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Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD

19:0011/04/2014Posted by Raymond Webster57 Comments

Reviewing a re-released game requires two lines of thought – determining whether it is a sufficient improvement upon the original for those who have played it once to revisit it, and whether it holds up as a game for new players to return to. The HD versions of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, released recently, are particularly faithful ports of expansive, ambitious games which, while not changing many features add some value over a straight remake. Most notably, the remakes use the “International” versions of both games – the definitive versions, which contain more features and several balance changes.

The main change, however – the one that defines this re-release as a HD edition – is the visual update. While FFX was a technically adept game at the time of its release on the PS2, revisiting it on the original hardware shows the limitations of the system – there are blurring and fog issues, and slowdown as well as long loading times for random encounters. The games are still very playable, but the technical cleanup the HD remakes offer make revisiting the games a much more enjoyable process.

The high-quality environment design – colourful and exotic locales that make the game feel very fantastical and appealing – generally look better. RPGs in the Final Fantasy vein rely on limited explorable areas and high-quality uninteractive backgrounds, and the remastering of the games, with better visibility and sharper textures, feels like a genuine visual modernisation.

This texture remastering is also reflected in the character models. While the quality of the animations and models themselves are not significantly improved beyond the removal of some of the angularity (and the game still has the slightly jerky movement for run cycles that it had on the PS2), the reworked textures, clothing and hair physics are a significant improvement. Hair, fur and layers of clothing are more clearly defined and animated, bringing the visual quality in-game closer to the pre-rendered cutscenes.

FFX/X-2 HD is a visually polished, technically tweaked but otherwise faithful port of the games; there is some additional story content, but it is clearly parcelled separately to the games themselves – a short sequence linking X and X-2, and a supplementary sequence for X-2. Thus buying this pack offers two classic games, faithfully updated for a new console, and little else, and this is no bad thing. They have held up as solid, well-executed examples of JRPGs that take the staples of their franchise in two versions of the job system and develop them in interesting ways. FFX’s use of highly-specialised characters presages FFXIII’s class system in some ways while also being a more flexible version of FFIX’s archetypes, while FFX-2 offered the most dynamic take on a customisable class system since FFV.

A JRPG is ultimately driven by its combat system, since it is in its own way a highly linear narrative with a fixed path of progression leading up to a more open closing section – and the Final Fantasy games have traditionally had in-depth and rewarding examples. The Sphere Grid, the central feature of FFX, is a good example – and ultimately the game’s strongest mechanical selling-point. The “Expert” grid, added in the International redesign, is effectively a highly complex set of interlocking skill trees that both preserves individual character identity (via how the characters begin equipped) and permits significant customisation.

This combination of character identity and freedom to add extra abilities to those characters is something few other games have done with the same level of detail and complexity. FFX-2 completely changed the approach, again establishing a new take on old mechanics; it had a wide range of jobs and a Dress Sphere system which allowed changing between jobs mid-fight, while its battle system – with reaction-based inputs for some abilities – redefined what could be done with a traditional turn-based system.

Thus while these remakes do not offer much new, they are remakes of such high-quality games that they are worth revisiting, or visiting for the first time. They are JRPGs from an era when the sidequest- and minigame-rich worlds of PS1 era RPGs were not forgotten, but at the same time embraced the technical potential of new consoles to create expansive and visually striking worlds – and this latter aspect is accentuated by the visual remastering.

This game was played on a review code provided by Square Enix.

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