Remembering the Classics: Final Fantasy X

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If you ever needed an example of how much Square Enix loves re-exploring their library to bring new material, simply take a look at this past year. In April 2013, Square Enix re-released Final Fantasy V for iOS software. I actually used that game to start off this weekly article. Seven months later, Square Enix brought Final Fantasy IV: The After Years to iOS software as well which spurred me to talk about the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy IV. I even delivered a brief history on the Final Fantasy brand when Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII hit the shelves. It turns out this week is no exception as Final Fantasy is once again in the news with a, you guessed it, re-release of another classic entry. This time around it’s the HD release of Final Fantasy X and its sequel Final Fantasy X-2, officially marking the first time a PlayStation 2 Final Fantasy entry has received a big appearance overhaul.

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Originally released in July 2001 for the PS2, FFX had a fairly daunting task ahead of it. The original PlayStation gave Square success that it had never experienced before. 1997’s Final Fantasy VII was an unbelievable smash hit that gave the franchise highly warranted mainstream attention. A whole new crop of fans jumped on board (myself included), ready to follow the Final Fantasy name for many years to come. It should hardly be a surprise then that 1999’s Final Fantasy VIII became the fastest-selling title for the franchise and Final Fantasy IX is considered a personal favorite for many. However, when Sony announced the future release of the PS2, this newfound attention put all eyes on Square to deliver something huge. Since PlayStation and Final Fantasy essentially became synonymous with each other, immediate thoughts were, “New PlayStation? New Final Fantasy!”

Set in the Southeast Asia modeled world of Spira, the main character of FFX was a teenager named Tidus who is a figurative fish out of water. He’s transported to Spria after his hometown of Zanarkand is attacked by a massive creature known as Sin. After learning more about his surroundings and the colorful inhabitants, Tidus is swept up in the grand journey to destroy Sin and save the world. He does so by becoming the guardian of a young summoner named Yuna, who is required to get obtain all the Aeons so Sin can be defeated for good. Along the way they are joined by a mysterious warrior monk named Auron, a thief named Rikku, a star blitzball player named Wakka, a brooding mage named Lulu, and a fierce warrior named Kimahri. Throughout their journey, Tidus and Yuna learn about their connected pasts, the harsh truth of pre-determined life, and the importance of finding their own way.

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In what can only be described as a home run, FFX was a massive critical and commercial success, selling over 1.4 million copies in four days and becoming the first PS2 title to exceed two and four million units sold. The PS2 had only come out a little over a year earlier so FFX became an easy excuse for people to own the system in that early period. There were a lot of reasons why FFX was so popular, but one especially was its grand technological leaps. The PS2 was easily one of the more powerful systems on the market and FFX really pushed the console to its current limits. Unlike past games where the backdrops were pre-rendered, FFX boasted a completely three dimensional setting that was brimming with color. The vibrant setting brought an entirely new life to the series. There was also voice acting, a first for the franchise that made the characters and their emotions feel entirely real.

As for the combat, the obvious backbone of any Final Fantasy title, it traded in the Active Time Battle (ATB) system for a Conditional Turn-Based Battle (CTB). Unlike ATB where a battle progressed no matter what you did, CTB allowed the player to choose their actions without time constraints while also making the combat feel completely fluid. You could also cycle out teammates throughout a battle, using only three at a time but having your full roster available. The summoning system received a necessary change up too, doing away with the typical “bring out monster for one strong attack” format. FFX instead had any summoned Aeons replace your team and become fully controlled characters, which has since become common for the series. Lastly, leveling up received an overhaul with a new option called the Sphere Grid where you could use ability points (AP) to make your characters stronger. Hardcore fans have since taken up the challenge of playing the entire game without the Sphere Grid, using only the base stats of their characters. It’s incredibly difficult but entirely possible.

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But as any fan knows, you can’t talk about what made FFX so great without talking about its incredible story. What makes this story stand out from the other “save the world from massive monster” tales is how it’s very much about love. The budding relationship between Tidus and Yuna literally forms the backbone of FFX. Every major action made by these characters is fueled by their burning desire to stay together no matter what. Making their love such an integral part of the game was a great move by Square as many previous titles had romantic undertones but they didn’t always take center stage. In fact, their love was so important that it lead to the creation of Final Fantasy X-2, the first direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game. FFX-2 follows a very different Yuna as she teams up with two close friends to discover what happened to Tidus following their grand victory. While there were plenty of gameplay changes with this sequel, including only having three playable characters and a open world system entirely based around missions, FFX-2 was also incredibly successful and it rightfully wrapped up the Tidus/Yuna love story with a nice little bow.

While it took me an embarrassingly long time to actually complete FFX on my own (still have yet to beat FFX-2), it was a huge hit for two of my brothers. They clocked in a ridiculous amount of hours on this game and readily declare it as one of their favorites. To this day, FFX still stands out to us personally because of how easily you can make your characters absurdly overpowered. My older brother especially brought this to comical levels. Like many JRPGs, there is an optional boss that is stronger than any other monster in the game. FFX’s optional boss is named Omega Weapon and my brother wanted to make sure he was fully prepared when he took on the challenge. It turns out he was a bit too prepared as he successfully defeated Omega with two moves. So much for being an unstoppable boss right? We still find it funny. Thankfully I have beaten the game on my own accord too and loved every second.

Truthfully, I never thought about FFX and FFX-2 receiving the HD treatment before it was announced some time ago. That’s because the game still really holds up. The graphics look great despite being over a decade old and the story is still amazing. Yet looking at screenshots for Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster make me glad that this happened. FFX is truly one of the best JRPGs ever released and its sequel is nothing to shrug off either. Getting a really impressive facelift is perfect for bringing this into the more current age of technology. It seriously looks absolutely fantastic. All we need now is for Square to go back to the PlayStation era and give those titles necessary updates. Early reviews lauding this HD remaster shows how smart of a decision that is.

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