Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Series Review – United Ode

    Title: Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster
    Developer: Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster
    Release Date: April 19, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Turn-Based JRPG

The much-welcome convenience of older games seeing modern collections has become commonplace, and I’m not complaining. For as much as I yearn for newer experiences, I still find myself excited about ports and remasters. After all, having convenient and official ways to play classic titles is necessary for preservation so future gamers can understand the building blocks of what they love.

Square Enix has embraced this notion with the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series. Initially launching for Steam and mobile devices in 2021, these legendary JRPGs are finally making their way to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Granted, their initial launches faced their fair share of critique, but this combined console release received the time needed to make this a grand collection for years to come.

The Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster collection contains the first six mainline entries of the franchise, and while they can all be purchased separately, this review encompasses the entire collection. Expectedly, there’s quite a bit of content to enjoy here, comprising wildly diverse battle systems divvied up across unique casts, tones, and narratives.

Of course, not each of these adventures is created equal, though that’s just how things go when dealing with such a plethora of titles. Final Fantasy V, for instance, boasts an impressive degree of customization and player freedom, but its story isn’t exactly compelling. Not every game here will be everyone’s cup of tea since the areas they choose to focus on differ.

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Still, these console releases have implemented accessibility features to simplify each title. To elaborate, players can increase the rate at which they earn experience and Gil, as well as the option to turn off encounters entirely. These toggles can be switched on and off on the fly in any of the games, so you can tailor your playthroughs to your heart’s content.

Final Fantasy II even has added options to heighten weapon and magic skill level gain, attributes, and max HP increases. Additionally, the highly requested font fix has been added here, with the maligned font from the Steam and mobile launch dubbed “modern,” while the new font is “classic.”

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Honestly, when I played the Pixel Remasters on PC, the font didn’t bother me all that much. Alternatively, playing with this new font on console genuinely felt like a massive improvement, so I highly recommend switching to it as soon as you start any of the games.

As for the difficulty adjustments for experience and Gil, I found these versions far easier than I remember without having to adjust the settings. This could be because of my previous experience with the games, but the normal mode just felt easier than I remember. If this is your first time playing, I think you should stick to the default difficulty; you’ll likely do far better than you expect.

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Personally, I had the most fun with Final Fantasy I, IV, and V. The first title’s simplicity and experimental world design made trekking through its vague narrative fulfilling. Further, its gameplay freedom still never fails to impress me. Final Fantasy IV is my favorite of the classic entries, being the first fully-fledged story the series pursued.

The character beats, and plot threads manage to resonate with me, as they feel like a massive step up from what came before. And as for Final Fantasy V, its combat rivals JRPGs today. The Job system is so intricate and addictive to experiment with, and the more lighthearted tone of its world and cast provide a much-appreciated change of pace in a series that’s usually somber.

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When it comes to these modern releases, the Pixel Remasters have well-constructed maps and a selectable dash functionality to speed up the adventure, which is likely the most significant feature for newer players. I found these options worthwhile while playing Final Fantasy III; probably my least favorite entry.

While it has its merits, their lights have been snuffed out by what later titles have accomplished. The combat, for example, feels like a lesser iteration of Final Fantasy V, meaning it’s somewhat tiresome to really get into if you played that entry beforehand. And the story is, uh, well, it’s something. I’ve gone through Final Fantasy III multiple times and couldn’t tell you what happens other than vague generalities. I was more of a fan of the DS release, though that, too, had its fair share of faults.

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Final Fantasy II is usually treated with disdain, but I’ve grown a fondness for it over the years. For those who follow the story and piece together the tragic character relationships and conclusions, there’s a moving series of events here; albeit muddled by oddly delivered dialogue and pacing of that era.

Similarly, the gameplay mechanics, a drastic departure from the previous outing, are conceptually gripping yet take their efforts too far, plagued by over-ambition. As a result, Final Fantasy II can often be frustrating, especially for those unaware of what they’re getting into.

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Lastly, Final Fantasy VI, considered the cream of the crop by many, is one I’m more mixed on, though it definitely deserves the praise it receives. Telling a deeply emotional narrative surpassing the scale of the previous five entries with an impressive ensemble cast is no small feat.

Plus, the simultaneously streamlined and in-depth progression systems make it approachable to anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with the genre. The cast is more hit-or-miss for me due to certain lacking events, though there are evident reasons why they remain so beloved decades later. The wave of distinct motivations they each pursue helps establish a sense of profound maturity, an evolution the series was building toward.

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As for what bonuses these releases contain, you can enjoy music players of both the original and arranged soundtracks. These two album types are swappable mid-game and are a delight to listen to. Of course, this should come as no surprise, but every Pixel Remaster soundtrack is a masterclass.

They capture the original melodies with faithful yet bold interpretations that stand out on their own accord. Other extra features include bestiaries detailing the enemies across all six titles and galleries of concept and development illustrations. These menus aren’t game-changers by any means and are fairly expected for anniversary-themed releases, though they’re still neat to have for completionist’s sake.

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However, the Pixel Remaster set is not exactly definitive. Optional content from other versions of these games, such as various bonus dungeons, is not present. Still, in all honesty, none of this excluded material is particularly significant, save for the bonus Jobs from the Game Boy Advance release of Final Fantasy V.

It would have been ideal to have everything from every version of the game neatly packed in here but what we’ve got is amazing. You’re not missing out on the fundamental features of these games. I did run into a glitch at one point in my time playing Final Fantasy V, where some Job options were invisible, but it was quickly patched. I hope this is the same experience that others have if additional glitches are encountered.

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Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is a must-own collection that unites the origins of a collective JRPG powerhouse. Regardless of your feelings on modern Final Fantasy’s direction, you can’t go wrong with the tried-and-true classics. With the options to make each experience more accessible, swappable soundtracks, and the inclusion of a more legible font, the console versions are the new go-to. There’s no better time to be a Final Fantasy fan.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.