It has been a long time since we first heard the stories of Tidus and Yuna, and now we get replay those stories once again. The legacy of Final Fantasy X and X-2 returns triumphantly to the PS3 with updated HD graphics, and number of new additions that weren’t included in the standard versions.
First off, if you’re new to the Final Fantasy series, these two games are great for starters. The great thing about the FF series is that none of them (aside from direct sequels) are linked or follow a specific continuity. Many would say the best in the series is VII or VIII, but all of them have their unique qualities and can stand tall in their own right. The tenth installment is no different, and it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, twists and sacrifices. There’s no recommended “starter Fantasy,” but FFX is a good one to start with. It’s a visual wonder and the game does a remarkable job of easing you into the combat, movement and the world around.
The Hero from Zanarkand
To keep things short, FFX follows the journey of a young Blitzball star, Tidus, who gets sent to Spira when I gigantic monster attacks his native city of Zanarkand. He wakes up floating in a sea surrounded by what looks like the ruins of a temple, and seeks solace and warmth inside. He’s soon attacked by fiends, but is saved by a band of people known as the Al Bhed. As payment for saving him and keeping him alive, Tidus is forced to help them, but his debt is cut short when they are attacked by Sin, the same creature that attacked him in Zanarkand. Once again Tidus is knocked out and washes up on the shores of Besaid Island, where he meets Wakka, Lulu, Kimhari and the young summoner Yuna. Not being from the world, Tidus doesn’t know much about Sin, the summoners or Spira. Tidus’ journey, because of his ignorance, is the perfect way for us, the gamer, to learn as he learns it.
In essence, Sin is a creature created as punishment for the people of Spira. It only knows death, and will kill unless the people of Spira atone for their past mistakes. Spira’s only hope are the summoners who can call forth powerful Aeons. To do this each summoner, and their guardians, must go on a pilgrimage to obtain the Final Aeon, an Aeon strong enough to defeat Sin and bring the Calm – a time of peace. However, the Calm does not last forever as Sin is inevitably reborn. It’s a never-ending cycle of death, and that cycle might end with Yuna.
As a whole, not a lot has changed since the remake, but the graphics and music have been improved upon. The big upgrade in graphics brings to light very subtle details, like Yuna’s bi-coloured eyes, the leather belts on Lulu’s dress, and the fine details in each of their weapons. However, the character models constantly change from high quality to looking barely better than an NPC throughout both games – an issue that was present in the original releases. The music portion of the game sounds much clearer than I remember, especially the music in the boss fights. However, most, if not all, of the game is still pretty much the game it was when it first released. Everything from its remarkable sphere grid leveling system, to the unique turn-based battle system remains the same, but with such visual clarity that old FF fans will not believe their eyes.
An Eternal Calm
Bridging the gap between the two main games is the short video The Eternal Calm. It was never included in the main line of games, and it doesn’t really tell you anything you can’t figure out for yourself.
The second game kicks off two years later, and focuses on Yuna, Rikku and Paine (a newcomer). Now that she’s brought the Eternal Calm, the people of Spira can live happier and less terrified lives. But since Tidus’ disappearance, Yuna felt a hole in her heart and is trying to bring him back. After watching a mysterious sphere (a type of record) Kimhari found on Mount Gagazet, Yuna believes that there is a way to bring him back, or at least the memories of him. And so she becomes a member of the Gullwings – a band of misfit spherehunters.
Unlike the first game, you won’t be travelling by foot, and you certainly don’t have a giant monster to contend with. You’ll be in command of the Gullwing’s flagship and traverse the skies of Spira in style. The game is divided into five Chapters, each with its own set of main and side-missions. The side-missions are completely optional, but completing them is vital to fixing the fragile world and obtaining the true ending. The death of Sin has brought about new problems, normal people problems, and it’s up to the Gullwings to help them out.
In many respects the second game is a bit of joke when you compare it to the first one. Yuna, the summoner who defeated Sin, is turned into a popstar and errand boy – a little bit more respect for the character, maybe? Also, the main weapon in the game, Vegnagun, is operated by a piano – what a disappointment. Fortunately, the game has a lot going for it. The combat, though vastly different from FFX, is really fun and has a lot of depth to it. The dressphere system allows each of the three characters to change into various classes, such as Gunner, Black Mage, Berserker, Dark Knight and many more in the heat of battle. Mastering each dressphere is key to beating the tougher opponents. The HD collection includes two dresspheres only released in the original international version: Psychic and Festivilist.
It also includes the creature capture system, a new feature that allows you to capture fiends or NPCs (like Wakka, Lulu, Nooj, Leblanc, etc) and use them as party members. It’s a great way to spice up the combat, and have extra team members. The fiends and NPCs act on their own, but you can control their ferocity. It’s also one of the few Final Fantasy titles to include a “new game plus,” making your second attempt at the game much easier. What’s also included in the package is the Final Fantasy Last Mission game, a rogue-like game, akin to the Chocobo Dungeon series.
Although we’ve seen many HD collection make headlines, few offer this much bang for your buck. You get two massive games that have aged extremely well, each with a significant visual overhaul and some decent extras to keep your tongue wagging. Both games have a menagerie of charming and memorable characters as well as interesting plot lines. The stories of Tidus and Yuna’s will quickly become your story, and you’ll love Square Enix for sharing it.