Revisiting an Old Friend: A Discussion of FFX HD

Hi everyone, it's been quite a while, ain't it? I haven't been very active on TAY lately, so I'm sure there's some new people who have not yet become acquainted with me. The specifics aren't too important; all you need to know is that I'm the completely self-proclaimed biggest fan of FFX on Kotaku. Of course, I couldn't possibly pass on an opportunity to showcase this, and what better than with a discussion of the newly released FFX HD?

At first, I wanted this to be a review of the game; however, there are some reasons as to why I'm reluctant to refer to this as a review. First off, I've no idea if anyone is already scheduled to do an official TAY review (although I suppose we could have multiple for different viewpoints). Secondly, I wanted this to be an opportunity to not only discuss the specifics of the game itself, but to also reflect on some aspects of the story and how it compares to gaming today, which doesn't quite fall into review territory. That being said, let's just call this a fireside chat that could be taken as a review. Oh! At the moment, this will only cover FFX HD. I will update later when I dive into FFX-2 HD. Also, you should be aware that this is going to be terribly biased, considering this is my favorite game ever.

This game is 13 years old, but I'll throw a spoiler warning just in case.

I'll begin with discussing the technical aspects of the game, and hoo boy, they blew me away with this one.

As of late, I've been equal parts satisfied and disappointed by the HD remakes I've played. More often than not, they're well-polished, but they also have some immersion breaking flaws. An example of this is RE4 HD, which I have for PC. The game looks great, but there are also signs of laziness. You'll be walking along, admiring the work they put into it, but then you find yourself noticing that certain objects look much better than others. The walls and floors in a building may look fantastic, but the sofa still has the textures ripped straight from the PS2 (I noticed this in MGS HD collection as well). Additionally, you may be viewing a cutscene in 240p that they couldn't fix due to time or technology restraints. I was fully expecting this to be the case in FFX HD, and my expectations have not been realized.

Revisiting an Old Friend: A Discussion of FFX HD

Every single texture in this game has been touched up in some way. While some aspects (like the main characters) look much better than others (NPCs), you can still see where they eliminated the jaggies on the lower-res clothing. Everything looks better in this version, even the clouds and backdrops. Some completely new graphical aspects have been added as well. Did you notice that you actually have a moving shadow now, and not a little black ball? The characters have had some modeling changes as well, everyone looks less polygonal and more natural. However, some changes are a little goofy, like Wakka's beautiful sledgehammer forehead and Tidus's botox treatment (seriously, why is his face so poofy?!). There are some instances where a place looks extraordinarily different due to the re-texturing, like the cluster of Fayth on the top of Mt. Gagazet, where you can actually see the individual bodies carved into the wall. I went into this with the intent of being extremely particular and attentive, and so far I have yet to see one flaw or bug regarding the shiny new coat of paint. 10/10 would recommend.

Let's move on to the section I (and apparently many others) had the most concern about: the soundtrack.

It's certainly different, almost every song in the game has been remastered (not including the Via Purifico, where they cleverly slipped in the Piano Collections version). Many of the songs have a much more….pronounced feel to them. It's hard for me to really express what I mean by this, but I'll do my best. The songs in FFX HD are much more detailed than those of its predecessor. There are more instruments in play, more sounds going on. Some songs, like the battle theme, have been energized and sound more intense in this version. Others, like the Mi'hen Highroad, have been toned down in terms of mixing, and feature a more instrumental sound rather than electronic. One thing I've noticed, however, is that they all feel very natural. No song is so different that you can't recognize it, or that it detracts from the original emotion that it was supposed to convey. I imagine that some people who only played FFX once or twice will not even notice the difference on some of the tracks. Of course, as with all new things, you'll have to decide for yourself if you like it. I'll share my favorite track of the remaster with you, they absolutely blew the Seymour battle out of the water.

I do have a complaint about the new sounds, though. Sometimes, it's just too damned loud. The battle theme is obnoxiously louder than the other songs, even drowning out voices in some cases. A serene environment like Bikanel Island or Besaid get their tranquility shattered when the Battle Theme 747 comes in for landing. Also, there are a few bugs (thankfully rare ones) where there are some minor musical glitches. Sometimes songs will stop playing, sometimes dialog will be silent; I've had both happen one time each.

In terms of new content, that pretty much covers the gist of it. Everything past this point will be discussing the actual game itself. I'll chat about some of my experiences with the game, some complaints I have looking back at it now, and what I feel people unfairly judge it for. It'll be really informal, and it will have some sappy personal stuff, so you can stop here if you don't like those things. You can just scroll on down to the review summary at the end that I just decided to add.

Over the years, Final Fantasy X has remained my favorite game of all time. Without exaggeration, I've played thousands of game across every console and on the PC, beginning with the NES and SNES, which were my first two consoles. For perspective, I'll let you know my top 10 games to alleviate any concerns of fanboying or brand dedication.

  • 1. FFX HD
  • 2. Donkey Kong Country 2
  • 3. Mass Effect Trilogy (I consider them all one big game, I can't pick a favorite)
  • 4. Earthbound
  • 5. Paper Mario: TTYD
  • 6. Banjo-Kazooie
  • 7. Civilization V
  • 8. Resident Evil 4
  • 9. Metal Gear Solid 3
  • 10. LoZ: Twilight Princess

What's funny is that I really don't enjoy picking and choosing between games, as I love all of them on every console. It's uncharacteristic of me to have such a clear-cut favorite in anything, and I believe that there are a couple of reasons why this is an exception. I've always loved games, growing up with primarily Nintendo consoles. In 2001, I played FFX for the first time. I was 8 years old, and it was my very first experience with an RPG (barring Pokémon). Needless to say, I was hooked.

The battle system in FFX is very straightforward, which didn't provoke my irritable personality. I've always had a bit of an overactive imagination, so the super weird clothing and monsters and environments were really appealing to me. Also, I wasn't used to having games with characters that actually spoke; this was the game of the future, man. Unfortunately, it was a bit too tough for me as a kid, and since I was only borrowing it anyway, it was a few years before I got to play it again. Once I had a real first time playthrough a few years later, I managed to make my way through the game ever so slowly, getting stuck at all the usual places for first timers (lookin' at you, Seymour Flux). I grew attached to the characters. I cried at the end. No game or movie had ever gave me so many feels while also providing a good time. I believe this is the reasoning for my attachment to the game and my perfect image of it.

Playing through it again in shiny HD with a cynical college attitude has given me some new perspective on the game, though. I've come to notice that the game is, well, a little silly. Of course, there are the parts that everyone talks/complains about, which I'll get to in a bit, but first I want to talk about some things I've noticed that I'm surprised more people don't talk about.

First off, there are the animations. A lot of the scenes in FFX have some pretty hysterical over-exaggeration, which I imagine was due to technological constraints at the time. Characters like Tidus, Wakka, and Rikku are completely overactive in terms of conversation. They'll swing their arms, jump around, stagger, and generally act like fools for the sake of exposition. It's pretty great once you start looking for it, like the first time you notice that 75% of Snake's lines from MGS are just him repeating the main point of the previous sentence in a dramatic voice.

Secondly, there is Seymour. Before I go into this, I just want to say that I like Seymour. He's a great bad guy, he's frustratingly strong, and he has a great theme song. However, he just doesn't fit. His story revolves around his plans to use Yuna to become Sin and destroy Spira, because, well, he's psychotic. It's solid, but it just feels tacked on to the main story. After you defeat him at the Highbridge, his story may as well be done. He just kind of becomes this dude who follows you around and hassles you. Also, it never really explains how he made it inside Sin for the last fight with him. It's just kind of accepted that he got there somehow and now gets an amazing final fight and song for sheer coolness. They should have had him involved in the finale somehow, rather than just playing the role of gatekeeper. At least his hair is even more fabulous in HD.

Revisiting an Old Friend: A Discussion of FFX HD

For my last part, I'd like to talk about some complaints people give FFX, and I'd like to offer a defense to them. We all know the infamous "laughing scene", the awkward first steps that Tidus and Yuna take towards an eventual relationship. Most people call that scene cringe-worthy, and most people would be right; however, that was the entire purpose. It was meant to be cute, an intentional overreaction by Tidus to add some cheer to the situation. It really is a great scene as long as you don't get too hung up on the actual laughing itself. A lot of people also mention that FFX was incredibly linear. While the game is only driven by story until the fight with Yunalesca, you can still actually go back at any point and see new developments in towns up until you fight the crawler. There are plenty of NPCs who get new dialog through the game, new quests to take in towns, and of course the amazing distraction that is Blitzball. FFX may be linear by sheer definition, but I would argue that it gives you more exploration than many other Final Fantasy games and RPGs of the same era.

Revisiting an Old Friend: A Discussion of FFX HD

(please pardon my editing, I only have MS Paint)

Well, that about wraps up everything I want to say. I'm really hoping to see some discussion, so throw down some comments, will ya? Maybe you thought it was a great read, maybe you think I'm nuts, but either way, thanks for reading!

EDIT: Title change due to format misunderstanding