"Unfortunately, while the PS4 version contains what is without a doubt the best-looking of both games, there are also some strange technical foibles unique to this version that may hinder the experience."
I'm a fan of this recent trend of remastering games in HD; in fact, I welcome the chance to replay old favorites and see important pieces of gaming history preserved. Last year saw the release of Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster, a compilation of the PlayStation 2 classic Final Fantasy X and its less-loved sibling Final Fantasy X-2, to great acclaim and success. Square Enix has since decided to double-dip and release this remaster again on the PS4 with a handful of minor enhancements. So, for those who are on the fence, is it worth experiencing Tidus' story again? Unfortunately, while the PS4 version contains what is without a doubt the best-looking of both games, there are also some strange technical foibles unique to this version that may hinder the experience.
Teach us how to blitz!
While certain aspects of Final Fantasy X are clear relics of its PS2 roots, such as the mediocre (bordering on awful) voice acting and stiff animations, the game has endured the test of time. The world of Spira remains one of Final Fantasy's most intriguing settings and its tale of religious oppression, doomed romance, and personal sacrifice is quite compelling, even if a few story beats occasionally miss their marks. What impresses me the most is how well the combat system holds up. Every party member (with one exception- sorry, Kimahri) has a purpose in battle and each encounter requires use of their unique skills. This is especially true of the puzzle-like bosses, where the combat design truly shines. On the downside, elements such as the Cloister of Trials sphere puzzles and the Blitzball minigame are as annoying now as they were back in 2001, but these are minor blemishes on an otherwise great game.
Suddenly feeling real emotional.
On the flip side, we have Final Fantasy X-2, unique for being the first direct sequel to a mainline Final Fantasy title, and the lesser of the games included. It's significantly more light-hearted than its predecessor, to the point that it feels disingenuous calling FFX-2 a sequel. While it is interesting seeing what has befallen the realm of Spira in the aftermath of FFX, the bizarre tonal shift may be more than some players can stomach. Still, if you can get past Yuna wearing boy shorts and saying words like "disasteriffic," there's actually a pretty good game beneath all of the fluff. The Dressphere system, a version of the Final Fantasy job system that seems like an early version of Final Fantasy XIII's Paradigm Shifts, adds a unique twist to combat, and being able to explore at your leisure is a nice change from X's more linear, narrative-driven pacing.
It all begins here.
With the recap out of the way, what has actually changed in the PS4 version of FFX/X-2 HD Remaster? Honestly, not much. Everything that was included in last year's PS3/Vita release is still here: International Version content (including the Dark Aeons and Expert Sphere Grid for FFX, Creature Collector and new Dresspheres for FFX-2), Eternal Calm short video, Last Mission side game, and an end-credits audio drama that continues the story. It certainly looks sharper, particularly when it comes to NPC models, and background environments have received a touch-up, although you'd probably need a side-by-side comparison to notice any major differences. Load times are noticeably faster, which is a plus. The biggest selling point of this new HD Remaster is the ability to toggle between the remastered musical score and the original one. I quite enjoyed the remastered music once I got used to it, but some tracks do suffer from a bit of over-instrumentation, so having the option to switch back to the original music is a welcome one.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. Cutscenes in FFX are still unskippable, which seems like a missed opportunity since some scenes run long. X-2 doesn't have any remastered music, for better or for worse. What may be a real deal-breaker for some is that there are some technical issues related to random battles that weren't present in last year's PS3/Vita version. Enemy formations, loot drops, and other minutiae of random battles are no longer, well, random. I reset my game a few times to confirm this, and found battles playing out exactly the same way every time- same enemies, same loot, and same amount of damage taken.
For comparison's sake, I tried the same thing with my PS3 copy of the game and found no such repetitiveness. I don't know if the RNG change is a bug or an intentional choice on Square Enix's part (which would be even more baffling), but for players looking to farm specific items or battle certain enemies, this could potentially damage the experience for them. This apparent bug also affects the music, as the audio track will restart after each battle instead of continuing from where it left off, as in previous versions. None of these problems appear to be present in FFX-2, however, just FFX.
It's a real shame, because if it wasn't for these issues, the PS4 version of Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster would undoubtedly be the definitive version. As it stands, we can only hope that Square Enix takes note of this and release a patch. The presence of these issues, while not game-breaking, is bothersome. The two games included are still great, but at the end of the day, I find it difficult to recommend the PS4 version over the much cheaper PS3/Vita versions.