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Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster – Review

Wakka, Auron, Lulu, Yuna, Tidus and Khimari


When any pop cultural artefact re-emerges by way of a remake or a remastered edition, it dares to be judged in light of the prevailing trends and attitudes of the day. Critical opinions and public perceptions can soften, elevating once derided creative works, like video games to classics. Classics by their nature prevail because they had either a historical or cultural impact, sometimes it is both. But hindsight is not always positive. Nostalgia can mask flaws that were always present and a return trip can be more deflating than joyous.


The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster straddles this precarious gap. The video games here, particularly Final Fantasy X, took significant technological steps towards shaping cinematic storytelling in video games, making it an important historical document. The highly detailed CGI cut scenes and the inclusion of voice acting throughout were high points for the PlayStation 2 title. This video game is also hugely popular among fans and a much beloved episode in Square Enix’s ongoing saga of role playing adventures. So, having had little experience with either games in their original incarnations, my point of view is that of a rookie. Which is another benefit of reissues, discovery by newcomers.


The Final Fantasy X/FX-2 HD Remaster is the complete collection of this saga. It includes a short film bridging the two games together; High Definition versions of Final Fantasy X and its sequel Final Fantasy X-2; Final Fantasy X-2’s ‘The Final Mission’ and an audio drama that takes place after that mission. Square Enix have improved visual fidelity by upgrading textures and character models, improving lighting and facial animation and the result are stunning next to the PlayStation 2 version. More controversial for some gamers is the updating of the musical score, with some songs being rearranged from the original version. To a newcomer, the remaster feels like a Final Fantasy saga with modern production values, until you discover the lack of modern conveniences like skippable cutscenes. The real jewel in this crown, however, is Final Fantasy X HD and is the focus of this review.

Tidus and Lulu

Mastering Spira’s Cultural Customs

Players step into the shoes of Tidus, a cocky Blitzball player from Zanarkand, a sprawling metropolis augmented by technology. At the heart of Zanarkand lies the Blitzball stadium, a monument to the city’s technological prowess and extravagance. Large crowds flock to watch players pummel each other in underwater polo. The action takes place within a gargantuan sphere of water, held together by transparent barriers.


During a memorial match for one of Blitzball’s legends, the city is attacked by a monstrous leviathan known as Sin. While fleeing the city’s destruction, Tidus encounters the beast and is transported a thousand years into the future. When he comes to, Tidus finds himself at odds with his new timeline. He doesn’t recognise the cultural customs and most of Spira’s inhabitants live in simple, but idyllic island villages. Our hero eventually meets Yuna, a summoner in training, who tells him that Sin can be defeated through the ‘Final Summoning’, a ritual she will learn by the end of her pilgrimage. By agreeing to join and assist in Yuna’s pilgrimage, Tidus hopes that Sin’s defeat will return him back home.


As a ‘man out of time’, players will slowly master the complex cultural and religious customs of Spira. These cultural and religious norms are one of the strongest aspects of Final Fantasy X’s fiction, even if that knowledge is imparted, sometimes, through clunky exposition as dialogue. Final Fantasy X’s art direction also helps to ground the world of Spira. The blend of South East Asian cultures from Japan to Thailand, gives Spira a bright, colourful palette. A welcome change from the usually dark, Euro-gothic influence of many role-playing games.

Yuna performs the sending


Conditional Turn Based Strategy

While exploring locales and interacting with others characters are standard fare for role-playing games, it is Final Fantasy X’s combat mechanics which elevate it from the rest. For its time at least. Dubbed ‘Conditional Turn Based’ combat, the system introduces a number of elements to give players a tactically demanding spin on turn-based combat.


Depending on their stats and the actions you choose, your active party member’s turn order will change in battle. This order is indicated on the right-hand side of the screen during fights and will change dynamically as you scroll through the different actions you can take. Depending on the enemy that you’re engaging, you’ll need to plan carefully or you’ll be quickly overwhelmed.


Your fellowship of adventurers all have different combat attributes and abilities which make them more effective against certain enemies. You can swap out characters freely without using up a turn, giving players an added layer of strategy to consider. For example, while Tidus is an offensive warrior like his mentor Auron and his friend Wakka, they have combat specialisations. Auron deals more damage to armoured enemies because of his proficiency with piercing weapons and Wakka’s blitzball does a lot of damage to flying enemies. Yuna on the other hand, is the only person who can summon ‘aeons’, large monsters which fight on your behalf. These beasts and Yuna’s ability are hewn tightly to this video game’s fiction than previous Final Fantasy games and are best deployed to wear down tougher opponents.


Each party member, including aeons, can perform ‘Overdrive attacks’. These special attacks are charged based on the damage you receive from enemies. Successfully pulling off an overdrive will sometimes require button inputs to determine either the strength of the attack or its duration. Fail these inputs and you will have squandered your chance at dealing more damage to your foes. Final Fantasy X has you managing all of these different pieces in combat and despite its age, is a robust and highly enjoyable battle system for players to master.

Tidus in Battle


Final Fantasy X: The Getting of Wisdom

Other aspects of Final Fantasy X have not aged as well. In the beginning, plot points and story information are drip fed to players, making the game’s opening ten hours feel padded and clumsy. The side quests and detours feel like unnecessary distractions from an overarching narrative that is complicated enough. The most egregious of these distractions was the Blitz Ball match which felt like it may never end. Despite the deep thought that went into this mini-game, being forced to play it felt like a punishment. When Final Fantasy X returns to its core narrative, a pilgrimage of friends against the threat of obliteration, it succeeds at telling a nuanced story dealing with religious undertones that we’ve rarely seen in video games.


The dubbing of this video game is another weakness. The voice cast of Final Fantasy X features talented voice actors including Tara Strong, James Arnold Taylor and John DiMaggio. However, the direction they’ve been given is anything but subtle and feels incongruous with the remastered edition’s improved facial animation. It’s an embarrassing legacy of the sub-standard dubbing that was common practice when Final Fantasy X was released.


Despite these flaws, Final Fantasy X left a lasting impression of its technical achievements and its deep, ambitious world building. Final Fantasy X is a video game classic because the elements which don’t work are eclipsed by the elements that do. The vibrant art style, the highly enjoyable gameplay and the sublime musical score, all come together to improve on the rougher edges. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has been lovingly restored for fans, but it also offers a lot to patient newcomers.


Review score: 8.0/10


Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

Developer: Square Enix

Platform: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

Price: $49.95 (PS3), $59.95 (PS Vita).

Rated: M