After a few years available for only the PC and mobile platforms, Final Fantasy I-VI Pixel Remaster series has finally been ported to consoles. No doubt inspired by fan backlash and appreciation for those ports, these new editions have made further changes, improving on a few parts and worsening others. Despite this, the needed quality-of-life adjustments make these latest console editions the stronger product.
Sporting a colourful cast and some of the greatest video game storytelling available in their heyday, the original hexalogy helped pioneer and shape the turn-based battle systems present across the RPG scene in Japan at the time. Thankfully, the incredible efforts and narratives woven by developers Square Enix are still here in remastered form. However, after taking my time with each of the newly ported titles on the Nintendo Switch, it looks like an over-zealous polishing has been made in the translation to modern media platforms, betraying aspects of what made the original Final Fantasy games special, in both design and presentation.
At face value, plenty of the sharper, less newcomer-friendly edges present in these titles have been rounded out in favour of a smoother experience, and rightly so in some circumstances, with the infamous JRPG grind now open to considerable adjustment by the ‘Boost’ configuration options now available on the console editions. Players struggling with difficult segments of their playthroughs of any title can now adjust the amount of in-game currency, experience, and ability points received. Excellent.
For fans who might not have had the cash to drop pre-ordering the celebratory 35th Anniversary Bundle, each remaster includes its own music player of both arranged and classic tracks featured in the game along with some choice illustrations from the series’ prolific concept artist, Yoshitaka Amano. Completionists will also be glad to see a monster Bestiary included in each game also.
Accompanied by a returning Encounters On/Off toggle and swappable ‘Arranged’ and ‘Classic’ soundtracks, your experience can be curated in a way that helps you move through the 20, 30, and even 50-hour playthroughs without getting stuck on a sharp grind incline, making sure you’re still staying immersed in the grandiose tales of Light against Dark. For any would-be purchasers, in my due diligence comparing my personal copy of Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster on Steam, I noted the new ‘Boost’ option has surprisingly not been patched in. So if you’re looking for a version of the game that you can tweak more to your liking, the Switch or PS4 edition is certainly the way to go.
My opinion started to shift upon conflict with the streamlined Pixel Remaster UI as I noticed the visibly identical menu design across each entry. Now, I will say this synonymous design has its obvious benefits for a player, making each following game you decide to take the plunge with as understandable as the last, at least in terms of basic legibility and navigation. Regardless, I feel as though there’s a good argument to be made for the menu systems to still visually morph in their remasters as they did across their original releases, encapsulating the definitive era of Final Fantasy they each hail from.
Furthermore, on that time capsule atmosphere: I strongly believe Square has really dropped the ball in providing one of the most laughable ‘Classic’ scanline filters under the graphical options. What they’ve included is an attempt at replication that creates a muddy mess on-screen, forcing this strange blur effect that old CRT televisions had never even produced themselves. Unless you enjoy that feeling of squeezing your eyes shut as tightly as possible and then reopening them to a blurry existence, it’s best to give this a miss.
Sadly, the translation of battle screens from the 4:3 aspect ratio of yore to the now wide-screen standard that we’re now used to has also somewhat failed in execution. I genuinely chuckled at the silliness of seeing my four Warriors of Light facing off against a tiny Garland, the first antagonist you’ll encounter in FFI and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin’s leading man. Seeing the team waving their weapons across the Chaos Temple’s now cavernous room depiction soon became a tiring visual weakness while moving throughout the series. The problem disappears entirely when there’s more than one foe on screen, so surely a possible remedy here was to just bring the opposing sides inward to account for the background’s size. Either way, I was thankful for the Switch’s smaller screen when playing undocked, as it helped mask that issue, while larger displays just exemplified it.
There are also some qualms raised by absenteeism in accessibility. True accessibility features such as some colour blindness filters or a dyslexic font are entirely absent. Additionally, the ‘Classic’ font’s kerning feels noticeably wrong – either of the previous GBA or PSP era fonts would have sufficed, but we’re stuck with the questionably spaced lettering here, in a dialogue-driven series of games.
There are already enough barriers to entry to retro RPGs, so why not cash in on a community that wants to experience them on modern consoles? Surely these smaller changes aren’t that hard to implement on a flagship series, especially when you can see that Square Enix is in fact listening with evidence visible in the upcoming and now action-oriented Final Fantasy XVI’s inclusion of auto-aids in its battle system.
All in all, I’m glad that a series I love has been made so readily available once more to a larger scope of fans and newcomers across a number of platforms, it’s still Final Fantasy at the end of the day. In 1987, Square turned a last-ditch attempt at a hit with FFI into a revolutionary series, still complete with gripping narratives, lovable characters, and rewarding systems to play with, and while this revival is watered down, these games still offer some of the best stories out there.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters I-VI are out now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Steam for PC, and mobile. This review was conducted on Switch.
While suitably freshened up for modern consoles, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters still find themselves victim to some easily avoidable pitfalls.
- ‘Boost’ settings provide much-needed improvement to QoL, removing distasteful grinding
- Plenty of extras: Original Yoshitaka Amano illustrations, a bestiary for completionists, and a music player for superfans
- Easier than ever to pick up and play.
- Samey UI loses a sense of originality per game
- Battle scenes can look very empty on widescreen
- Awful Classic scanline ‘filter’, questionable fonts