Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster review for PS3

Platform: PS3
Also On: PS Vita
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1
Online: No

It had been a long time since I last played Final Fantasy X or its divisive sequel. So when this HD collection was announced by Square Enix, I was pretty excited. It took a bit longer than anticipated for it to finally hit here in North America, but this release was well worth the wait.

HD ports/remakes/remixes tend to be a mixed bag. We?ve seen great renditions of popular titles like Ico and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and we?ve seen absolutely abysmal efforts like that of the Silent Hill Collection from Konami. With Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster, it?s clear that Square Enix wanted to give both titles here the love and attention that they deserve. While not all the changes are going to please everyone, it?s hard to deny that both titles are absolutely fantastic looking, and offer clear upgrades over the PS2 originals.

Fina Fantasy X2 HD Remaster-ming02I?ve only been hands-on with the PS3 version of the game, so I can?t speak for the quality of the Vita release. But on PS3 you?ll get both Final Fantasy X and X-2 on one disc, along with a newly created audio epilogue, and all the additional content that accompanied the international versions of both titles. This is the first time western fans have been able to get their hands on the international versions, giving further incentive to replaying both titles outside of the spruced up visuals and audio.

I can?t overstate how impressed I am by the visual quality of both titles. This goes far beyond just a new coat of HD paint. The main cast character models have clearly had a lot of work done, and while they still look a bit dated compared to modern releases, I think you?ll really be surprised by how great they look in action. Even minor characters and monsters look pretty sharp, and the texture work done to environments, along with the effort to properly render the game in a 16 x 9 format, are all commendable efforts. I realize that there are elements to this release that were outsourced which initially gave me cause for concern, but the overall quality here isn?t hurt by it.

final-fantasy-x-x2-HD_9Even the CGI cutscenes look pretty sharp, which I found surprising. The only negative found is some cropping to make these sequences fit the new widescreen format. But considering the HD releases of other titles that have been content to run their CGI at sub-HD resolutions, I?m still pretty happy with what Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster delivers.

On the audio side of things, I found voices and music to be crystal clear, with no real volume issues, background fuzziness, or random glitches. The remixed soundtrack that makes up a good chunk of Final Fantasy X?s music is going to be the biggest hang-up for returning fans. I?m not in love with it, but I didn?t mind the majority of the tracks changed, so I can understand that it won?t be everyone?s cup of tea. I do wish that Square Enix had included the option to switch between the original and remixed soundtracks for FFX, but again the remixed music wasn?t an offensive change for me. Final Fantasy X-2?s soundtrack remains intact though, and it?s just as eclectic and poppy as you remember.

final-fantasy-x-x2-HD_4Of course, not changing certain aspects of both titles has drawbacks too. I forgot how awfully stilted some of the dialogue in either game could be, especially in Final Fantasy X. There?s the oft-mentioned laughing scene with Tidus and Yuna, but even the earliest interactions between Tidus, Wakka, Rikku, Yuna, and Lulu are going to come off as pretty rough for modern players. I wouldn?t change this for the world, so this isn?t necessarily a complaint, but it did surprise me how little of this I remembered.

Another unfortunate carryover is the inability to skip cutscenes. You can skip sequences like costume changes in Final Fantasy X-2, and Aeon summons in Final Fantasy X, but there?s no way to get past the lengthier scenes in between battles and exploring. I found this to be more of an annoyance with X rather than X-2, and almost entirely because of the sluggish opening sequence found in the original game.

For issues more specific to the HD release, I was disappointed to find that you can?t back out of your currently selected game to the game select screen offered when you first start the disc. So if you?re in the middle of Final Fantasy X, and want to switch to Final Fantasy X-2, Last Mission, or the epilogue credit sequence, you have to back out to the XMB to close the game and completely reload. This is a minor thing, but I don?t understand why this isn?t an option.

final-fantasy-x-x2-HD_1There?s also no option to install the game to decrease load times, neither a forced or optional install prompt is present on PS3. Load times aren?t particularly awful, and for the most part both titles feel on par with their original releases. The initial loading of either game is the lengthiest load screen you?ll see, and when transitioning from one new area to the next you might encounter a max 6 second load time. That said, depending on the area, you can run into these smaller load sequences in quick succession, which is a little frustrating considering the possible opportunity to avoid or lessen this with an install option.

But really, these complaints are incredibly minor on my part. I really believe this to be one of the best high-definition repackages on the market, surpassing just about every other publisher?s efforts to date. This isn?t just a simple nostalgia cash-grab that you?ll be disappointed with, but instead this comes off as a fantastic effort to preserve the fond memories of both titles for any Final Fantasy fan. The modern day Square Enix track record rarely does itself any favors, but this is one instance where I think the company and talented folks involved should be commended for their effort.

Grade: A-