Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters Switch Review
Final Fantasy is a nigh-unstoppable game series. The 16th main series entry is less than two months away. The MMO is still going strong. Presumably, the remake of VII will continue at some point. On top of all this, Square Enix recently released the Pixel Remasters on PC. Now, these six games have finally arrived on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Rather than try and cover each game individually, I’m just going to review the Pixel Remasters series as a single entity.
If you’ve been into RPGs for any amount of time, you’ve likely encountered at least one of these iconic games. I’ve played every single one in one form or another over the years. And yet, each title felt new this time around. Every game has been shined up and smoothed out. The unified control scheme and the similar visuals make this feel like one enormous adventure. The orchestral music adds new life to familiar themes, and certain modern improvements turned out to be real game-changers. Well, one improvement in particular. You can turn off encounters!
Goodbye Endless Random Battles
Among the long list of changes, the encounter toggle is the biggest fix of them all. Exploring dungeons is almost stress-free. You can check out every nook and cranny without fear. Better still, you can control level grinding with surgical precision. Don’t want to fight more than thirty feet from the front door? You can do that! It totally rules. There’s an entire set of spells in these games that are rendered inert thanks to this incredible fix. Why teleport to the dungeon entrance when you can just walk? Given how precious the early games were with magic, this change was essential.
Music has always been a massive part of the Final Fantasy series. As such, I’m thrilled that the soundtracks got an orchestral update. You can switch back and forth if you’re feeling nostalgic, but I couldn’t go back. The new arrangements add elevated stakes and swells of emotion to every encounter. The boss music feels more powerful, and more impactful. Even the overworld songs are full of life. And again, you can switch from original to arranged at will. Although there are plenty of other details that feel new, even beyond the music.
Snazzy New Spell Effects
Spell effects have been jazzed up, for one thing. Fire and Ice spells now burst across the screen in showers of glittering pixels. Spell circles and explosions have more oomph, more pizazz. Character sprites have been changed in subtle ways. They all read better against the background art. Certain details are more clearly defined. Hats, hands, and heavy armor all come across clean and clear. The sprites still look like they used to, it’s just more obvious what everyone’s supposed to be. Plus, the map systems have gotten better. You can see where you are, where you’ve already been, and which towns are which. It’s a small, but significant, improvement to navigation.
Certain flaws are still prevalent, of course. The old magic system uses spell levels instead of MP, which makes every Cure spell a priceless jewel. This is only for the first three games, but still. It gets old pretty fast. Final Fantasy II uses a unique leveling system that practically demands a walkthrough be open at all times. It’s cool, don’t get me wrong. But it’s also not even slightly intuitive. Finally, these games have a lot of soft-lock potential. You can miss some small thing that fully dooms your whole playthrough. Final Fantasy V is especially bad for this. Keep a guide open, is what I’m saying.
So which games are worth your time, and which aren’t? For me, all of them are worth checking out. FFI is a foundational text. It’s a great way to see where the series started. The second game is extremely weird, but the story is well-done. FFIII has the first instance of the job system, which I love. I have a difficult relationship with IV, but I recognize that it’s a fan favorite. V is enormous, and ambitious, and deep. Final Fantasy VI has a special place in my heart. It’s a top-shelf RPG, no matter which version you’re playing.
Hard To Choose A Favorite
I also recognize that these games are crazy old. I through III are a tough sell for a newcomer. V is a weird outlier with a solid mechanical base. Yet, even with reservations in tow, Final Fantasy IV and VI are highly recommended. In summation, this is a fantastic collection of RPGs. Every game looks, sounds, and plays better than ever before. Some of the edges are still rather rough, but that’s normal for games this old. On balance, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters collection represents an essential slice of gaming history. You won’t want to miss a single one.
***Nintendo Switch codes were provided by the publisher***
- Graphics are clean and crisp
- New music is amazing
- Tons of modern fixes
- Magic system still clunky
- Awkward leveling systems
- Old-school soft-lock potential