Archives for posts with tag: HD remakes

2014-03-23-015933Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster is finally (finally) with us. After a wait of almost two-and-a-half years, I finally have one of the games that convinced me to pre-order a Vita in my hands. Actually, I have two copies (erm…), as I also grabbed a copy of the PS3 limited edition, which comes with a gorgeous little hardback artbook, complete with notations for much of the included full-colour art.

But it’s the Vita version which has most impressed me, despite the reduction in resolution from its big screen brother. It looks every bit as sharp and clean as the PS3 version (bar some artifacting in some FMV scenes – disappointingly, one of my favourite scenes in the entire game is quite macroblocked), and those lovely bright colours that drench the beaches and jungles of Besaid really pop out of the handheld’s OLED screen.

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I’m constantly stopping in-game to pick out detail that you could barely identify in the original PS2 release, like the Besaid ruins in the shot above, or the ornate flooring of the island’s Temple of the Fayth. It’s far from the best-looking title on the system (you can probably look to Killzone: Mercenary for that), but it’s been impressing me at every turn; I know the game very well, so it’s almost like seeing a long-held favourite in a new light.

What I’m less sure of so far is the remastered music. Some of it is unquestionably better in my opinion (like Besaid’s theme), while others I’m less sure about, such as ‘Calm Before the Storm’. It’s only subtly different, but for the worse in my opinion. The original always had a somewhat otherworldly feel that the new arrangement doesn’t quite manage to elicit.

The gameplay though? It’s as good as it ever was, and it’s actually surprised me just how good. Final Fantasy X is a game I’ve played twice. Well, almost twice; I never quite finished it the first time (at launch – I had a lot going on, okay?), so I went back about three-or-so years ago (yep, just before they announced this remaster…) and played it from start to end. By the time I reached the climactic hours of Tidus and Yuna’s adventure, I was massively overpowered. Not because I’d purposely set out to be so, but I just had so much fun battling with the game’s enemies and exploiting its systems.

Replaying the Vita version these last few days, I’ve been reminded of just how inviting and engaging the game is. In conversation with a friend, a fellow Final Fantasy X fan, the word that kept coming up was ‘frictionless’. The game doesn’t put many obstacles between the player and their enjoyment, and when it does, it’s actually fun to overcome them. Take grinding for instance, that constant jRPG companion that so many have come to loathe (and I say this as someone who’s been stuck on a single boss in Tales of Eternia for weeks). For me, battling in Final Fantasy X is not only enjoyable, but compelling. I want to do it, and I want to do it because the battle system puts everything in your hands and just says ‘have fun!’

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The game is probably one of the easier instalments in the series, but it’s kept engaging by making everyone useful in some way: Tidus is fast, so his turns come around often enough to use him as a backup healer; Yuna has her white magic and summons; Rikku can steal and combine items, and one-shot mechanical enemies; Kimahri can learn abilities from his enemies; and so on. So you’ve got a relatively straight-forward take on the traditional Final Fantasy job system, but what keeps X engaging is the ability to switch any party member in or out of battle at will to meet your needs. Up against an enemy with high physical resistance but weak to magic? Switch in Lulu and deal some massive damage. His buddy’s armoured, you say? Auron, you’re up!

This immediacy is further reinforced by such design decisions as giving your white mage Esuna right off the bat. Generally, you’d have to work for such a useful spell, spending your initial hours throwing away precious items to cure your party of status effects. Here, you just sub someone else out for Yuna, cure the afflicted, and then get back to your gameplan. Save points in the world will replenish your health and magic, making level grinding more appealing as you no longer need to travel to an inn each time you reach your lowest ebb, and levelling and skill acquisition also benefit, offering to make the process as simple or involved as you like; I’m using the expert sphere grid for the first time, and enjoying the initially-overwhelming scope to develop my party as I see fit, but players that just want to follow a straight path can do just that with the normal grid, letting the game shape their characters’ growth for them.

If this all sounds like it makes the game easy, well… it can do. But in adding an extra layer of both strategy and, crucially, possibility, what it ends up doing is replacing a system that often boils down to using the same three characters and mashing ‘X’ to spam physical attacks in an effort to speed through encounters, with one that not only encourages you to experience more of what the game offers, but makes it enjoyable to do so. In Final Fantasy X you’ll use everybody. Not just once in a while, but often in every fight. It gives you the tools to do what you need and want to do, and it’s eminently satisfying when you do it.

Final Fantasy X is looked at as the point where the series began to streamline somewhat, the logical conclusion thereof being 2010’s Final Fantasy XIII (indeed, there are many parallels you could draw between the two games, not least their linearity). But when I talk of the frictionless nature of Final Fantasy X, I don’t mean streamlining. I mean the ways in which the developers have taken fairly complex systems and made them easy to understand and manipulate; the way they’ve taken often-frustrating game mechanics like grinding and made them enjoyable and compelling. I mean the ways in which they’ve sanded down the barriers between what the player wants to do and what the game allows you to do, making it possible to have fun no matter what you’re doing in the world of Spira.

Except Blitzball. No one likes Blitzball.

It’s been a long long time coming, but finally we have a European release date for the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and its direct sequel X-2. The collection will hit store shelves on March 21st next year, a whole three months after the Japanese release.

Below you can see a massively spoilerific trailer in celebration of the announcement. These games are over a decade old now, but if you haven’t yet played them and want to go in fresh, I would strongly advise you not to watch. Or maybe mute the audio.

The trailer also takes time to point out some of the extras we’ll be getting our mitts on in this package. First up is ‘Eternal Calm’, a fifteen-minute in-engine chapter that bridges the two games, providing the impetus for Yuna’s quest in Final Fantasy X-2. We’ll also finally be able to play ‘Last Mission’, an additional, multi-level dungeon run that takes place three months after the end of the sequel.

The pair of games looks absolutely gorgeous, and watching the emotional scenes play out to a backdrop of ‘Suteki da ne’ really got the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I can’t wait to adventure through Spira again, although it’s curious to note that the trailer makes no mention of my preferred format, the Vita.

As far as I’m aware it’s still coming (it’s confirmed for release alongside the home console version in Japan, at least), but the end of the trailer, when we first see the confirmed release date, only mentions the PS3 version. I really hope the Vita version hasn’t been canned. Releasing it on a handheld in Japan makes perfect sense given how common they are, but I wonder if Square-Enix has decided it’s not worth it outside of their home territory. I’m hoping I’m just being overly cynical and we see the game launch on Sony’s handheld alongside the PS3 version – I already have that beautiful special edition pre-ordered, so I’m hoping for cross-saves!

ffxhdtidusyunaAbout a month ago, it was revealed that Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD would sport a new audio drama written by Kazushige Nojima that would play over the end credits of the game. Well, we can now hear a snippet of it in the video below.

In it, we can hear that James Arnold Taylor is returning to voice Tidus (which isn’t a massive surprise, considering he returned for the Dissidia games), and we also hear another character speaking, who appears to be voiced by Laura Bailey (to my ears, anyway). I haven’t played X-2, so I don’t know if there are any mild spoilers in this piece, but there don’t appear to be. Watch at your own discretion.

Tidus mentions that it’s been two years since Spira entered the Eternal Calm (at the end of the first game), which is roughly when X-2 picks up, so I wonder if this is will serve as a linking piece between the two? If I’d played X-2 before now, perhaps I’d know!

Some have speculated that the audio drama could be a lead-in to a Final Fantasy X-3, and considering the second character seems fairly unsurprised to spot Tidus, even mentioning the crowd up ahead and the star shining in the middle of it (remember at the start of the first game Tidus was supposed to be a star blitzball player?), perhaps it could be. Of course, you could argue that the second character is speaking from the perspective of Tidus’ Zanarkand (seen at the very start of the first game), but I think the fact that she mentions a road that used to be called Mika Road rules this out: Mika was the Grand Maester of the now-disgraced Yevon religion, so it makes sense that they would rename a street named for him after its fall. For me, this suggests the second character is speaking after the Calm.

I wish I could say we won’t have to wait long to find out, but Square-Enix are still yet to announce a release date for this. The E3 trailer simply said “2013”, and we’re running out of months. Gamescom will take place this month, and Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD will be on show, so hopefully we’ll get a firm date there. Wouldn’t it be great if they just said, “it’s out next month guys! Enjoy!” A man can dream.

Over on their EU blog, Square-Enix have been sharing some new images of the game, and it’s safe to say it looks incredible. This really isn’t the usual cynical cash-grab HD upscaling that we see all to often – this game has had some work done! Noticeably, the battle UI has seen a few changes, giving it a bit more of a modern feel. Have a look:
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You can see more images over on the blog, but just have a look at this pic of Besaid! It looks glorious! ffxhdbesaid

Be sure to visit the Square-Enix blog and have a flick through all the beautiful images they’ve provided.

Square-Enix has put out a new video showcasing the differences between the original SD version of Final Fantasy X and the HD remaster that is in development for PS3/Vita. The video shows off the opening in-engine cutscene, and it’s an interesting comparison, demonstrating not only how much more detail we’re seeing in HD, but also how much more of the scene we’re seeing thanks to the widescreen presentation. It also shows off some differences in colour; the original footage has an orange-y cast to it, without which the HD version looks much more realistic.

The video also announces that we’ll be seeing a limited edition for the home console version. Packaged in an outer box, the set comes with a nice-looking hardbound art book featuring concept art taken from both Final Fantasy X and its sequel X-2 – both of which come on one disc for PS3, and as separate releases for PS Vita. The games support cross-saving, so you can journey with Tidus, Yuna and friends on the big screen at home before continuing your adventure on the morning commute.

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There’s no news of a limited edition for the Vita versions, nor do we have a release date yet, but I’ll be buying both. Because I’m a sucker. It occurs to me that when I buy both HD versions I’ll have three copies of Final Fantasy X-2, and four copies of Final Fantasy X. I think it’s fair to say I like FFX.

These HD versions should be the definitive versions of these games, with all the added International goodies, high-definition rendering and the news that this release will include a 30-minute additional ‘drama’ at the end of the credits, penned by ex-Square-Enix scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, featuring new cast and character voices. What this will entail is presently a mystery, but it’s always nice to get more stuff. I’m looking forward to replaying Final Fantasy X again, and playing its sequel for the first time. Now all we need is a release date.