I’ve played around 30 hours of Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster for the Vita and feel ready to give you some impressions ahead of our full review. In Japan FFX HD and FFX-2 HD are being sold separately but in the West they are going to be sold as a set meaning players will inevitably compare the remastering of the two games against each other.
The general impression I came away with is that the remastering of this game is better than that of Final Fantasy X HD Remaster in some ways, but not consistently so.
FFX-2 HD makes a bad first impression. It’s immediately obvious that some of the tender loving care that went into FFX HD didn’t go into FFX-2 HD. The game opens with an animated CG sequence where artifacting is noticeable in the gradient in dark colours. This is hard to see on a monitor but when the image below is viewed on the Vita’s screen it becomes immediately obvious.
On the special effects side of things however, it doesn’t look like there has been any compromise. The original FFX-2 featured effects that were not present in FFX, such as light sources in the environment illuminating characters as they pass by. True to the source material these effects were not in FFX HD but are present and well in FFX-2 HD.
Other effects have been redone entirely. In the original FFX-2 there was an area near the beginning of the game that was filled to choking point with a mist effect. The effect was simply an overlay that went over the screen and it would scroll awkwardly, matching the players’ movements. It has been removed and replaced with a toned down mist that looks like it is actually part of the environment.
As with FFX HD, the characters now sport anatomically correct shadows instead of standing on top of generic disc shapes. The battle UI in FFX-2 HD has also been enlarged slightly over the console versions
making it handheld friendly, but it isn’t quite as large as the UI in FFX HD.
FFX-2’s battles can get quite hectic with various text boxes popping up all over the place, vying for screen space. The conservative approach to UI resizing was probably a conscious choice on the developers’ part to balance user friendliness with visibility. From what I’ve played I’d say that balance has been struck; the UI is easy to read for hours at a time without eye strain but not so big that the screen feels crowded.
The 2D artwork used in the UI also appears to have been resampled or drawn from scratch as it appears sharp with no issues with colouring.
The most dramatic changes that have come about from the remastering are evident in the textures. FFX HD didn’t use textures that took full advantage of the Vita’s qHD screen but it still looked quite good for the small screen. FFX-2 HD however, alternates between using low and high resolution textures. Areas that were in FFX HD remain low resolution as they were in that game, and these look fine, but areas unique to FFX-2 use glorious higher resolution textures. As a result some of the areas in FFX-2 HD look incredibly detailed but are inconsistent with FFX HD and, at times, even with itself.
The character models in FFX-2 had slightly higher polygon counts than those in FFX and it shows up surprisingly clearly when making the jump from FFX HD to FFX-2 HD. In the above screen the character appears more solid and detailed than any character in FFX HD. What’s more is that all the increased angles and lines on the complex character clothing are almost entirely free of the dreaded jaggies.
The character models have also been reworked ever so slightly from the original FFX-2. One of the issues I had with FFX HD was how the high and low quality character models looked very different from each other, making them look like completely different people at times. FFX-2 HD also uses high and low poly models for different parts the game but the difference between them is small enough that you are unlikely to notice.
Unlike FFX HD which had a newly arranged soundtrack, FFX-2 HD seems to be exactly the same as the original. There is no option to re-jig the volume balance between the sound-effects, voice track or music but the game does a good job of balancing that anyway. I also found that the quality of audio playback was rock-solid; no crackling or hissing.
As with FFX HD, FFX-2 HD has a problem where the voice track and lip-synching are consistently off by as much as a quarter of a second. I’m are not sure at this point if this is an issue with playing the game off a memory card or not.
I did however come across an anomaly with the sound in the game. At one point almost all the sound effects, with the exception of environmental sounds, cut out. This was a minor nuisance that necessitated having to trek back to a save point, but on the trek back the game crashed.
After getting this error message I was unceremoniously booted back to the game’s Live Area panel and had to start the game again. I revisited the area to see if I could determine the cause of the crash but was unable to replicate it.
Performance wise FFX-2 HD on the Vita is good, but not perfect. FFX HD’s framerate would drop in any scene where the entire party plus a few NPCs were all present. Oddly enough FFX-2 HD doesn’t have this problem even though it has more detailed character models than FFX HD.
But it does have some framerate issues of its own. Although the game generally runs at a smooth 30FPS there are some areas where the framerate will drop without fluctuating; a kind of smooth slow motion. It’s similar to watching a video on the Vita and accidentally dropping the playback speed to x0.9.
Battles also experience similar framerate cuts, but they still run better in this version than they did in the original FFX-2; moves like Power-break that would slow the original game down now animate smoothly.
In our FFX HD review I praised its speedy load times. They were considerably faster than the Playstation 2 original and among the fastest I’d seen on the Vita. This is still true of loading times when moving between environments in FFX-2 HD, but not true of battles.
The load time for battles is in the same ball-park as the original PS2 version. It is quite common for the battle stage to be loaded with only some of the battle participants ready and the others materializing in after a few
On rarer occasions, the entire enemy group and one of my party members would stand-up everyone else up for a few seconds before running on stage and giving the battle UI the go-ahead to appear. I’m not entirely sure why this happens sometimes and not others. Were my party members and the enemy in cahoots? Were they doing each-others’ hair when they were caught off-guard by battle-station protocol? I simply have no way of knowing.
As with the original FFX-2, FFX-2 HD has an annoying hang on the battle result screen. It takes a second or two before the button prompt to dismiss the screen to appear. This is true even when the battle result screen has nothing to display such as when you run from a fight and leave empty handed.
There is a significant amount of new content in FFX-2 HD including new dress-spheres (‘jobs’ in standard RPG vernacular). A game mode called ‘Last Mission’ which is set after FFX-2 and immediately selectable from the game launcher menu. There’s even a Pokémon–esque creature capture/training mechanic where you can raise your own beasts and have them fight side-by-side with you. All this content has never left Japan before so I am going to ensure it gets a thorough analysis in our upcoming review.
The swipe-menu seen in FFX HD is also in FFX-2 HD. Simply swipe the touchscreen rightwards and you’ll pull out a touch panel menu. If you activate this menu in the field it will give you the option to heal your party using either magic or items. This really does cut down on the bureaucracy of post-battle healing and is a very welcome addition. Unfortunately you are still going to have to open your menu to heal status effects which endure after battle.
If you activate the swipe-menu during battle you can toggle dress-sphere change animations from full/short or off. I found that even if you set the animations to ‘off’ you still have to watch the them if it is the first time you’ve changed between that particular combination of dress-spheres.
I did find that, for some reason, the swipe-menu touch panels are not as responsive to touch in FFX-2 HD as they are in FFX HD. It doesn’t affect the game in any major way but you will sometimes have to press the touch panels in FFX-2 HD a few times before they register input.
IMPRESSIONS SO FAR
All in all, my impressions of Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster for the Vita were that the quality of the remastering here is good, even better in some ways than Final Fantasy X HD Remaster. But it wasn’t consistently better and had a few weird quirks of its own.