I think it's safe to call Final Fantasy X the premiere JRPG of its console generation. A lot of people--fans and critics alike--rate it as one of the all-time best games in the series, and now at the twilight of the seventh console generation, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 have been released in a remastered HD two-pack. Just like the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII review, I teamed up with Baker McDonald and Victoria Holden for a triple-team co-op review!
Baker McDonald: Okay! Let's get this show on the road! For those joining us for the first time, I'm Baker, AKA Bjaker! I like long walks on the beach, sending souls to the Farplane, and spending time with my Ifrit.
Nate Ming: I'm Nate, AKA Anonymooo, AKA a Baker's Apprentice (that joke's never gonna get old to me). I like collecting bottles of fanboy tears and drinking them. Salty!
Victoria Holden: Hey dudes! Victoria, AKA Sailor Bee here! Listen to my story... this may be our last chance.
N: HA HA HA HA HA!
B: Ha! Ha ha ha! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
She gave us the best "shut up, you guys" sad face when we did this
V: Whistling is hard, okay?!
N: So when was the last time you guys played Final Fantasy X?
N: Smartass. Yeah, I meant the first time.
B: I think the last time I played it was when it came out. That said, I live in a Geeky Video Game Commune and have seen it played through twice in the last six years.
V: Oh, I was exactly 11 years old. I stayed home from school and my mom would call and excuse me because Final Fantasy X was important.
N: If only we were all so lucky. And Jesus Christ--Final Fantasy X came out when I was in college, and I remember it being one of the games that kind of ended my love affair with JRPGs. And yet, looking back, I'm very impressed at how well it's held up, because that's kind of what the HD Remasters for these games kind of prove.
V: NOOOO, it kind of rekindled mine! Then again, I didn't know what was going on. I was basing this off of what I thought was a JRPG vs. what wasn't.
B: Ended? I thought it was an amazing step forward for the genre. But then again, I was about, what... a decade younger.
V: I think it was one of the last well-told FF games... if not the last.
B: I agree to an extent.
N: Now, I do want to bring this up before we start--we each kind of go into games with a different mindset. I'm in it for the gameplay, like almost 100%--I want to be challenged, I want to master a system, and first and foremost I want to play a game. Victoria, you're in it for the story, right?
V: Yes, and this is my story.
V: I just want to say "this is my story" as many times as possible. But also, yes! I don't mind crap gameplay for the most part as long as the story is engaging.
N: And Baker, is it safe to say you're somewhere in the middle?
B: Pretty much! I like to be able to lose myself in a story, but I'm also a sucker for grinding.
V: I made the mistake of choosing the Expert Sphere Grid. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO MOVE.
N: Yep! I dunno, Expert has some cool options, but I don't feel it's as flexible (or as hilariously broken) as the regular Sphere Grid. So, to start off--how have the remasters held up for you? Do they live up to your memories, for better or for worse?
B: The backgrounds, static sets, all of that is gorgeous. Staring into the smooth, smooth pitch-black corners of Tidus' eyes freaked me out.
V: I think they're better than I imagined! I choke up while playing because I have these super deep, imprinted feelings from a long time ago, that without replaying, wouldn't have been brought back to the surface. It's like, new and old at the same time because I didn't feel what I was supposed to, and to the extent I was supposed to back then. But replaying as an adult, I'm processing the story differently, and it's almost a whole new game.
B: On a more serious note, I completely agree. It was a lot of fun to go back and play something that was such a huge turning poitn as far as my own gaming history is concerned--the first big Final Fantasy on a brand new console, the new Emotion Engine. Some very serious topics handled throughout the story... yeah. Definitely good to go back and replay.
N: So is it safe for me to assume that we all started this collection with FFX first? The adventures of Tidus and his hilarious asymmetrical clothes?
B: Actually, I was stupid and started with the Final Fantasy X Eternal Calm.
V: Yeah, I played X before X-2.
N: So while Baker was stuck watching a half-hour cutscene movie, we were killing fish.
V: Wow, the entire first half of the game is fishing. Well, more like you're always just swimming, so much swimming in this game.
B: Little water babies.
N: Okay, so let's quickly go over what Final Fantasy X's HD Remaster has. Obviously, the remade graphics are kind of a big deal--it's a damn gorgeous game that looks even better now.
V: Tidus is the only one that doesn't look remastered to me at all. Wakka looks the most remastered! And the Aeons are like, weirdly reskinned in a non-impressive way.
N: Lulu is the most remastered. <3
V: She never looked bad! I wanted, like... Tekken 2 vs. Tekken 5.
B: I actually popped in the original FFX just to see the difference. Everything is so much softer.
N: I mean, there are a few small graphics issues, like Tidus signing a kid's blitzball with his mangled claw and an invisible pen. I mean, it's one thing on the PS2 where the hands were just a few pieces, but now you see clearly defined fingers. So he's just like Tiger Clawing this kid's ball and saying "here you go!"
V: And Yuna's arm just going through Valefor.
N: Yeah, there's some clipping that's more evident now.
B: I just kept looking at like... the sky, and the textures on fabrics.
N: But the gameplay in FFX is a system that I'll always love. it's not Final Fantasy's trademark Active Time Battle--it's literally just plain turn-based. It's a very solid evolution of the basic turn-based system.
B: It was so slow. I think coming from Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Lightning Returns, I was just like... UGH! Why do battles have to take so long?!
N: See, battles always end quickly for me save for boss fights. I shoot through the menu, swap people out, and carve a path. I think it's the fastest turn-based system I can think of short of turn-based strategy games like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars.
V: I love the combat. It's slow, but it's awesome. If you're equipped right and have the right spells and abilities, I actually think they aren't that slow. It forces you to do something about your weak ass.
B: I'm going for max coverage to get everyone XP...
N: Overall, it's also pretty forgiving. Enemies very clearly scale up as you move on, but the game gives you just enough XP and money to not kill you, but to keep you going at a steady rate.
N: Now, the story... well, I'm not a huge fan of it. But I know a lot of people call it one of the best in the series, it's very memorable for them. And it does have some really cool moments for me, like when they tell Tidus that he should just roll with it and take Yuna on her Pilgrimate. Then he says "have you ever just tried killing Sin?" and they go "uh... but we can't," and he replies with "no seriously, why don't you just try killing it instead? Isn't that easier? Have you tried?"
V: The story is so cute...
B: It tackles a lot of very serious issues, some more effectively than others. Death, religion, etc. There were some parts where I paused simply because it was cool to think about it as an adult rather than a kid.
V: Yeah, like leading someone you care about to their death.
N: I just feel it gets really heavy-handed at times--it doesn't beat you with a Metaphor Stick, it runs you over with a Metaphor Truck. There are times when it takes itself seriously and I just kinda boggle at it going "really? You're playing this scene straight?"
N: Now, this is the International Version, so we get a bunch of content that we didn't get in the original US release of FFX--the Expert Sphere Grid, which Victoria was complaining about earlier, the Dark Aeons, Penance, the Eternal Calm--
V: WHY NO JAPANESE THO
N: I was kinda surprised by that. I mean, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles gave us both language options.
V: Even Star Ocean had the Japanese language options, I thought that's what "international version" meant...
N: Now, as for Final Fantasy X-2...
B: Actually, before we get to that, this is something I would like to bring up. There are a ton of people who hate on FFXIII for being linear--you start here and then you walk down a path to the next destination. Please be prepared to be surprised (or not) that FFX is where it started.
N: Dude, even when you get the airship, when you get "the freedom to go anywhere," you're still just choosing locations from a menu. FFX is totally a linear game--thing is, most Final Fantasy games are. The games are usually just more subtle about blocking off areas that you aren't supposed to access yet.
B: Like how you can't get to certain areas in FFVII without the truck or the airship or a Chocobo.
N: And even a pretty "open" game like FFXII sealed off a lot of areas with crazy-powerful monsters that you had absolutely no hope of defeating until you were at an appropriate level. So, back to FFX-2! I mean, okay... I am one of the few people who actively champions this game.
V: I CHAMPION IT! It's so good!
N: People bring up the story and how it's so awful and incongruous... but to me, FFX's story was always kinda stupid. So this really just felt like more of the same, only they were more self-aware about it.
V: It was the first time that the battles felt this fast in a Final Fantasy game.
N: This system uses a variation of ATB, and you're encouraged to sync up attacks between the girls. Characters who are lower on health get more chances to move, so you're playing this great balancing act between keeping everybody's health up and dishing out tons of damage.
V: I just like dressing up. Or more importantly, cycling through jobs, which is what Lightning Returns really reminded me of.
N: Dresspheres are more or less the prototype for FFXIII's Command Synergy Battle--it's a really cool and fast and engaging battle system.
B: Agreed! It was great to get back into a system where things were more fluid, inputting commands was crucial because enemies didn't wait to kick your ass, and swapping between the different classes/Dresspheres was a lot of fun.
N: I really think Final Fantasy X-2 gets more shit than it deserves. It's the lighter sequel to a pretty grim game, and by wearing its goofiness on its sleeve instead of playing it straight, I think it handles the material better.
B: True, but then once you get past the goof, the backstory with the new characters is also kinda dark. Spira is just a pretty crappy world to live in, as it turns out.
V: Oh yeah, I love how awful Spira turned out to be.
B: I mean, you can only wear underwear on the outside of your clothes. *shakes fist at Tetsuya Nomura*
N: CLOTHES RULE THE WORLD. THEY RULE ALL OF HUMANITY!
V: Ragyo is such a Disco MILF. Yeah, it essentially becomes Kill la Kill.
N: And of course, this is also the International Version of FFX-2. There's some new stuff attached, like the Last Mission extra content, new monsters to tame, and new Dresspheres.
B: Yeah! It was surprising to get a brand-new Dressphere right off the bat!
N: Although going back to the "no Japanese language option" thing, it was kinda weird hearing the English version of Real Emotion.
B: Simple and clean is the way that it made you feel that night?
N: It's hard to let it go.
N: I mean, with all said and done, these are the definitive versions of these games.They rearranged or remastered all the music for them, too, so you're hearing a lot of these tunes fresh.
V: I know, we're so lucky.
B: True true. Geeky Fact: I have every Final Fantasy soundtrack back to VI... and X is one of the ones I don't listen to very often (great music to clean house to, though). So it was fun to revisit the music as well.
N: Did anyone have any noticeable issues with the games? We already mentioned how there's no Japanese language option, which is kind of a strange omission.
V: Umm, well... I really didn't like that the Japanese audio was missing. I even shut it off for a while and Googled.
N: I don't like how you can't skip cutscenes. There is no option to do that whatsoever.
B: Yes, that was really annoying.
V: Oh! That too.
B: Or summon animations. Ughhhhhh.
V: I would never want to skip those.
B: Honestly... if you could remake it again and give everyone more realistic clothing, that would be great. Like... really just pump up world-building 'til it was solid. I'd be so much more invested in it all. I hate the outfits so much.
N: I'm in the same camp. Part of what makes me groan about this game is the visual design. It's beautiful and detailed, and incredibly stupid-looking at the same time.
V: I like Yunalesca's clothing, at least.
N: Yeah, Tetsuya Nomura is a pretty talented artist. He just needs to go the Yoshihiro Togashi route with clothes--jeans and shirts for everybody. Maybe a costume once in a while.
N: So real fast, just to finish up--I really think that for the sheer amount of content you're getting, this is a great deal. There are some minor issues, but none of them are dealbreakers. What do you guys think?
B: Concur: if you've never played the games before, this is a really great way to enjoy the world of Spira. The things I'm nitpicking are all totally minor and it's a really interesting world and story to get lost in. Ultimately, it's worth picking up and the Collector's Edition is pretty! The artbook was a little skimpy though...
N: NOT SKIMPY ENOUGH IN THE LULU DEPARTMENT. :( Seriously though, yeah, that was kind of a chintzy artbook. But hey, it's a nice extra!
V: I played the hell out of Final Fantasy X when I was younger, and later FFX-2. I remember using 80 Hi-Potions and beating a boss in the desert when I was 20 levels behind where I should have been. I remember crying for a few days. So yeah, this game really means a lot to me, and I feel like it means a lot to my peers. This remaster was a nice thing to be given, and I'm glad that younger generations can be introduced to this game via a new, polished version, especially with the music being as good as it is. I hope they remaster more games. i would probably spend more money buying the JRPGs of the past than any new game I can imagine.
N: And one final thing: what's next on everybody's plate, gaming-wise?
V: Still waiting on Drakengard 3! Also, recently I was told about The Witch and the Hundred Knight, and it sounds rad!
N: Agreed, this is the first time I've been excited about an NIS game in a long while.
B: Oh gosh... I've been playing Dark Souls II, so I'm going to get back to that! (Not prepared to die, totally dying a lot.)
N: I've got Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z in addition to Dark Souls II... I've got a busy week ahead of me. Thanks again for all your help, guys! 'Til next time!
+ Games you know and love from the past, except now they look even better and have more content (N/B/V)
+ Rewarding story that keeps you hooked for the long-term (V)
+ For its price, you’re getting two great games with lots of quantity and quality (N/B/V)
+ Great soundtrack, now rearranged so it’s like you’re hearing it brand-new (N/B/V)
+ Battle system in both games is equal parts familiar and inventive (N)
+/- Blitzball mini-game can either be engrossing or infuriating (N/B)
+/- Character designs by Tetsuya Nomura… what more should I say? (N/B)
- No Japanese audio track (N/B/V)
- No option to skip cutsenes (N/B/V)
- Overall plot can get pretty painfully ridiculous, but your mileage may vary (N)