With this new series, we look at the games from our past and determine whether or not they deserve to be classed as a classic. Today, we’re looking at the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster on the PS4. The original game was released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2.
Throughout my childhood, I struggled with Final Fantasy X. The heavy religious themes put me off, the battles, especially the bosses, were hard to figure out; and I didn’t like most of the characters. However, after revisiting the game at the age of 23, I have gained a new found respect for the game. Keep in mind, I’m reviewing Final Fantasy X HD, not X-2 as well. That’s probably for another day.
What immediately grabbed me are the improved character models. They look closer to the CG versions of the game. Square Enix, with this remaster, was able to show more character expressions during the cutscenes, wrapping me up in the story even more. Square Enix has also made the water look great in this game.
The waves look stunning as Tidus and company are sailing, observing, or swimming through the water. The remastered waves alongside the touched up art makes Spira look stunning 14 or 15 years later, and this feature is more important than you would think because water is a main aspect of the land. The audio work is also exceptional. The magic sounds perfect, the voice work is crystal clear, and the music has a wonderful orchestral remake. If you’re not a fan of it, though, you can switch it to the original version.
And talking specifically about the soundtrack, Final Fantasy X holds some of the most beautiful themes in gaming history. Calm Before The Storm, Yuna’s Theme, Suteki Da Ne, Besaid’s Theme, and Tidus’ Theme all sound wonderful. It also houses one of the greatest battle themes in J-RPG history with a catchy and rocky melody. Thank you Nabuo Uematsu! All of the above elements of what have been remastered made the game easier to jump back in.
Some of the writing is charmingly cringeworthy, and I think you probably all know the infamous laughing scene. Does it stand up to the literary giants of the gaming industry? No, but the cast of characters are all extremely likable due to the weaknesses they share. Each character has a history and as the story progresses, they come to light. It’s an incredibly enjoyable journey with locations and set pieces that still feel current.
The writing, other than that laughing scene, still holds up with some poignant themes of loss and corruption within society. How communities are affected by the being Sin and the calamity it brings feels heart-wrenching. Another part of that heart-wrenching factor is that Yuna, as a summoner, sacrifices her happiness so she can help make Spira feel happier. She’ll do that in anyway possible, and unlike many female characters of that time (when the game first released), both Yuna and Lulu have strong personalities and writing that make them truly memorable.
Each place they visit has a grand element of lore that can be explored through talking further with the party or people from each town. The game also features a classic love story that, unlike many other J-RPGs, feels real through excellent voice acting between James Arnold Taylor and Hedy Burress. The performances sound genuine, and you truly get that awkward but meaningful connection that the two share.
The rest of the cast are great because you get from the tone of their voice that they understand what is going on as well. The comradery between all of them feels real, too. James Arnold Taylor’s voice for Tidus, however, sometimes goes overboard with shouting and the character comes across as annoying at some points in the game. Overall, he delivers an excellent performance as the lead.
Final Fantasy X is standard turn-based RPG affair but with a few twists. For example, there is the Overdrive system, which is a meter that fills up (after a chosen effect that drives it) to give each character a special move. As you use the Overdrive moves, you gain new abilities to use for that Overdrive. Each ability can change the tides in battle, and it is activated in different ways. You will have to hit the meter at the right time after it goes side to side, rotate the analog stick as many times as possible, or hit a button combination as fast as possible.
These are fun to play and affect the amount of damage you can deal towards the opponent. One of these–rotating the analog stick–doesn’t work well with the DualShock 4 for some reason. It’s not receiving the input, and usually, this Overdrive for Lulu is less effective than using a regular spell. The majority of the game, in addition, is pretty easy. I sped through the majority of the game and only lost 2-3 lives in my playthrough. It’s not too challenging, but as it reaches the climax, the boss battles get tougher.
The worst part of Final Fantasy X by far is the temples. Oh my god, how I hate the temples! In the game, you must go to every temple so Yuna can complete her pilgrimage and summon all the aeons against Sin. These temples ruin the pacing of the story by providing infuriating puzzles that are obscured by the camera; they’re repetitive in nature and confusing to figure out. In these puzzles, Tidus can only pick up and place spheres in holes to unlock doors and access different areas in the temples.
Even though he has two hands, he can only grab one sphere and move each one around until you figure out the puzzle. This involves a lot of walking back and forth, and it is is by far the most soul-sucking, confusing, and infuriating experiences I’ve had in gaming. On top of all of that, there is an annoyingly repetitive track to go along with these repetitive puzzles that repeats the same low range note. These sections are dreadful, and I hope when I play Final Fantasy X-2 for the first time, I won’t have to experience something like the temples ever again.
However, when you finally get back to why you’re playing a Final Fantasy game, the gameplay continously provides new elements to alter the experience. Rikku, for example, enters the party at the later stages of the game, and that’s great. The enemy design constantly switches up the formula as well. I also love the progression system.
In Final Fantasy X, there is the sphere grid, which is a leveling system that chains together attribute gains and ability unlocks. As you see the chain grow longer and longer, it feels incredibly satisfying to keep going; it’s as addicting as a top selling cell phone game. With the Sphere Grid system, you can also have sword-wielding characters learn spells and spellcasting characters learning physical attacks. It’s a cool system that, in the later parts of the game, allows you to experiment.
Final Fantasy X is a classic, through and through. The visuals have held up after all these years, the story is a wonderful tale of loss, corruption, and love, and the gameplay consistently changes throughout the game even in its latter stages. Just try to get through those annoying temple sections…