Note: This Review will ONLY be for FFX HD. FFX-2 HD will be covered in a different review at a later date.
The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has officially joined FFVII, IX and XII in the line of re-releases for the Switch. Each previous release has had an issue or two as is typical with ports of aging, albeit legendary, titles. Final Fantasy X HD has presented itself with the most polish of the recent Square Enix ports, but does it achieve anything beyond a shiny new coat of paint? In many ways…yes, but there are still some gripes which are to be discussed below.
Shiny new coat of paint, indeed. Final Fantasy X was – and is – a beautiful game. Seeing it in HD is just icing on the proverbial cake. The environments sparkle with detail. The land of Spira has some of the more unique architecture and fauna of any Final Fantasy, and this new HD remaster does an excellent job of showing off those designs. An underlying theme in the entire game is water – the metaphor of water and life can be seen time after time, so the developers made a point to make it as beautiful as can be during gameplay, as well as in the CG scenes. In terms of world building, Final Fantasy X had the development team at Square performing on all cylinders.
Visual undertones help to define Spira as a land of clashing cultures with an influx of paranoia caused equally by the abomination known as Sin, as well as false religions sowing their own seeds of discourse. It would seem that a solid effort was put forth to upgrade it visually in every way possible…with exception of the characters themselves. Character design in FFX was top notch and they’re still as memorable now, so it’s unfortunate that the sprites still sport that PS2 quality “fuzziness” when it seems everything else received a detailed overhaul. I’m not saying I need to be able to count every single freckle on LuLu’s very noticeable cleavage, but I simply can’t “unsee” the fuzzy edges when they’re presented alongside such detailed environments.
Do you like novels? If your reply was “Yes,” then you’re in luck. FFX’s introduction truly eschews what to expect from the rest of the story’s progression. The opening scenes are confusing and downright weird yet very much worth it once the entire picture comes together. In another bizarre twist for the series, it doesn’t take long for the focus of the story to seemingly shift from bubbly hero, Tidus, and his confusion over being swept to a thousand years into the future – to his love interest Yuna and her responsibility as a Summoner in Spira. Once again, patience shows the ultimate connection between the two and how equally important they truly are. Though the story is a VERY slow burn, the development amongst this assortment of characters helps maintain interest as much as the anticipation of arriving to a new area or village.
There are also a few side quests and mini games that help to hold things together as the story drags along. Most predominantly is the addition of blitzball. Tidus happens to be the most renowned blitz baller in Spira and you’ll reach a certain point in the game that you’ll actually get to learn the game, join a team, and play in a tournament. The idea itself is executed well. I can see how some players might enjoy the diversion that blitzball offers, but I simply couldn’t. No complaints over the concept, it just wasn’t fun to me. That being said, give it a try for yourself if you’re playing FFX for the first time. At the very least, blitzball is an example of some awesome creativity from the team.
If you manage to stick with the story long enough and allow character development and side quests to help bring you home, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most amazing endgame events in video game history. The conclusion of Tidus’ story coincides with an important feat, both of which will likely leave your jaw dropped (along with a few tears). I was a little disappointed that the HD Remaster didn’t provide some extra content to then endgame, but I suppose you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. With a little patience…this is a story you won’t soon forget.
Battle in FFX takes a slight variation from the norm of the Active Time Battle system. Instead, you are provided with a gauge on the screen that shows you the order in which you can expect your party members and your enemies to attack. However, the order can quickly change depending on the timing and execution of certain attacks. I loved this nuance because it adds an extra layer of thought to turn based battle. If you play your cards right, you can get an extra attack or 2 in before the enemy has a chance to act. Make a false move and the enemy could jump ahead in the order and force a heal or a different unintended action, however.
Progression is also handled a bit differently here – instead learning new abilities via leveling up or equipment, FFX uses the “sphere grid.” This system has all of your party members start at a different point on the grid and progress as the player sees fit upon the build up of “sphere points.” The sphere grid, much like the rest of this game, takes a long time to grasp but like the story, it’s worth it if you stick it out. It provides near limitless customization opportunities as you reach a high enough level. Want to add some healing capabilities to your black mage? No problem. Any character can reach any point of the sphere grid with enough time and experience. Again…it can just take a long time and requires patience – so much so that I was rather disappointed that this HD Remaster didn’t come with the built in cheats that FF7 and FFIX did on the Switch. I’m not ashamed to say that the opportunity to make a few jumps on the sphere grid at the touch of a button would’ve certainly been welcome to someone that is eager to simply enjoy the story or just wants to casually experience it again.
Another welcome nuance is the ability to switch out a party member with a single push of a button. This was a revolution in so many ways for the series as it solves many problems that keep casual gamers from turn based RPGS. It certainly improves pacing of battle and gives the player more control. A common hindrance of having multiple party members in a RPG is the problem of unused party members getting left behind in terms of leveling – this system solves that problem in many ways. Party maximum is reduced to 3, so you’ll often find yourself actually needing to bring in a fresh party member simply to avoid death. Enemy weaknesses also wildly vary throughout the game – you’ll likely find yourself bringing certain party members in for a single turn of support before you go back on the offensive. This system makes FFX one the more enthralling RPG battle experiences EVER.
In case I haven’t drilled it home yet…Final Fantasy X takes patience – story progression, character progression, and even the overall duration of the game can take a while (my play through was over 50 hours). The duo of FFX/X-2 titles will run you around $50 USD, which is a little steep for me even though it’s a two game package. I was just left with the feeling that there wasn’t enough added content here. That being said, it IS beautiful and the new “enhanced” soundtrack is super cool. You’ll even hear a couple of remixes of favorites from the OG Final Fantasy games.
For someone that has never experienced a Final Fantasy game before, this is probably the one they should start with. It’s still one of the most memorable stories in gaming history and it’s told through the best cast of voice actors the series has ever seen. Battles are strategic and fast paced for a turn based game, and the CG scenes are as captivating as ever. Progression of said story and characters may require a TON of patience, but if you can take it for what it’s worth and stick with it…Final Fantasy X HD comes through as a rewarding experience that we should all be thrilled to be able to enjoy on the Switch.