Gaming

‘This is my story’ #FFXHD

A tweet I sent at 1.15pm on Sunday afternoon. Those numbers are pretty accurate, but if I’m completely honest the journey to hearing that final ding of a trophy unlock has lasted over a decade.

It’s a little known fact that Final Fantasy X is my favourite game. I joke, but I’ve never really been one to hide my adoration for the PS2 RPG. It was the reason I wanted the console in the first place, but I doubt I expected I’d still be talking about and playing it 11 years on. It became my game. Everyone has that one game, or series, that, for whatever unconscious reason, they can look beyond the flaws and see the reason why they play games in the first place.

I must have missed the announcement of the HD remaster of FFX; I doubt I’d have been able to cope had I watched the conference in question. The rumour mill has been full of ‘news’ about HD versions of FF games; Square-Enix aren’t exactly shy from re-releasing their titles. Final Fantasy VII has always been the big name tossed around, especially following the mild to positive reception that animated film FFVII: Advent Children received, but Square-Enix don’t need to remake that game just yet. FFX, on the other hand, was an easier task to update in HD while still being just old enough to give anyone who played it back in 02/03 a nostalgia kick. I was excited.

One thought dawned on me as more and more news emerged about what would now be a Vita and PS3 remaster of both FFX and its flawed-but-brilliant sequel X-2; there would be trophies. The idea of having my achievements on display for a game that I had played for over 800 hours at this point – one that people would ask me for advice on – was pretty daunting. I didn’t let on at the time, but I had never actually bothered to beat the final super boss Penance, or to do some of the more tedious tasks (we’ll get to that below). Waiting to see if these accomplishments would be essential to unlocking the Platinum trophy was tough and, of course, once the full list was released in 2013, I was conflicted yet again.

The three year build up to the March release of Final Fantasy X HD Remaster was nearly too much for me – I had held off on playing any of FFX since the announcement back in 2011. That’s two whole years without playing through my favourite game. It was tough, but soon enough it was 2014 and I only had a few weeks left to wait.

The best thing about the months preceding release? I wasn’t the only person talking about FFX for once. It was like going back to school when I would chat constantly about how well my characters were levelling up, or stay round at my mate’s house longer than I should just to defeat that boss that was causing me trouble (Seymour mainly). Twitter was full of old and new fans chatting about FFX and it was amazing. I was prepared: I would play through the game as usual, playing a bit each day to maybe get the Platinum by the end of the year.

The game was finally released on Friday 21st March and what followed was hour after hour of powering forward through Spira, pausing only to admire the updated graphics in cut-scenes or listen to the fully remastered soundtrack. As far as FFX goes, the music was the most radical change, with tracks sounding completely different to their 2002 counterparts. Instruments that were once in the background come to the forefront here, making for a surprisingly fresh experience, even for a huge fan like me. Key scenes are still as awkward now as they were back then, but for me that’s always been part of the charm of FFX.

Story aside it took me just less than a week to make it to the Calm Lands. The centre of Final Fantasy X and the place I’d end up spending most of the 80 hours I had left of my play through. Home to the Monster Arena, reaching the Calm Lands means the start of the ‘post-game’ content, a description that is completely misleading given that this content makes up about 70% of the entire game.

On paper the tasks seem small. The task to gather all seven Celestial weapons is easy enough, but powering up items you receive from the myriad of mini games in Spira though? There’s the tricky part. The most notable quests are required to max out Lulu, Tidus and Wakka’s weapons, the last two characters being near essential for future battles.

The Catcher Chocobo game can cause major trouble for even the most experienced of gamers, especially considering you have to finish the race with a time of 0.0 seconds. Not as impossible as it sounds, but is still sure to cause a headache.

Blitzball is possibly the most divisive part of Final Fantasy X, a mixture between basketball and Water Polo. Winning a few games is pretty easy, but playing over 40 games in order to unlock Wakka’s Jupiter Sigil is a long and tedious process that requires time more than anything else. It may not be the most tedious thing in FFX, but for some it’s the most infuriating. I actually don’t mind Blitzball, once you get the hang of it levelling your characters and learning new abilities can be quite enjoyable. Given the tweet above though, you can see how it can get repetitive.

That just leaves the Thunder Plains, the home of the mini game I was dreading the most. Dodging 200 consecutive lightning strikes is a daunting prospect, something I had never bothered to accomplish on PS2. The reward for doing so is Lulu’s Sigil, a useless item given how Lulu becomes the least useful character from the Calm Lands onwards, but the addition of that little Bronze ‘Lightning Dancer’ trinket gave me a reason to do it.

Six failed attempts go by, each more successful than the last. 40 dodges, 55 dodges, 70 dodges and soon I realise that it’s probably not a good idea to try 200 dodges on a busy train. The next morning I wake up, switch my Vita on and dodge all 200 on first attempt, before I’d even moved from my bed. Of all the trophies, Lightning Dancer turned out to be one of least tedious to pull off, but by far it remains to one I’m the most surprised to have achieved.

You’d think by now I’d have nearly finished, but I was only 60 hours in. Just over halfway to that shiniest of shiny trophies. The next 50 hours consisted of catching 10 of every fiend in Spira (Damn you Tonberry), defeating Nemesis (Pushover) and getting started with those Dark Aeons. A set of uber bosses that were making it over to the US for the first time in the HD Remaster, even landing a hit on one of these bosses required hours of preparation. Dark Valefor, Ifrit, Ixion and Shiva dealt with in one morning, Anima, Yojimbo and The Magus Sisters the next. Dark Bahamut was the only Aeon I had to attempt more than once, but soon enough Penance appeared as a destination from the Airship. My characters were more than ready, and I set off for what should be one of the toughest battles in Final Fantasy history.

Yes. I’m slightly ashamed. I should be, but Yojimbo gets the job done. It was on my second try of paying him 1 million Gil that he used Zanmato, a one hit K.O. even on the toughest of bosses. The trophy unlocked, even if I hadn’t truly ‘defeated’ Penance.

Having beaten all of the side bosses, you would think that the main story was all I had left to do. Well, here’s where the developers caught me off guard. As a levelling system, the Sphere Grid is one of my favourites in any game. The customisation on offer to the player is incredible. Early game things are just limited enough to make every character useful, end game maxing everyone’s stats is more than achievable. One thing you will never have to do is to complete the sphere grid for all seven characters, where by ‘complete’ I mean fill in every possible node and activate them all. Adding a silver and a gold trophy for these extended my playthrough by about 25 hours. That’s 25 hours of Don Tonberry AP trick, Kottos battles to gather spheres, activating nodes on the sphere grid one by one. The process was tedious. Very, very tedious. I couldn’t stop though, I was at the final straight I could see that Platinum Trophy getting closer and closer.

It took everything of me to not give up. It’s strange to consider that it was the most simple and boring task that nearly stopped me, but I had my mind set on seeing that final unlock after watching bonus cut scene Eternal Calm, the only thing in FFX HD that I had never seen before. That Sunday afternoon was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. It’s a strange way to explain what it felt like completing my favourite game, but this was so much more. It was the culmination of over a decade of gaming, years of trial and error, discussing tactics and loving just about every minute of it. I’m not usually one for trophy hunting, but FFX HD brought out the best/worst in me.

FFX has undoubtedly been a very important part of my life for the last decade and those 23 days getting that Platinum brought everything back around to that 11 year old boy discovering Spira for the first time. Thanks go to Squaresoft of 2001 and Square-Enix of 2013 for making this decade long journey to ‘Completion’ so worthwhile.

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One thought on “‘This is my story’ #FFXHD

  1. Brilliant article Sam, I’m looking forward to hitting the Platinum trophy very soon. This will help keep me motivated. Currently at ~90 hours, although I don’t really want it to end!

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