on December 7, 2014
What a treat this title is for people that missed out on the initial releases over 10 years ago. Not only are do you get upgraded graphics, but also the International versions of each game, which many missed out on due to the PS2 being region restricted. I recall those days of frustration well, but enough of the nostalgia, on to the games themselves. As a preface, if you've not played this yet, better to start with X, as X-2 is a direct sequel, and though things are (vaguely) explained in X-2, you'll be more or less lost regarding the story. At least watch Youtube videos or something to catch yourself up. I'll try to keep it short, but well, there's two enormous games here so no guarantees!
Final Fantasy X is a traditional turn based format. Three party members on the field at a time, and an action bar gives you the order of attack per person/enemy on the battlefield. You have your list of commands (Attack, Special, White Magic, Black Magic, etc.), and victory is achieved through wiping the enemy team out. You level up by earning AP (this game's version of Experience), and use these Sphere Levels to traverse the Sphere Grid. As such there is no level cap, and allows you to level up your characters as you see fit, though the Sphere Grid option that's included with the International version alters the layout and can dramatically affect how you build the characters in the beginning. The Normal version has characters starting as specific areas, so your characters will have tailored "roles" until late in the game, whereas the Expert Grid allows a more central starting point on the grid, where you can level up each character as you see fit. You can have 3 White Mages if you felt the need to, although neglecting other areas can make the game considerably harder (hence the name Expert Sphere Grid!). But it adds a fresh coat of paint so to speak to the leveling system if you played the original on the PS2.
This game also boasts an enormous amount of content. There's Ultimate Weapons for each character (and some rather.... extravagant means to unlock them if you will), the ability to craft armor and weapons to allow for some dynamic setups with enough effort. Then there's the Monster Arena, where you can sink in as much time there as you did in the main game! Don't forget about Blitzball, the main mini-game of FFX, where again you can sink a plethora of time. And of course the International exclusive content, the Dark Aeons. Spending the time to level up to challenge them can effectively double the amount of playtime, so while you can blaze through the game quickly if you wanted to, you can also spend 100 hours plus and still find yourself chasing trophies. For the completionists this game will keep you busy for a long long time.
X-2, though for many wasn't quite the game that X was, is still a fantastic game in it's own right. It tends to be a bit more "girlish" since the cast is all female this time around and the Job System from previous iterations are now Dresspheres (which yes, are different outfits pertaining to the respective job), once you get to the core of the game it's also rather meaty.
The turn based version from X is gone, and this game implements an Active Time system, where each enemy on the field has an Active Time gauge that has to fill before selecting commands. You can change jobs on the fly as well, which makes for more dynamic battles, although you can change this to "Wait Mode" and slow it down for a more traditional approach. There's still a gauge that must fill, but when you enter your the sub menus (such as selecting a monster to attack, choosing a spell or item, etc), time "stops" to allow you to be more methodical in your approach. This game does revert to a more traditional leveling system though, where you gain Exp. and level up that way and (unfortunately) has a level cap, although you'll need to do some grinding to actually hit that cap. There is no weapon or armor crafting, and you'll have to tailor your party based on you job, and then accessories to enhance strengths or supplement weaknesses.
This game, like X, also has a rather expansive amount of content. To start, it's one of the most open world games in Final Fantasy history. The game is divided into chapters, but all locations are available from the start and you can either hit them all each chapter, or focus on only the ones pertinent to the story and be done with it. It's advisable to visit them all, as I would expect the game's difficulty to scale too much and make things extremely difficult without doing some sidequests. You'll also miss out on items and accessories by skipping this, which will only compound the difficulty.
Part of the new International content is the Creature Creator, where you can add fiends to your party and do the story, or put them through the gauntlet of the Fiend Arena. Like the Monster Arena in X, this will add quite a bit of playtime to your game, and can also aid in alleviating the difficulty due to the items and accessories you can earn by winning.
You also get the Last Mission, and add on dungeon also exclusive to the International version. There's trophies for this as well, which will add further playtime to an already expansive game.
The Vita also offers another (very minuscule) addition, and that's that you can use the touch screen to "quick heal", whether through Potions/Hi-Potions or via White Mage spells. This is rather useless considering it's not much effort to press Triangle and then go through the Items or Spells, but it's there... I would think it be useful for maybe the beginning of the game when HP is lower, but I never even think to use it anyways. Seems like a gimmick more than anything else, but I digress.
There is however one rather large flaw that I found in X-2, and is only an opinion, but that being the Completion Percentage that contributes to the story and ending. I can appreciate a system such as this, but X-2 makes it borderline impossible to actually achieve without a guide of sorts. It's up there with probably the Agarest War series as far as getting the best ending in terms of difficulty, and although I believe there's around 110% or something in the game, it's feasible that you could play the game 10 times over without any guide and still not hit 100%. Of course the fact that you're reading this review means you've got internet access and can find in depth guides, but it takes a bit out of the game if you're aiming for the best ending when you're stuck following a very specific guide. Of course also with the power of the internet you can play however you please and just Youtube these things, but completionists will know my pain here. The percentage does carry over to consecutive playthroughs, but since doing the same things don't count to adding more percentage, you'd have to guess what you did wrong and use a ton of trial and error to get it right. I'm sure some people enjoy this kind of challenge, but I find it too steep to obtain without a ton of playthroughs, or a guide to get every single nuance of the game.
My other gripe with X-2 is the fact that it's a digital download only. The game isn't small, and considering the rather exorbitant prices of the Vita Memory Cards, I'd have much preferred a physical copy of it. Unlike consoles where you get 250GB and space isn't a factor, the Vita only offers 1GB I think on the new models, so your space is extremely valuable with this console.
The game does offer cross-play functionality though if you have it for PS3 as well, and is a very nice touch. Visual limitations of the Vita versus a console/TV aside, the game looks great on the Vita. The only difference I've noticed is that the menus are compressed and take more real estate, understandable on the smaller screen of the Vita. It's negligible, and considering the portability factor this may be the better option of the two if you find yourself away from your TV alot.