E3 2013: Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster Hands-On

It’s strange that my first two RPG Site hands-on articles of E3 2013 are of HD remakes of decade-old games - but it just seems to be the current trend. Yesterday I tackled Fable Anniversary, the HD do-over of Lionhead’s original Xbox classic, and now it’s the PlayStation’s turn with Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD Remaster, the PS3 port of the classic PS2 FF.

This game actually takes a completely different approach to Fable. Where that is more akin to a full graphical remake, running on a completely different engine, this really does earn the ‘remaster’ title instead, choosing to change little and instead upgrade what was already there from the PS2 version with minimal disturbance to the original game.

As such, the remastered versions of FFX and FFX-2 both essentially take the same level geometry and models from the PS2 version and lays higher quality, high-definition friendly textures over the top.

The result is a game that’s stunningly crisp, the beautiful, bright colours of Spira and its characters popping out in a way they simply didn’t before. Without doubt it was one of the most beautifully colourful titles at E3. It’s also instantly recognizable despite being quite a huge upgrade - and both of these things are a real testament to the strength of the original art style of the game.

It’s not all merely new textures - some models, such as those of the major cast members, have been significantly updated for the game. This is something that I find looks a little bit strange, to be honest. 

There’s a Spartan nature to much of the game world thanks to more boxy, PS2-level geometry, and impressive character models that wouldn’t look far out of place in Final Fantasy XIII do help to show the age of the rest of the world.

Things like lip-sync and animation appear to run on the same system as before, so higher-polygon models are slapped atop movement meshes designed for lower quality models. The lip sync may have passed okay back in the early 2000s, but it looks pretty damn ropey now. The voice acting, also spotty in places, hasn’t changed. Even so, this is still visually the definitive version of this classic game.

It’s also incredible value for money - as the HD remaster of FFX on PlayStation 3 also includes FFX-2 at no extra cost. While nowhere near the total classic that its predecessor is, FFX-2 has a lot to offer to the hardcore Final Fantasy fan, including absolute closure on Yuna’s story and one of the finest twists on the series’ iconic job system that has ever been offered. That shares a lot of assets with FFX, and has been significantly upgraded in the same ways.

The Vita versions of the games will sadly be split in two, but we’ll have to wait and see how pricing ends up to see if this destroys the value proposition - but for now, the PS3 version appears to be the one to get.

The E3 demo of the title only offered an introductory vertical slice of FFX, but we also know some of the additional features the title will offer.

Both are based off the ‘International’ versions of each game - meaning that there are additional features, quests, bosses, enemies and other balance tweaks and changes throughout both games.

For FFX this will be new for Americans, but not for Europeans, who got the International additions the first time around. FFX-2’s International additions will be all-new for everyone in the West - and even includes a strange additional mission with a completely different gameplay style.

For Square Enix, the thing that they’ve found truly difficult in the last decade is already done on this title - they’ve got two great games, ready to go.

The visual upgrade only helps, and the addition of extra content is a welcome one. All we had to check at E3 was that it ran smoothly - and it does. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on the final version and do a fully-featured review and comparison with the original.

The wait for that won't be too long - Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster is set to arrive for PS3 and PlayStation Vita sometime between now and the end of March 2014. When we get more final release date details, you’ll be the first to know.