Late last month, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster was released on the PS3 and Vita in Japan and I have been dying to play it -- not the remastered FFX, but the remastered FFX-2. But, to understand why Final Fantasy X-2 holds such a place in my heart, you need to know why I play video games.
I play games for the same reason I read books and watch movies, anime, and TV: because I love stories. For the most part, I enjoy well done stories from all genres -- be that a sci-fi visual novel about a group of people locked in an unknown facility or a war story about a small team of soldiers entering a sand-filled Dubai looking for survivors.
But as a kid, I didn't know that games could have a meaningful plot -- outside of point and click adventures, anyway. Console games always seemed so simple: rescue the princess or defeat the evil bad guy. Then I played Final Fantasy VI and everything changed. After that experience, RPGs (and Final Fantasy games in particular) were my drug of choice for great video game stories.
By the time of the PS2 era, little had changed. And while I had hated FFVIII (a story for another time), I enjoyed FFIX and absolutely loved FFX. So when X-2 was announced, I was more than a little excited.
Mere days after its release in Japan, a Japanese friend of mine came to visit; and to my delight, he had his brand new copy of FFX-2 with him. We beat it three times (mainly him playing and me watching -- it was his game, after all) while he visited and still hadn't done it all. So when it came out in the West, I picked it up and started back in.
And I didn't stop… for weeks.
Up until that point, I had never mastered a Final Fantasy -- or any game beyond Chrono Trigger really. Once the plot was done, I was done. Super bosses, secret dungeons, and awesome gear didn't really matter to me -- at least it wasn't incentive enough to keep me playing. I had plenty of other games to play with new stories to experience.
But X-2 was special. Not only did it have a plot that changed based on your choices and how well you completed missions, it also had a battle system that was just fun to play. Now, I have spoken at length before about my love of the active-time battle system, and X-2 took it one step further.
While you could just play like you would in any other ATB game, X-2 added in timing and player position into the mix. Instead of just trading blows, you could time attacks correctly to prevent an enemy's attack and keep him juggled and unable to act for several seconds. Moreover, with all the dresspheres, you were constantly getting new abilities and figuring out new combos.
As much as I love RPGs, I get bored doing the seemingly endless level up grind. I have to throw on some music or TV or anything else interesting to keep me distracted till I reach the next plot point. But this never happened in X-2. And as I beat it again and again, gathering different items, levelling up costumes, seeing all the little possible differences in the plot, I was never bored. For whatever reason, I never get tired of the act of simply playing X-2.
Yet, all good things must come to an end. After weeks of playing nearly every waking moment (oh how I miss the five-week winter break I had in college), I reached an impasse. I had done everything -- literally everything -- in the game. I had three of every item, leveled up every dressphere, killed the secret boss, and seen the perfect ending. And so, with nothing left to do in the game, I moved on to the next game.
I didn't play Final Fantasy X-2 for the next decade.
Then, this past weekend, I sat down for some serious time with the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Included in this collection is X-2, and I was curious to see if the game lived up to my nostalgia. For the most part, it did.
Sure, it doesn't look as good as modern PS3 titles (though it does look nice), but the gameplay is just the same as it always was -- and still a ton of fun. Meaning to play only an hour or two, I instead spent eight straight hours playing -- and I didn't even finish the first chapter.
Moreover, the version included in Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is the international version with new dresspheres and a monster collection mini-game/sidequest that adds over 150 extra members to your party (that's not a typo). And the collection also has the short epilogue game, The Last Mission, which I have yet to play.
So, will I be playing Final Fantasy X-2 to the extremes I did back in college? Probably not. But do I want to? Absolutely. I think everyone has a game that just clicks with them -- a game they could keep playing forever. Mine is Final Fantasy X-2 -- especially in its newest form.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster was released in Japan for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita on December 26, 2013. It will be released in Australia on MArch 20, 2014.