Following on from last week’s Forgotten Childhood, Final Fantasy 9, let’s take a look at Final Fantasy X. Over 15 years since the original release, Square Enix was kind enough to bring out a HD Remaster of both Final Fantasy X and X-2. I have been binging my way through X for the last few weeks, determined to get every last possible item and cinematic. It’s been a challenge, but it has brought on a huge wave of nostalgia for my younger years.
When the original PS2 version of Final Fantasy X released, I was only 7. I didn’t even own a PS2 to play it at the time. Instead, my first encounter came second-hand via my older brother. That was how I experienced most games at that age. I didn’t have a console until my hand-me-down PS1, so X was well beyond my reach until I received my own PS2 some years later. Until then, I just soaked up the story and occasionally levelled my brothers party. I remember the how crushed i felt when I first played it. My brother was headed out for a few hours and let me level a bit. However, he never explained the Sphere Grid system to me. So after 2 hours or so and 20 levels grinded, it took my brother all of about 3 minutes to reset the counter to 0. Couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated there…
Once I had a PS2 of my own, my first priority was dashing my way through FFX. My brother finished the game without me, leaving me utterly clueless about anything past Mt. Gagazet on my first play. This was a time when the internet was much less handy than today. Any FAQ’s or guides to your games had to be printed out or bought in store because you’d be damned lucky if you were allowed use the modem whenever you liked. There were so many scenes and items I missed on my first playthrough. Not to mention the fact I shot myself in the foot. I was so used to Final Fantasy games giving me “Ultimate weapons” that I didn’t notice the catch in Final Fantasy X. Unless you do extra quests to upgrade each weapon, they’re essentially useless. I made the end of the game so much harder on myself for nothing!
For all my struggles with stats, I did love the game though. The story was wonderful, and I remember wanting to be all of the female characters. This was probably an indicator that I was meant for cosplay, but how could you not love those designs! From Rikku’s peppy attitude to Lulu’s sarcastic nature I found plenty of female characters I could relate to early on in my gaming life.
Sadly, I missed a huge chunk of this game. Blame it on haste or inattentiveness, but there was entire sections I didn’t even know about until well after I’d defeated Sin for the first time. I missed Yojimbo, the samurai aeon, I missed the ultimate weapons and I never even bothered with Monster Arena. Al-Bhed may as well have been gibberish to me back then. This time, I was determined. Having followed a guide to the letter, I made sure there was nothing I could have missed. It took so goddamn long, but oh does it feel good. Seriously, screw the amount of grinding you have to do in Final Fantasy games, but it’s so worth it for the godlike feeling at the end.
It was also immensely satisfying to know that since I’m not a kid and I can strategise, I didn’t completely ruin the Sphere Grid this time. I remember the first time I played I basically just went along upping everything I could. “Sure, my damage dealers need more tank stats.” I thought, “And my tanks definitely need to learn black magic!” I sometimes wonder how I made it through games at all back then.
As for the HD remaster and how it stood up by comparison to my old PS2, well you look at the image above and tell me. Personally it didn’t hit me how much had changed until I saw the comparison. All the main characters look new and shiny, but the same can’t be said for NPC’s. Anyone not important to the story such as the Al-Bhed or random guardsman in every city looks fairly shit by comparison to the main characters. But I guess that can be forgiven in a game that’s so large-scale.
Going through Final Fantasy X again made me realise why I loved it so much in the first place. It’s got an awesome story, beautiful characters and the battle system was an inventive new idea for the series which really made it feel more dynamic. I love this game to pieces, and it stands firm in my top 3 Final Fantasy games to this day.