Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed) | PS3
Reviewer’s note: This is a review of Final Fantasy X HD, which will be released in a collection with Final Fantasy X-2 HD. As I received this game first, I’ll bring you a separate review of FFX-2 soon.
Has it really been thirteen years since Final Fantasy X on the PS2? The biggest name in RPGs hasn’t had a great time with the PS3, as the XIII trilogy consistently misfired and many of us are still clinging to the hope of a remake for VII. So, a HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and X-2 didn’t exactly strike me as much to celebrate, despite enjoying the first game all those years ago.
I was wrong though. Dead wrong. Final Fantasy X is arguably better than ever and an essential purchase for anyone pining for the good old days of Square Soft-developed RPGs. If Final Fantasy is to have a bright future, the developers need to look back at games like this to understand why the series went global post FFVII in the first place.
Final Fantasy X is a traditional turn-based RPG experience that turned heads all those years ago for its excellent combat, in-depth levelling system and the debut of voiced characters in the series. This was an incredible-looking title in 2001 and the Vita version looks fantastic today. Characters are more detailed and environmental textures now sport rich detail compared to the blurry scenes of the original.
The locations are a perfect match for the Vita’s bright OLED screen. The first half of the game takes part almost exclusively in gorgeous sun-kissed locations with the bluest skies I’ve ever seen in gaming. Frankly, it leaves this year’s Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII for dead. If I had to pick on something, some of the hair (Tidus’ especially) has a few texture ‘jaggies.’ Never mind though, do you remember those shiny FMV CGI sequences from the original? They’ve been polished to jaw-dropping proportions on the Vita.
The game’s story has held up exceptionally well and the voiceover work really allows you to invest in the characters. Enough time has passed since I played the original for a few scenes to surprise me all over again too.
The adventure sees Tidus, a celebrity Blitzball player thrown 1000 years into the future when his homeland of Zanarkand is destroyed by a huge creature known as Sin. This creature still exists all those years later and regularly destroys any community in its path. Serendipity sees him washed ashore on an island just in time to join Yuna and her Guardians before they depart on a pilgrimage to learn the skills to defeat Sin and save the world of Spira. The party grows from there to form a mixed bag of conflicting personalities, allowing the story to excel in both light-hearted and darker moments.
When it comes to combat, you field three members of your party at once, but you’re able to swap characters in and out at will to take full advantage of everyone’s skills. Plus it allows you to level up everyone together as anyone that has a turn takes an equal share of the spoils. This system was a revelation back in 2001 and still feels like one today.
The turn-based battles see you dish out a large array of attacks and spells. Melee, ranged, piercing, elemental, haste, darkness, power breakers and so on all feature heavily. Bosses aside, battles aren’t too challenging as long as you use the right techniques for the job. For RPG veterans everything will feel so natural and newbies should consider this a great introduction to the genre.
Unlike recent games, where you can see enemies before you engage them, the old ‘random encounters’ are back where you’re thrown into battle as you make your way down any given road. It’s quite jarring and not always welcome, but it’s easier to reacclimatise if you’re a veteran.
This is also where the game shines on the Vita compared to the PS3. You can only save the game at specific save points, which also top up your MP and HP. Some of these are spaced quite far apart though, making shorter play sessions on the PS3 difficult. When played on the Vita though, you can just pop the handheld into sleep mode and pick it up from where you left off with ease. This is bloody amazing to be honest and a genuine excuse to pick up the game on the Vita instead of the PS3, despite it not being as comfortable as a DualShock 3 over extended periods. If you’re flush with cash though there’s a cross-save feature, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Final Fantasy X’s levelling system is the Sphere Grid, which may be familiar to any of you that played Tales of Xillia. Stat upgrades and new abilities are placed on nodes around the labyrinthine grid for each character to unlock. You move around the grid with S.Lv points earned by collecting AP points (like EXP in post-battle screens) and buy new abilities and stats with specific spheres collected in battle or around the world. At the start of the game, you can choose the basic grid or advanced grid. Go basic and your characters develop on a linear path that safely covers all your bases, so you’ll have a dedicated black mage, melee focused striker, healer and so on. However, go for the expert option and you’re allowed to send everyone off in any direction you please. So if you want little Yuna to do melee damage for a change, you can make it happen. There’s a slight risk of painting yourself into a corner, so be sure cover the essential basis of elemental/healing and defence. You can go backwards on the grid and it doesn’t cost as many (still some) S.Lv points, but it can feel like wasted points all the same.
As we saw with Square’s HD release of Kingdom Hearts, there’s some new material for many of us. This (and FFX-2) is the International Version, meaning there are some extra abilities and weapons. More noticeable is the extra cutscenes viewable from the main menu called Eternal Calm, which acts as a segue between the two games.
This is a huge game, with the story mode alone lasting at least 30 hours for most players. While not packed with traditional side missions, there’s lots to discover in Spira, such as fully deciphering the Al Bhed alphabet, finding all the Celestial weapons or maybe training up your Besaid Aurochs to become the best Blitzball team around -to be honest, the Blitzball games are still dogshit in my opinion. True purists amongst you may take on the challenge of maxing out the sphere grid in the hope you can take on the game’s bastard hard hidden bosses. However you decide to spend your time in Spira, rest assured you’re playing one of the finest RPGs ever made.
- HD remaster makes it look like a brand new game
- Combat and levelling system amongst the best in the genre
- Story and characters have aged magnificently
- Blitzball should have been scrapped or at least redesigned
- Random encounters can take a bit of getting used to again
- I still kinda want to slap Tidus
The Short Version: Wow, I seriously wasn’t expecting Final Fantasy X to blow me away again after 13 years. The world of Spira looks better than ever as the new layer of detail makes you feel like you’re playing a new game rather than a HD re-release and the traditional RPG combat feels better than ever in the wake of genre’s attempts at modernisation. Great storytelling never gets old though and Final Fantasy X’s is an absolute genre gem.