Final Fantasy X provided one of many firsts for the series of Final Fantasy; it marked the start of a shift in the series away from pre-rendered backgrounds and textbook chapters towards full 3D and voice acting. Back in 2001 players were in awe of the story which was fully voiced and of the camera that swooped and panned giving the game a realistic and comfortable feel. After playing this game I came away more excited than I did a decade earlier and that is quite some achievement considering how much I was struck by the original.
Part of the reason that people might be less excited about this HD Remaster is a general state of decay the franchise is currently experiencing; this state of decay in fact made me appreciate all the things that this game does that the series struggled to recapture recently, I think another part of it is that Final Fantasy X simply did so many things right the first time, but even I never fully appreciated that until now.
Within the first few hours the game confidently flaunts its 3D presentation, providing battles in a seamless integration, a voice dialogue and dynamic camera cuts while even showing lip syncing so accurate, that is if you are Japanese of course! This was, and still is, an impressive first introduction to battling in the game. Outside of the mini map in the top left hand corner there is little in the way of persistent user interface or button prompts on the field of battle. The user interface, although simple, works, the interface doesn't interrupt you giving obvious instructions. Initially it can be quite alienating to walk up to an interesting glyph or symbol on the wall and find that there's no exclamation mark or button prompt telling you to look there, but in a way it is also liberating at the same time.
One of the most important things about the high quality of game design of Final Fantasy X/X-2 is the fact that it continues all through the game, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD never pretends to be more than it is, it never confuses play with jargon you are expected to understand.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 has already given almost unrestricted access to every single character in game subsystem. It takes about fourteen hours to progress to the point that most RPG's take twice this time to reach. There are no awkward force detours in the story; it finds a way to leave it to the narrative in a way that adds rather than detracts or distracts from its core narrative. The pacing in Final Fantasy isnt just fast but variable, it appreciates that the lows are just as important as the highs in creating an overall experience, one minute the game will provide you with the mission in raiding an enemy stronghold and then immediately follow up assuming control of a different character who has to fight alone.
The narrative doesn't linger on any one emotional landscape for too long and that, combined with the clever use of time, stops a player from feeling burnt out. Talking of emotional landscapes, Final Fantasy X/X-2 knows how to play on your emotions with almost merciless precision. You will laugh when it wants you to laugh, rejoice when it wants you to rejoice and when the developers want to twist the knife to make it hurt, it is going to hurt. Final Fantasy X/X-2 pulls this off in part mainly because of the marvelous quality of the voice work which is used to tell the the story and when talking to a load of characters, and I genuinely hope that the English release carries the same qualities.
Overall Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a marvel of a game, well thought out, nice storyline and is by far one of the best remakes in HD in the series. The game looks and plays very cleanly and overall is a pretty decent title.