By Matt Gosper
Final Fantasy X, being the first Final Fantasy title on the PS2, was a big step forward for my RPG consumption as a kid. The game introduced a whole new tier of detail to its smooth-faced, androgynously pretty protagonists as well as the long-anticipated addition of voice acting. This was one of the first games that I played that took on voice acting on such a large scale, a milestone in the evolution of the series. On top of this, Final Fantasy X-2 was the first true sequel in the flagship series’ history, another milestone moment. Whislt this did unfortunately set the precedent for games like Lightning Returns to exist, X-2 itself was a fun, more lighthearted take on a story set AFTER the world’s great catastrophe was resolved. Given the historic nature of both these games, Square Enix felt it was a great time for us to revisit them both in Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster.
As is the common connection with all of these HD-remastered games, FFX|X-2 gives both games a graphical facelift. NPCs, textures and background elements have been ramped up in quality and detail, and key characters and 3D models have been an increase in polygon count and overall increase in detail. Party members’ face models in particular have been improved to better express emotional depth for the games’ numerous cutscenes. The effect brings Yuna, Tidus and co. much closer to their appearances in the games’ CG movies, which is a welcome touch. Sounds quality has also been given a fresh coat of audial paint, with surround sound and remastered voicework to bring them closer to the quality seen in modern games.
In addition, the remasters are based on the games’ International editions – in the case of Final Fantasy X this means very little difference for Australian players, as this was the version of the game released here originally. X-2’s International version is new to our region however, and adds extra dresspheres (or job classes) and the Creature Creator metagame. The latter allows players to recruit select NPCs and monsters to fight alongside their party, adding an extra dimension to the sequel’s fast-paced combat system. On top of all this the game also features Final Fantasy X's "Eternal Calm” (a cinematic cutscene that bridges the gap between the two games) and Final Fantasy X-2's "Last Mission” (an extra dungeon set after the main story, with unique gameplay mechanics) and an audio drama set after the events of X-2 that expands on the ongoing story of the world of Spira.
Available across both PS3 and Vita, the games also feature cross-save functionality, but not cross-buy. Saves for both games can be uploaded to the cloud and synced between the two platforms. This process is manual, just as it should be – leaving you the option to choose when and which files you wish to transfer. Unfortunately, beyond this the system is largely automated. Once you specify a save file to sync, it will automatically update to the version of that file with the longest playtime. If you’re attempting to revert to an earlier save version after making a poor choice, for instance, the system will work against you. Nevertheless, the ability to shift between the TV and a portable handheld in the space of less than a minute is an excellent inclusion.
The transition to HD is not without its flaws. Certain issues carry over from the original games, such as clothing clipping through character models and slight mismatch when two characters are trying to interact with each other. Blitzball continues to be confusing, awkward and largely ridiculous. The more detailed face models bring the scenes to life much more effectively, but are occasionally negated by jarring character animations. The most obvious of these is the lack of a ‘transition’ animation between standing still and walking and running animations, meaning you’ll often see Tidus pivot on the spot and suddenly burst into a run during cutscenes. Whilst these are not deal breakers for the game as a whole, they do somewhat break the illusion cast by the game’s refined look.
All in all, these games are a win for the HD-ified games pile. Even more than a decade after their intial releases, these games are well worth your time – it’s telling that in the process of writing this review, I actually stopped twice to play more FFX. The storyline and battle systems are as enjoyable as ever, and will help a fresh generation to experience classic Final Fantasy alongside those of us reminiscing. The ability to take the games on the go also gives a whole new approach to a classic living-room epic (not to mention adding a much-needed game to the Vita’s library). Pick your platform and give it a shot!