sparky_buzzsaw's Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PlayStation 3) review

Two great games, one half-cocked update

Let's get the truth bombs dropped right out of the gate - if you have easy access to the IA edition of Final Fantasy X, there's little point in buying this updated version of the game. The only updates you'll find here are some nicer facial animations and a few updated songs throughout the game. That's really about it. X-2 suffers from even less updatery - none, actually. These are still very much the games you got to play across the pond, with nothing here to justify the added cost.

That said, if you, like me, only had access to the NA version of Final Fantasy X, this might be worth a look. It's forty bones as of the time of this writing, which seems a bit pricey especially given the lack of totally new content or adjustments to the gameplay, but we'll get into that later in the review. As it stands, you'll still get one classic JRPG and a good, goofy experiment on Square's part. You really can't go wrong.

Highs:

If you're a young'un or didn't play Final Fantasy X or X-2 back in the day, this collection is a pretty great entry point to the series. Final Fantasy X can be infuriating in spots, but its worst moments almost entirely lay within its optional content. The main quest and thrust of the game is immensely playable, even today, and it's easy enough that anyone could pick it up and understand how to play with little to no guidance. Final Fantasy X-2 is even easier, though it's a bit faster paced due to its rapid-fire combat. Final Fantasy X is entirely turn-based, whereas Final Fantasy X-2 is definitely the forefather of stuff like Final Fantasy XIII, with a faster-paced combat system that doesn't wait for you to take your turn slowly.

Final Fantasy X disguises its darker-themed story in a beautiful, tropical world that still looks good. It's a fairly linear world, but it's chock full of little nooks and crannies to explore as well as lots of towns and settlements to visit. The vibrant world feels terrifically alive. There are loads of people standing about and wandering the roads, and while it can feel slightly artificial at times thanks to a few supporting cast members popping up on the same route a bit too often, the world feels fleshed out in a way we really haven't seen in a JRPG since.

The excellent world-building extends to the world's lore and mythology, too. Religion grips the world's inhabitants for good and bad, creating a fascinating theocracy that rules through unchanging beliefs and systems. Our merry - and not so merry - band of adventurers rock the boat, and watching the collateral damage is definitely the best part of the game. There's a cohesion to the story here that we didn't really get from past entries, making the story one of the better ones in the Final Fantasy mythos. Everything and everyone's stories come together nicely for an incredible ending.

X's combat system remains the series' best. Battles are strictly turn-based. While each character definitely starts off with a specific, traditional feel to them, the robust stat-and-skill system (called the Sphere Grid) allows you to eventually customize characters pretty much to your liking. This allows you to experiment with the cast throughout the main story, letting you get a feel for your favorites which will undoubtedly become the focus in the game's robust side content.

That side content is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of it - namely blitzball, the game's soccer-like minigame - is absolutely terrific. Other side content? Not so much. We'll get into that more in a second.

The updated visuals and music are nice and relatively inobtrusive. I still question the necessity of the updated music. Having access to the IA edition's bonus content is terrific, but the grinding and requirements to beat most of those Dark Aeons is just jaw-dropping. I doubt I'll ever be completing it. One definite perk of the IA edition is the sphere drop abilities for characters and weapons. It makes obtaining upgrade spheres easy, which also allows the player to better upgrade aeons for the Dark Aeon fights.

X-2, as a whole, is a diversion of sorts. It was a way for Square to cash in on the popularity of X, but they decided to go balls-out crazy with it and make it an action-y series of missions with a definite girl power motif to it. It's not a bad game by any means, but it feels like the direct-to-DVD sequel you'd expect from a movie franchise, not a beloved game series. Its irreverence is its greatest strength, throwing all the seriousness of the prior game straight out the window and rebooting the X world into something bizarre and delightful. The revamped combat is okay, though I greatly prefer X to this one. The sphere grid has also been tossed in favor of the garment grid, basically an on-the-fly job system that allows you to change classes during combat. It's interesting, but ultimately neither as deep or as fun as the character building in X. Sadly, it's X-2 that Square would follow in its future game XIII.

Lows:

The updated music and visuals might be decent, but Square really should have opted to focus on making some gameplay updates instead. It's been said before, but not being able to skip cutscenes in X is a pain in the ass. Mind you, it's a lot easier to tolerate today than it was a decade ago, since I've got all manner of devices and distractions to entertain me while Yuna and Tidus bray like jackasses. It's a bit indicative of that disconnect Square has with its fans and its games, though recent comments by the head of SE about shifting their focus back towards core gaming experiences makes me hopeful someone there has finally listened to the masses.

X's flaws are made all the more glaring by the befuddling lack of gameplay updates. Random battles still take place far too often in later parts of the game, and while you can eventually craft or find armor that will end random battles, there's no way to adjust random battle frequency ala Bravely Default. In areas like (minor spoilers here) Inside Sin or the Omega Ruins, this can be incredibly frustrating, particularly when monster hunting.

Speaking of monster hunting, X's sidequests can be straight up awful. Monster hunting could have been fine if there was some sort of option to avoid combat with enemies you've already fought, but as it stands, in order to collect the game's rarer creatures, you'll have to fight your way through dozens, if not hundreds, of needless battles, and that kind of tedium adds up fast. Monster hunting pales in comparison with the horrors that are dodging lightning, chocobo racing, and collecting butterflies. These activities are repetitive rage-inducing lessons in horrible game design, and the fact that they haven't been made any easier in this update is easily the most frustrating part of this HD update. It wouldn't have been easy to recode, but certainly some effort could and should have been made.

X-2 hasn't been updated at all. It's still a bit of a mess in terms of its cheap-feeling graphics (they regurgitated all the environments of X and some graphics actually looked worse than X, even before the graphical update). It also still feels like a terrible cash grab, neither lasting long enough to be of consequence nor adding enough content or story to warrant its existence. At its best, it's good for a few hours of entertainment. At its worst, it's one of those games I turn off immediately if I know someone's coming to my door.

Bang for the Buck:

As of this writing, this HD collection is $40. I think it's too steep by about ten bucks. The updated music and visuals are merely okay, and while the packaging is gorgeous, there's little here to explain why it's just a shade cheaper than most new releases a couple of months or so after their release. If there had been any gameplay updates, anything at all, I might have said yes, this is totally worth it. As it stands, I wouldn't pay more than $30 for it. That seems about right for two decade-old games.

And if you have access to the IA edition of X, there's just not enough here to warrant even that price point. Unless you were a massive fan of X and want to see some very minor updates or want to have access to it on your PS3, I'd steer clear. American players, the value here is going to depend very much on your enjoyment of X. If, like me, you really enjoyed the original, definitely give this one a look, but certainly not at its current price point.

Shelf Life:

X is a deceptively huge game. The linearity can be off-putting at first for anyone expecting or wanting a traditional traversible Final Fantasy experience. That's not to say it's as devoid of interaction or life as FFXIII, but the game definitely follows a similar structure. The game opens up in its last act, allowing access to tons of side content and a few collectibles that actually wind up greatly benefitting the player. You could certainly rush through the game and see everything it has to offer relatively quickly (outside of those damned unskippable cutscenes), but for a JRPG lover who wants tons of content and places to explore, you could certainly do a lot worse. Unfortunately, nothing's been added in the update that didn't previously exist, though American players will, again, appreciate the IA content.

X-2 can and will be beat relatively quickly, though there's a fair bit of side content and fun to be had with its craziness. It's nowhere near as massive as its predecessor, but it makes a nice addition to the HD update. There are a few added videos and such to the update as well, but I have yet to check those out.

Last Call:

If I were a European and had a PS2 and a copy of X, I wouldn't bother with this update. There's just not enough that's been done here to warrant the price or the update, and X shouldn't be a rare game to find. For American gamers, if you played X and enjoyed it, definitely give this a look, but wait a few months for a price drop. And finally, for all you newcomers out there, I envy you. Aside from the annoyance that is Tidus, you're in for a hell of a treat.

12 Comments
Posted by Demoskinos

I'm pretty unsure why in the world you'd ever want to skip cut-scenes. SE also were pretty up front about saying that this was nothing more than a re-release with graphics overhaul if they actually made game play tweaks like you suggested they would have been better served making an actual full fledged re-make this isn't what that was about.

I also don't get how you think $40 is too steep an asking price when the game has potential hundreds of hours of content and game play. That seems incredibly fair to me. If we were talking about only FFX then I'd say the argument would have a little more weight to it but for two games with a gaggle of extra content? That seems well worth $40 to me.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@demoskinos: While I'm aware Square was up front about the lack of gameplay updates, the way they chose to update bits and pieces of the game's content (graphics and sound) while completely ignoring the gameplay is still a head-scratching move. I'd almost rather have seen them release the games together at a cheaper price point without the graphical or music updates. Even something so simple as a cheat console with a way to adjust the random encounter rate would have gone a long ways towards bumping this to a five star review. They managed that with Final Fantasy VII and VIII's updates, so it seems a bit bizarre as to why they wouldn't go the extra mile to make those kinds of changes.

As to the value of the game, if these were new releases, $40 would be an excellent price point. As it stands, these games can be found for a few bucks apiece used, or ten to fifteen dollars new. So let's run with the math and say I can buy each game for about $10 apiece new (or as good as, anyways). For European gamers, that's mighty questionable as to which route to go, particularly if they already own a PS2. The facial features look okay and the new music is decent enough, but are you really telling me you'd recommend to them paying $40 for both games when they could buy both with all the content that matters intact? Because I don't see it. These games are simply not worth $40 a decade and change later. They're great games, to be sure, but it's not as if they're particularly rare or hard to obtain.

Now, as for US gamers, are the Dark Aeons really worth that additional $20? Honestly? No. They're not exactly new, redesigned bosses. They're a few one-off battles that ultimately don't really change or add a lot to the experience. Now, the sphere grid changes, though minor, are pretty awesome. But again, i'm hard pressed to say that those sphere-dropping abilities are really worth the $20 price difference.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

If I had a PS3 I'd probably buy this game... mostly for a HD version of X-2, but I guess I could play the first one as well. Maybe.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@arbitrarywater: Sadly, the massage mini-game does not feature updated graphics or any lessened degree of cringing. At least, I assume so. I haven't yet hit up X-2. Damn near finished with X, though. Pretty sure I'll wrap it up tomorrow once I've tracked down the last monster I need for my collection. I'll come back at some point and finish what I can of the sidequests.

Moderator
Posted by Demoskinos

@sparky_buzzsaw: But it goes beyond that. Sure, you could buy them for $10 each on PS2 but I'm gonna go ahead and just guess that anyone who is looking at this is most likely doesn't have a PS2 or doesn't have their PS2 hooked up. You're in part paying for convenience paying for all the extra bells and whistles like the new graphics/music and trophy support. The work was put in on this game so yes I think its worth the asking price.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@demoskinos: Why would you assume they don't have a PS2? I'm not trying to be argumentative, but that seems like pretty flawed logic. And convenience doesn't justify the expense - ten bucks is ten bucks, and that's even assuming the reader couldn't just dig in his closet and find an older copy. If it was a rare game, I'd be inclined to agree with you. But it's not, and for anyone still hanging onto their PS2's, it's something they should genuinely think about.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@arbitrarywater: Sadly, the massage mini-game does not feature updated graphics or any lessened degree of cringing. At least, I assume so. I haven't yet hit up X-2. Damn near finished with X, though. Pretty sure I'll wrap it up tomorrow once I've tracked down the last monster I need for my collection. I'll come back at some point and finish what I can of the sidequests.

I wouldn't want the massage minigame to be anything other than really dumb and cringe-inducing. I feel like a lot of X-2 can be explained by it being a quick cash-money parachute after the disaster that was The Spirits Within (which also led to Square merging with Enix). Doesn't change the part where I sort of love that game for its unabashed ridiculousness bordering on self-parody. Combat isn't half-bad either, what with all the mid-battle sailor moon-esque transformation animations and super fast ATB craziness.

I should also maybe mention that I've never actually played Final Fantasy X.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@arbitrarywater: I don't hate Final Fantasy X-2, but as you say, it marked a clear shift in Square's priorities and model, and things have been gradually getting worse since. In that regard, I hate more of what X-2 represents (the dollar, marketing to the masses, etc.) more than I hate the game, which is relatively harmless and goofy.

Moderator
Posted by Miyuki

Great review! I have a PS2, but I bought the Vita version in order to play both games when I travel for my job this summer. I love FFX enough to overlook its' flaws, but I don't remember loving X-2... I guess we will see. I agree that they could have allowed skipping cutscenes, and I'm also not looking forward to dodging lightning, but since I had the NA version before it is nice to play again.

Edited by Slag

Man that's a bummer X-2 didn't get much of an upgrade. I never finished it, so that would be the only reason I'd buy this package.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@miyuki: Thanks! Having it on the go would be a blast, though it looks pretty terrific on my TV. Those CGI cutscenes still hold up remarkably well. I tried dodging lightning and racing chocobos for about an hour apiece and gave up. I'll return one day to finish out monster hunting and to continue my decade long love affair with blitzball, but for now, I'm done with X.

@slag: Apparently, it does come with some stuff released internationally like a creature creator and a couple of new garments, but I haven't touched this version of X-2. I played it back in the day and wouldn't say it's worth buying on its own merits, but that's just me.

Moderator
Posted by Slag

@sparky_buzzsaw:

yeah it's just kinda one of things where I'd be buying it just for completionist sake. X-2 is what it is. I think it's far enough in the past and Final Fantasy series has fallen far enough from grace that I'm at a place I can enjoy the silliness without getting angry. I used to take each numbered release super seriously.

I actually really think the battle system had a ton of potential and was perhaps the best job system FF ever used. The problem imo was the criminally reused FF-X bestiary was very ill equipped to handle the speed. Way too easy. Bad enough they reused the world but many of the beasts too? ugh.

Great review! Will rec once I reopen the site in a browser that will let me do that.

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