The best PlayStation 3 game of the first quarter of 2014 is twelve years old. One of the best games of the PS2 generation, remastered in gorgeous high-definition, accompanied by its nearly-as-beloved sequel, and packaged with a fantastic hardcover book, “Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster” is not only the best deal of the season in terms of gaming bang for your buck but serves as a wonderful reminder of the importance and influence of “Final Fantasy X,” a game that sparked the imagination of an entire generation. With features previously available only in Japanese editions, truly remastered graphics (instead of the mere importing often done on releases like this), and gameplay that remains incredibly strong, “Final Fantasy X/X-2” reminds me that I’m not getting too old for role-playing games. I’ve been nonplussed by recent RPGs, including the disappointing “Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns” this year, but “X/X-2” still have the power to transport gamers. Some of the mechanics are a bit dated—you’re almost instantly reminded how far we’ve come in terms of camera control—but it’s the storytelling, world creation, and fascinating characters that made these games templates for the modern RPG. And they still rock.
“Final Fantasy X” changed the market forever. When it was released in 2001, it became the fastest-selling console RPG of its day, ranking in the top ten PS2 games in terms of sales of ALL TIME. Why did “Final Fantasy X” connect? It was one of the first games that really felt like it was giving you authorship over the experience and that your time with it was different than your buddy’s. What I mean by that is that for most of the ‘90s, games were about mastering the predetermined path. Hit jump and punch at the right times to get Mario from point A to point B. “Final Fantasy X” felt malleable, as if your approach to it was changing the storytelling in front of your eyes. In many ways, that has been the great development of the PS3 generation as games like “Mass Effect”, “Bioshock”, and “The Last of Us” gave gamers more and more control. “Final Fantasy X” also utilized emotion instead of mere mechanics, trying to tell an engaging story as much as provide memorable action. It’s even more beloved in Japan than it is in the States. In 2006, it was voted the best game of all time.
In “Final Fantasy X,” you play Tidus, a classic Luke Skywalker character in that he’s an average guy transported to a new, magical world. As you grow in power, you can upgrade a deep grid of abilities to enhance your skill on the battlefield. And, as with all RPGs, you’ll be doing a LOT of battling. I was impressed, revisiting this game, with the enemy design and animations. And the graphics and music have been notably enhanced. It may not look PS4 quality but it certainly looks as good as “Lightning Returns,” which came out this year. “Final Fantasy X-2” is not quite as good a game but it’s close and included here in its entirety. All international extras have been included like an expert Sphere Grid on “Final Fantasy X” and even a few optional bosses. “X-2” has new minigames and extras as well. And buyers get “Last Mission”, an extra dungeon mini-game. Finally, players can cross-save from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation Vita files.
“Final Fantasy” is not your typical video game franchise. It is a way of life for many gamers, a world that grows deeper every year and shows no signs of losing its stranglehold on the hearts and minds of fans of Japanese role-playing games. A PS4 version of “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” is hitting shelves in just three weeks. And yet we go back to the greats. It’s a series that has never forgotten its history even as it progresses into the next generation of video game consoles. Fans talk about their favorite “Final Fantasy” titles in hushed, reverent tones, in the way that fans of literature or film discuss the works that changed their favorite mediums. And “Final Fantasy X” and “Final Fantasy X-2” are on the Mount Rushmore of PS2 role-playing games. It has been an amazing 27 years since “Final Fantasy” was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and gaming would never be the same. As we approach the next generation of “Final Fantasy,” it makes perfect sense to go back to what is really the centerpiece of this entire operation. There are certain films or books that are canon—must-reads for those who appreciate their form. “Final Fantasy X” is canon for video game fans.