How Well Does Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Hold Up?
I feel compelled to note that as I write this someone is playing the Final Fantasy X theme on a piano about 50 feet from me. There's no question this game is back in the public consciousness.
Yet I must ask, how is Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster holding up for you folks who bought it? I know a lot of you did, I can see you on my PSN friends list and it has been prominent in the comments.
Obviously fans of the original are going to enjoy it, fans of classic Final Fantasy are going to enjoy it, and I'm interested to hear from anybody who is young and new to this style of gameplay as opposed to that in XIII however what I'm most interested in here is whether or not you all think the game has aged well enough to stand up to its modern competition like Tales of Xillia, Ni No Kuni, Eternal Sonata, or even current Final Fantasy sequels.
The process for coming to a conclusion has to be different for everyone. The voice acting, dialogue, and unpolished portions of graphics (like those horrid NPCs) are going to be a drawback for sure. However most players are fully willing to forgive that provided they have the knowledge that previous to FFX there were no voices at all, the graphics were considerably less advanced, and the optimum way to view the original was on a standard definition picture-tube television set complete with scan lines. Yeah, some portions of the game were never meant to be super clear. The updated character models are really just some extra eye candy so they don't look awful, and we shouldn't complain that it ends up making NPCs look worse.
Those things haven't aged well, but I think they can easily be forgiven so long as people know that it was state of the art at the time. The gameplay is a better area for ascertaining how well FFX enters the PS3 generation. I was stunned by just how darn slow it seemed at first. I love cut scenes, especially when they take their time and develop the characters so it was nice to get back to that comfortable non-frenzied form of gaming. I'm not sure that would go over so well now. It's strange to me but people seem to just want to skip cut scenes and get back to the gameplay, but the gameplay has never been the main draw of the FF series at least until recently, it was always the story and characters before.
The battles feel slow too. Again there's nothing wrong with that, it's what I prefer. One can easily envision a newcomer getting frustrated by the pace since you can't fit each battle into a the 140 characters of a twitter post. Once I really got back into the intricacies of the battle system though, I could really see why this style of RPG gameplay should never have been abandoned.
Every character has special enemy types they are best against and you can control every character's moves, elements add a layer to magic, status changes require constant care, the sphere grid allows fine tuning and true choice in advancement that gets restricted in today's games when party members become automatic partners in battle. Weapons and armor all have special effects, need to be switched around in battle, and they actually matter. Really what difference does a poisoning or lightning defense bracer serve in a 15 second battle? Not much. In FFX you have time to set up the best strategies and the best equipment to dominate the enemy with your mind rather than your flash, quickness, or might. You need your mind too because the bad guys put up a serious fight and when you die you don't get to retry. Something is actually on the line here, and if you do survive you don't get the “benefit” of regenerating health.
The end result is an ongoing struggle though nuanced battles that bring your party to high highs and low lows. You establish those proper RPG character connections through battle after battle that simply isn't as strong in the fast and furious encounters of today.
I think once you are ensconced in the multiple intricacies of battle you see how the gameplay holds up quite well. It isn't “old-fashioned turn based,” it's a legitimate way of prosecuting encounters with various enemy forces with their own multiple strengths and weaknesses. Just as the difficulty, timing, and preciseness of action is lauded in Dark Souls, so too should the depths of FFX's strategy be respected. Since X-2 refines it further and adds another layer with the dress spheres it goes without saying that it deserves similar consideration.
Mind you, I'm not an advocate for things simply staying the same. I don't think you could release this game today, as it is, and without its classic status, and have it be the hit it was. Playing the game again though, it is easy to see that with a few tweaks and updates toward modernity we'd have a masterpiece yet again. In that sense, as the foundation of something still relevant and exciting, I believe this HD remaster holds up against the tides of time pretty darn well. Is it holding up for you?
3/27/2014 David D. Nelson