Published on May 3rd, 2023 | by Jamie Kirk
Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is a lovingly crafted release of the first six Final Fantasy games in one collection. Upgraded graphics, a gorgeous new soundtrack, and several must play games make this an essential item in any RPG fans collection.
Way back in the early 2000s when some of the older Final Fantasy games were impossible to come by in Australia, Square released the SNES games on the original Playstation. They were straight ports of the original games with the only noticeable difference being that the performance was actually slightly worse on the Playstation version. Since these days there have been a vast number of ports, remakes and remasters of the early games that have varied wildly in quality. The 3D DS remake of Final Fantasy IV is considered by some to be the definitive version of the game. The iOS ports of the 2010’s are a definitive low point, taking the classic pixel graphics and smoothing characters and locations into lifeless husks.
Finally in 2023, Square Enix has given them the love they deserved. The pixel graphics remain and have been upscaled, the soundtracks have been overhauled and several quality of life features have been added to fix some of the games outdated mechanics. They may not be the definitive editions some fans want but this is still a triumphant release of some of the most important RPGs in video game history.
The remasters themselves are lovingly crafted. The pixels look sharper than ever. Character models, towns and enemies are all bursting with life on modern screens. While it may not approach the beauty of say, an Octopath Traveler 2 you will be hard pressed to find a better looking version of these six games. The only real marks against it here are the updated font, which seems more in line with the awful iOS versions. Luckily, enough fans complained that the console versions feature a classic font, which is more in line with the original games.
The other negative is the weird ‘Classic’ filter in the graphics which is supposed to emulate playing the games on a CRT tv, but just seems to add a few blurry lines and make the game uglier. This is not the default option though so just ignore it altogether and experience the beauty of the remasters properly.
Square Enix has been kind enough to add many quality of life features in. Mini maps are now accessible, which is very helpful navigating some of the bigger dungeons in the game. There is also an auto-save function which means that if you lose a battle, you won’t potentially lose hours worth of play because you haven’t visited a save point recently.
The various battle and stat boosters are the best additions. Early Final Fantasy games can have brutal difficult spikes, and they all have a prodigious encounter rate. Experience and Gil can be boosted 2x or 4x which makes most dungeons a breeze, you can also turn off encounters entirely for a very smooth playthrough. With 4x boosters on, none of the games require the hours of grinding that they used to, which essentially means you can enjoy them just for the story if you are so inclined.
If you prefer a challenge, Square Enix has you covered there too. You can use the boosters to reduce the EXP and Gil you receive if you are a real glutton for punishment.
Then there are the games themselves. I – III feel more like fun historical curios than must play games at this point. The bones of what made the franchise great is there and you can see the origin of many of the series’ most iconic attributes. However, the stories are slight, the worlds noticeably smaller and the battle systems are much simpler.
Final Fantasy II is definitely curious for its notable take on the levelling system. Instead of earning traditional EXP characters get better by doing certain actions. Want to become better with a sword? Simply hit people with it over and over again. Want to become a powerful mage? You’re going to have to cast magic over and over again. It was an interesting idea that ended up being quite poorly executed, but playing it with boosters on actually helps make it feel more balanced.
Out of the three NES games, III is probably the best. Taking what they learned from the first two games and creating an epic swansong to the console before moving on and ascending to a whole new level.
Final Fantasy IV – VI are where the real meat lies in this collection, and there is something for everyone here. Final Fantasy IV introduces the revolutionary Active Time Battle system, features a massive cast of characters and a sprawling, soapy story of redemption.
Final Fantasy V is one for the gameplay buffs. It introduces its version of the job system, previously used in Final Fantasy III. With the extra grunt of the SNES behind it the system gets a lot more ambitious. Narratively it’s fairly basic, but the fun to be had assembling different builds and party combinations is where the real meat lies.
Final Fantasy VI is the crown jewel in the collection. An epic tale of an evil empire and the plucky resistance the fights it, Final Fantasy VI features a sprawling narrative with one of the best plot twists ever seen in a game. It also still feels great to play, taking everything from its predecessors and refining them into an ultimate experience. It is widely talked about as one of the greatest RPG’s of all time and the Pixel Remaster is a great way to dive in.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that these remasters are based on the original NES and SNES games. This means that any optional content from past remakes and remasters falls by the wayside here. Story wise the games are basically the same but players who enjoy testing their combat skills to the limit might be disappointed that some of the optional superbosses are not in these versions.
One final thing to mention is the remastered soundtrack. Square Enix have simply done a phenomenal job here. The new arrangements are improvements across the board, lending bombast that an 8/16-bit midi chip can’t quite provide. If you are a stickler for the originals you can switch the soundtracks seamlessly at any time, but I highly recommend you listen to the remaster versions to see just how grand they are.
20 years ago I remember signing a petition on a Final Fantasy forum, begging Square to release the first six games all together in Australia. In 2023, the humble Nintendo Switch now has access to just about every classic Final Fantasy there is. If that wasn’t joyous enough, the Pixel Remaster has upgraded the graphics and given the soundtracks a gorgeous overhaul. Sure, a bit of optional content may be missing, but if you want to witness the evolution of one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is an essential purchase.