Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster Review

Before Kaloudz, my Gamertag was CloudStrife 900. It was CloudStrife 900 because of my love for Final Fantasy VII, my favorite JRPG of all time. The reason for the change was simply because I bumped into two other CloudStrife Gamertags in the same day, and fancied something a bit different, yet somewhat familiar. Clever, no? Whatever the case, the point is, I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan. When Square Enix announced that they were bringing over several of the legacy Final Fantasy games to the Xbox One, I almost had to pinch myself.

So far, we’ve had World of Final Fantasy Maxima, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy VII, and now, the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. That’s not to mention Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age arriving later this month. Safe to say, for folks such as myself, it’s a good time to be a fan of the long running series. Back to the point. Final Fantasy X and its immediate sequel both released on the exceptional PlayStation 2 back in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Since then, both games have been compiled together and (re)released a few times on varying platforms.

It’s not a bad idea on Square’s part, mind, I mean after all, the Final Fantasy X series has sold over 14 million copies that we know of so far, and even that’s going from a 2013 report. Though, what is it that makes the Final Fantasy X series so appealing? Personally, I’m rather split, and to be brutally honest, I always have been. Whilst I rather enjoyed Final Fantasy X, I couldn’t truly get on with Final Fantasy X-2 in the same way. The stark shift in tone from predecessor to sequel didn’t sit too well with me, and if anything, it all came off rather silly and over-the-top.

It’s an unpopular stance, but come the end of Final Fantasy X, I thoroughly appreciated its bitter-sweet ending. I would have been more than happy if the developer left things there, and whilst the latter half of (and the true ending to) Final Fantasy X-2 ties everything up nicely, it takes a lot of persevering to get to that point. Still, that’s what makes Final Fantasy such a memorable series. Don’t get me wrong, I did find enjoyment to be had in Final Fantasy X-2, but, nowhere near as much as I pulled from its predecessor. I believe many take a similar position.

To those unaware, both Final Fantasy X and X-2 take place in the world of Spira, a place full of wonder, beauty, and intrigue. What strikes me the most about Spira, is that it’s so heavily imbued with spirituality. This is a far cry from pretty much each and every mainline Final Fantasy game since its initial release, and before Final Fantasy X / X-2, it was Final Fantasy VII that held the crown of the most spiritual game in the series. It’s a shame really, because amidst Square’s constant habit of pushing the boat out and relying too heavily on mech-related themes, these classic games are the most fascinating.

Whatever the case, Spira is beautiful in many more ways than one. The world’s blend of culture, varied civilizations, spiritualism, and mech-based themes, go hand in glove to produce one hell of an amazing journey backdrop throughout both games. It’s a deep adventure, and that much runs right through to the core cast. Despite some fluctuations, the overarching plot revolves around a party of characters and their fight to protect the world against evil and wrongdoers. I’m being purposely vague here, because if this is your first time, I don’t want to spoil anything.

Hell, even giving a crumb of info could amount to several hours of playtime, so I’ll dance around the story as much as I can at the same time as relaying its structure. Utilizing said characters, you’ll embark on an epic journey that spans so many different elements, I couldn’t cram them into a sentence. There’s good and evil, right and wrong, morality and injustice, perseverance and weakness, solitude and unity, and many more elements aside. The whole journey, spanning both titles, is well put together and truly tugs at your emotions throughout.

Final Fantasy X largely follows Tidus, a renowned Blitzball player that comes from Zanarkand, and son to the fabled Blitzball star, Jecht. During a tournament, a towering entity known as Sin arrives and plucks Tidus from the world he’s familiar with. Now alone, and in the midst of a broken world, Tidus soon learns that Zanarkand was destroyed 1000 years prior to his current standing, and from thereon out, he sets off with a growing party of interesting characters across tens of hours worth of story and play time. Final Fantasy X-2 picks up two years later.

Here, players take on the role of Yuna, high summoner and love interest of Tidus. I’ll not talk of Final Fantasy X-2’s premise, as that relates directly to the conclusion of Final Fantasy X, but what I will say is that you should NOT play these games out of order. Not unless you’re disregarding the story or never got round to playing one or the other. Whatever the case, you’ll guide Yuna (who has undergone some jaw-dropping drastic changes of character) through a story of political unrest, with several mystical and mysterious themes running through.

There’s no denying that X is better than X-2 as far as the story goes, or at least from my perspective. Whereas X is more serious and more focused, X-2 is more laid-back and, to a degree, silly. It’s still a lot of fun, mind, but the shift in tone just wont sit too well with everyone. Sadly, as aforementioned, there’s one major loose end that’s left at the conclusion of X, and not wholly resolved until X-2’s ending, meaning that whether you like it or not, you’ll need to wade through it to get closure. Either way, the stories across both games are decent overall, that much has to be said.

The characters that you meet along the way all bring something distinct to the table, and their personalities bounce off one another and clash to produce some outstanding moments. The only real drawback is that the pacing, by today’s standards, may seem quite slow and drawn out. It can take several hours of play time before you even get to the juicy stuff, and even then, you’re merely touching the tip of the iceberg. This is somewhat easier to forgive when we take into account that the whole bundle offers over 200 hours worth of gaming, of course.

Much like the shift in tone from X-2 coming off X, there’s some major changes to the gameplay too. Both games play in third-person perspective, but the differences between the structure of each is night and day. The linearity of progress in X is traded for something much more free in X-2. The conditional turn-based battle system in X is swapped for a faster, more fluid version of active time battling in X-2. Hell, even the traditional Sphere Grid leveling-up system of X is changed up for a class-based Dress Sphere system in X-2. The differences are expansive.

This wasn’t just a copy and paste effort on Square’s part, they reinvented the wheel for the sequel, for better and for worse. The downside? These alterations also forced a change to the narrative, and how each character is portrayed. Oftentimes this is achieved in ways that make them look nothing like their counterpart personalities in the predecessor, though, perhaps that argument has been done a million times before for us to safely pass it by. The point in all of this? Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 are worlds apart in terms of gameplay and structural design.

In 2019, it might be hard for newcomers to adapt to the game’s writing and personality. Both games are full of cheese, with over-the-top voice acting and character expressions that can quite cringy. That, however, is not something I’ll hold against the game, simply due to being a product of its era. Differences and shortcomings aside, both games are absolutely adequate as far as gameplay goes. There’s nothing more gratifying than having a bunch of accessible yet in-depth tools to manufacture a party of your liking, and then focus your strengths wherever you wish.

Party progress across both games are streamlined and very easy to adapt to. You’re free to pursue whatever build you’re looking for, with some neat extras to call upon to add that extra spice. Naturally, the process to achieving your builds will vary based on which title you’re playing, but for the majority of play, each are simple enough to pick up on and house their own smart ideas. Combat is actually typically straightforward as far as the concept goes for each, and indeed, once you’ve got a handle on the aforementioned party progression mechanics.

Much like any given Final Fantasy, winning boils down to your stats, and understanding your opposition. So long as you continuously bolster your stats and levels, and so long as you’re keeping on-par with standard garden variety foes, you’ll not find that much of a struggle – save a few boss battles and optional encounters. Of course, as to be expected, battling is all about getting the upper hand, and knowing the weaknesses of your enemies. This tends to fall inline with the classic elemental advantages and disadvantages; water to fire, electricity to water, and so on and so forth.

Your attacks, both physical and magical, will climb as progress is made, with your damage starting in the double digits and ending in attacks that can dish out thousands of points worth of damage in a single blow. It’s about strategy and cunning, and playing the right cards at just the right times; each character bringing some unique perk and trait to the fields of play. They also utilize combat in very specific ways across both titles, encouraging players to get hands-on with the entire cast, rather than (say, Final Fantasy VII’s way of) letting you grow your cast without the need to use them all.

Obviously, purchasing better gear and useful wares will keep you on your toes, but, it’s the additional yet subtle changes that Square made across both of these titles that still stands firm to this day. Summoning in Final Fantasy X, for example, allows Yuna to all upon Aeons for support. Unlike any Final Fantasy game before it, in which a summon would arrive, perform an attack, and then piss off for a biscuit, in Final Fantasy X, you can use them as a replacement of your party. It’s a solid system that truly feels refreshing and, back at the time, felt revitalizing.

Aeons often house their own distinct attacks and special attacks, and can stick around for the whole duration of a battle, or indeed, until they’ve been bested. You’ll acquire a set number of Aeons throughout the course of natural play, and through seeking out side content. Speaking of side content, both games are chock-full of it, and again, handle how you approach it in vastly different ways. In Final Fantasy X, much of your adventure is strict and unfolds in very specific ways, but there’s several times in which you’re able to stray off the beaten path in search of additional goods.

Final Fantasy X-2 bucks this trend, and allows you to practically explore the entirety of Spira from the get-go in your trusty airship. Gameplay here is split into chapters, much like Final Fantasy XIII, but unlike that, you can tackle the content in any order you wish for the most part. Side quests revolve around the likes of optional bosses, dungeons, traditional questing, and minigames; Gunner’s Gauntlet, Sphere Break, and yes, Blitzball returns. These additions provide an extra layer of depth, giving something to do when you want to take a break from the X-Factor trials (that’ll make sense later).

On top of the side content, you’re also getting Final Fantasy X: Eternal Calm, and Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission; accessible from the main menu. The former is a story primer that takes place between both games, whereas the latter is a short playable sequel to X-2. Nothing revolutionary here, but a worthy addition all the same. With the fundamentals out of the way, let’s talk of the visual and audio presentation, and that of its performance. Firstly, and unsurprisingly, the performance of the game is top-notch and never at all seems to falter.

Usually with remasters and the likes, we tend to see some odd blemishes here and there, but in this case, it’s fluid, and trouble-free. In regards to the game’s visual presentation, what can be said that hasn’t been said a million times before? Both Final Fantasy X and X-2 look amazing. Sure, there’s a few moments in which their ages show, but when all is said and done, they’ve aged remarkably well. Whether you’re soaking up the vistas of tropical Besaid, or, basking in the gaunt outlook of Mt. Gagazet, the world of Spira never fails to excite in one form or another.

The game’s remastered touch ensures that most of the assets are sharp and presented well enough to sit with today’s hardware, meaning that if you’re to compare this to the original version, you’ll see a huge different between the four. The game’s audio is so-so. Whilst the score is generally excellent throughout, the voice acting tends to let it down from time to time. That, and there’s some moments with the audio of X-2 that legitimately makes me want to pull my hair out; intro, I’m looking at you. Still, when all is said and done, warts and all, Final Fantasy doesn’t get much better than this.

Conclusion

Of all the legacy Final Fantasy games that have come to Xbox One, the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is the most comprehensive of the lot. The spiritually deep story is every bit as moving today as it was nearly twenty years ago, and surprisingly, each title here has aged remarkably well, both visually and mechanically. Sporting over 200 hours worth of gameplay, complete with refinements and added extras, returning to Spira should be a no-brainer.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • The most comprehensive package of the legacy titles.
  • Still every bit as moving and as engaging as ever.
  • Additional content is worthwhile.
  • Heaps of longevity and replay value.
Bad
  • Games are starting to show their age.
8.5
Great
Gameplay - 8
Graphics - 8
Audio - 8
Longevity - 10
Written by
Howdy folks! Now, as of July 23rd, 2019, I no longer operate here at Xbox Tavern. It was one hell of a ride; creating this, building this, and operating it for several years, but, we all hit a proverbial point that encourages us to move on, and that's what I've done; handing the reigns to the very capable Jamie. Want to keep in touch? My Gamertag is Kaloudz Peace! Love to you all, Mark!

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