My history with Final Fantasy X, and by association Final Fantasy X-2, is one that stretches all the way back to my high school days. Having a friend utterly obsessed with the duo of games, it was hard for me to avoid hearing about the ins and outs of what many consider to be the greatest Final Fantasy title ever released…and it’s less-than-great sequel.
I once tried my hand at Final Fantasy X but, thanks to my borderline-ADD, I couldn’t find it in myself to properly appreciate what it had to offer. Years later, Square Enix decides that it is time to bring the pair of games into the new year and they release the HD Remaster of both on the PlayStation 4.
I decide that it’s time for me to have one last crack at them before I close the book for good. I feel as though I owe it to my friend, and all lovers of both FF X and FF X-2, to properly immerse myself in the story that has stayed in the hearts and minds of those who’ve played it so long after it’s initial release.
Both X and X-2 revolve mostly around a young man named Tidus. While X-2 doesn’t actually feature Tidus as a main character, nor even as a side character, he is present in spirit and as a memory that forces the game’s protagonist, Yuna, to actually continue journeying the land of Spira. I consider this to be quite a powerful presence, despite his lack of appearance. X takes place in a time of great conflict: Sin, a malevolent being of pure corruption, has once again been reborn forcing summoners from around Spira to pick up arms with their guardians and send Sin back to the hell it dared emerge from.
Tidus, Yuna, and their motley crew are the ones we follow as they develop not only their friendship but their skills as fighters and defenders of Spira. X plays host to one heck of a hard-hitting story that truly does tug on the heart strings so long as you allow yourself to open up to it. Over time, these characters grow not only in their own right but in a way that almost forces you to love them. While Tidus mostly sounds like a small child prone to tantrums, even he as the main character eventually gives you a reason to like him as much as the rest.
Backing up the wonderfully complex characters is the actual story itself which is rich with raw emotion as well as some serious true-to-life themes like coming to terms with death and discovering the truth behind your family, friends and, in fact, the greater world itself. The story eventually leads to a place wherein which the concept of ones own sacrifice for the greater good is so predominant and almost critically necessary; a place not many titles can tastefully pull off.
X-2 makes a sizable departure from it’s predecessor: Not only is Tidus no longer the main character but, in fact, the entire vibe of the story changes to suit more of a positive audience. The story now follows Yuna and her new crew of Sphere Hunters as they travel a somewhat peaceful Spira in search of, well…Spheres. Yuna, being Tidus’ eventual lover, is plagued by memories of her beloved, and travels with the Gullwings in the hopes that these Spheres will one day lead her to him.
While no where near as emotional as X, X-2 did feature some fairly serious story developments and scenes, but overall it seemed like a game dedicated to fun for the player rather than the welling up of visceral emotion, which X did flawlessly. X-2 begins its story in quite a strange (when comparing it to X) and entertaining way, and makes sure to keep that style of storytelling coming throughout the whole game. It’s a lot simpler than X but I’m not sure that means it is any worse.
Gameplay-wise, both X and X-2 seem pretty simple on the surface but quickly prove that there’s much more than what meets the eye. X plays like your standard Final Fantasy title by employing turn-based mechanics, whereas X-2 tries it’s hand at a more fast-paced gameplay style that forces players to act quick and think quicker. Both games are fun to play, though X’s learning curve is nowhere near as steep as X-2’s which doesn’t even provide you with a tutorial.
Every good RPG has to have an understandable yet complex levelling system and that’s exactly what you’ll get in Final Fantasy X. X-2 relies on a more traditional levelling up system paired with costume and accessory changes, whereas X introduces the RPG-playing world to a more engaging system that allows you to closely monitor and tweak the progress of your characters. It’s called the Sphere Grid and it basically turns levelling up into an odd but enjoyable board game that keeps you moving across points as you boost the battle statistics of your characters. Highly engaging, to say the very least.
When I first started playing Final Fantasy X I was a little annoyed at the lack of camera control that the game featured. Soon into the game I came to realise that this was not a mistake, the inability to control camera movement essentially forces you, the player, into properly appreciating the grand environments of Spira. Finishing X and beginning X-2, I was quickly made aware that this is the case for both titles.
While character models lacked polish and mouth movements barely paired up with actual dialogue, I still found myself enjoying these refurbished visuals and it was thanks to the overwhelming beauty of the envirnoments. The dynamic camera being so predominant in these two titles sometimes made for awkward battles due to unnecessary positioning, but it was in the overworld that it truly made an impact.
Despite how good these two games look in comparison to their original releases, it is still very much obvious that they’re dated. This you can never truly wipe from your mind. The trick to properly enjoying the visuals is it remember that these are not remade games, they’re remastered. It’s simple but, trust me, it’s very much a necessity.
Also heavily remastered is not just that of the visuals but that of the soundtrack for Final Fantasy X. While X-2 retains the same soundtrack from the original game, X gives players the option to journey through Spira backed up by the original soundtrack or the new edition which brings an even greater essence of life to the already very much alive Final Fantasy title. X features a fantasy-heavy soundtrack that plays host to a great deal of orchestral compositions that go from booming and dangerous to peaceful and ethereal.
Being a Final Fantasy title it only makes sense that the music within it would be very much inspired by fantasy productions that have come before it. Despite the game having an obvious feel of “new and old” with the mix between mystical creatures and devastating machinery, the music very much sticks to the classic genre which still fits the game perfectly. X-2 takes the more contemporary route and instead features a pop-heavy soundtrack that does wonders when it comes to motivating you, the player, into doing your very best. Not only does the soundtrack give the game a lighter, more easy-going feel, but it also sets a very serious tone when it needs to. It plays jump rope with a few modern day genres which is perfectly fine seeing as the vibe of Final Fantasy X-2, when you think about the battle system alone, is all about continuous movement and change.
The one thing I wasn’t a fan of when it comes to the auditory side of these two games is that of the English voice cast. To be brutally blunt…it was terrible. The only stand-out voice actor was John DiMaggio who provided the voice for Wakka, but apart from Mr. DiMaggio…there really weren’t any others who did their characters justice. Still, they were all very much likeable, but there were some fairly serious scenes that fell flat thanks to the child-like voice acting that these performers provided. I hate being so overtly critical because I know these voice actors and actresses from other productions and they do wonderfully, which makes me question why they couldn’t have done the same for these games. It’s simply a tough pill to swallow.
Fact is, at the end of it all; these games are still fantastic! It became somewhat of a slog for me to get through these two titles only because I’m just not used to such long games. While X-2 is a great deal shorter than X, the two games together provide enough gameplay time to last you a while, and saying that is quite the understatement. Those of you who originally played the game will immediately find the same love for it that you had way back when you first played it. For those of you, like me, who’ve never quite experienced this game before, it is one that will still captivate you despite the lack of nostalgic value which we all know to be one of the most powerful emotions a human can produce.
While, for the modern day, it does lack certain things like next generation graphics and what not, it’s still very much enjoyable so long as you remember exactly what this new release is. If you go into it with the mind that this will look as good as a new PlayStation 4 title, you will be very much disappointed and it will, in all honesty, be your own fault. There are indeed certain aspects of these two games that I didn’t enjoy and that I assume some other will also not enjoy…thankfully they are small and can easily be looked over.
While I’ld love for Square Enix to be working on other projects like a full Final Fantasy VII remake or a brand-new title all together, it was made obvious to me through this pair of games that they are a necessity for the new age of RPG gamers to experience. There’s a reason why Final Fantasy X and, to a lesser extent, Final Fantasy X-2 are still loved so dearly by those who played it all that time ago. It’s now up to you to experience it.
You can purchase Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster for the PlayStation 4 at any good video game retailer now.