Final Fantasy X/X-2: Why Lightning Should Send Yuna a Thank You Card

Lightning can don Yuna’s Summoner’s Garb in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Let's take a look at how deep the connections go…

Next month, the PlayStation 3 will receive one of its last major highly anticipated titles with the release of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. The game will return players to the world of Spira to follow the adventures of Tidus and Yuna once more, this time in high definition glory and with new game modes never before seen in the United States. Fans of the series have been waiting for this one for years.

That said, it’s not like there was a dearth of big budget Final Fantasy titles on the PS3. In fact, It is perhaps fitting that this remastered edition is coming out just one month after Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. While Lightning Returns is a bit of a departure from the other games in the XIII lineup, it still might as well have been called Final Fantasy XIII-3. It’s the third game to feature many of the same characters and worlds in one cohesive (and *cough* confusing) story.

Back in the early days of Final Fantasy, the idea of reusing the same characters in a sequel was unheard of. Sure, there’s always been chocobos and crystals and guys named Cid, but one thingfans could always count on was a new narrative with new faces and locales from each subsequent title in the main numbered series of games.

Final Fantasy X and X-2 changed that unwritten rule, probably forever. It stands to reason that if the mold had not been broken with X-2 back in 2003, fans of XIII’s heroine Lightning would have missed out on that game’s two sequels. The influence of X and X-2 on the series doesn’t stop there. From the 3D graphics and voice acting of X to the Dressphere battle system of X-2, those two games are largely responsible for introducing the series to a new generation of gamers and have influenced features in other titles released since then.

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Listen to my story

I can still visualize the entire day in my mind. I was hanging out with some friends and we stopped in one of the local gaming stores. Perusing the wares, I noticed there were a number of discounted games on sale.

Before we go forward, I suppose I should tell you that I wasn’t much of a gamer at the time. I had played games on my Atari and original NES as a child, but much of the next few generations passed me by. My parents were more interested in keeping me outside in the sunlight than inside in front of the TV screen as a teenager, so I never got to experience systems like the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 until later in life. But I digress.

I had just recently purchased a PS2 and I was looking now at the stack of discounted Greatest Hits games. I picked one up and turned to my friend. “Final Fantasy X” I said. “I heard this was supposed to be good?”

“Oh my God, it’s one of the best titles on the system,” my friend said, laughing at me. “You should definitely get it.”

“I don’t know, I’ve never played a Final Fantasy before.”

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My friend, and the store clerk, looked like a VMA crowd watching Miley Cyrus twerk: Shocked and disgusted.

An hour later, I turned the game on and watched the opening video. I tapped a button on the controller and my gaming life was never the same. X riveted me from start to finish. Gorgeous 3D graphics. Voice acting. Amazing music. I became mesmerized by what my PS2 could do, thanks solely to Tidus and Yuna. I enjoyed it so much, I even went back and played older Final Fantasy games, starting with VII, of course. X made me a gamer again, and it’s a label I still proudly wear today.

There is no doubt about the level of impact X had on gamers of that era. Square sold 1.4 million pre-orders within four days of its release in Japan, outpacing even VII and IX over a comparable period. It became the first PS2 game to reach two million and four million copies sold on its way to selling 6.6 million copies by 2004. The game won multiple awards and received mostly high review scores. If VII is the game that announced the arrival of the PlayStation, X is the game that cemented Sony’s status as the behemoth of gaming. (See what I did there? Final Fantasy… Behemoth…. I’ll get my coat.)

The advancements in animation and sound that allowed realistic facial expressions and voice acting have gone on to be a staple not just for Final Fantasy but for many other story-based RPGs throughout the years. Traveling across real-time 3D environments instead of an overworld map has also remained a key element for the genre.

Y R P…and L

While the Final Fantasy XIII games have a lot to thank X for, it is perhaps Yuna, Rikku and Paine that have had the biggest influence on Lightning’s story.Aside from the fact mentioned earlier that XIII is the first game since X to spawn a sequel, there are other key connections between the titles. Lightning Returns‘ battle system has Lightning playing dress-up with more than 70 different “garbs” or outfits throughout the game. Each outfit changes her stats on the fly, allowing Lightning to switch between tanking, attacking, healing and buffing as needed. In other words, it’s a refined version of the Dressphere system from X-2. If you’ve never played X-2 before, but you just picked up Lightning Returns, you can expect to have a bit of a jump on learning that game’s battle system in March.

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The similarities continue. Whether you loved or hated the time travel in XIII-2, you have to admit one of the more unique features in that game was the ability to obtain multiple endings. This feature was also seen in X-2, with gamers finding themselves rewarded with additional movies at the end of the game based on completing certain conditions.

It’s also worth noting that Lightning is frequently cited as one of the Square Enix’s stronger female characters. But no stronger than say, the summoner who defeated Sin in 2001 before going on to headline her own title two years later.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster releases in the U.S. on March 18. Whether you’ll be playing the games for the first time, or like me will be enjoying a happy reunion with a couple of your all-time favorites, don’t forget to take a moment to just sit back and appreciate what’s on your screen. X and X-2 remain two of the most influential titles in the Final Fantasy series more than a decade after release.

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