Review: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS3/PSV)

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Title: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (22.9 GB)
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix, Virtuous Ltd.
Original MSRP: $39.99 (PS3) / $39.99 (PSV) *This is NOT a Cross-Buy title.
ESRB Rating: T
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is also scheduled to be available on PlayStation 4 in 2015.
The PlayStation 3 disc and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
Copies of these games were purchased by the reviewer and PS Nation.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2014:
– Best Role Playing Game (PS Vita)

Final Fantasy X (FFX) was released on PlayStation 2 a week before Christmas in 2001 just three months after 9/11 and did we need the escape! Its sister game sequel Final Fantasy X-2 (FFX-2) came out a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving two years later in 2003. It’s surprising how well these games hold up. For one thing, it was a time before always online consoles spoiled game developers by allowing the now ubiquitous day one patch. There is no patch. “We don’t need no stinking PATCHES!”

The PS3 menu includes five choices: Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X Eternal Calm, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy X-2 Last Mission, Credits and Bonus Audio. The Vita comes only with each main game, the Credits and Bonus Audio. It is highly recommended, if you haven’t played these games before, that you only choose the games in order including Credits and Bonus Audio in order to escape any spoilers!

Listen to my story. This may be our last chance.

Gameplay (Final Fantasy X):
Right away the game starts with the character Tidus on some type of ship and he’s going somewhere… but when you take control of him how to make this happen is utterly unclear. Run through the well-wishing friends? Um, no. Run around the ship? Nope. Wait. Am I leaving or am I arriving? HUH… I am stuck already. Now, that’s not good!

There are no icons to tell you but just go up to your well-wishers and randomly hit the X button. You’ll be asked for your autograph so you can put your OWN name into the game as Tidus, you egomaniac, you. Which I totally did.

FFX/X-2.1

Apparently I am good at some sport requiring a lumpy Soccer ball. I speak to everyone gathered, some do not have audio, others do, and still others trigger a short cut-scene. I am a “blitzer”.

FFX/X-2.2

So that is the first part of the game. Talk to everyone. Then the game moves on… and I cannot stress enough how we have been spoiled as gamers in subsequent games which put indicators above every item or person with whom or with which we may interact. Sometimes they even pulse or glow as if to say, “Look, dummy!”. That doesn’t happen here at all. Players need to explore visually and with frequent X-buttoning. I just coined a phrase. It’s a thing now. Pass it down.

Whenever a player gets to a new location it’s crucial and necessary to explore as much as possible in order to progress. Talk to ALL Non-Playable Characters (NPCs), to get information including what to do next. If the player tries to just power through they’ll fail and end-up spinning in circles. Chase those stiff-walking non-people down if you have to. From here the gaming and controls begin to make sense.

FFX/X-2.3

The FFX game menu has three choices: New Game, Load, Data Transfer. Data transfer is for moving your save between your PS3 and PS Vita. Cross-Save but not Cross-Buy.

Be forewarned… man, there are a ton of loading screens. They don’t take long but they are everywhere. “Wait, what did I see back there?” Ugh… best just follow the map’s indications and go forward.

The camera is fixed. There are times it would be nice to get your bearings by looking around but the map is all the player has to orient his or herself.

When choosing New Game, the Character Advancement System Selection shows two choices. Standard Sphere Grid or Expert Sphere Grid and one cannot switch in-game.

The Sphere Grid is the upgrade menu for your character. In later games they became crystals. You have various nodes which you may activate to increase defense, attack, magic etc. The sphere screen works a bit like a board game. Your sphere level determines how many steps you may take and those levels are gained by participating in battles. In short, kick butt to level up. This is originally a PlayStation 2 game so don’t expect surprises as far as these things go. The story contains the surprises and in FFX that is plenty.

The sphere tutorial makes it clear that if you want to level you have to fight for it. Or maybe do something else, but mostly fight… mostly. Anyway, a team of rule-making node-junkies stayed up night after night eating raw, living octopus and pepperoni pizza to invent this circuitous circus of node-skipping, sometime-battle-winning level advancement. So just click stuff. You’ll get there.

NOPE! You MOVED! Gimme YER lunch money, noob!

Be careful though because even choosing to move to a useless sphere will cost Sphere Level Points regardless of whether there is anything to use for an upgrade OR NOT. Which seems counter intuitive and like something a schoolyard bully would do.

Still the whole node thing in the whole sphere thing is more intuitive than the instructions would lead one to believe. The tutorial is akin to teaching someone to breathe including how alveolar ducts work. How about “Suffocating? Suck air!” But again I must stress that quite a lot of these type of instructions have advanced since this game was released. RPG players, particularly Final Fantasy aficionados, are quicker on the up-take now than during the PS2 era.

Note to PS3/Vita Cross-Savers: Make sure you get through these tutorials on PS3 at home if you can. Wasting time in-transit with this would make me homicidal.

Like many RPGs of the time the player will be ambling along and find themselves thrown into a random battle encounter. You can’t see it coming so don’t look.

FFX/X-2.4FFX/X-2.5

I am certain there are far more knowledgeable gaming historians than I who can pinpoint where in the evolution of RPGs this started to evolve into what is more currently a kind of foresight of battles to either engage or avoid. Just know that during Final Fantasy X and X-2 the story is punctuated with many frequent battle surprises.

The frequent battles are not simply a means of upgrading your characters and interrupting the story but are indeed the meat of the game! Battles are what we are here for. That and the enjoyment of carefully determining which attributes to upgrade for what characters in order to create the bad ass-est group of fighters this side of Mt. Fuji.

Sure, it’s fiddly. It’s supposed to be. As an old band director once said to me, “If you don’t like fiddlin’, stay out of the orchestra.” That’s why Glenn Percival plays driving games and first person shooters and there is nothing wrong with that! I hate Farming Simulator. POWER TO THE GAMERS!

Vita Observations:
In order to move a PS3 save to the cloud for use on the Vita one MUST quit the game, go back into the game and choose DATA TRANSFER in the main game menu. Clumsy in the extreme!

The one issue with playing games on-the-go is saving. Any game which demands the Vita player use pre-determined, in-game save stations limits its usefulness for commuters on public transports. Needing to get off a train in the middle of a boss fight presents a lot of problems.

Case in point: I get into a village, I NEED A SAVE STATION LIKE I NEED A URINAL WITH A FULL BLADDER AND… NOTHING. Also an NPC refuses to let me leave the village to get to the last save ORB… so now what. If I quit I have to replay the last two hours?! Oh wait… it’s hidden in a tent. Very cute.

Anybody remember the film The Great Santini?

Another odd thing particular to the PS3 version: To begin the game you have to ride out the whole opening cinematic and credits and then JUMP into the menu when it appears before the cinematic starts over or you have to wait. It cannot be skipped! But on the Vita you can skip out of this with the Start button. For Final Fantasy X-2 this is not an issue. You can skip to the menu with a tap of the start button on both systems.

The game has a deep and rich story. A back story of father/son friction and so much more. Final Fantasy games tend to all have some tragedy at their core and FFX seems particularly family-centric. This is the type of conflict which resonates with gamers and cries-out for resolution adds fuel to the fire of gameplay. Anybody remember the film The Great Santini? It’s exactly like that but completely different.

Gameplay (Final Fantasy X-2):
FFX-2 has a different loading screen animation. Instead of the twirling symbol from FFX it features a bird in flight. Depending on how you watch the bird it’s either flying toward you or away from you! Pretty cool.

Britney Spears?! No! It’s Rikku! The opening of Final Fantasy X-2 is a pre-rendered musical number with Yuna singing in a packed stadium and scantily clad male back-up dancers. The animation must have been motion captured because it is too well-done and well-choreographed to have simply been animated by an artist. Unless the artist was Usher.

FFX/X-2.6

Next the game goes in-engine with Yuna challenging two other female characters to a kind of dance-off. What is happening?! Did that “Leave Britney ALONE!!!” guy have anything to do with this?! Personally I would have preferred something more like Prodigy or Nine Inch Nails or even The Smiths. Even George Takei would have to give this opening an “Oh, MY!” But it’s just the opening of the game, right? It only sets the tone.

Well, the dance-off is actually the first battle of the game. The player controls the girls who have been causing trouble in the stands against Yuna, who the game calls “????” in battle, and two goons. The battle system seems more frenetic than in FFX. Here you can stack the attacks of different allies. The play is still turn-based but the pace is quicker.

I can see how the developers were moving toward the Final Fantasy XII battle system with its pre-programmed if/then/else dynamic.

Let me wade into this carefully. This is really fun! And it’s very much been built with the developer’s ideas of what girl gamers want. Like, really girlie-girl, Barbie-loving, Hello Kitty-collecting, My-Little-Pony-No-Bronies-Allowed, Dance Dance Central, Karaoke-Sing-Star-Adoring, twelve-year-old girl gamers. The upgrade system is all about outfits. The Garment Grid.

FFX/X-2.7

On the other hand, the character of Leblanc is a suggestively clad, tall, hot, blond woman. There is so much psychology going on here!

CREATURE CREATOR: Capture fiends and train them as allies using the “fiend trap pods” invented by the oddly Borderlands-like clad boy-scientist Shinra. The more you trap the more information you gather as well.

The gathering, training and use of these creatures gets a little complicated in the instructing but it’s easier in practice much like most of this gameplay.

OK! This is all getting very Japanese. I understand now. Modern Japanese culture, about which I am no scholar, includes a Yin/Yang structure. The daily professional grind is ultra formal. Therefore during free-time ultra-formal gives way to an almost anything goes mentality. Hence vending machines which dispense used female undergarments. It is therefore unsurprising that a touch of that has leaked into this Final Fantasy game.

Learn the language Al Bhed! That’s an important side quest. Get to diggin’!

I think the developers decided they wanted to go in a different direction.

Of course all this talk is really about divergent gameplay between the two and nothing more. Gamers want games after all and Final Fantasy X-2 is a hoot whether divergent or not. But if, say, Mass Effect did something this different heads would roll!

The same rule of talking to NPCs goes in this game as well. Shinra on the Gullwing ship is a font of info including how some new game mechanics work. So dig into chatting-up everyone.

You will come to understand very quickly how FFX-2 is the sister game of FFX even with its various differences. Final Fantasy games are all of an ilk and changing-up gameplay is also part and parcel of how Square Enix keeps this franchise vibrant and interesting.

Visuals:
The opening cinematic for FFX with credits encompasses some of the most beautiful graphics I have ever seen on the PS3. There’s amazing clarity here. It is instantly apparent this is no simple up-res job, that care was taken. The same can be said for FFX-2. The games are gorgeous.

Audio:
I am instantly charmed by the musical score as soon as the games load. I almost feel like all Final Fantasy games have magical music which hypnotizes one into a state of euphoria. Like meth but you get to keep your teeth and your children.

The score for FFX by Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano is great. It includes terrific uses of vocal performance as well as percussion and what seems like a full orchestra.

FFX-2 was composed by Noriko Matsueda and Takahito Eguchi. Additionally Koda Kumi provided the song ‘Real Emotion/1000 No Kotoba’.

The ambient sounds may make you think a bird got into your house. It’s terrific.

The actor voicing Wakka is perfect. He does a kind of hybrid Hawaiian/Nuyorican accent and puts real feeling into the role. His name is John DiMaggio and he also voices Bender on Futurama. He is neither Hawaiian nor Nuyorican but he does hail from New Jersey just like Josh Langford who voices Josh Langford on the PS Nation podcast and the voice of “Wrath” near the Ms. Pac-Man game at Barcade in Jersey City. Editor’s Note: LOL

FFX/X-2.8

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
I wish the game came with behind-the-scenes interviews and footage of how this was all achieved. It may be, in part, that Square Enix didn’t feel comfortable crowing too loudly about the accomplishments of a studio apart from their own. That studio, Virtuos Ltd., did the remaster for both games on the PS3 and PS Vita. They are a Chinese game development company and a provider of digital entertainment production services for the game and movie industries that was founded in 2004. Virtuos has development centers in Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi’an, China, and in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and offices in Paris, Vancouver and Tokyo. The company is best known for working with 2K Games to port several 2K sports games such as MLB 2K and NBA 2K to the PlayStation Portable and smartphones and they’ve done an amazing job here.

Gaming has become saturated with first person shooters to the degree that they are de rigueur. It’s refreshing to experience gameplay predicated upon strategy and not twitchy reflexes. Sure, there are still great puzzle games and even newer Final Fantasy games, but even gaming’s more recent lauded titles like The Last of Us are basically shooters. Destiny, which I enjoy, is a shooter. But gamers do not live on shooters alone.

These two games are fantastic. There may be some little issues with how-to’s like the Cross-Save business but as a gamer who loves Final Fantasy RPGs in particular, owning and playing Final Fantasy X/X-2 is a no-brainer.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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