Final Fantasy X is definitely a blast from the past, coming from a time in which the traditional styled of JRPG was still popular and had big budgets (for the time) behind them as opposed to the relatively niche position to occupy today. This HD remaster, which comes bundled with it’s sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, the latter of which will be reviewed separately because these games are pretty long.
The job Square Enix have done with this remaster are incredible. The models are higher poly than the original and the pre rendered backgrounds look astonishing, as you can see with the image at the top of this review. The CGI FMVs of which Square was known for back in the day return here at a surprisingly high quality looking very nice on my 1440p monitor. The quality of these remastered FMVs surpass those of many modern FMVs, such as the few in Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Metro: Last Light, which often look blurry and blocky at higher resolutions. It comes with a decent set of graphics options, which I maxed out easy. There are also two soundtrack options, original and arranged and the choice between the two will come largely down to personal preference, but I gravitated towards the original. There are only two real drawbacks to the remaster: the models on Tidus and Yuna can at times look a bit doll like as supposedly the original facial animations aren’t properly synced up at all times. The second is that the game has a frame rate limit of 30 FPS, which is not a deal breaker considering this is essentially a spruced up version of a game from 2001.
Another good additions to the remaster is toggle able cheat codes, such as turbo walking which is handy if you ever need to backtrack, or the ability to increase or disable random encounters.
Now to the game itself. The story of the game has you, Tidus, star blitzball player survive an attack on his city, Zanarkand. After the attack, Tidus finds himself 1000 years in the future in the land of Spira. It’s a classic fish out of water set up that persists throughout. The game even takes this literally with Tidus actually being fished out of water. Soon, Tidus finds himself with a varied cast of characters, from the pious but friendly Wakka, the level headed and pragmatic Auron and the upbeat Al-Bhed, Rikku just to name a few. Soon you find yourself attached to the pilgrimage of a summoner named Yuna (who is the real protagonist of this story).
In regards to the voice acting, it’s definitely a bit hokey and a bit cringeworthy with the infamous Tidus Laughing scene being a prime example even when viewed in full context. But for the most part, it’s not too bad although the line delivery is sometimes a bit rushed or not terribly great. Still, at it’s worst it’s a bit cringeworthy but still tolerable.
As for the combat of the game, it is a classic turn based system. You have three characters on the field at a time,which can be switched easily for others, creating a good flow. There’s your classic buffs and debuffs, magic and so on. One thing that is different about the combat compared is the overdrive system, which is a meter that fills up for each character during combat, allowing special attacks. Then when you use these attacks, they usually require a button combination or a timed press in a small yellow bar, which enables higher damage.
The levelling system here is quite unique. It is a system called the sphere grid and it looks daunting at first but it’s really quite intuitive. How it works is each character starts at a point on the grid and when they level up are granted movement points to move along the grid so that you can then use attribute spheres (eg; power spheres for health and strength upgrades, mana spheres for magic, ability spheres to learn new abilities, etc.) to improve your characters. You also don’t have to be right on an ability or attribute node to enable them, you must at least be adjacent. You can also move back on your grid fast as previously used pathways can be traversed quickly if you want specific abilities or to multi class. The multi classing is also quite intuitive as characters tend to cross over on other grids once they’re done with their sphere. As a whole, it’s a very enjoyable and intuitive system to use.
As for the pacing of the game, well it’s incredibly linear. The type of linear that Final Fantasy XIII gets shit for. However here it doesn’t take 30+ hours for it to open up as you’ll be very close to the end of the game by that time. Plus, different times have different expectations. FFXIII was released years after the more open XII. Plus, back in 2001 when the original version released on the Playstation 2, open world games were far less common as they are now. Grand Theft Auto III had yet to release and the world was still a year out from Morrowind. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very linear game but in my view not painfully so.There are also occasional puzzle sections which can be a bit trial and error and a tad frustrating, but only on a few of them.
The biggest problem of for the game’s pacing comes in the last third where, if you’re an absolute purist, requires grinding. The end game bosses for example have one shot kill moves and very high health that no matter how good you are with your formations and buffs and debuffs, will destroy you if you’re not properly levelled. Some of the side quest bosses, like the Dark Aeons, have absurdly high health and immunities that they are impossible to beat unless you have weapons that break the damage limit (which is a hell of an annoying mechanic) in addition to having grinded for many hours. If you’re like me who just played through and did most random encounters without searching for them, then you’ll be underlevelled towards the end. The grinding here involves nothing interesting except for the reward, but that just turns the game into tedious busywork. Thankfully the cheat codes help get you over that last stretch to the finish line, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the grinding is a chore that exists as padding.
This HD Remaster of Final Fantasy X on PC, despite a couple issues, is currently the best way to experience the game. And while the game itself was generally enjoyable with wonderful music, likeable characters, touching story moments and wonderful visuals, the game is held back by archaic technical design (ie; the reasons why it can’t go beyond 30fps without the game breaking) and a padded with grinding third act. The game is definitely dated, but it’s still by and large and enjoyable experience.