lulu, Ranged Attacker, Wakka, Warrior class, Auron, Thief, Rikku, and Hybrid, Kimahri.
Each character’s artistic direction is also spot on as you can just look at every single character and know exactly what it is you are supposed to do with them. It sounds so simple (and kinda stupid), but so many Game Developers get this wrong all the time from simply trying to do too much.
Then there is, of course, the epic narrative. Final Fantasy X tells one of the greatest stories in gaming history, the Summoner Yuna’s epic pilgrimage to defeat the great evil known as Sin. It’s story beats are traditional, but given a context that just wraps you up from start to finish. One of my favorite aspects of it is that the protagonist, Tidus isn’t even the most important character.
Yes, the story is told from his perspective, but you are really just along for the ride on a quest that is greater than you. In a time where Game Developers are pushing player empowerment like never before, it’s refreshing and humbling to feel like you are just a part rather than the whole. That said, Tidus and Yuna’s “we have to learn how to laugh on this sad, sad journey” scene still sucks, so it’s not without its flaws.
Final Fantasy X-2 is...different:
Final Fantasy X-2 is not a bad game by any means, it’s just an odd combination of familiarity mixed with sudden and drastic change, especially right off the bat. The original game told a story about a world torn apart and humbled by a powerful beast. The world felt like it had its own identity, just like the characters; a history that you didn’t need to witness to know what had happened to it.
Post-Sin Spira can be an odd place to explore. And it’s even odder to explore it with Yuna’s new persona which is in many ways, the complete opposite of the person she used to be. How you go from quiet and humble Summoner to out-going girly-girl pop star is a mystery to me even to this day. If anything, Rikku’s character fits that mold a lot better.
The battle system in X-2 is also very different from the original and is easily X-2’s best feature. X was a turn based game in the purest sense of the word, giving you plenty of time to plan and counter any moves that would be heading your way. X-2 takes that away completely and forces you to plan on the fly, as enemies can attack while you are picking your next move.
Also, the game rewards you for queuing up consecutive strikes, which if done right, can make you dominate a battle by limiting the number of attacks your foes can launch at you. That combined with the game’s Dress Sphere mechanics, makes X-2’s Battle System feel like an authentic evolution on the Active Time Battle and Class systems of older games in the series.
There are some minor technical oddities:
This is a great port, but it’s not without a few issues. Probably most apparent among them is the fact that both games are locked at 30 FPS. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal if you played the original games, but there are PC purists out there that need their 60 FPS. However, there have been some rumblings of modders currently working on a fix for this, but for now, you will just have to deal with it.
Like the console versions, there is some odd texturing on the CG scenes. The upgrade over to 1080p has not been kind to them, so there is some noticeable pixelation. What’s especially odd for me is that it used to be that the CG outweighed the in-game graphics, and functioned as a sort of visual reward. Now it’s the other way around, so the epic CG moments can fall a tad flat if you are a graphics fiend.
If you have to put a number on it, Final Fantasy X is a 10/10 and Final Fantasy X-2 is an 8/10. X is a near flawless JRPG experience and timeless classic in every sense of the word. Like every great idea, its design philosophies are just simplistically brilliant and exemplify the Golden Age of Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy games that have (unfortunately) seemingly passed us by.
Final Fantasy X-2 is a fundamentally sound JRPG from a game mechanics perspective, but its cheese factor and lackluster narrative pay off hold it back from being anything more than “the other one.” There are interesting ideas at work, and Square’s logic of trying to present a different look at the same world makes sense, it just doesn’t always work in its favor.
Regardless, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is worth your time and money, especially if you are a fan of the series.