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(Up Next: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age - Eruyt Village)

REVIEW: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

March 12th, 2014 by Tony Garsow

FFXHD

Final Fantasy X was the game I bought my PlayStation 2 for way back in the day, mowing lawns during the summer in high school before I had any real part-time job. One of my more embarrassing recollections is spending an hour or two playing a PS2 demo unit featuring the game until, after a much-appreciated Christmas-time cash infusion, I could afford the console and game for myself. This was back before I could drive myself around, and was limited to the sporadic trips my parents would make twenty miles from our home to shop for less interesting things than video games.

Go ahead, you can have a laugh at my expense. Obviously I was more innocent then — but in a sense, so was my view of the series itself. Perhaps the same sort of innocence you can see with younger fans of the series getting into newer titles, a smaller pool of them they may be. I’ll just say it’s interesting to watch, aside from any preconceived opinions.

I remember following the latest news through insider fansites of the day, bygone relics of a now ancient-seeming era, and downloading the lowest quality videos through our dial-up connection. Oh man, watching those JPEG screenshots load in? Magic. The series had made yet another generational leap, and after Squaresoft’s presentation at January 2000’s Millennium Event, I was enthralled with what kind of game Final Fantasy X would or could be.

The next generation console brought next generation visuals, and allowed Squaresoft to create character expressions and cinematic scenes in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before. For the first time in the series, cutscenes were voiced and had camera angles, the latter of which is interesting to watch the developers experiment in. With the advent of character models that could express subtle emotion, or the ability to display a wide 3D landscape, suddenly where you stuck a camera mattered.

The next level of presentation in video game storytelling.

That was the challenge and legacy of Final Fantasy X. Oh, yes, Final Fantasy X-2 was there too.


So, to kick things off, we got our hands on a PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, though you’ll be able to buy the game on the PlayStation Vita handheld. Both games come on one Blu-ray disc, but for Vita you’ll get Final Fantasy X on the cartridge and a voucher for a digital download. If you’ve got both console and handheld you’ll be able to use the in-game Data Transfer feature to port your save from system to system, perfect if you want to take the game with you or just lounge and play somewhere there isn’t a HD television.

I Visuals
Of course, the first thing to really talk about in-depth for a HD Remaster are the visuals. Many of the game’s models, especially for the main cast, have received a noticeable upgrade. Perhaps you’ve noticed yourself in many of the screenshots leading up to release. Textures on the main characters faces, skin, and clothing are much sharper. Aside from faces, the “baked-on” lighting that was present on the PlayStation 2 version is largely missing, presumably for a different (or actual) lighting job on the characters themselves.

Final Fantasy X and X-2 often swapped in different models for different “tiers” of cutscenes. Some feature more detailed facial expressions when there is more emotion to convey, while other — arguably less important cutscenes, generally forgo this. The same goes for the HD Remaster of the game.

Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels may have spoiled us a bit with its use of motion capture and lip-synced voice acting, so when you head back into Final Fantasy X and X-2, it’s probably one of the most jarring things you’ll come across. Updated character models with healthy portions of canned animations and awkward mouth movements to match another language may take you out of it a little. If you’re new to both games and that sounds like a negative, just go in with the context that this was a new frontier back then. If you’re like me and you’re coming back to replay them, it’s really nothing that will really bother you.

A popular topic of discussion that’s come up a lot in the lead-up to the game’s release is how the new models for Tidus and Yuna look. Yeah, they’re different. They’ve also gone through a revision or two as well, though I couldn’t tell you if that’s directly based on fan feedback as development continued. The new models themselves aren’t bad — in fact, they are good. They’re just different. To better articulate, it seems that in many of the more intimate cutscenes, the motion data attributed to the previous models just doesn’t transfer in the same way. The times where this is most noticeable is in the highest “tier” cutscenes where the top-half of Tidus and Yuna’s faces seems a bit frozen compared to the bottom half.

It’s entirely possible that the same motion data exists and is interpreted differently on the new models, but regardless, the result is a bit disheartening, seeing that the original models couldn’t have been preserved with more fidelity. In any cutscene of a lesser tier it’s really not that big of a deal, especially ones that just have a few canned animations of little consequence. Characters that aren’t in the main cast are much less detailed in the texture department, but they’re never really outside of anything acceptable for a PS2 remaster.

One fear I had for the HD Remaster of these games was how the pre-rendered backgrounds would be treated, considering that there are more of them than you might expect. I’m glad to report that these were expertly handled, and even look better in comparison to the original game. All have been re-drawn and re-animated faithfully and actually make a pretty smooth transition from the fully-3D environments.

The user interface has also received a proper HD upgrade — the main menu in Final Fantasy X is the largest benefactor of this, and looks wonderfully clean and crisp without being too aliased or artificial. Final Fantasy X-2‘s menu a bit less so, but retains most of its original aesthetic. The only minor complaint I had on this front was the HP and MP font in battle being a bit on the small side. The Sphere Grid and Tetsuya Nomura’s character portraits have also been well-preserved for Final Fantasy X.


II Sound
Final Fantasy X and X-2‘s sound set has been wholly preserved and updated for the HD release, so everything from the ding and chirp of menu selection to the slap-clop of Tidus’ yellow sneakers on marble sounds just as you remember it.

I’ve heard from a few other fansites who’ve done reviews that there are some problems with voice audio levels dropping on certain cutscenes — particularly with Auron’s voice, but I didn’t experience it myself. It’s possible that the new arrangement of the soundtrack could drown voices out a bit, but there was never a point where I found it a problem.

There’s also some slightly noticeable compression on the voices, but nothing that will distract you like the levels of Final Fantasy XII‘s auditory fuzziness.

III Music
Final Fantasy X‘s soundtrack has been remastered from the original version, and aside from the HD visuals of the game, this will be one of the first things you’ll notice. The game’s original sound team and composers returned to supervise the production of the new soundtrack, and for the most part, the tracks are very well done. Final Fantasy X-2‘s soundtrack was not remastered, and contains all the tracks original to the game but at the OST’s higher-quality bitrate.

Many songs have been upgraded with high-quality live recordings of instruments as you’ll notice when you first journey to the Mi’ihen Highroad, the Thunder Plains, or the Calm Lands. It’s really a great effort, especially on songs like Masashi Hamauzu’s Besaid Island, just one song of many that I think are better than their original counterparts: largely faithful tracks, but then add a little something to give it a sweeter aftertaste.

The soundtrack remastering isn’t without its own problems, as some new arrangements are “busier” with more instruments then they really need to be — such as the battle theme. The game’s boss theme seems to lack the power of the original, and there are some questionable instrumentation choices such as the horns on the victory theme or guitar where there really doesn’t need to be guitar. Considering much of the sound team remains, I was a bit shocked to hear some of their revisions, for better or worse. Some songs are a bit too different from the original; while the melody and most everything else is intact, it evokes a different feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do like most of the new soundtrack, but part of me does wish that Square Enix added an optional toggle for the original game’s soundtrack like in some of the remakes of early Final Fantasy titles — even just for the sake of having it.

Lately, I’ve seen some wholly damning sentiments about the soundtrack float around here and there, and I think it’s totally unjustified — a gut reaction to some of the changes. It all settles nicely enough in the long term, but whether or not you like a version of a song better or worse seems to border on the more ethereal side of topics. I’m interested in reading these discussions, regardless.


IV International Content + Extras

Perhaps it was a given that the International content from Final Fantasy X and X-2 would make it into the HD Remaster, but it nonetheless makes me happy Square Enix was thorough in including “Eternal Calm” and “Last Mission”. Those of us in North America went completely without the International additions, so to have the definitive versions of both games at last feels highly satisfying as a fan.

While Final Fantasy X‘s new features aside from the Expert Sphere Grid are buried further into the game, you’ll definitely feel their presence in Final Fantasy X-2. The Creature Create system and two new dresspheres: “Festivalist” and “Psychic”, can all be unlocked within the first half hour of the game and add a considerable amount to the entire journey itself. I can already feel the hours slipping away.

Square Enix has also brought back the Japanese and English voice cast for Final Fantasy X -Will-, an audio drama written by the games’ scenario writer Kazushige Nojima. I found myself unabashedly listening to this first before I did anything proper with the game, if only to hear about the characters in their lives post-X-2. The concept art included in the video is also a blast from the past, and may include images from the game’s development you’ve never seen before.

I won’t spoil anything here, but you’ll definitely want to check this out.

V Conclusion

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster gives both games a proper coat of paint for the HD generation. Those of us long-time fans will find plenty of different-y things to think about and judge for ourselves to be better or worse, but there are never any egregious offenses. Some creature comforts like skipping cutscenes and a soundtrack toggle would have been a good addition. Square Enix has done a great job regardless, and has made me excited for the possibility of other HD Remasters in the Final Fantasy series.

Forty dollars gets you two 40-hour RPGs with hundreds of hours in tow for completionists, so if you’re new to both games there’s hardly a better bang for your buck. If you’re a longtime fan, it’s definitely worth it for the remastered soundtrack and International content you may have missed out on years ago. This spring may be stacked for Square Enix releases, so for those of you on a tighter budget, it might warrant a bit of a wait — but make sure not to miss it entirely.

Let’s hope Final Fantasy XII HD Remaster is next down the pipe!

Disclaimer: A PlayStation 3 copy Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster was provided to Final Fantasy Network by Square Enix in advance for review. We did not review the PlayStation Vita version.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is available on March 18th in North America and March 21st in Europe for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

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  • Tony Garsow

    Have anything you’d like to ask about the games? I’ll answer your questions here. :)

  • I read elsewhere that the 30-minute audio drama is a “bloated mess” and everyone should stay away from it since it provides nothing but confusion. I guess it depends on the reviewer and on the player at the end of the day… For example, all game sites claimed LR was a mediocre game with a weak story full of uninteresting characters at best, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it and some of my favorites came out of that game. Opinions, opinions…

  • Daniel Masterson

    Thanks for this great review! I always look forward to reviews on this site. I can’t wait to call in sick to work next week!

  • Tony Garsow

    I don’t really know if I’d call it a “bloated mess”. It’s paced decently enough. What it’s trying to do on the other hand – that may need some clarification beyond “we didn’t intend to make it for a third game”.

  • Tony Garsow

    Thanks for reading! Needed some more time with the game to let my thoughts settle a bit. Have fun with the game and your days off, lol.

  • Daniel Masterson

    I so hope that FF XII HD Remaster zodiac super mega edition is on the way! Considering FF XII is my favorite FF I would be very happy and pleased especially if it was released on PS3, PS4 and Vita.

  • Daniel Masterson

    Tony did you have to time to check out all the extras like Last Mission and the Dark Aeons? Also did you try out the Expert Sphere Grid? Did you like it better?

  • Tony Garsow

    I tried a little of Last Mission — it’s basically a roguelike.
    I’ve tried Expert Sphere Grid, yeah. Only diff with Expert is that you have to keep an eye on how you develop your characters.

  • Daniel Masterson

    Cool! Thanks, im just trying to figure out if I just want to do normal or if its worth it to go expert. With normal I feel like everyone fits their role perfectly but we shall see.

  • It’s definitely worth trying Expert grid, but keep in mind that you cannot change it once you start your file. Be prepared to start over if you don’t like it! It’s certainly a different experience.

  • Fantastic thoughts, Tony. I ended up not running into any audio issues either.

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  • Axwind

    This sounds good and I definitely plan to pick this up. I hope too, that FFXII gets the HD Remaster treatment as well, which seems likely (and KHII also). Another thing I’d like to see is HD Remasters of FF-FFIX. Call them the Masterpiece Editions, maybe. Volume I would encompass Final Fantasy I-VI on a single blu-ray and include all the games in HD resolution and sound (I realize that we’re talking 8 and 16 bit graphics and sound to start with, but I’m sure they could be improved with a better implementation than the mobile versions). In addition, have trophies, unlockable art galleries/bestiaries/treasure lists/soundtracks/FMV galleries like in previous releases. And for FFIII, it should be a proper 16-bit 2D release with the FMV’s from the DS/PSP version. Similar for FFIV, use the 16-bit 2D version with the FMV’s from the 3D version. That way, the evolution of the series can be better seen. Volume II would feature FFVII-FFIX on a single blu-ray with many of the same features—trophies, unlockable bestiaries/art galleries/FMV galleries/treasure lists/soundtracks as well as HD resolution and sound (graphics would look the same but be crisper and higher resolution). Also, Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core, and Before Crisis could be released as a special Compilation of FFVII HD Remaster on a single blu-ray. Add Advent Children Complete on a second blu-ray for an extra bonus.The Collector’s editions of these Masterpiece and Compilation Remasters could have soundtracks (like in the X/X-2 Remaster), art books, English versions of the Ultimania Omega books, and more. In short, make them the definitive versions of these games. I think if SE made these, they would literally fly off the shelves, they’d sell so well.

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  • StellaNox

    I think I’ll go normal first time around and then take on the expert grid second time around. I know I’d get wacko if I don’t like it and have to start over.
    Btw. unfair to show me those apparels from the unboxing if I cant get it! Just, pure evil!

  • Daniel Masterson

    KH II is getting a remaster its already been anounced KH 2.5 remix.

  • Considering they’ve remade everything up to VI (either on portable console ports, or on android/iOS), I believe it’s about time Sq-En made up their minds on what the future of FF will be. I would have no problem if they were to come out tomorrow and say “hey, after XV comes out we’ll be remaking VII, VIII and IX for PS3 or PS4″. On the other hand, if they intend to go on with future projects (like XVI and XVII), my personal opinion is that they should give up on all this past stuff. Don’t remake or remaster anything, just let me experience new characters, new stories and new worlds from the beginning. Considering XIV is an online game, I haven’t felt an original experience since 2010 with XIII! Nostalgia is nice but moving on is even better!

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