The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has finally arrived, giving a classic Japanese role-playing game favorite a shiny new coat of paint as well as a ton of extras not present in the originals. We checked out the PlayStation Vita version to see what it was like to play a beefy PlayStation 2 classics in the palms of our hands.
Final Fantasy X is remembered as one of the most romantic installments of the Final Fantasy series, with the love between protagonists Tidus and Yuna being celebrated across many different mediums and across a few different games. But before we even get to the romance, we have to remember that this is a story about a young summoner and her duty to save the world of Spira from a cycle of destruction at the hands of a beast named Sin. With her on this quest is Tidus, our gutsy Blitzball star and narrator, an old badass named Auron, a young Al Bhed girl named Rikku, a feline-like humanoid named Kimahri, a Hawaiian-esque Bliztball player named Wakka and Lulu, a gloomy-looking guardian who excels at using black magic.
This ragtag crew of misfits travel the world of Spira in search of the means to help Yuna defeat Sin and protect its people from attacks. In order to accomplish this, they must gather Aeons, which are powerful spirits imbued with elemental gifts. As a summoner, Yuna can call upon them to aid her in battle. By obtaining the Final Aeon, they’ll be able to defeat Sin and bring peace to Spira.
Final Fantasy X is 13 years old and it definitely shows in a few places. Everything from the menus, the inability to skip long cutscenes and the Japanese humor depicted in certain scenes and jokes (who could forget the infamous laughing scenes?), feels kind of dated. Fortunately, it’s kind of what adds to Final Fantasy X HD Remaster’s charm. The old-school feel meets updated graphics and a host of new features that take advantage of the PlayStation Vita’s hardware, albeit in subtle ways. One really useful addition is the ability to swipe your finger to the right on the touchscreen to bring up a Quick Heal menu. You’ll be able to use Skills or Items to quickly heal yourself after a particularly trying battle, which is useful because the random encounter rate can get a little taxing.
For those who haven’t been bathed in the fires of JRPGs from the PlayStation 2 era and backwards, the random encounters in the games helped toughen you up and put your survival skills to the test. They also happened every few steps or so, making it an ordeal to get from one area to the next, so inexperienced players might find it difficult or annoying to progress. One feature they should have added is the option to skip especially long cutscenes. While it’s great that they’ve made Final Fantasy X portable, sometimes I just want to get back to tooling around with the Sphere Grid instead of hearing Tidus talk or awkwardly laugh. To its credit, the remastered sound in the game is wonderful, but it’s just a little annoying to have to wait through a mini-movie while one is trying to play on-the-go. Part of the novelty of having a PlayStation 2 game on the Vita is that you can take it around with you, so a bit of expedience in this large RPG would have gone a long way. Though the fact that load times are virtually non-existent is nice.
The very first thing you’ll notice is that the game is gorgeous. Whether or not this fact is enhanced by the Vita’s smaller screen is irrelevant, because there has been a lot of work done on textures in the backgrounds and some of the facial features on the characters, making them a lot more expressive. You’ll marvel at how much more beautiful and alive Zanarkand looks and how you can spot the bags under the eyes of a very tired Tidus. Although the graphics have been much improved, don’t expect to see amazing textures across the board. Some parts of the environments still look polygonal and blocky, but you can sort of forgive that in a 13-year-old game in which the graphics have been considerably improved. And on the Vita’s small, yet attractive OLED screen, you’ll have difficulty spotting such imperfections unless you really seek them out.
Gameplay, for the most part, has remained unchanged. The biggest addition is the host of features from the Final Fantasy X International version, which adds the Expert Sphere Grid (for you masochists), difficult bonus bosses like the Dark Aeons and Penance and the “Eternal Calm” prologue that takes place before the sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. There is a ton of new content for both fans new and old to appreciate, so you’ll definitely getting your money’s worth. Again, one of the only humps you’ll have to get over is how dated some of the mechanics feel in Final Fantasy X, such as the seemingly punishing encounter rate and the fact that you can’t skip nigh-endless cutscenes. With that said, the cutscenes are still a pleasure to behold, even if some of the instances of voice acting are like knives to the ears (although Tara Strong is always lovely to hear).
Another hurdle to get over, besides the pacing for some people, is the turn-based battle system. Newer JRPGs have embraced a more dynamic, fluid generation of battle systems. For example, just check out the many versions of the Tales series’ Linear Motion Battle System, or LMBS. That’s not the case with Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, which used the Conditional Turn-Based Battle System, a departure from the series’ tried-and-true Active Time Battle System. This means that any number of conditions and stat changes can change the order of battle, though everything is still turn-based. This means you can strategize all of your moves and act tactically. It might be slower, but it’s plenty satisfying to plan out and attack pattern and execute it. You almost feel as if you’ve earned that victory fanfare.
Final Fantasy X HD Remaster might not be for everyone, but for fans of JRPGs, both old and new, it’s a much-needed addition to the collection. There’s also a Cross-Save feature so that you can pick up your adventure on the PlayStation 3 or the Vita. With so much new content in both Final Fantasy X HD Remaster and Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster, you won’t run out of things to do. Hell, just tooling around with the Expert Sphere Grid is like a game unto itself! So drop whatever newfangled RPG you’re playing and grab this classic, because it’s been given new life and you need to experience it. Also, listening to “Suteki Da Ne,” “To Zanarkand” and the rest of the game’s excellent rearranged background songs is sure to flood you over with a wave of wonderful feels. And that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Update: [ Ed's note: Originally this review did not include impressions of Final Fantasy X-2 HD, as it was not available for play prior to embargo. The review has been updated to include those impressions.]
I’m glad to say that, while FFX-2 wasn’t my favorite Final Fantasy (mainly due to the goofy, Charlie’s Angels-like nature of the story and presentation, as well as the near-pandering nature of the Dresspheres), the game’s quality has held up and the graphics are as beautiful as ever. Load times, while still present, are not as agonizing and the audio is still pretty good, whether we’re talking about the voice-acting or the soundtrack.
Since this version is the International version that was previously unreleased in North America, it features the Psychic and Festivalist Dresspheres, the Creature Creator and Fiend Arena and the Last Mission epilogue. The extra content does a lot to add to the game’s fun factor and even provides a fun distraction or two from the main story. The combination of both revamped version of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 make this two-pack and incredibly easy package to recommend to both veteran fans of RPGs and the Final Fantasy series as well as newcomers to the genre. There’s just so much content available for both that you’re getting more than you’re paying for, many times over. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Zanarkand.
This review is based on a copy of Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster provided by the publisher for review for the PlayStation Vita.