Every RPG fan has their Final Fantasy. Maybe it’s VII, with Cloud’s morose soldier schtick and that iconic death, perhaps it’s IX with its dance moves and gloriously cute visuals, or XIV thanks to its sprawling online world. Maybe it’s XIII with…. ok, alright, let’s not be silly.
X is my Final Fantasy. I originally watched an ex-girlfriend’s brother playing it non-stop and wondered what the hell it was all about. My first impression was that there was a lot of annoying lightning, a strange upgrade tree and too much searching for save points. Oh and some very annoying laughter, before more searching for save points. Tidus seemed like he’d be far from my favourite Final Fantasy character, but when I finally stepped into the world myself with Waka, Yuna and co, their struggles and journey became my own.
X-2, meanwhile, is not my Final Fantasy, but that’s absolutely fine. As the first direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game it was always going to hold a strange position in the canon, and Yuna’s transformation into a gun-toting, hot pant-wearing badass makes it even more so. Still, its girl power trio and gaudy moments make it seem more relevant than ever, and having the pair together here is simply fantastic value for money.
Putting Crystal Chronicles to one side, Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD’s arrival on the Nintendo Switch – alongside VII, IX and XII – marks an incredible end to the spat between Square and Nintendo that saw the Japanese companies fall out, seemingly over the N64’s use of cartridges instead of CDs. These are of course beloved games that some people will have already played many, many times, but to have them all together, on a console that doesn’t weigh much more than Nintendo’s original Game Boy, is the kind of thing kids of the Nineties and Noughties used to dream of.
It’s true that X/X-2’s arrival on Switch doesn’t immediately win it the accolade of making them portable for the first time. That award went to the PS Vita more than five years ago, and while the Switch is probably more comfortable to hold, and boasts the bigger screen, Vita owners will have been able to beat Sin on the toilet many movements ago. It definitely runs better here than it did on Vita though, and doesn’t suffer from the graphical downgrades that the Vita version did, whether you’re playing on handheld or docked.
This is largely the same HD remaster that did the rounds previously on the PS4, which in itself was a reworked version of the original PS3 and Vita remaster with the improvements that saw the game’s performance issues ironed out. The improved character textures look great, as do many of the locations, though it’s the animation that is most obviously from the PS2 era. The games run at 1080p docked and 720p undocked and either way makes for a fantastic way to experience either of them.
Perhaps more than any other Final Fantasy, the faintest hint of X’s music fires all of the synapses in my brain and drops me into a world of nostalgia. There’s an overriding sense of melancholy to the entire production, and even during its more bombastic moments, or the heavily repeated combat riffs, it’s a soundtrack that errs just on the right side of delicate and thoughtful.
This being the HD remaster there’s the option to use the original tracks and the re-arranged versions, which may or may not be an improvement depending on your point of view. Personally I love the way the reworked tracks sound, but I know plenty of people that will plump for the originals.
And then we get to the crux of the matter. Forget Sin or Seymour, the thing I wanted to beat the most when returning to FFX was the underwater sport of Blitzball. There are few RPG’s with the audacity to include an entirely separate game within their game, but Blitzball is just that. I fully believe that the pseudo-football/volleyball hybrid is a strategic gem, and as you travel the world recruiting new players to your team you might almost be able to treat the main game as a very tough scouting mission for the sports game. Maybe it is.
The remasters of Final Fantasy X/X-2 were already cemented as essential purchases for RPG fans, with an embarrassing number of enthralling hours for the asking price. The fact that it ends years of turmoil between Square and Nintendo makes it a truly remarkable release, and opens up one of the greatest series of all time to a whole new console family.