Final Fantasy X HD: More than Just an Upscale

Final Fantasy X HD: More than Just an Upscale

Change is afoot -- both visually and audibly.

Square Enix's big new Final Fantasy may be the MMO that launches next Tuesday (or this weekend if you're lucky enough to have Early Access), but the remastered versions of Final Fantasy X and X-2 are looking lovely too.

We've seen a fair amount so far about how the visuals have been improved from the original. The game's now true widescreen and has new character models, for starters. Being HD and consequently no longer beholden to varying TV standards, it will also now run at full speed for European players who previously had to put up with Tidus looking like he was running through syrup -- a problem that was, thankfully, fixed by the time Final Fantasy X-2 came out.

What we haven't seen -- or rather heard -- a lot of is what, if anything, is happening to the soundtrack. Both Final Fantasy X and X-2 had excellent (if very different) soundtracks, so it would have been perfectly understandable for Square Enix to have kept the original versions of all the music and left it at that.

However, that's not happening, it seems. This new video, released at Gamescom, demonstrates not only the new high-resolution visuals and interface in the HD version of Final Fantasy X, but also the fact that the music has been remastered.

I'm... not entirely sure how I feel about the new version, to be honest. The original Final Fantasy X soundtrack, while having a very obviously "synthesized" sound, had a certain pleasing crisp, tinny feel to it; composers Uematsu, Hamauzu and Nakano all wholeheartedly embraced this artificial sound rather than attempting to create a realistic, orchestral score for the game. The new version, meanwhile, has a very different feel to it; it's still recognizably the Final Fantasy X battle theme, but it has an altogether different texture, thanks largely to the addition of "thick"-sounding instruments like the electric rhythm guitar as well as more realistic instrument samples.

Commenters on YouTube appear to be divided in their opinions, with many hoping that Square Enix will provide the option to switch between the old and new versions of the music -- not an unfeasible request, but one I somehow doubt we'll see coming to fruition. Square Enix may yet surprise us, of course.

What I'm more interested to hear -- and what the video doesn't show -- is what, if anything, is happening to Final Fantasy X-2's soundtrack. X-2's score was the work of Noriko Matsueda and Takahito Eguchi rather than Uematsu, Hamauzu and Nakano, and it had a very different tone: more strongly influenced by J-pop and electronica, it was somewhat jarring on a first listen -- particularly if you'd just come off a lengthy playthrough of FFX -- but, in my opinion at least, it's aged a lot better than X's rather "video gamey" soundtrack. This isn't to say that X's score is bad, before any passionate fans jump down my throat; just that its synthesized MIDI instrument sounds are more obviously dated than the more abstract electronic audio aesthetic of its sequel. Let's not forget that FFX originally came out 12 years ago. (Yes, really.)

There's no firm release date for the FFX/X-2 remaster as yet; it's expected by the end of the year. You can find out more and preorder it via the official website.

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