Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Given the tendency of the many installments of Square-Enix’s fabled Final Fantasy franchise to differ greatly in terms of gameplay, it has developed a polarized following, regardless of critical reception. Such was the case when the series debuted on the Sony PlayStation 2 with its tenth installment, given its variances from the gameplay featured within its three PSX predecessors, even more so with its direct sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, although concerns with the pantheon’s first direct sequel stemmed from issues other than its gameplay. Over a decade later, both games would receive high-definition ports on the PlayStation 3, Vita, and a little later PS4, the first game of the subseries titled Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, providing a good opportunity for newcomers to the series to experience the classic title.

The HD Remaster more or less features the same battle and character development engines as its original version, although before starting a new game, the player can choose between a standard or simplified Sphere Grid, the latter providing additional challenge for those who for some reason considered the PlayStation 2 version easy. Combat itself proved vastly different from that in the PSX Final Fantasies, where the player’s characters and enemies exchanged turns based on speed, executing their commands immediately upon input. Some have criticized the Sphere Grid system to be linear, although once players complete a character’s section, they’re free to branch off into another ally’s portion. Features such as a more apparent means of controlling random battles, being able to heal characters not in the active party of three characters, and backup confederates taking place of fallen frontline allies, would have been welcome, but the game mechanics generally hold on their own.

Further criticism levied against the tenth installment includes the lack of an unrealistic overworld where the visible character enlarges and dwarfs both towns and their surrounding environs whenever they leave a safe zone, although FFX’s system of towns interconnected by vast plains, environmental corridors, mountains, and whatnot, is definitely more realistic. Save points fully restore the player’s party, although their placement, including an instance where the final one of the game is placed before a zone of several draining enemy encounters and the ultimate stretch to the concluding boss battles, can be stingy at times. The Remaster further lacks a feature to skip cutscenes, inexcusable in the current generation of RPGs. Interaction isn’t a total writeoff, as the menus are generally easy and direction on how to advance the main storyline is crystal-clear, but the mentioned shortcomings the developers could have certainly resolved.

The storyline still follows protagonist and frequent narrator Tidus (officially pronounced “tee-dus”), star Blitzball player of the Zanarkand Abes, and who has a strained relationship with his missing father Jecht, finding himself a millennium in the future with his friend Auron after an entity termed Sin ravages his hometown. Whenever Sin comes, a summoner must travel the world of Spira to obtain the power of sundry summon spirits and perform the Final Summoning to eradicate Sin, thus ushering an era without the dark force known as the Calm. Yuna is the one assigned this task when Tidus shows, following in the footsteps of her father Lord Braska, traveling with various guardians that have some sort of story. The narrative is generally enjoyable, although the goal of traveling and obtaining summons somewhat resembles that in Tales of Phantasia, and there are scenes that would have been better off left out of the English version, such as the infamous “laughing scene,” which wouldn’t have sounded any better regardless of how professional the voice actors were.

Aside from the aforementioned issue with the writing, generally strong and free of error aside from only a single unvoiced reference to Tidus’s name, aspects such as the enigmatic Al Bhed language gradually decoded through the acquisition of primers being among its high points, the voice acting is far from terrible except for poor lip-syncing, and while Japanese RPGs tend to have the worst dialogue in combat, what with things such as characters unnaturally shouting the names of their commands, Final Fantasy X actually handles it surprisingly well, even more so than in the countless roleplaying games that have succeeded it, with a nice degree of subtlety. The soundtrack is also enjoyable, with a nice variety of tracks including variations upon a central theme, “Suteki Da Ne.” Overall, an excellent-sounding game.

The Remaster looks nice as well, with upscaled character models and pretty environments that only contain occasional blurry texturing, and the accompanying FMVs have aged well.

Finally, a straightforward playthrough of the tenth installment takes around thirty hours, although things such as acquiring all trophies and completing all sidequests can push playtime to indeterminable length.

Overall, Final Fantasy X HD Remaster is an enjoyable port of the PlayStation 2 classic, given positive aspects such as its battle and character development systems, nice narrative with strong characters and a polished localization, a great soundtrack, good voice acting in and out of battle, pretty remastered visuals, and endless opportunities to pad playing time. It does have its flaws such as the retention of random encounters, with many other titles in the genre having superior encounter systems, an irritating endgame, no scene skip, poor placement of save points in a few cases, some derivative aspects in its storyline, and weak syncing of character lip movements to voiced dialogue, although these hardly detract a great experience that those who have yet to play the game are absolutely missing out on should they for some reason avoid it.

The Good:
+Solid battle and character development systems.
+Enjoyable narrative and characters with strong localization.
+Great soundtrack.
+Good voice acting with believable battle dialogue.
+Nice remastered visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Random encounters can be irritating.
-Drawn-out endgame.
-Still no scene skip feature.
-Iffy placement of save points at times.
-Parts of plot are derivative.
-Weak lip-syncing.

The Bottom Line:
A remastered classic.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: 30+ Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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