Review: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (Vita)

Developer: Square Enix | Year: 2013 | List Price: 19.99 | Buy from Amazon

ffxx2vitaThe other day, there was a sale at the local EB Games and I found a copy of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD for only $15. So I ignored the fact that I already had about a dozen games in my backlog and took the plunge. 3 weeks later, and with over 40 hours lost, I’ve finished the Final Fantasy X HD and thought I should do a review on just the one game. I’ll make sure I cover X-2 separately when I play it later on. Note that I didn’t play the original FFX (I was only three when it came out!) and the only other Final Fantasy games I’ve played are FFVI and FFVII.

Final Fantasy X, first released in 2001 for the PS2, marked a shift in the Final Fantasy genre. It attempted to break away from staples of the franchise, eschewing typical high fantasy themes for a more natural and tropical aesthetic, as well as using more cinematic techniques in storytelling. Furthermore, FFX replaced the Active Time Battle system of Final Fantasies IV-IX with a new Conditional Turn-Based Battle system.

Visually, Final Fantasy X HD has been redone to great effect, and at first glance, the game looks modern in every way. It is only when you get to the cutscenes, many of which run on the in-game engine, that some of its PS2 roots are visible. While many important characters have had their models redone with care, generic NPC models are bland and flat-looking, reminiscent of older games such as Morrowind and Half Life. The dialogue is just as awkward as ever and the voices don’t quite match with the mouths of the chatacters, but overall, Final Fantasy X HD succeeds in making its source material more palatable for a modern audience.

Final Fantasy X still plays a lot like its predecessors, and you’ll be fighting random encounters, grinding levels, and defeating tough bosses. There are some nice changes to the formula, however. Being a big fan of turn-based mechanics, I really enjoyed the CTB I mentioned earlier. Because it is truly turn-based, FFX feels a lot more strategic and a little less stressful than VI and VII, which required you to think faster. I also thought it was really cool that you can directly control your aeons, Final Fantasy X’s take on summons.  Also new is the leveling system, which doesn’t have traditional experience points and levels. Instead, you’ll be earning AP from battles, which will gain you Sphere Levels. These can be spent to move your characters across a Sphere Grid, where you can insert spheres that increase your characters’ stats. While tedious at times, this gives you lots of options in the way of customising your characters.

The world of Spira, in which FFX is set, feels a lot more populated than those of previous Final Fantasy games. The story is complex and well-told, if a little verbose at times. You play as Tidus, an upbeat blitzball that’s been taken through some sort of dimensional rift into a foreign world. The narrative themes of religion and corruption are quite interesting, and for the first time while playing a Final Fantasy game, I was actually more invested in the story than the characters. That’s not to say the characters are bad, they just don’t stand out when compared to say, those of FFVI or Chrono Trigger.

Before we tally up the scores, I have to mention the mini-games. Final Fantasy has never been known for great minigames, but FFX’s are particularly bad. Seriously. Out of the 42 hours I sank into this game, 8 were spent playing a specific chocobo racing game for one trophy that requires you to finish with a time of 0 seconds (and I still didn’t get it!). The controls of this race and another at Remiem Temple have to be some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a video game. I’m a big fan of trophy-hunting, but after so much time wasted on some of the most poorly-designed mini-games I’ve ever seen, I resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never get the Final Fantasy platinum trophy.

Design: 8/10 The story is complex and interesting and the world vast and populated. The game is very linear, but I didn’t find that detracted from the experience too much, and the world does open up at the very end. Characters are likable and entertaining, though not too memorable.

Visuals: 9/10 This is a remake of a PS2 game, but, at least on the Vita, this isn’t too noticeable most of the time. NPCs look a little funny and lip-syncing is off, but the game has its fair share of spectacular moments, such as aeon summons.

Sound: 9/10 The soundtrack covers a wide range of styles, from majestic orchestral sequences to heartfelt melodies and even, at one point, something that resembled heavy metal. Voice acting is a nice addition to this entry, though it has some awkward pauses here and there.

Gameplay: 9/10 Final Fantasy X deviates from the classic formula with novel ideas, but still manages to play like a Final Fantasy game should. The battle system is now fully turn-based, but that only makes it the more strategic. Players who love micro-management will enjoy customising their characters stats and abilities with the new SphereIf there’s one complaint, it’s that the battles feel a little slow compared to earlier games.

Value: 9/10 Though you’ll have to shell out somewhere between $15 and $30 to get Final Fantasy X HD on your PS3 or Vita, remember that this is only half of the package that also includes the sequel. For players looking for a meaty JRPG to dive into, you really can’t get more value than with Final Fantasy X HD.

Total: 44/50 (B+)

List Price: 19.99 | Buy from Amazon

Have you played Final Fantasy X HD? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!

There may not be reviews from me for the next couple of weeks since I’ve got exams and then a vacation, but rest assured I’ll be back soon with more content before you know it. I’m still chipping away at Suikoden, though I also just got Final Fantasy IV – The Complete Collection as well. Of course, I’ll be playing Final Fantasy X-2 HD and I’ll put that review up as soon as I’m done.

For now, please check out our other video game-related articles and reviews here, and see an always-up-to-date list of my favourite video games of all time right here!



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