Editor's note: Given its similarities to the original PlayStation 2 release, we decided against a formal review of the PS3/Vita HD remaster. In this piece, Steve Watts focuses on how the game has stood against the test of time and how the HD release improves upon the original.
Ten years following the release of Final Fantasy X, it's clear how much of a turning point the game has been for Square Enix.
Final Fantasy X is one of those rare games that actually holds up better in reality than it did in my memory. Though I've looked back fondly on its characters and story, the weak spots seemed to stand out with the passage of time. The linear structure and sometimes awkward voice acting, in particular, diminished its rank. In practice, however, those niggling problems were rarely distracting and easy to overlook. The voice acting is, on the whole, pretty good for its era--I even enjoyed Wakka's faux-Pacific-Islander. The linearity didn't bother me this time around, since the settings were unique and it supported the idea of a pilgrimage.
Those settings in particular are great to look at with the layer of polish introduced by Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster. This was the era of excessive neon, but even the splashier environments aren't visually overwhelming. The faces of the characters haven't aged as well, since the handful of points of articulation--which at the time made them look more realistic than most other games--now only accent how much the faces on the whole look plastic. FFX in particular has a doll-like quality to its characters. Character design is also somewhat inconsistent in quality; for every timeless design like Auron there's an excessively belt-buckled Lulu or Tidus' off-putting hodgepodge of fashions.
FFX is full of dour seriousness from start to finish. It's a tale of daddy issues, deathly responsibility, and faith. It doesn't have much in the way of levity, and what is there is usually accidental. X-2, by contrast, is almost nothing but levity. From the very first moment when Yuna appears to be singing a pop song to a sold-out stadium, complete with a flashy disco-inspired name card, it's the more humorous mirror image of FFX.
The divide between the two is a splinter point mechanically as well. FFX tried a few new tricks, but basically left the old turn-based combat system untouched. The Sphere Grid was a more customizable take on outfitting characters, but otherwise it hewed close to tradition. FFX-2's Dress Sphere system paid homage to job classes, and played with the idea of letting you change on the fly. It also had a much more active combat system, as two or more characters could attack at once. It makes the whole affair feel much more dynamic, and those decisions have continued to manifest itself in more recent games like the Final Fantasy 13 series.
As an anthology, Remaster comes with quite a bit of content that never reached us before. Eternal Calm, a cinematic prologue for X-2, serves as a bridge between the two stories. Last Mission puts a bow on X-2 with an extra bit of playable content. And as reported, a new audio drama with voices from the cast has been recorded. Square smartly put all of these options upfront on the main menu, so anyone who wants to jump into the new content can do so without needing to unlock it by playing the main games.
The Remaster serves as a nostalgic trip for fans of the original, and for that purpose it works very well. It lived up better than in my memory and I felt immediately engrossed in the adventures again. But it's also very much a marker for a turning point for this storied series. As such, it's still enjoyable on its own merits, and works as a slice of history as well.
This review is based on retail PS3 code provided by the publisher. Final Fantasy X/X2: HD Remaster will be available digitally on PS3 and Vita next week. The game is rated T.