BB Reviews: Final Fantasy X
The classic PS2 RPG has gotten remastered and re-released a few times in the past decade. How does it hold up?
Though Final Fantasy X is not a new game, it is one I have had the pleasure of streaming a bunch in recent weeks on Twitch. One I’ve played before, back when I was but a wee bat. My flying fox father pressured me to excel to the extreme, much like Jecht, but, fittingly, I got the game for the first Christmas after he moved away. This game helped me cope, and it is nice 4K remasters with new textures breathe new life into a cherished memory.
The game, in many ways, still does feel a bit old. Though a major step up from the environments of the original Playstation era of Final Fantasy games, which often relied on mostly static, pre-rendered backgrounds — beautiful, but static — the fully three-dimensional environments often feel sparse and simple compared to the lushly detailed worlds in many more recent games. While the main characters have meticulously detailed new textures, many of the NPCs do not.
Despite this, it is what I regard the definitive way to experience the game, which helps nostalgia catch up with the high density of pixels in modern displays. Games designed to work with standard definition tube televisions sometimes look worse on modern displays. The scanlines of those old televisions were accounted for in art assets in the game, which is why some emulators offer options to simulate them — or smooth them out. Nothing beats a game that uses more detailed textures and higher poly count models, however.
The game’s story resounds perhaps even more strongly than ever. Our world feels caught more in a spiral of death than it did with the game’s release two decades ago, with COVID and climate change creating deadly new threats across the globe. Telling the tale of summoners who go on a pilgrimage to defeat “Sin,” a giant monster reminiscent of the Cloverfield creature, it has strong themes, as Final Fantasy often does, of anti-authoritarianism, with our characters’ pilgrimage going differently than anticipated.
The battle system was the second-to-last main series Final Fantasy game to use a turn-based system, and its only main series successor in this style to date, two decades later, Final Fantasy XIII, has a much less compelling system than the Sphere Grid. Characters earn experience to traverse a grid of orbs that can be activated to get stat bonuses and learn new skills. The “advanced” sphere grid in all but the initial Japanese and American releases affords a lot of flexibility for all characters.
The world conception, though bleak, is beautiful in many ways, with compelling characters to boot. Nobuo Uematsu, the legendary composer behind so many Final Fantasy games, even if he has since moved on from the series, composed the beautiful soundtrack, featuring the iconic piano-centric opening “To Zanarkand.” Though sometimes a few moments where characters force laughs (to combat despair) are cited as cringey, it is a game with depth of emotion that tugs at the heartstrings.
One of the more compelling elements of the game remains Blitzball, which I remain convinced Square Enix should revisit at some point in the future. Though typically not one to spend much time playing sports games, it successfully bridges the gap between sports stats and RPG mechanics in a fun and rewarding way. However, given you can fairly easily make the undeniably statistically strongest team in the game, there is a low ceiling to the challenge.
Can You Eat the Fruit?
Frustratingly, no. Despite there being a scene in Guadosalam where a feast in Seymour’s home has mountains of delectable fruit, we cannot actually eat any of it. Rikku can, but we, the player, cannot. It’s frustrating and a mark of imperfection on an otherwise beautiful game.
Verdict on Final Fantasy X HD Remaster: A-
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