Square Enix has released the pixel remasters of Final Fantasy I through VI for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, and I got my chunky little fingers upon them. The beloved JRPG games that spawned an enduring and expansive franchise are back, but are they better than ever?
Pixel Remaster Is Nostalgia At Its Best
I can’t lie; it’s been a minute since I played the original Final Fantasy games. However, turning on my Nintendo Switch, loading Final Fantasy I, and hearing the music was a nostalgia quake. Coupled with the release of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers special on Netflix, I fully commit to living in the 90s again.
The remasters were previously available on PC and mobile, but this is their first time coming to consoles in their remastered glory. The PC and mobile versions were released in 2022, and more changes have been implemented since. Don’t worry! The game’s narrative remains unchanged, and several new features are optional.
Let’s look at the newly available features before diving into the gameplay. Checking out the options menu offers a couple of different ways to change your experience when diving back into Final Fantasy. Firstly, you can opt to have the original music or the newer arrangements of the tracks.
I played each game while switching between the two options. As I said in my review of Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, the music from Final Fantasy is some of the best-known and most beloved music in all of video games. I love all versions of Final Fantasy music, so having the option to switch between the two versions is a fun addition for me.
Other new options include the ability to turn off random encounters, making exploring a lot easier. Of course, the downside to this is not leveling up, so it may be best reserved for backtracking. You can also switch between the original font and a modernized version. While the modern version is a little easier on the eyes than the original, it still leaves a little to be desired. But, of course, that’s the tiniest of tiny gripes.
Finally, you also have the option to turn on boosts. These boosts can be found in the team menu under configuration. Here you can boost the EXP gain rate and money (gil) accumulation. Are you looking for an easier or more casual playthrough of the classics? These boosts will help you have a more chill time.
What’s Old Is New Again
Now, let’s get into the gameplay and a little story for those new to the franchise. Don’t worry; there are no spoilers ahead. I’ll just give the gist of the stories.
In Final Fantasy, four Warriors of Light are on a journey to restore the light to four crystals and fight Chaos. In Final Fantasy II, four orphans set out to avenge their dead parents and join the rebellion to take down the evil ruling the land.
In Final Fantasy III, once again, four orphans come across the Crystal of Light. It grants them power and asks them to go out into the world to restore the balance. Final Fantasy IV introduces 12 playable characters who unite to reach the Moon and defeat the Lunarian threat. Final Fantasy V pits heroes against a powerful and evil conglomeration of corrupted spirits called EXDEATH. Final Fantasy VI has 14 playable characters and centers around the magical beings known as Espers. Young Terra is the main protagonist who takes up arms against the Empire.
That is an extremely brief overview of each game. While the first three installments are relatively simple in plot, the games get more and more narrative-heavy as they progress. However, all the games share common combat elements and encounters. Turn-based combat sees each party member attack enemies in turn. One significant improvement that’s been made over the originals is the fact that party members will now automatically switch targets if their chosen one dies before their turn to attack comes around. Previously they would miss altogether.
Updating the Classics
The biggest changes have come in balancing the gameplay and improving the overall look of the games. Adding the boosts is an excellent way for new players to experience the games and makes the playtime a lot less grindy, especially the first three games. While they are classics, and rightfully so, it’s hard to argue that the originals aren’t a monster-punching grind for advancement.
The remastered sprites are a lot crisper, reworked by original artist Kazuko Shibuya. Shibuya has drawn all the series’ sprites since the beginning and brought his talents to the remasters to create updated art that looks much better on HD displays than the previous versions.
I personally believe that these new remasters are the best way for new, younger players to experience the original games for the first time. The improvements to the balancing and leveling will keep newcomers interested in progressing through the games. If my younger niece and nephew tried the original versions, they would quickly become frustrated and abandon their warriors where they stood.
Is the rebalancing going to put off some hardcore Final Fantasy purists? Probably. However, I’m all for any changes that make a game more accessible to people. No changes have been made narrative-wise, although some of the extra content added in previous re-releases is not included. For example, the extra dungeons added in Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls are absent. This means that the Pixel Remaster editions are not technically definitive. However, it is a small loss, and there’s always a chance these aspects could be added.
Returning to the early Final Fantasy games world has been entertaining and nostalgic. Are they different from the originals? Yes, but not in a bad way. For those intimately familiar with games, the opportunity to use boosts to speed up your playthrough is potentially a great option for a more casual experience. It’s likewise an excellent way to get new, younger players interested in the series. Plus, all of these things are optional and have to be turned on in the menu, so if you want a more authentic experience, just start playing.
Final Fantasy I-VI Pixel Remaster is available now on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.