Title: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Developer: Square Enix, Virtuos
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Available On: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Official Site: https://finalfantasyxhd.square-enix-games.com/en-gb/home/
Release Date: April 16th, 2019
Nintendo’s hit hybrid console is no stranger to popular third-party classics being ported onto it. After all, it makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t you want to play your favorite games through the ages on the move? Other handhelds such as the Vita and 3DS lacked the power to run straight ports of mainstream console games but it’s a different story with the Switch. Titles as ambitious as Skyrim have found their way over but it’s Square Enix’s latest addition that may be the most exciting yet. Final Fantasy X is, without doubt, one of the most iconic RPGs of the early 2000s. Getting to play such a great game on a portable console without having to invest in a now unsupported PlayStation Vita is in itself something worth checking out.
Is it a Good Deal?
Final Fantasy X‘s remaster comes packed with remakes of the original game, its sequel X-2, a cinematic continuation of the original, Eternal Calm, and X-2: Last Mission, exclusive to this remastered version. Final Fantasy X and X-2 will take around 65 hours to play through whilst you can expect Last Mission to take a further 20 hours. Considering an average playthrough can easily exceed 80 hours and a completionist run will easily push that up to 140 hours, it’s fair to say Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is not lacking in content.
Unfortunately, there’s a nasty catch for those looking to get their hands on this portable version. Whilst the PS4 version is $24.99 and the Steam version often goes on sale for less than $15, a Switch copy will set you back $49.99. At that price gap, you will need to strongly value the handheld possibilities to justify picking it up. I’d recommend if you were intending to leave the Switch in your dock whilst playing this then you should look at other options. Keep in mind that the PC version has very low specification requirements since it is fundamentally based on the original 2001 release. You do not need a powerful gaming desktop to run it well.
How Good of a Remaster is it?
The Switch port of Final Fantasy X HD Remaster holds up very well when compared to other versions of the game. Whilst not adding much in the way of new features, Final Fantasy X on Switch does make sure to retain all the present content on other platforms. Performance junkies may be left a little disappointed by its hard-capped 30 FPS but this is a trait of all Final Fantasy X versions. Even the Xbox One X enhanced port is still locked to 30 FPS at all times. A positive spin on this is that despite only running at 30 FPS, it is a flawless and surprisingly smooth 30 FPS. Without remaking the game from the ground up in a new engine, it wouldn’t be possible to get 60 FPS as the original had its frame rate hard-coded into its gameplay. This is by no means uncommon for the time with later released popular games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas doing the same thing. Even games as recent as Need For Speed Rivals are guilty of this, although in that case, it’s probably more down to Ghost Games’ shortcomings.
The Switch version’s resolution is 1920×1080 in docked mode and 1280×720 whilst portable. It’s worth noting that the downscale to 720p is not noticeable in portable mode due to the smaller screen. Visually speaking, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a mixed bag. Certain character models look gorgeous and have clearly been updated to fit the standards of a modern Switch release, but the same cannot be said about many environmental textures and backgrounds. Whilst the hand-drawn backdrops may have looked beautiful in 2001, simply upscaling their resolution and calling it a day makes them look pretty ugly by 2019 standards. Some areas look better than others but on a whole, I couldn’t describe this remake as a good-looking game. This isn’t a side effect of the Switch’s limited power either with other versions of the game on more powerful devices look similar.
Have the Mechanics Stood the Test of Time?
As per the original, Final Fantasy X/X2 HD Remaster delivers a world-class turn-based RPG combat system. The choice to have characters fulfill specific classes works very well as it allowed Square Enix to balance combat around these fixed classes. Bosses require strategy and thought whilst most regular encounters feel just about right in terms of their difficulty. Certain battles can wage on for a little too long but that’s to be expected of a JRPG. It might have been difficult to redesign the game around, but I would have liked to have seen more than three characters available to use at a time. I always feel turn-based games are at their best when a party of four or five can be used as it allows for more complicated and interesting setups. For example, just look at how incredible Persona‘s combat is.
The random encounters are aggravating to put up with. From what I understand, Final Fantasy X uses a system where each step that is taken increases the likelihood of a random encounter. In certain areas, this happens way too often. I’ve had scenarios where I’ve battled through an encounter that took me several minutes to clean up and then after three more steps, I get another random encounter with the exact same enemies. The fleeing system is tedious to use every time, so I found myself sucking it up and trying to defeat everything in every encounter. The obnoxious shattering noise at the start of every encounter doesn’t help either.
Final Fantasy X doesn’t use a straight-forward experience-based leveling system like you may have expected. Instead, defeating monsters grants you spheres of varying kinds that can be used on the Sphere Grid skill tree. Spheres are consumed when you move around the Grid and to gain abilities or stat upgrades. It’s an interesting system which has its pros but I think I would have preferred something more traditional. To the system’s credit, it does introduce an extra gameplay element of figuring out how to use your spheres as efficiently as possible. There are definitely enough positives to justify its place in Final Fantasy X, it’s just that I’m partial to the EXP based system most other Final Fantasy‘s implement.
Outside of the primary RPG styled combat, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster features a lot of mini-games. The most important of which is Blitzball, an RPG styled sports game mode where the success of outcomes is all based on odds. You can move around freely until an encounter happens with a defender. From here your Blitzball stats are compared to theirs. If you have superior stats you can successfully dribble past them and attempt to score. Holding onto the ball too long allows multiple defenders to mark you at once. Being double or triple-teamed like this means all their stats are considered when determining if you will be successful in beating them. Ball movement is key in this regard. Consider Blitzball to be closer to a game like Blood Bowl 2 than FIFA or NBA2K.
An Iconic Narrative
It’s practically Final Fantasy tradition to feature an emotive story. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is no different. The opening cinematic shows how The Sin destroyed Zanarkand one thousand years ago. The Sin is a whale beast thought to have spawned due to the sins of relying on forbidden machina many years ago. Sin is of interest to our party as our protagonist, Titus, both lived in and represented the official Zanarkand Blitzball team, the Abes. The game’s secondary protagonist, Yuna, is also a summoner meaning it is her duty to protect honest citizens from Sin and one day defeat it.
The character cast is strong with Paula Tiso’s portrayal of Black Mage Lulu being a particular highlight. Specific scenes can feel clunky such as the infamous laughing scene but the mass majority of voice acting is excellent throughout. I really liked how much care went into the casual conversations between characters that allowed for their personal relationships to be showcased very well. Obviously, it goes without saying that the big suspenseful, powerful moments are well done but I found myself being more impressed by the downplayed relaxed parts of the narrative. That’s likely just personal preference though. The only disappointment with Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster‘s sound design is that there is no official support for Japanese voice acting. Those who prefer Japanese voices in their JRPGs over English ones will have to instead buy the PC version where there’s mod support that allows this.
Verdict: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on Switch is a good remaster that offers as good an experience as any other platform. The price is very steep compared to other platforms but if you truly value the idea of playing on the go then this is still your best overall choice. If playing in docked mode was your intent and the Switch is not your only option, I would seriously consider picking up either the PC or core console versions instead.