Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be able to lie in bed and play Final Fantasy X/X-2 on a handheld; one of the best JRPGs to have ever been created is running on my Vita. I’ll just cut right to the chase, this game is awesome, and the remastered HD visuals are stunning (for the most part) and runs at a buttery smooth rate (for the most part as well).
The story follows our charismatic young protagonist, Tidus, who can be best described as anti-Squall from Final Fantasy 8. He’s jolly, thick headed at times to the point where he is completely oblivious to the severity of his situation and I didn’t like him, at first. Tidus is a star Blitzball player (a fictional and playable sport in the game) and during one of his matches, his hometown of Zanarkand gets attacked by an unknown being called Sin. Tidus gets caught up in this attack and finds himself whisked away to the unknown land of Spira and from there the player joins him on his journey back to Zanarkand. Along the way he becomes a guardian for the summoner Yuna who is on a pilgrimage to seek the assistance of powerful creatures called Aeons (who you can summon) to defeat Sin. The story itself takes many twists and turns and while it starts off really slow, once it kicks it up a notch, you’ll find yourself engrossed in all the drama that will escalate into all manners of political, racial and religious intrigue. This is a brilliantly told story and if you can get past the initial drag, it will most likely hold your attention till the end. My main issue with the story however, was Tidus and some of the other characters.
Tidus just felt extremely idiotic throughout the early parts of the game. None of the events that transpired, from Sin’s attack to waking up in a foreign land, fazed him at all and it just feels unbelievable that any one person can be this oblivious. While I couldn’t stand him at first, he grew on me, and at the end of it all, I genuinely cared for him. He eventually matured and he turned out to be a pretty decent main character. Most of the cast is believable and competent, but I just wish some characters got more development time, such as the excellent Seymour. Other than that, I pretty much enjoyed the tale this game was telling.
For a big chunk of the main story, Final Fantasy X is a pretty linear adventure. You’ll travel from location to location on your way to get back to your hometown. This is not to say the adventure is dull and predictable, far from it. Once you gain access to an airship you’re able to travel to different locations and partake in numerous side activities ranging from Chocobo racing to Blitzball, there is a ton of things to do and see in this game – so much fun to be had.
It took some getting used to, but I eventually got into the swing of random encounters again. They are really frequent and it does take some getting used to, especially if you’ve become used to more modern RPGs. Battles are strictly turn-based and have no ATB gauge to dictate the flow of battle. Instead, turns are strictly determined by your agility stat and various other speed buffs (or debuffs), so the higher your agility, the faster your turn comes around. What I really love about the battle system is that even though there can only be three active party members on the battlefield at any time, you can swap out members on the fly and even if they land one hit, they’ll still get experience points at the end of the fight. This mechanic makes every party member feel important, which is rare in an RPG, as in most games you’ll usually find a team composition you like early on, sticking to it for the duration of the game.
Battles play out in a similar fashion to the rest of the games in the series. Choose your action, watch the animation and repeat, though it is nowhere near as simplistic as I’m making it out to be. Some people complained that the game was too easy; while it is in no way on the level of a Shin Megami Tensei game, this is no cake walk either. Bosses can easily destroy your team in a single shot, so it is important to plan ahead and devise a good strategy before heading off into the heat of battle. Each character is unique and also has their own ‘Limit Break’ type of special move called Overdrives, so it’s important to play to their strengths. For example, Yuna is a summoner and is able to call forth powerful creatures to aid her during battle. These creatures take the place of the other party members and can be powerful tools of destruction when used in a smart manner. They have their own life bar, so if they die, there is no way to revive them in battle. Even though this game came out in the early years of the PS2, the battle system is still as fun now as the day it was released.
Every Final Fantasy game had its own unique customization system. This game introduced us to the Sphere Grid. This is basically a grid representation of a skill tree. Everything is outlined on here, from abilities that you can learn to stat increases. Each node on the grid falls into one of four categories: power, mana, speed and ability. After every battle you get spheres that fall into one of those categories that you can use to fill a node on the grid, thus granting you the enhancement of that particular node. The amount of nodes you can traverse at any one time depends on your S.Level. Think of this as a normal character level that increases when you get enough experience points. You can spend whatever amount of S.Level points you have traversing the grid.
Every character uses the same grid but starts at different points, thus making character progression pretty pre-determined for about half of the game. This only applies to the standard grid though. At the start of the game however, you’re able to choose between the standard and expert grid. The expert grid (which I chose) starts every character pretty near to each other which means you can basically take any character on whatever progression path you like. In my case, Yuna, who usually specializes in white magic, had access to black magic pretty early on. Expert grids are only recommended for experienced players, but it was pretty awesome to mix and match so early on.
The soundtrack was completely remastered (only for 10, 10-2 remained unchanged) and while I do prefer some of the original tracks over the new ones, it still sounds absolutely amazing. The game’s theme song, To Zanarkand, still makes me feel things that no other modern game has come closing to doing. Every song fits the situation perfectly and it just further intensifies my adoration towards Nobuo Uematsu, the game’s composer. Playing this game again just made me fall in love with the music all over again and I instantly copied the soundtrack to my phone so that my ears may be embraced by the warmth and brilliance of these sweet melodies wherever I may go.
Even if Final Fantasy X HD Remaster was sold completely on its own, it would still worth the asking price as it is jammed packed full of great content coupled with a brilliant story and amazing gameplay. Even if you’ve played this game before, I would still highly recommend you take another trip to the world of Spira.
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Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Remaster was reviewed by Umar Bastra on a PS Vita