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‘Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster’ a worthwhile upgrade

By Stephanie Roman / Staff Writer

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Tidus, a 17-year-old professional athlete, gets scooped up by a Godzilla-like monster called Sin and transported 1,000 years into the future to a world called Spira, which is constantly on the verge of destruction by Sin. Like Sin, who dies and is reborn, “Final Fantasy X” in many ways hasn’t changed from its first incarnation — for better and for worse.

When “X” first hit stores in 2001 for PlayStation 2, it set the record for fastest-selling console role-playing game and went on to be the seventh best-selling PS2 game of all time. The “Final Fantasy” series has been around since 1987, but “X,” the 10th installment, was the first to produce a true sequel, “X-2,” in 2003. As the console generation winds down, developers have been re-releasing classic games with some high-definition gloss, and conveniently, Square Enix packaged “X” and “X-2” on one Blu-ray disc for PlayStation 3 and separately for the PlayStation Vita.

Modified character models astound with novelty and an extended range of expression. Facial animation and design was completely reworked, and the high-resolution models compete with more contemporary games. The low-resolution models are on the level of the high-res ones from the original game, so it’s nice to look at something resembling a human, not one whose face is awkwardly squashed in. Despite the tweaked faces, general animation weighs down the otherwise attractive new characters — each still has only a few programmed actions (Rikku’s puppy-dog air-pawing comes to mind), which are stiff and typically don’t match the conversation being conveyed.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the remaster is its remixed music. Stale and repetitive tracks have been dismissed (looking at you, “Battle Theme”), and replaced with brand-new vibrancy, key changes, tempos and overall robustness. The soundtrack remix denies subtlety. Heading into new areas becomes exciting mostly to hear how the music’s been redefined, and it never ceases to innovate over the original. Even the series’ victory fanfare that plays at the end of random battles has been altered to sound more orchestral, rather than new-age. 

The remaster includes the international versions of both games, meaning that a few new superbosses, the Dark Aeons, await battle. A short movie called “The Eternal Calm” bridges the content between games, and “Last Mission” is playable for the first time, a sequel to “X-2” revealing what happened to the protagonists after its conclusion.

The most groundbreaking addition in the international version is the Expert Sphere Grid, an improved form of the leveling system. The expert grid doesn’t make the game any harder, but it affects how you play because of its radical difference from the traditional Sphere Grid, which is strict and easy to follow. Rather, the expert grid puts all seven characters in the middle and gives players leave to develop characters into whatever role they choose. The summoner and major character Yuna and her guardian, the black magician Lulu, stand out particularly, as they can swap black- and white-magic paths from the very outset, meaning that players can give them a variety of new and different abilities earlier in the game. While this allows for extremely interesting and crazy customization, the expert grid is recommended only to expert players — at the expense of novel opportunities, it winds up weakening the characters’ strength, defense and magic stats, making them less effective individually.

The HD remaster is a great investment for old fans and those looking to get into the series for the first time. The new stuff entertains pretty well, but some old bits haven’t reformed, which can be a detriment. Regardless, the HD remaster is worth picking up, because it might be the final and most definitive overhaul of these popular storylines as the “Final Fantasy” series delves into newer plots on future consoles.

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‘Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster’ a worthwhile upgrade