When I first read about the upcoming HD update of Final Fantasy X, the first thing I thought was I couldn’t believe Square Enix has practically redone every single Final Fantasy except for the only one fans have been rambunctiously vocal about wanting (*cough* Final Fantasy VII *cough*). Then I just couldn’t get over how it had been more than ten years since the game came out on the Playstation 2. It was the first video game other than some casual SNES Legend of Zelda play that I really got into. The game played a pivotal role in my development as a youngster, and because of nostalgia it remains my favorite game in the series and one of my favorite games of all time.
The first time I got my hands on the game was when I was nine years old. I was living with a family friend at the time away from my mother, who was technically my only family back then, and I remember feeling touched by something so magical when that opening cut scene started rolling. It was something that I believe most gamers probably feel during the early stages of their gamedom. It’s that first time you lay your fingers on a controller. You try to figure out where all the buttons are at first and you probably really suck at the game. You might not even have a single clue what’s going on, but it doesn’t matter because you’ve become engulfed in a world that makes all of the troubles of your reality seem so far away and you just feel like you’ve become a part of something truly special. I’ve tried to search for that feeling again in other games, but it just hasn’t happened yet, albeit many games have come close to replicating the special feels I get towards FFX.
My nine-year-old self just felt powerful in the driver’s seat of the JRPG. Growing up relatively poor and in an abusive home, being tasked with saving the world from the continually reincarnated Sin with Tidus and Yuna seemed like a piece of cake. And with my Aeons, black magic, and Auron’s huge ass sword I thought I could take on anything. I know how melodramatic it sounds, but the magic stayed with me even after I moved out of the family friend’s place and I no longer had access to the game. Nine-year-old me saw the world a little differently from then on out. Each challenge that I faced was just another random encounter and the roughest days were bosses. But with my magic and my fully-loaded sphere grid, I knew I could handles whatever obstacles came my way. And I did.
I decided to replay the game last summer, so I bought Final Fantasy X and a PS2 online. Since last playing it, I’ve played dozens of RPGs, FPS, and other games so I could actually appreciate the game more for its gameplay and storyline than I did as a child. Gameplay outside of battle was pretty standard fare and frustratingly limiting. For instance, why is Final Fantasy XIII-2 the first game in the series with a jump button? However, the turn-based battle system, which I somehow remained familiar with, was still spectacular. You go into battle with every character in your roster, although you have to switch them in and out because only three can be active at a time. The characters were also buffed up by their sphere grids, which is where you spend Ability Points for stats like HP or strength and skills like Firaga or Holy. In order to master the battle system, you have to learn how to exploit enemy weaknesses. Knowing that water magic beats out fire enemies is easy, but you also had to memorize how Auron’s sword is better for armored enemies while Wakka’s ball is best suited for taking out flying creatures.
The story was just as true and beautiful as I remembered it as well. Its journey is an amalgamation of the themes of love, friendship, death, terrorism, and overcoming a tyrannical government which, sure, is pretty much every other Final Fantasy but the characters’ personalities and the overall look and feel of Spira just make it something much, much more than another Final Fantasy. I may just be nostalgic or summoning my inner fan boy here, but this game will always have a special place in my heart. I’m excited for the HD release, although I’m nervous. Square Enix hasn’t been doing too well lately, especially with its care of the Final Fantasy series. But if the company can help me relive that first moment when I felt so encompassed by a game’s world that, my readers, is priceless.