For many, their first introduction into the world of Final Fantasy was Final Fantasy VII, it came at the right time, on the right system and elevated the series to a whole other level. There have been many requests for a HD update, but the team at Square decided on Final Fantasy X and its sequel, X-2 for a bit of spit and polish.
It’s not a bad choice by any means and beyond the many hours put into Final Fantasy VII, it was X that probably grabbed this writer the most.
For those who don’t know, Final Fantasy X sees you take on the role of Tidus, who is the star of popular sport ‘Blitzball’, an underwater take on football. During a game, the city is attacked by a creature known as Sin, destroying the city and threatening the world. So what is a sports star to do? Well, team up with his pals and takes down the evil that threatens everything.
It is Final Fantasy and the story is a bit convoluted, but holds together quite well across the hours you will spend in the game. There are some parts that drag on and the characters at times can become a tad annoying, Tidus especially, despite being the lead role. Overall though, you will come across much, much worse.
What you are essentially getting here is the original releases, with an upgraded look, no more, no less…Well, depending on where you lived when the original came out (or managed to import). There were difference between the International and Japanese versions of the game, so in this HD port, you care given the opportunity to play either of them, which in X comes down to choosing a standard or expert sphere grid.
For newcomers to the series, it is worth just sticking to the standard, as it can all get confusing enough as it is. Which is a bit of a downfall of the game itself. The first few hours feel largely like they are one giant tutorial, a tutorial that never seems to want to end. Action is broken up on a regular basis so that the game can explain another mechanic of some description. It is at its worst when it comes to partaking in a nice game of Blitzball.
Here you are given an obscene amount of tutorial lists, before you can even get into playing a game. However, the game of Blitzball itself is rather quite fun to play and a very nice addition to the standard RPG stuff. We would suggest trying to skip most of the tutorial here, but it really is needed.
One thing that many fans of the series didn’t like about X was that it was fairly constrained, compared to some of the other games, with the story often pushing you down a corridor, rather than giving you ultimate freedom, this is shown in the level designs too, with you barely able to go off and explore. That said, for many it shouldn’t be an issue, it works for this game, it makes it feel different to the likes of VII, it also makes it a bit more welcoming to those who may never have experienced a Final Fantasy before.
Battles are generally standard too, turn based fighting, using menus to select an action and then choosing a target. There are some nice nuances to this to discover, but this type of battle system has come a long way since X and some may find it a little bit archaic, especially along with the complex Sphere Grid.
X isn’t the only part to be given this treatment though, X-2 has itself a few bits of added content, that was missing on not quite done right in its own original release. Such as an additional mission only found in the Japanese version orginally, or some extra stuff that can be done with your party, a creature creator and more.
X-2 also plays differently and has a lot less slow marauding across lands between major sections of the story. It is also a lot more open than X, allowing you to visit anywhere on the map from the very start and being quite relaxed with how and when you choose to do side missions. It is a clever sequel to X in some ways, as it doesn’t just keep to the same formula, it tries to do something a bit different and is very much worth playing once you finish X.
The HD visual upgrade is really well done and on the Vita’s OLED screen (if you were lucky enough to pick one up before the Slim release) it just oozes quality. It is a perfect fit for the Vita also, especially compared to the console versions. Because of the way the save system works, you cannot just save as and when you needed it, often spending large chunks of time before finding another save spot. With the Vita’s sleep mode though, you can still play in small bursts, or push on for longer spells, thus negating the need to find the time to play.
Fans of the games are going to love coming back to experience them all over again, with lovely updated visuals and some tweaks that enhance the gameplay just the right amount. Newcomers will find this a lovely introduction into Final Fantasy and if this sells enough, you never know…we may get FFVII HD afterall. But even if we don’t, this is great in its own right.