There are some games that never really leave you. For many, Final Fantasy X is one of those games--it's got innovative gameplay, stellar graphics, epic story... pretty much everything you'd expect from one of the best Final Fantasy games. As the name implies, Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster is an updated edition of the RPGs Final Fantasy X and X-2. It also boasts an array of features never before seen in European and North American releases, as well the mini-movie Eternal Calm; the short, boardgame-esque Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission, and an all-new audio drama. So yeah, not a bad little package Square Enix is serving up here. Even if Remaster has some problems only nostalgia can forgive, there's plenty here to create new fans while satisfying the old.
Remaster has a lot to live up to, and it excels in some ways more than others. Case in point, the updated presentation: environments and structures look noticeably better, but characters in FFX sometimes look oddly doll-like and less expressive than their original incarnations. FFX-2 suffers less in this regard (and don't those magical girl transformations look fantastic!), but the graphical limitations of the original are still present. CGI cutscenes have seen only basic touch-ups; character motions are still occasionally jerky, and the sometimes-dubious voice performances remain largely intact. As polished as it is, Remaster sticks close to the source, blemishes and all.
And to be clear, when I say it sticks to its roots, I mean that as a compliment. Making only modest changes to the gameplay and narratives of X and X-2, Square Enix has avoided butchering a once-great experience and instead makes it feel considerably enhanced. The turn-based battles of X emphasize strategy over speed, allowing players to swap characters as needed and plot out tactics several moves ahead. Having to really plan out your moves demands a more thoughtful approach to combat, keeping the fights fresh and engaging, and it's a system that holds up beautifully. Remaster also presents a challenge for veteran players in the form of enemies like dark aeons and Penance, opponents introduced in the Japan-exclusive International edition of FFX. The refreshing sphere grid system makes a double-comeback with both standard and new expert versions to satisfy beginners and old masters alike.
FFX-2's fast-paced job-switching system, meanwhile, is an entirely different beast that caters to those uninterested in the turn-based scene. This system, which lets you change your characters’ jobs mid-fight, offers an ideal way to find your own preferred playstyle, and playing the job you like best makes the frantically exciting battles all the more satisfying. The addition of two job classes--the previously Japan-exclusive luck-leaning Festivalist and hard-hitting Psychic--further increases Remaster's value.
The one significant addition to X-2's playbook--a monster-teammate mechanic similar to the one employed in FFXIII-2--doesn’t lend much to the original dynamic, and actually seems extraneous and out-of-place. The simplified single-character gameplay of Last Mission is also hit-or-miss, and may take some getting used to for players expecting something akin to the game that inspired it. For the most part, though, Remaster approaches X and X-2 by leaving well enough alone where it needs to.
Finally, you can hardly talk about a Final Fantasy game without mentioning the story and music, and the lack of changes to those deserves a collective sigh of relief. Often regarded as one of the strongest narratives in the series, the story of X doesn't need much reworking, and there's something to be said for letting a classic speak for itself. While some changes do arise with the addition of Last Mission and the new audio segments, they are bonuses that leave the source largely untouched. Yes, the infamous laughing scene still exists, and Tidus is still fairly whiny near the story's start, but the games’ most impactful moments have also gone unchanged, which is definitely good news. Couple that with the remastered musical stylings of Nobuo Uematsu, composer of some of the series’ best music, and the experience is just as good now as it was back then.
Remaster is less about rebuilding FFX|X-2 as it is putting on a fresh coat of paint. For X, it also means the various bits of added content--much of which is seeing first release in the West--has been consolidated in one place. While the effort does stumble in a few places, with some awkward visuals and carried-over issues from the originals, the integrity of these two classics totally holds up. Remaster strikes just the right balance between modernizing a classic series for new fans and honoring the experience of old-timers.
This game was reviewed on PS3.