Blind Nostalgia or Just a Superior Game?

I first played Final Fantasy X over a decade ago. It was the reason I got a PlayStation 2 and it was the only game I owned until I completed everything there was to do (yeah even dodging 200 lightning bolts!) It was recently re-released as Final Fantasy X HD along with its intriguing sequel, updated graphics, beautifully remastered soundtrack and extra content from the Japanese versions. It is a bittersweet moment for me though as I keep asking myself why is this 10 year old ago game so much better than any other RPG I have played on my PlayStation 3 this generation?

Final Fantasy X HD Luca

Final Fantasy X is not my favourite RPG, or even my favourite Final Fantasy, but it is a fantastic game and transitioned the soul of the series wonderfully well from the PlayStation era to more powerful PlayStation 2 hardware. When people talk about modern RPGs, I have seen the argument that the often criticised Final Fantasy XIII is the exact same linear design first featured in Final Fantasy X. Initially I got the same impression, but the deeper you delve into each game, it becomes more and more apparent of how much superior FFX is and it really highlights the flaws in FFXIII and other modern RPGs in general.

Final Fantasy X HD Tidus

RPGs that tell engaging stories always have to have a component of linearity, but the ones that are elevated above the normal are the ones that still provide the illusion of freedom. The older Final Fantasy titles did this amazingly well that we didn’t even notice it was a feature until it was gone. Sure, you had to go from one place to the other as the story dictated, but the choice was always yours. You could explore other areas off the beaten track to find secret items, you could backtrack to previously visited areas to see how things had progressed, you could partake in mini-games at your leisure, you could fight endless battles to build your characters up to insanely powerful levels or when you were ready you could just get on with the story. The illusion of freedom was always there, Final Fantasy X had that… Final Fantasy XIII did not.

Final Fantasy X HD Group

Final Fantasy X HD has had a facelift and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the visuals. The backgrounds are magnificent, sharp and intricately detailed and the main character models have also been noticeably upgraded. There are plenty of elements left over from a game originally released in 2001, but for me this world is beautiful and endlessly enticing. FFX’s Spira is one of the most living and breathing worlds in any RPG and I found myself talking to all the NPCs around and often stopping to take in the extraordinary scenery. Again I have found it hard to be absorbed in the worlds of modern RPGs, but Final Fantasy X does it effortlessly. This is a fantasy I was more than happy to return to.

Final Fantasy X HD Besaid

I hadn’t played FFX for over 10 years so I couldn’t remember every single detail of the story, but I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. Having visited Japan recently, the themes and locations really hit me as having a more Asian feel than most games in the Final Fantasy series, such as the island-like setting, the temples and architecture, Yuna’s kimono and respectful/ reserved personality, Auron’s design etc. While lots of modern Japanese companies are striving to “Westernise” their games to better appeal to English speaking cultures, it is ironic to see how Japanese FFX feels and then how popular it is with said fans. The story is a big feature of Final Fantasy X and it is fantastically realised and implemented. Again to compare it to FFXIII, the backstory of Spira and its fate is easily and logically explained through gameplay itself, instead of having to read through a datalog to try and follow what is going on.

Final Fantasy X HD Yuna and Tidus

Just like the world, the characters are also full of life and depth. During its original development Squaresoft put a big emphasis on character emotion and this groundwork still shines through today. The interactions between the main characters are thoughtful and touching and I really enjoy the honest moments between Tidus and Yuna. Some of their conversations have an air of innocence and childlike perception and I can’t help but think this was the influence of Hironobu Sakaguchi as many of his games share this trait. Modern Square Enix RPGs including FFXIII definitely don’t have these moments and a lot of the staff are the same between these two games except Sakaguchi, it couldn’t just be a coincidence could it? FFX was also one of the first RPGs to feature extensive voice acting and while it is not perfect there are some truly memorable performances that helped elevate the experience. Viewing Auron’s emotional and thrilling speech before the battle with Yunalesca still sent shivers down my spine even today and the noticeable difference between Tidus’s whining voice during the first half of the story, compared to his deeper more mature voice during his narration is a great example of subtle character development that is not just thrown in your face.

Final Fantasy X HD Auron

The last thing I want to touch on is the battle system. I still think this is one of the best battle system in any RPG. The ability to switch out party members so that everyone can participate is genius and adds a lot to battle strategy as different characters are needed to deal with different enemies and it helps build attachment to whole party. Being able to control everyone in battle is a big feature for me and games like FFXIII that limit you to one only is a big disappointment. Seeing as you spend so much time in RPGs during combat, having a flexible, strategic battle system is a must. Square Enix tried to speed up the battle system in FFXIII but lost a lot of the strategy as I did find myself just hitting auto battle repeatedly, just waiting until I staggered the foe, switched combat roles and repeat. If they wanted to speed up the battles they only need to look at Final Fantasy X’s sequel that hit a great balance between speed and strategy/ control.

Final Fantasy X HD Battle

I am fully immersed and loving every minute of Final Fantasy X HD. I just wish they would still make these kind of RPGs with big budgets on home consoles today. It is just not nostalgia for me, they are just simply better designed games…

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8 Comments

Filed under Editorial, Final Fantasy Series

8 responses to “Blind Nostalgia or Just a Superior Game?

  1. Laith

    Great post! One of your best. It will be interesting to see the way RPGs evolve over the next few years…

    • Thanks mate! I really hope the success and sales of this remaster will at least give some companies a clue that these types of games are not outdated. There is definitely still an audience out there. These days turn-based RPGs are mostly found on handhelds or the Indie scene, but maybe they will make a comeback someday! Appreciate the comment.

  2. WhiteKnight597

    I’m playing Paper Mario: TTYD for the first time now but after that I was thinking about replaying FFX since I haven’t played it since a year or so after it’s release. I just can’t get that damn awful laughing scene out of my head to this day, but after reading your post I will give it a second playthrough. I do remember the battle system being amazing and that’s something I need in an RPG after the last few I’ve played.

    • I recommend giving it another go! Pick up the HD version if you can, the new soundtrack is worth it and the gameplay really is amazing. The laughing scene is actually pretty good character development. It shows the effect Tidus has had on Yuna as she is coming out of her shell to help cheer him up and he fakes the laughter until it goes over the top and then they both naturally laugh together. It’s just a personal joke between them that no one else gets. Yuna is always so cautious to check what everyone thinks of her, while this shows her being more natural. It is actually scenes like this that make interesting characters I think. Thanks for your comment!

  3. 0perario

    I remember having mixed feelings about FFX. I bought a PS2 in 2004 and just three games with it (Mgs2, FFX and Xenosaga ep.I – which I hated), and I’ll point out what I disliked about it first. I must say I did not like the setting, the world of FFX as much as I did other FF games. There wasn’t a single town I found to be memorable or even worth exploring. Second, the lack of an overworld map REALLY bothered me for some reason. The third major flaw I’llsave for the end of this comment.

    Now, onto the good part. Graphics were stunning, the voice acting was solid for the most part (the infamous laughing scene, while lame, didn’t bother me a lot), the story was interesting, the characters were likeable (Tidus can be annoying, but I found it an interesting departure from Cloud’s and Squall’s somber personality) and then… OH MY GOD THE BATTLE SYSTEM!!! Easily the best in th series and one of the best in RPGs. It felt quick, fluid, and compared to PS1 FFs, rhe battles were actually pretty hard. And the summon system… Man, that was the best use of summons/eidolons ever. I can’t help but think of FFXIII’s summon system and smirk in contempt. The soundtrack also deserves a lot of praise: To Zanarkand and The Silence Before the Storm are two of my favourite tracks in the series.

    Welp, it’s certainly worth playing. FFX is not, in my opinion, as epic in scale as the four Final Fantasies that preceded it. But it PLAYS better than all of them, I think it’s safe to say that while VI-IX are better experiences, X is the better videogame.

    Ps: Trigger7, do you know whether the FFX HD version is the International version (with the dark aeons and stuff) ? If it is, I might give it a try.

    Ps2: the worst thing about FFX… The one flaw that is unforgivable is… Final Fantasy X-2

    • All the things you listed are the reason FFX is a great RPG. Although I agree the removal of the ability to explore the world map is the biggest letdown. The battle system and the Aeons are fantastic though and from the first time I played it I imagined playing some of the older Final Fantasy games with the ability to switch characters and control summons. It still baffles me that no other RPG has used this system.
      Yeah mate, FFX HD is indeed the International version including fights with the Dark Aeons, the new superboss Penance and the option to use the new expert Sphere Grid where you have much more control over customisation of all the characters. I only played a little bit of FFX-2 and didn’t really like the tone, but I’m willing to give it another shot when I’m done with FFX HD. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Now that I’m catching up on the old “FF” games, I’m really seeing how much better the older ones are, and I think “FFX” was the last good one. I absolutely love this game, and I, too, loved the battle system. I loved having the freedom to switch characters at any time instead of being stuck if you just happened to have the wrong characters in your party. (How frustrating when you have a flying enemy, and none of your currently selected characters can hit it….)

    Anyway, what extras does the HD version have? I have that version of the game, but I haven’t played it yet.

    • Another thing that’s awesome is the ability to change your weapons during combat. Have an enemy that’s weak to fire? Change your weapon in battle. Seriously, why has this battle system not been reused! The HD remasters are based on the International versions. For FFX there are battles against super bosses the Dark Aeons and Penance, as well as the new expert Sphere Grid that gives you much more control over party customisation and a few extra abilities for your characters. Of course the updated graphics, backgrounds and character models as well as most of the soundtrack being remastered and fully orchestrated. For FFX-2 you get updated graphics (but not the soundtrack), new dress spheres (classes), Monster creator and Fiend Arena and the previously Japanese only Last Mission content with an additional dungeon. Additionally there is an added cinematic Eternal Calm that bridges the gap between the two games and an all new audio drama set after the events of FFX-2. Yep all those things! Thanks.

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