Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster ($29.99) bundles the celebrated 10th installment of the main Final Fantasy series, and its sequel, into one stellar package that Square Enix fans will adore. Both role-playing games boast graphical overhauls that enhance the beauty of their worlds, and newly added features not found in the console versions. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita, but the PC version is the best way to experience these classic PlayStation 2 titles
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In Final Fantasy X, you play as Tidus, a sports star who lives in Zanarkand, a bustling metropolis. After Zanarkand is destroyed by the giant monster-whale known as Sin, Tidus and his mentor, Auron, are sucked into another world, Spira, that supposedly exists approximately 1,000 years in the future. As Tidus explores this new world, he learns of Sin's destructive nature, and that even after its death, the beast is destined to reappear 10 years later to continue its onslaught. He accompanies high-summoner Yuna and her guardians on their adventure to defeat Sin and bring peace to Spira. Final Fantasy X-2, the sequel, follows Yuna and the fallout from the previous game, but it's a calmer setting that plays out in a much different tone.
Both games' charms lie in Spira, and the immersive surroundings that the games present. The areas offer different backdrops that complement the world at large. Sin must constantly destroy, which ties into the stories' themes of death ruling over the living. The commentary on religion and relationships hit closer to reality than any other Final Fantasy game to date. It's incredibly well done.
Impactful moments are bolstered by the expressive soundtrack. Songs like "A Fleeting Dream" or "To Zanarkand" resonate the feeling of hopelessness, which is apparent in the characters at the point in which the songs play. The tracks' whimsical harmonies wonderfully capture the beauty that's undercut by tragedy. It's exciting to revisit some of these places in X-2, just to see how the environments have changed since their appearances in the original game. X-2's scenery, however, lacks X's lushness. The sequel also lacks the original game's social commentary. That doesn't mean X-2's story is terrible, but it does have a lot less to say than its predecessor.
Turn-Based Heaven, Active Time Purgatory
Final Fantasy X's battles feature classic turn-based action that's filled with random enemy encounters. You travel with a three-person party, with the option to change party members on the fly. Thankfully, you don't need to waste a turn switching them out, which is a nice touch. The order of party attacks and enemy attacks are displayed on the right side of the screen, with character and enemy speed stats dictating who moves first. Being able to see turns for your characters and enemies adds a layer of strategy to the combat, as does the vast selection of purchasable or dropped weapons, armors, and accessories that increase character stats.
In battle, your commands include the standard Attack, specific abilities in Skill and Special, and Magic. You can also use sub-commands that let characters change armor or weapons, or flee—all of which takes one turn to execute. The Overdrive meter is located below the HP/MP bar of each character. Once the meter is filled, your character is able to perform powerful attacks that require command inputs before time runs out to increase the power of the blow(s). The action is straightforward, and successfully implemeting attacks is deeply satisfying. The turn-based Final Fantasy battle formula was perfected in X, and continues its reign of supremacy in this remaster.
Characters have their own specialties, which dictate how you battle enemies, especially during the early stages of combat. Tidus is a nimble swordsman who can easily dispatch faster enemies, while Wakka uses a Blitzball, which can be used to attack flying enemies who would otherwise dodge most physical attacks. Auron can give and take lots of damage, as well as injure armored enemies with his pincer weapons. Yuna, in addition to her healing White Mage abilities, can summon Aeons (monsters that take the place of party members) to the battlefield, which can be useful for boss battles. They deal heavy damage, especially when their Overdrive attacks come into play. As the game progresses, you're able to increase the stats of specific Aeons as well.
Final Fantasy X-2, on the other hand, takes a much more free-form style of battle. Combat is no longer turn-based, and you only have three characters to control: Yuna, Rikku, and the new addition, Paine. Instead, X-2 features Final Fantasy's famed Active Time Battle system, with gauges for each character dictating when and when they can't attack. The result is faster-paced action than what you'll find in X, but it leaves you less time to strategize before making your move. A few tweaks to the system include attack chaining, which lets your characters hit targets multiple times for more damage, or follow up an attack made by another character. Active Time Battle exchanges strategy for more streamlined action that only results in button mashing the attack command to speed through mundane skirmishes. Even customization is streamlined, as you only have the option to equip accessories.
Sphere Grid vs. Garment Grid
Final Fantasy X features one of the franchise's best leveling systems: Sphere Grid. It's a multi-branching grid with seven designs specific to each character. Each grid is filled with nodes that are activated with spheres, and are used to level up character stats and unlock new abilities. Red Spheres are Ability, Speed, Mana, and Power, which dominates most of the grid node. These nodes activate stat increases in Skill, Agility, Magic Power, Strength, and other abilities. Purple Spheres, representing Health Points, Magic Points, and Strength, are used to fill empty nodes and exponentially increase those respective stats. Yellow Spheres can reactivate a previously used Ability node for other characters, and Light Blue Spheres teleport characters from one location on the grid to another. These can lend an extra bump in stats and abilities characters normally wouldn't receive, even after completing every grid in the game.
Character-specific sections of the Sphere Grid merge into each other at certain points, which lets you take characters to other grids to activate their Red Spheres. The character-specific sections of the grid are separated by locked nodes that are opened at the appropriate Key Sphere. Every Sphere Grid node is made accessible to all characters, which makes for fun customizations. If the low physical damaging Rikku is taken down Auron's grid, she can hit like a truck. If Auron is taken to Lulu's he can now increase his low Magic stats and learn spells. Not only is customization entertaining, it also opens up new ways of strategy to offshoot character weaknesses, and double down on useful abilities, such as Haste, that can only be learned on a specific grid.
Final Fantasy X-2's leveling system is more traditional, and as a result, much more constricting. Dresspheres are used as job systems, with character's base stats being based solely on which job the character has used to level up. The number of jobs range far and wide from the default set of Gunner, Thief, and Warrior, which Yuna, Rikku, and Paine start out with, which are all interchangeable. Examples include Samurai, which is primarily used to dispatch a large number of enemies, and Dark Knight, which grants immense Strength and Health Points, but lacks Agility. These jobs can be changed on the fly mid-battle by using the Garment Grid—X-2's answer to the Sphere Grid. A few Dresspheres can be placed on the grid at a time for use in battle, with different grids having a passive abilities like Cure or Life. It makes the forced job system a bit more versatile than in earlier Final Fantasy games, but is still very confining coming off the freedom of the Sphere Grid.
New Features and Graphical Settings
This HD Remaster incorporates the International version's Expert Mode, which features a slightly altered Sphere Grid that starts your characters off in a different design than the standard Grid. It lets you move characters wherever you want, without adhering to staying in a character's specific path. This lets you mold characters' stats to your liking earlier in the game than you could in the original North American release.
The remaster also adds a few new features. For instance, you are now able to switch between the original soundtrack and the arranged soundtrack at any point during the game. You can also press the ESC key to access a number of gameplay modifications, such as Turbo, Supercharge, Enemy Encounter Override, and Auto Battle. These multiply game speed two to four times faster, replenish health and Overdrive meters, increase/decrease enemy encounters, or let characters attack on their own, respectively. There's even an option to remove the HUD. These are especially useful during post-game quests and level grinding. However, these cheat options are available at the very start of the game.
The graphical enhancements are instantly noticeable. Cut scenes boast greater facial animation, and pixelation is now virtually non-existent. In fact, the graphics are so lovely that it's sometimes hard to believe these are decade old titles. The games still only moves at 30 frames per second, but a 60 frame mod is fast approaching.
An Nvidia Geforce GTX 450 GPU is recommended to play these games. I played on a GTX 960 and the game ran very smoothly. I also didn't run into any glitches or bugs in my play through. There are also graphical options for texture quality, ambient occlusion, and screen resolution.
The only thing that bothers me is the exclusion of skippable cut scenes in Final Fantasy X. Cutscenes run long in any polygonal Final Fantasy title, and both games don't falter in that regard. It'd be nice to skip them, especially if you're consistently dying on a boss battle that has a lengthy scene beforehand.
A Well-Packaged Port
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is the best way to play both games. The new additions added in this PC port are hopefully the start of a trend in all Final Fantasy ports to come. It is also a well-packaged product, with well over 100 hours of content. Even though the sequel doesn't hold up to its predecessor, this bundle is an amazing package that continues the story of an amazing world.