Review: Final Fantasy X HD

Content Warning:

Violence (no blood), Mild Language

Some content in this game is definitely not for kids, although teenagers should have no problems. There is some sexual content in the form of Lulu’s low-cut dress and a couple of minor characters’ outfits, however, no innuendos or dirty jokes. Mild swearing during intense moments, but it is not thrown into casual conversation for the sake of “sounding cool”. There is violence, but no blood or graphic scenes. Death in the game consists of people just disappearing into thin air and is relevant to the story.
So nice, they made it twice! This is not the first time we have run into this game. Released in 2001, this was THE game that made me purchase a PS2. Honestly, nostalgia will blind me if I were to do a normal review of the game. My review today will instead focus on the changes made, but my rating will be based on the game as a whole. So let’s get into it!

 

Story:

Nothing has changed here from the original release.

If you are not familiar with the story of FFX, I will lay down a very brief synopsis: Tidus, a star player in the sport of Blitzball (read: underwater soccer), gets transported to the land of Spira via the belly of a giant, maniacal fish-monster called Cloverfield…. I mean, Sin. Discovering that his hometown was destroyed by Sin, he decides to join in the effort of the citizens of Spira to take down this mammoth. Along the way he meets up with Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, a woman whose dress is composed almost entirely of leather belts, Red XIII’s blue descendant, and a 31 year old senior citizen with a taste for liquor. The true purpose for each of these colorful characters is to protect Summoner Yuna as she walks the 14 Stations of the Cross on her way to defeat Sin.

Anyone who has played this game knows that everything in my previous paragraph is true(-ish). Take my word, this had among the best stories in gaming in 2001 and it still holds up in 2014.

While the story itself is unchanged, an added cutscene called Eternal Calm follows the story after the conclusion of FFX. This was only released in Japan prior to the HD Remaster. There is little remarkable here. It just helps bridge the gap between X and X-2.

I have one last observation about the story. It is hard to ignore the strong Christian influence on the story. It plays out like a Christ story if Jesus was Japanese (and wacky) instead of a Jew. I cannot get too far into it without spoiling everything, but be on the lookout as I dive into this in more detail in the next week or two.

 

Gameplay:

This is one area that received a small touch-up for those of us in the North American region. Final Fantasy X HD contains all the content from the International release that never made it stateside. This adds features such as the Expert Sphere Grid, an entirely new Sphere Grid that gives you much more customizations over your characters right from the very start. This new grid can be highly abused if you plan accordingly. I got Tidus over 2000 HP by Kilika Island by taking a small detour through Auron’s line. Yuna became a magical powerhouse when I ran her through Lulu’s. All of the characters “default” lines intersect at multiple points allowing you to jump back and forth to grab abilities or attributes that were not easily obtained on the Standard Grid. Fair warning: the Expert grid can be somewhat confusing if you are not already familiar with FFX

A couple minor abilities have been added as well. The most notable are the Distill abilities that act like the Distiller item, giving you access to spheres that you may be lacking. This is great for people like me who run out of Ability Spheres early on. An ability called Full Break was added, which inflicts Power Break, Armor Break, Magic Break, and Mental Break all in a single attack.

The final addition was the fights with the Dark Aeons. These will start appearing as you try to backtrack to various locations. As it sounds, you fight the different Aeons that are all powered up to have hundreds of thousands of HP and high stats. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take them out one by one. Beware when you finally feel overjoyed at the defeat of the last Dark Aeon, which is when Penance appears. Penance is far and away the toughest boss in the game. Prepare to stat max (or Zanmato abuse) if you plan to defeat this fiend among fiends.

The Vita version actually has a small, exclusive addition. Anytime that you are not in battle or in a cutscene, you can touch the screen and a menu pops up that offers quick healing options. I never used this beyond testing it because Save Points always restore health to full. I would have liked to see more options in the pop up menu.

Outside of those additions, this game is unchanged at its core. Turn-based battles, random encounters, overdrives, summons, and the like all run as they did over a decade ago. The Sphere Grid is still among my favorite growth systems for RPGs. Customizing abilities into weapons are still only useful when you have access to the Monster Arena. The mini-games that caused so much frustration in my youth have returned, only now I get to be struck by lightning in glorious HD!

Overall, the additions (especially the Expert Sphere Grid) help freshen up the classic gameplay enough to keep you interested for another round of the game so many of us enjoyed on the PS2.

I still say that Blitzball needs to be made into a full game that can be played online. One can dream.

 

Graphics:

By far the biggest improvement made in this Remaster is to the visuals. Running in HD, Final Fantasy X has never looked smoother. The main character models have all been redone. Most of the character faces look strikingly different. It does take some time to adjust, but after only a few hours in, I was digging the new look. The scenery looks crisp and clean. The battles have a new interface that matches the update. The main menu has been modified as well.

The FMV scenes that looked so great in 2001 still look nice, but are less spectacular in 2014 due to those scenes getting no visual upgrades with the exception of being scaled to a widescreen resolution. To be clear, they do not look worse; they looked lackluster when I was expecting them to be updated along with everything else.

The non-storyline NPCs appear to have had very little updating and can appear out of place at times in this beautiful world. Their painted-on faces, while standard for PS2-era NPCs, look strange for a PS3 game.

My biggest complaint in terms of this remaster’s programming was that they did not add a scene skip feature. This means that the long-winded cutscenes before the game’s toughest bosses will need to be rewatched in full in the event that you get a game over. Why they could not be bothered to add a small feature that is standard in video games today, I do not know.

… And Auron still looks old.

 

Sound:

Controversy. That is one way to describe fan reaction to the changes made to the beloved Final Fantasy X. No issue has been more the point of debate than the music re-arrangements. Nearly every track that wasn’t already fully-orchestrated has received a tune-up in this release.

My goodness! The music in this game was already great, but the arrangements this time around sound fresh and modern. From what I understand, the soundtrack is still not “fully-orchestrated” but rather uses a large sample of high-quality instrument tracks reminiscent of Blake Robinson’s Chrono Trigger Symphony.

While overall the soundtrack is greatly improved, I did have some complaints. The boss battle theme was changed so drastically that the line I thought was the melody in the PS2 version was almost non-existent in the new arrangement. The regular battle theme takes some getting used to as it seems a little over the top for a battle involving minor enemies such as a flan or a weak insect. Besaid Island’s theme does not have the same feel as the original, although I can appreciate the new sound.

People new to the game will find very little to complain about in the music. It is only those of us who have had these songs engraved in our heads for over a decade who will have any major complaints.

Sound effects all appear to be unaltered. The voice acting is still great!

 

Leave a comment below on how you pronounce Tidus. Is it “Tai-dus” because of the tides or is it “Tee-dus” because it’s Japanese?

 

The Bottom Line

Final Fantasy X is among the best games in the past 15 years. It holds up well over time thanks to some small updates that keep it modern. If this was enjoyable to you then, it will be just as enjoyable now. Expect 40-100 hours of fun based on your choice of side-quests and mini-games. As for my recommendation on PS3 vs. Vita: I played the game on both platforms. There is no true difference between the two outside of the small sub-menu mentioned above. If you like to play portable, go for Vita. If you like your cutscenes played out on the big screen, go for PS3. I noticed no performance differences between either platform. Vita can occasionally have some frame rate problems, but I observed none of that during my playthrough. You can feel secure with a purchase on either system.

 

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Thomas Martin

1 Comment

  1. Samuru on July 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Aw, I had written a review of it myself. You beat me to post it 🙁 God bless! Good stuff

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