Saturday, January 03, 2015

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster for PlayStation 3

Product Name: Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster
Publisher / Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date / Window of Availability:
March 18, 2014
Price: $39.99 (Standard Edition);
$79.99 (Collector’s Edition)
Summary: FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster celebrates two of the most cherished and beloved entries to the world-renowned franchise -- FINAL FANTASY X & FINAL FANTASY X-2 -- now completely remastered in gorgeous High Definition!
Rating: Teen

Reviewed by M.W.

Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 were both well-loved games during the PlayStation 2 era -- and Square Enix has certainly managed to open them up to the newer generation in their Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered edition for the PlayStation 3. However, in making the game accessible to new gamers, they did not necessarily go out of their way to make some much-needed improvements to the games’ overall format.

As a general rule, Final Fantasy X is still the same amazing game that it always was. The sophisticated storyline -- depicting a dystopian society, varying cultures, and unique races of both humanoids and creatures -- has remained integrated in every part of the gameplay. The main character, Tidus, shares his story in a way that keeps you wanting to play more and more, if only to watch the variety of movie clips illustrating the interactions between the characters and their society. The game also still boasts the same old-school style battle strategy, with three of the seven party members fighting in the very classic Final Fantasy turn-based system. The battles require at least some strategy, but it is not overly difficult to the point that it is off-putting to players. Furthermore, the game includes a variety of extra content, such as creature collecting and Blitzball games, that make it enjoyable for multiple hours of gameplay -- and even continuous replays.

However, all that being said, there are some definite problems within Final Fantasy X that could have easily been corrected. A big issue with the game is that the creators did not think to install better controls for battles. While the old system works, the PlayStation 3 is not the same as the PlayStation 2, and Square Enix could have really worked on the way the player selects their target. Specifically, in some places, it was almost impossible to do anything but press X repeatedly and hope the characters hit the right thing because the target selection controls would continuously skip what I was aiming for when the camera switched angles. It was a serious problem -- if only because it was easily fixable and should not have been included in the gameplay at all. Furthermore, some of the tutorials within the game were overly complicated and actually took away from the gameplay. For example, the Blitzball tutorial took more time to get through than the actual Blitzball tournament -- movie clips and all. Square Enix could have cleaned that up a bit and made it feel a bit more like a game -- really because it’s a game within another game.

Moreover, the greatest problem I found within the Final Fantasy X HD Remastered game was, frankly, the graphics. When playing a game specifically marketed for its updated graphics, the fact that multiple movie clips went back and forth between updated graphics and not-so-updated graphics and then back to updated graphics within the same thirty seconds was almost unforgivable. The original Final Fantasy X had some of the same issues, and it felt like Square Enix did not care to use the PlayStation 3’s superior system to their advantage. Yes, the graphics overall are better, but the fact that Square Enix had the ability to use really excellent graphics and then just didn’t in places felt a little wrong. So, while the game is still amazingly fun to play, Square Enix really could have made it something quite a bit better.

That, of course, leaves Final Fantasy X-2. While set in the same location as its predecessor, Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy X are by no means the same game. The HD Remastered edition includes a very short film to acclimate the player to what has happened to Spira following the ending of Final Fantasy X. However, since it includes no actual gameplay on the part of the player, Square Enix really should have done something to make it interesting to watch outside of its general storyline qualities. Frankly, they didn’t. The graphics and the sound are exactly the same as if the player were back in Final Fantasy X’s typical gameplay. However, that being said, it does allow the player to get a better feel for what is coming in Final Fantasy X-2, which ends up being completely necessary. Going directly from one game to the next is both jarring and a little bewildering. The originally very calm main character, Yuna, seems to regress into a significantly less sophisticated version of herself, and the attitudes of the society at large appear to have also changed -- into a scatterplot of organizations and races with different viewpoints and ideals that are somehow entirely unlike how they were before.

Nevertheless, Final Fantasy X-2 is still a great game, if only because of its inherent similarities and differences from its predecessor. As it is, there are more differences than there are similarities. As stated previously, the location is the same, but the society itself is not. Many of the characteristics of Final Fantasy X that make it so unique are simply not there in Final Fantasy X-2. However, the memory of that society is there and the storyline, while far more sparse -- and even outlandish -- than that in Final Fantasy X, still integrates the memory of what the society once was into the game and allows the player to see the changes that they created in completing Final Fantasy X. That right there is really what makes Final Fantasy X-2 an interesting game to play. Little pieces of nostalgia are littered throughout each section of the game -- the sword that Yuna carries belongs to the main character of Final Fantasy X, the maps and locations are laid out in the same way as they are in the previous game, and even the characters that were met during Final Fantasy X can be found again. It is the incorporation of these things in an entirely new and different way that makes Final Fantasy X players feel a real connection to the game’s sequel.

However, outside of the nostalgia that Final Fantasy X-2 offers Final Fantasy X players, there really is not anything that ties the two games together in terms of gameplay. While Final Fantasy X follows the same very classic turn-based system as previous Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X-2 incorporates dresspheres -- which change both the character’s outfit and abilities -- and forgoes the turn-based system for something a little more interactive, which is by no means a bad thing. Though the dresspheres are rather eccentric and sometimes even annoying, they allow each of the characters to expand in ways that the game’s predecessor did not. Instead of having abilities specific to each character, the characters are able to learn whatever ability the player wants them to, depending on what dressphere the player chooses. This gives more control to the player and allows them to customize their game for maximum enjoyment. Furthermore, the battle system is far more realistic, as the game no longer pauses battles in order for the player to command their party members. Instead, the player is expected to think quickly and efficiently in order to survive. This makes the game inherently more difficult, but it also makes it more interesting.

As it is, Final Fantasy X-2 is a great game for Final Fantasy X players, though that does not necessarily mean that it will be just as great for those who did not originally play Final Fantasy X. The nostalgia is really what makes the game enjoyable. For more sophisticated players, the extra mission content and the improved battle system is entertaining, but everything about the game is really lessened by the storyline. In fact, the major flaw in the game’s structure is how outlandish the story actually is. While some parts of it are interesting, it is very easy for the player to feel like they are really babysitting their characters -- that are stealing from warring organizations in one second and then partying in the next. That being said, the game is still fun to play -- and its far more relaxed attitude actually makes it seem more like a game than Final Fantasy X at times.

Honestly, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 were great during the time of the PlayStation 2, and while Square Enix may have failed in making a few improvements, playing the games is still just as gratifying as it was before. Overall, they are both excellent games -- and the new Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered edition really makes them affordable and accessible to the newer generation of gamers.


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