FFXHD/FFX-2HD are now out in Japan. I opted for the Vita version. I've played around 4 hours. Just made my way through the jungle that separates Kilika from the the nearby shrine.
I was a little worried about the Vita version as SE has been very tight lipped about it (at times making us even question it still existed). After playing for a few hours I can't say that it is perfect, but what I've played shows mostly good news: this is a competent higher resolution conversation of the PS2 game with some sensible design choices having been made along the way and a few niggling issues.
I'm going to show off some screen from the game along with some interesting points I noticed whilst playing.
This is the first thing you see upon starting FFXHD: the dedicated launcher menu from which you can select FFXHD, The Eternal Calm bonus goodies and other bonus extras. You can also check your game saves from here without booting up the game itself. There is no option to get back into the launcher from the game but you can jump back at any time by pressing L+R+Start.
These are captured directly from the Vita and should give you some idea of what the CG looks like. There doesn't seem to be any noticeable compression artifacts from what I can tell.
What is also noteworthy is that transition between in-game and CG is really smooth (as is CG playback). There is little in the way of awkward pauses and unlike the PS2 you won't hear your disk drive whirring into action to telegraph a CG sequence.
Tidus Crying Face
Auron pose close-up
Dark Colours Test
Light Colours Test
The quality of the conversion here is better than that of the MGS HD Collection. Characters exhibit fewer jaggies upon closer examination and even scenes that zoom out on architecture hold up quite well.
The character models in this HD remaster version also exhibit extra details not present in the PS2 version such as the leather effect on Tidus's not-quite-overalls. These effects are often cut from Vita ports (the leather/silk textures in games like Hatsune Miku/DOA5+) but are present and well here.
Smell that leather
The game also appears not to have taken any shortcuts with shadows. All characters (including NPCs) exhibit correctly shaped shadows. There is no pixelation or flickering readily apparent in the shadows either.
Blitzball's cast shadows:CONFIRMED
The same goes for enemies big and small.
However some of the graphical limitations from the PS2 version are also apparent here. In the PS2 version the VFX layer used for item/spell effects was the same one used for some of the environmental effects. Long story short sometimes environmental effects disappear for a split second whilst the item/spell effect animates. So far I've only noticed this in underwater segments of the game where the water shimmer will disappear for a split second and making the scene look flat and less convincing for little while.
Also almost none of the objects in the world that look like they should be light sources actually illuminate characters as they pass-by (though baked environmental shadows shade correctly). I can't remember if this was the case with the PS2 version or not (and I don't know if the PS3 version includes this). But something to keep in mind.
Generally speaking the game looks clean, sharp and colourful.
With the exception perhaps of one in-game location I've taken to calling 'Shimmering Hill':
The lack of texture filtering on this scene in the PS2 version made it easily the ugliest spot in the entire game. The shimmering effect is still in the Vita HD version but the smaller screen makes it a little harder to make out.
The pre-rendered sequences in the game also look a little flat (though that was always the case) and not 100% pin-sharp but they don't appear to be a blurry mess either.
Don't go outdoors...it be three-dimensional out there:
MGSHD was an interesting collection in that it improved the graphics and framerate but the loading times actually increased over the original game (which was near load-less).
FFXHD performs well on the Vita for the most part. The game maintains a solid 30 FPS almost all the time and when coupled with the smooth animations and pretty colours it looks great in motion...99% of the time.
Occasionally the game will hiccup just for a split second whilst it does something new. Sometimes it will be the way 'screen-crack' animation before battles appears to be a little rougher than normal. Once I got a really minor snag when I attempted to summon Valefore. There really isn't any rhyme or reason to it; it happened once under conditions x and I simply couldn't replicate it.
The frame-rate is mostly a smooth 30 but in one scene where there were a lot of NPCs on screen (the scene where Yuna does her first summoning) the game chugged, only to go right back again to a smooth 30 during a close-angle when fewer NPCs were around (and then back to chugging again for a second when it returned to a wide-angle with all the NPCs). I've not seen that happen in any other scene so far and nothing like that during exploration or battle. If you are worried about it being a Jak Trilogy all over again though you can put your fears to rest.
The load times are also universally better than the PS2 version (battle-to-field/indoor-to-outdoor/cutscene-game) and actually some of the snappiest loading I've seen on the system. Even loading and saving save games is pretty much instant.
There is just...one minor grievance. This thing:
The thing I was am grieving over:
This moving loading screen animation is new to this version of FFX. This animation will appear seemingly at random during scene transitions or when moving between places (never during the field/battle transition). Some of the loads are so fast you'll only see this thing flash up for a split-second and then you are loaded into the next part...making you doubt if you saw it at all. At other times the animating icon will appear during the entirety of the load and at other times it simply won't appear at all and you'll get a graceful black fade-out instead. You can sometimes even pass back and forth between the same doorway having it only appear sometimes but not at others. It is really random. Given how fast the load times are I am not sure why they just didn't stick to a simple (and consistent) fade to black.
FFXHD is based on the International version of FFX (complete with the advanced sphere grid) but has had the Japanese voices added back in. There is no option to change the text or voice language for the JP release of FFXHD. The game is around 3600MB so maybe they felt they couldn't cram in dual-audio. That also means the game has the same uneven presentation as the original, where NPCs sometimes voice but sometimes don't. It would have been nice to see NPCs get voices added at the very least. The English release will likely only have English (unless SE have some DLC planned).
The game also has a reworked soundtrack (with no option for the original) which uses real instruments. It's a mixed bunch but they tend to evoke the right emotions. Parts of the game that didn't hit me the first time I played them (the gunner begging Yuna to allow him to protect Kilika) definitely got me this time around.
There are no options to alter the balance between SE/BGM/Voice but the game seems to have done a good job of balancing them anyway.
Sound effect quality is also mostly good. Even in stereo through headphones it is possible to hear from which direction the deep humming of the podiums in the 'trials' is coming from. Attacks hits such as Tidus's sword attack sounds as convincingly slicey as Yuna's staff swing sounds whimpy. The only sound effect that sounds odd to me so far is the sound of picking up spheres during trials; they make a sound that is a little too high pitched and I detected a bit of cracking.
There is one pretty big fault with the sound though; lip synching. It appears the voice audio and lip synching are ever so slightly out of sync (maybe by a 1/5 of a second with the lip synching animation being the one in the lead and the voice audio trailing behind). It's pretty distracting. This isn't the first game I've experienced this either (Time Travellers) but given no one else has said anything so I'm inclined to believe this is a quirk of playing the game off a memory card (IIRC Vita memory cards read/write is slower than a Vita game card). I hope that a patch is released for this. It does make me worry a bit about the digital only FFX-2HD Vita release for the English speaking markets though. Get it sorted SE!
It's mostly the same...well, mostly. So it is a shame that there is no option to disable or skip tutorials (come to think of it you can't skip cutscenes either. Don't worry, you'll beat Yunalesca first time...probably).
The biggest change is the 'swipe menu'. It hides off the left side of the screen. Swipe the touch screen right and you pull it out. Swipe left and it slides back out of view.
You can summon this menu in the field:
When used in the field you get two options which allow you to insta-heal your entire party in an automated way (removing the bureaucracy of post-battle healing). You can select to heal using:
1. Healing magic: The game attempts to heal everyone whilst trying to keep from wasting MP.
2. Items: the game prioritises using low quality healing items (potions over hi-potions for example).
After you tap the icon you get a text box in the middle of the screen saying who did the healing (and the MP cost to them) or the items used.
You can also summon this menu mid-battle (screen below) but here it does something different; it lets you toggle between long/short summon animations mid-battle (no skip option unfortunately):
My favourite part of this conversion has to be the battle UI. Many Vita games simply shrink down the UIs of their console counterparts 1:1 with no regard for legibility. FFXHD Vita does not make this mistake. The Vita game has a jumbo-sized UI that makes everything easily readable without cluttering things too much.
The only gripe I have with the battle UI is that there is a split-second period between moving the cursor between menu items that makes it harder to quickly move through lists. This is only in the battle UI and nowhere else (and doesn't appear to be caused by frame issues). Weird. At the moment it isn't a big deal as I don't have many things to choose from but later on in the game it could be a pain.
The rest of the game UI is not quite as jumbo sized. But given that FFX is not text heavy it isn't as big a deal as it could have been (and the UI isn't super tiny either). You can see the examples of the UI here:
Pressing Triangle calls/dismisses the party menu smoothly. It doesn't feel like the game is doing something heavy to get the menu to open at all. It's strange that this particular part of the UI is so plucky when the battle UI isn't.
Sphere Grid zoomed-out
Well, those are my impressions so far. If SE can get the lip-synch issue sorted and give us an option to banish the loading-animation I'd say this would be a pretty close to perfect.