Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster (PlayStation 4) Review

By Leo Epema 22.12.2017

Review for Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster on PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy X is about Tidus' journey through Spira, a future universe that an aquatic creature named Sin takes him to. In this world, Tidus, along with a number of other so-called summoner's guardians, are tasked with defending the summoner and bringing an end to Sin. Things aren't as simple as they seem, however. Its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, while not interesting to most fans, focuses on the lighter side of things.

Final Fantasy X was the first instalment in the series for the PlayStation 2. The increase in graphical quality is clearly showcased in the game's first scene, with the city of Zanarkand making the perfect venue to show off enhanced contrast and lighting. Most awe-inspiring, however, are the fully 3D models, which are reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII characters in the sense that they are not cartoon-like characters, but have realistic facial features. Even their expressions are quite impressive and hold up well today. The world of Spira is nicely varied, ranging from tropical islands to snowy mountains, and it's a great contrast to the opening scenery of Zanarkand. Each area also looks fairly natural and colourful.

Graphically, everything has been sharpened up a bit, and enhanced lighting makes certain details more visible. That said, many cut-scenes are dated. Occasionally there will be characters changing their expression completely mid-sentence. The rest of the time, they only have one expression in each close-up. Nothing can be done about that. One or two scenes are a bit juddery, too. When it comes to the music re-recordings, opinions will vary, but some may find that previously punchy or atmospheric tracks have lost some of that quality in favour of sounding more "agreeable" or "clean," a bit like the soundtrack of Final Fantasy XIII. Some instruments have been swapped out for more quaint sounds, which is not a good look for a game with such a heavy story. Thankfully, switching back to the original score is an option.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster on PlayStation 4

The voice acting is often slightly jarring because what the English voices say often don't match up with the cast's often very Japanese way of acting. It's clear that many Japanese lines don't translate well to English due to cultural differences. That fact wasn't taken into account enough by the development team behind the original Japanese version. Furthermore, the English actors occasionally pronounce the shorter lines with the wrong type of emotional intent. It's not a huge problem, but a problem nonetheless.

A simple tutorial shows the ropes of basic combat without being bogged down with menus, and off to Spira it is. It's not long before Tidus meets the first of the protagonists to join him on his journey, and the universe's lore is established rather quickly and concisely. Unfortunately, the relationship between Tidus and this new arrival isn't really explored - there isn't even much distrust between the two.

The same applies to all of the other characters. Their backstories aren't sufficiently expounded to inspire love, hatred, or any other emotion. The characters simply take Tidus on a quest with them to defeat Sin, but why does it have to be them? What sets them apart from other humans in the game world? Why is Tidus drawn to these people and why does he even like them? Why don't they ever really have any fallings-out? It's understandable that with somebody as familiar as Auron, that would be a rarity or would be caused by Tidus' own issues. The other characters, though… Why does Tidus even trust them?

Screenshot for Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster on PlayStation 4

It's strange, because the world lends itself very well to atmospheric scenes in which characters can get to know each other. It takes a very long time for such a thing to even slightly happen, though, with the game instead focusing on set-pieces like blitzball or Yuna's "sendings" of the departed. Throw in some floaty nonsense, and that's the story. The plot is quite nice because not everything is immediately clear from the get-go, and there are emotional moments. It does eventually weave a rather pleasant story, but with characters that never bond that much, it doesn't remotely reach the heights it could have. It's sad.

What's less floaty is the combat and character progression system. Instead of having to buy magic or automatically learn it through levelling up, it's now possible to choose which attack to learn next. This is done by earning spheres (points) in battle that can then be used to unlock skills on the "Sphere Grid." It's annoying to navigate through a visual of a type of game board and have to plot out a path, as it's not immediately clear which attacks are located where on the board. Moving the cursor and selecting the skill to learn can also take up unnecessary amounts of time. That said, the extra customization and focus on letting the player decide to ameliorate their weaknesses or enhance their strengths is great. The Sphere Grid also locks away certain skills until certain progression has been made through the plot. That prevents the team from getting overpowered.

There's even more customization to be done in the form of weapon and clothing upgrading. While many weapons already have pre-set modifiers such as inflicting poison or doing extra damage, several weapons can be enhanced with one or two effects. This is done with items gained from enemies defeated in battle. It's a nice way of encouraging grinding without making it necessary to progress through main quests. You can even switch armour or weapons mid-battle, finally making it possible to anticipate the types of enemies that'll be fought, and which attacks they'll use.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster on PlayStation 4

Up to three protagonists can be in battle simultaneously, but all characters can be swapped between without losing a character's turn. Considering there is a bar showing the order in which combatants will attack, it's now possible to anticipate attacks and plan accordingly. On the flipside, not everyone is equally useful in battle, with some characters lacking physical power or magic attacks to deal large amounts of area damage. They do all serve a purpose, but a character like Rikku mostly steals and uses combinable items. For that to work, it's necessary to find those items first, making Rikku feel more optional and might force a bit of grinding.

Aeons (summonable creatures) now serve as controllable party members, and take the place of two members. They can be useful as shields for the party, but otherwise they sometimes feel like gimmicks in battles between Yuna and other summoners. To obtain aeons, it's necessary to go through puzzles in temples, where orbs must be rearranged to unlock new areas to get to the antechamber. While the puzzles aren't difficult, they all have a very similar premise and become tedious soon. That's a big problem considering they are mandatory and encountered throughout the story.

Final Fantasy X-2 is similar to X, but its story is not quite relevant, it's just an enjoyable distraction. Its plot is a bit more political and feels less urgent, even though it pretends to be. The odd Charlie's Angels-type approach to the three main characters is cringe-worthy and feels like a rehash of it, rather than anything that adds some flavour. The gameplay, however, is a rival to that of its predecessor, and the Garment Grid is a nice throwback to old titles that allows for quite a lot of customization. When it comes to presentation, this sequel's remaster doesn't do as well, with backgrounds being a bit jagged sometimes and faces looking awkwardly doll-like. Overall, X-2 fails to provide an emotional, engrossing story, and the gameplay can only get it so far.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Even with their linear nature, the gameplay of these games is the high point in the series, offering loads of customizability and the ability to plan out the next move. Use your own strengths or reduce weaknesses - anything is possible. Unfortunately, the characters never really bond, at least not in a way that truly binds them together - not even thematically. Like with the fourth instalment, the overall plot is excellent and develops nicely. The presentation is unparalleled: graphically, FFX and X-2 are sharp, vibrant and atmospheric, and the soundtracks, while not very varied and replaying the same two songs in dungeons, are rousing. Graphical enhancements bring them back up to par for 2017.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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