Square Enix’s HD-2D style caught the eye of many when it was first shown during the Project Octopath Traveler reveal trailer in 2017. Its fusion of stunning pixel art alongside high-definition 2D and 3D models creates a mesmerizing style that draws you into its worlds with ease.
The company trademarked the term back in 2019 and has used it to breathe life back into hidden gems like Live A Live, and create new adventures with games like Triangle Strategy. Now that five titles are available and more are on the horizon, it’s time to see which HD-2D games are as amazing as the aesthetic they use.
Updated on April 30th, 2023 by Kyle Chamaillard: Since Square Enix first revealed the HD-2D aesthetic, the developer has consistently launched new titles that continue to broaden the potential of the art style. Between remakes of older games like Live A Live and new adventures, HD-2D brings worlds and characters to life like never before, so we’ve decided to update this list to include the newest title that features the style – Octopath Traveler 2 – to see where it ranks.
5 Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent
So far, a majority of HD-2D games have launched exclusively on the Nintendo Switch before being ported to the PC, like the original Octopath Traveler. Its prequel, Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, launched on mobile devices in Japan in 2020 and eventually in other regions on July 27th, 2022, less than a week after the release of Live A Live.
The HD-2D art style looks amazing and crisp on most phone screens and recaptures the atmosphere of the original moments after you start it. The prologue throws you deep into its promising narrative, but the game loses almost all of its momentum once it starts promoting slot machines and pervasive gacha mechanics. It’s unfortunate because Champions of the Continent shows so much promise with its premise and characters, but it quickly sheds its appeal with its transparent monetization.
4 Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is a turn-based RPG and the first game to feature the HD-2D aesthetic. It follows eight different protagonists who begin on their own journeys before eventually meeting up and forming a party of mighty heroes. Its sprawling world features snowy mountains, barren deserts, and other diverse locations that showcase what the HD-2D art style is capable of.
While the premise of Octopath Traveler – eight protagonists with their own storylines teaming up to work together – is intriguing, the game never really fulfills its promise. The group spends the majority of their time together, but you barely see them interact or develop personal relationships with each other. It would have been great to see quiet or powerful moments between characters like in Final Fantasy VII Remake or Persona 5. Its gameplay and the individual stories are fine, but it would have been better if the main heroes felt more unified and familiar with each other.
3 Triangle Strategy
Most of the games that Square Enix has released using the HD-2D style have felt similar, but Triangle Strategy breaks the mold with its tactics-based gameplay. One of many tactical role-playing games to be released in 2022, Triangle Strategy contains a deep and riveting combat system, a plethora of likable characters, and almost a hundred hours worth of content for completionists. The art style shines across dynamic landscapes that change over the course of heated battles between armies.
The quantity of content on display is magnificent, but the quality of the story certainly has its ups and downs. Triangle Strategy has four possible endings, and some chapters fail to move the narrative forward in any meaningful way. Fortunately, the combat system is so engaging and each battle is full of excitement and potential strategic moves that it makes the journey entirely worth it.
2 Live A Live
Live A Live originally launched in Japan in 1994 during the peak of exciting and unique JRPGs. While titles like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII dominated international markets throughout the decade, Live A Live was never localized due to its low sales in Japan. Almost three decades later, Square Enix has released it internationally with a beautiful HD-2D upgrade and other updated features.
Live A Live is mostly known for its distinct premise. It contains seven self-contained scenarios that take place across multiple time periods. Each one features a protagonist facing their own challenges, from training a group of disciples in Imperial China to saving a town from bandits in The Wild West. Every scenario is full of fun twists, memorable characters, and interesting iterations of the JRPG genre.
Live A Live is the first example of a game being fully remade in HD-2D, and it sets an incredibly high bar for whatever comes next. Square Enix has a rich library of fantastic games that could be reintroduced to the zeitgeist through a similar makeover.
1 Octopath Traveler 2
Five years after Octopath Traveler launched on the Nintendo Switch, it would finally receive the sequel that delivers on every promise made by its predecessor and goes beyond what you thought the series was capable of. It’s a much bolder and more exciting experience.
Each of the main characters has more compelling backstories – especially Hikari and Castti – and watching them interact with each other throughout the long campaign is a joy that the original Octopath Traveler failed to achieve. Beyond that, Octopath Traveler 2 has a better soundtrack, an incredibly diverse map, and new ways to approach combat and side quests.
Octopath Traveler 2 proves that the HD-2D style has infinite potential when it comes to storytelling, world-building, and compelling gameplay.
Next: Is Octopath Traveler 2 Worth It?