At exactly what point does a good game franchise start to decline? For plenty of fans of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series, it probably started with the tenth entry, and over a decade later, the debate among fans has been whether that game and its sequel are actually among the best or worse entries in the franchise. So, now that it’s been re-released in HD, how does it hold up?
For those who have never heard of the games in this collection before, they take place in a world called Spira. In the first one, Final Fantasy X, you play as Tidus, an obnoxious blitzball player (blitzball is like some insane combination of water-polo and rugby) who finds himself seemingly thrown 1,000 years into the future by an encounter with a massive aquatic monster known as Sin. He ends up becoming part of the party of Yuna, a young summoner girl who is on a pilgrimage to defeat Sin. What follows is a quest that will reveal many hidden things about this world, and Tidus himself.
In the second game, Final Fantasy X2, Yuna teams up with Rikku, the thief character from the previous game, and Paine, a somber woman, to hunt for spheres in Spira, which has changed significantly after the events of the last game.
Okay, here’s the thing: The stories in these two games are just awful. FFX’s story would probably not be as bad, if a little melodramatic, if not for the fact that we’re stuck with Tidus, who is such an annoying, disrespectful, arrogant pain in the neck that it’s a miracle none of the other main characters don’t throw him overboard immediately after he speaks. And his constant insistence that this is his story, even when all evidence screams that this is more Yuna’s story, just makes him more obnoxious
X2, on the other hand, is almost like an apology for how dark and somber the series had gotten, going instead for a light, bubbly tone that is filled with so many silly gags and fan service that it’s jarring when it expects you take it so seriously later on in its plot.
Graphically, these games look really good. It’s still just a clean-up on the original games to make them look nicer on HD, and will not at any point fool anyone into believing that this was ever made for something higher than a PS2. Speaking of which, some of the visual effects that looked impressive in 2002 look awkward, but don’t detract too much from the eye candy. The audio is good as far as the music goes, especially on X (due to former series composer Nobuo Uematsu’s incredible scores), but sadly the voice acting is exactly the same. No re-recording of the voices, meaning all those awkward and awful sounding moments are not going anywhere (the laugh scene… oh god, the laugh scene…).
Well, I’m done being so negative, because it’s time to talk about the gameplay, and this is still a great game to play. The first entry, while linear, has all the hallmarks of great RPGs, and the CTB combat system used is still a lot of fun. I still don’t like the busywork involved in the Sphere Grid system in order to level up your characters, but compared with the leveling system in later entries, it still works. X2 reverts back to the classic and more challenging Active Time Battle system, forcing you to think fast as you battle. It also is a lot more open, much like the classic entries in the series, giving you a lot more to do outside the main story. And of course, you have the Garment Grid system, which allows you to change your characters’ Job Classes in the middle of combat, allow for a lot of customization.
If you already own these games from back in the PS2 days, you may be wondering if it’s worth purchasing again in HD. Well, all I can say is that there is bonus content in both games that was never released outside Japan until now, so that may be a factor in your decision.
Despite my griping about the story and characters, this collection has some of the most fun in RPGs ever, back before they started really dumbing it down to allow more casual gamers to play. If you’re a fan of the classics, or want to see the magic that made this series an innovator of the genre, you’ll find something to enjoy in this HD collection.
– Classic gameplay still holds up better than a lot of modern RPGs.
– Despite being dated, the graphics are still really pleasant.
– The music is still great.
– More content than in previous releases.
– The writing could have used more work, both towards the story and some of the more irritating characters
– The voice acting is still awful.