Spira's a colourful and inviting world, and it looks great on the PlayStation 4. The setting of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, it's a land that mixes nature, strange architecture, and ancient machinery, and it always feels interesting and engaging as a result. Indeed, the two titles that make up this remaster still hold up today, and now, Sony enthusiasts who perhaps missed out on them the first time around have a chance to see what all of the fuss was about.
But before we start, we need to point out that we've already reviewed Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster on the PlayStation 3 and Vita. As such, we won't be going into quite as much detail in this review, so if you're looking for something that's a little more in-depth, feel free to click through here to read our initial review.
There's no doubt that Final Fantasy X was and still is an important landmark for the Japanese role-playing game genre in many ways. An almost fully voiced, linear journey that focuses on storytelling and character development, it boasts a unique flavour that no title has ever really duplicated. It's a love story that's driven by its likeable cast of personalities, and it's always grabbing your attention with plot twists and eye-opening revelations.
You follow the story of Tidus, a clueless young man who's wrenched from his own world and plopped into Spira. His haplessness becomes the anchor point of the narrative, and it's hard not to relate to him as he learns the ins-and-outs of life in this strange place. Over time, Tidus starts to adapt to his surroundings, and you'll find yourself becoming similarly fond of your new allies and their weird world. One of the main themes of Final Fantasy X is discovery, and the game does a fantastic job of steadily introducing alien concepts that tie the universe together.
It's the pacing of the story that's arguably the star of the show, though. Tidus and the gang are thrown from one scenario to the next with little pause, thanks to the linear nature of the journey. There's no world map here, and no vast, open ended areas to traverse in order to reach the next plot point. Instead, one straightforward location leads on to the next, and this enables the tale to sustain its engrossing pace.
Meanwhile, on the other side of this remaster sits Final Fantasy X-2, and its downright ridiculous opening cutscene. Drifting away from the atmosphere of its predecessor, X-2 often feels like additional fan-written material, but that's part of its appeal. A direct sequel to Final Fantasy X, the game focuses on Yuna – Tidus' love interest from the first title. She's undergone a complete and perhaps inexplicable transformation from being a strong willed but cautious summoner of magical beasts into a gun toting, short shorts wearing crusader of justice. She's also now a pop star.
If you had told fans of X-2's plot before it was released, they likely wouldn't have believed you. It's such a deviation from the relatively serious tones of Final Fantasy X that it's difficult to comprehend and acknowledge during the opening few hours, but give it a chance, and you'll find that it provides a somewhat refreshing take the world that the first game introduced. It's not as cohesive or as competent as Tidus' initial adventure, but it's a nice companion to it.
Fortunately, both titles boast great battle systems, to the point where picking out the best formula between the two is difficult. Final Fantasy X takes a unique approach in that it casts aside the series' trademark action time battle system, and instead opts for a more tactical, turn-based affair. Picking off foes by exploiting elemental or physical weaknesses is the name of the game, while Final Fantasy X-2 features the return of the aforementioned traditional system, and it's more action orientated because of this.
In both cases, combat is a highlight, and developing your party in either game is addictive. Final Fantasy X's sphere grid remains a compelling way to grow your warriors into a force that can handle any situation, as you gradually unlock abilities and statistic boosts by spending points to move each character across a sprawling, interwoven board. Meanwhile, X-2 incorporates the dress sphere system, which allows you to chop and change Yuna and her two girlfriends' classes on the fly.
Needless to say, you're getting your money's worth with Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster on the PS4. Both titles take a good 40 or so hours to complete, and that's without seeing everything that they have to offer, including demanding side quests, shockingly deep minigames, and deadly endgame content. As such, we can't help but recommend the package if you've yet to set foot in Spira. It's also worth mentioning that the release is cross-save compatible, so if you already own the remaster on PS3 or Vita, you can transfer your data to this current-gen edition.
Speaking of which, existing PS3 players may not feel that an upgrade is entirely necessary. Aside from crisper visuals and the option to utilise the original soundtrack rather than the rearranged version, there's no real incentive to fork out for the new-gen collection. However, being the sole mainline Final Fantasy title on Sony's newest console, Final Fantasy X is worth experiencing if you're a newcomer who's interested in finding out what Square Enix's magical franchise is all about.
That said, new players should know that while both games retain their original glory in the gameplay department, the industry's advanced a long way when it comes to voice acting. At times, dialogue can seem incompetent and poorly executed, and as a result, some cutscenes end up feeling disjointed or stilted. It's not a major complaint, but it's definitely something that newcomers should be aware of, especially if you're used to today's high standards in the motion capture department.
Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster on the PS4 is the best that the games have ever looked. Sharp, crisp visuals bring the always enticing world of Spira to life on the big screen, while the core elements of both titles remain rock solid and impressively polished. The collection represents a great opportunity to jump back to a time when Squaresoft was seemingly unconquerable, and if you're totally new to the franchise, it's difficult to think of a better starting point.