That Final Fantasy X-2 ever existed is frankly fantastic. Back when it emerged on the PS2 as the first true sequel to ever bear the name Final Fantasy, it confused the hell out of people. Picking up two years after the end of its direct predecessor, X-2 can basically be summed up as "What Yuna Did Next", yet it abandoned much of what made FFX a classic and what we ended up with was a strikingly pretty, utterly revamped, female-led, undeniably Japanese, all-singing all-dancing hot mess.
And it was thoroughly entertaining.
The Vita version of Final Fantasy X-2 HD sparkles. It looks absolutely fantastic, and on occasion I had to remind myself that this was made over a decade ago. The main characters look brilliant, the character models approaching current-gen quality at times, though this is offset by NPCs that range from the passable to the downright ugly. The fact that the opening video has been redone in HD, along with all of the other cutscenes, is frankly excellent. There's nothing else to say, really -- FFX-2 HD looks better than quite a few native Vita titles. It's one of the finest HD remasters I've ever witnessed in that respect.
Just as important as the changes to the visuals, though, are the lack of changes when it comes to the soundtrack. So much of what makes X-2 such a crazy romp is it's J-Pop soundtrack, and I'm pleased to report that the only thing that seems to have changed is the sound quality. FFX's soundtrack has been noticeably tampered with, and not entirely for the better, but here it seems like guns have most certainly been stuck to, and that'll surely delight long-time fans. Let's face it -- X-2 was always something of a Marmite game, but that was down to the fact that it's one of the most identifiable Final Fantasy title out there, positively oozing with character and personality. It's nice to see that none of that has been lost in the remastering process.
Of course, one of the best things about X-2 was the fact that not only did we get the opportunity to see Spira after the fall of Sin, and reconnect with some of the key characters, but we got to explore that world at our leisure too. Final Fantasy XII, and the best parts of the FFXIII series owe much to this more open approach, and Spira sparkles on that OLED screen. X-2 stands up today because it boasts a number of features like this that put the game ahead of its time. Having access to the airship from the start, being able to go anywhere and do whatever you wanted thanks to the mission-based structure, engaging in side missions that further the contextual shading of the world and situate us more fully in the story and the setting -- X-2 does all of this.
That said, there are a few things that stick out like sore thumbs. The save point placement (or rather lack thereof) is an utter arse in this game -- if you die in the midst of an hour-long gap in between saves, that's it. Sorry pal. As much as nostalgia might place rose-tinted spectacles in front of our eyes and help us to forgive archaic and outmoded things in favour for the warmth of past memories and formative experiences, risible forced save points will always be annoying as hell.
It's an easier game than FFX, too. I still found that the latter gave me a bit of a run for my money at times and provided a staunch challenge here and there, but if you can get your characters set up nicely over the first few hours, the rest of the game is a bit of a breeze. That does, however, make it perfect for younger audiences and those on the go, with battles rarely lasting too long. The flow and pace of the action is helped along too by the Active Time Battle system, and the Dressphere's ability to allow you to change classes on the fly has been mirrored in the latest Final Fantasy titles to some extent, especially when one considers Lightning Returns.
FFX is undeniably the better game, but X-2 has received the better re-release thanks to its fine balancing between upgrading things on the audio-visual side yet retaining and enhancing its personality. But X-2 has also received more by way of new features. "Last Mission" was previously only available in Japan, but now it comes West as part of this HD package, providing a rogue-like dungeon-crawler segment that takes place three months after the end of X-2. Yuna, Paine, and Rikku are reunited by a strange message urging them to reach the top of Iutycyr Tower. It's a simple add-on that has you try and ascend as high as possible , with narrative cutscenes every now and then to provide something of an epilogue. It's not enormously exciting, but it's a nice little addition for completionists and hardcore fans.
Alongside Last Mission, X-2 benefits from new dresspheres, arena battle tournaments, and, best of all, something called the Creature Creator. Essentially. this new feature adds a little slice of Pokemon-esque action to proceedings, allowing you to capture enemies and make them fight for you, setting traps out in the wild and then training up any critters that you snag. It's a nice little addition to the old formula that works very well indeed, and adds a bit of freshness to things.
I have a soft spot in my heart for X-2. I love how utterly bonkers it is, how it's filled with a unique personality and charm that you just don't find outside of Japan, I love the slick nature of the ATB combat system, and how the dresspheres make for an engaging, tactical experience (even if the enemies don't really match up). But X-2 has also aged incredibly well, and so many of the features and quirks that might have been a little offputting a decade or so back are far more forgiveable now. That's not to say it isn't a divisive game, it is; but I don't think it'll be quite as polarising as it was when it first emerged.
X-2 also serves as a wonderful reminder of where we've failed over the past few years: that we can still hold it up as one of the few mainstream titles to boast an all-female starring cast is frankly a travesty. Moreover, the breadth of risky decisions and quirky design choices in this game, flying in the face of a predecessor that played everything pretty safe, still shine as a beacon for all major developers and publishers today. X-2 might be a bit overblown, with a story that's pretty laughable at times, but it's still a cracking game and damn fine fun. And it makes for a better HD remaster than FFX.
- Aesthetically brilliant
- Gorgeous visuals
- Untouched soundtrack, now in high quality
- Gameplay additions are a nice touch
- Arguably makes more sense today than it did when it first released
- Some archaic elements still grate
- Still overblown and occasionally cringeworthy
- A little bit of screen tearing here and there
- It does still kind of poo on one of the best Final Fantasy endings (in FFX) ever
The Short Version: Final Fantasy X-2 is still an overblown romp that trades the serious, emotional journey of FFX for something a little lighter and sweeter, but its also an enormous amount of fun, a chance to see post-Sin Spira once more, and its never looked or sounded this good. The new additions are a nice touch, the combat feels better than ever, and FFX-2 has aged better than its predecessor. It's irrepressibly bonkers, but FFX-2 has its moments, and thanks to the excellent HD remaster job and the power of the Vita, they absolutely sparkle now.
Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita
Developers: Square Enix
Publishers: Square Enix