Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters (I, II, III) Review – The Power of Nostalgia
Final Fantasy Pixel RemastersJuly 28th, 2021
The first six entries in the Final Fantasy series continue to be considered among the best JRPGs ever released, decades after their original launch. Despite some of them being quite dated in terms of visuals and gameplay mechanics, these games still hold a dear place in the heart of fans, who had the chance to revisit these classics via different ports released on PC and consoles in the past few years. And a new chance of reliving these classics has now arrived with the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series, a new series that aims to present players with the most accurate recreation of the first six entries in the series.
At their heart, the first three Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters haven't changed a whole lot over the original NES releases. The first Final Fantasy is a classic turn-based RPG that has been strongly influenced by D&D, featuring a straightforward story and many of the themes and the gameplay mechanics that have become a staple for the series, such as the importance of the Crystals, the Job System and so on. Final Fantasy II, on the other hand, is still today one of the most unique 2D entries in the series, featuring predetermined main characters, a classic story of an evil empire bent on world domination, a unique dialogue system, and a more natural growth system that does away with experience point in favor of a proficiency system. Final Fantasy III is definitely the best of the three games in terms of gameplay, featuring an improved Job System and a generally challenging experience that forces players to understand the system to make it out alive from the game's many difficult battles. The Pixel Remaster also marks the first time the original NES game has been brought to Western audiences in some form, as the original was never localized officially.
While the Final Fantasy I and II gameplay doesn't feel all that different from that seen in the most recent remakes, such as those released on PSP and mobile, the Pixel Remasters feature some balancing tweaks that make the experience feel a little less dated and slightly more balanced. Final Fantasy I, for example, has seen the removal of an early EXP farming spot, the famous Power Peninsula, while Final Fantasy II now features gauges that tell the player exactly when weapon proficiency will level up. The difficulty level has also been tweaked, and both games are considerably easier than the original NES releases, especially Final Fantasy I. Final Fantasy III has seen the most balancing tweaks of the three games, but even with them, the experience still manages to be quite challenging, often forcing players to go for an optimal Job lineup for certain bosses, like for the Garuda battle. Thankfully, the final dungeon is not as terrible as it was in the original, thanks to the addition of a Quicksave feature that lets players save at any time outside of combat.
The main selling point of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series is the visual overhaul, one that attempts to stay as faithful as possible to the originals. The first three games do manage to achieve this with varying degrees of success. The games generally look like Final Fantasy IV and V, although spell effects are considerably better than what we have seen in the SNES games, and so are some of the battle backgrounds. The overworlds, towns, and dungeons do have that distinct 16-bit feel, but with some nice additions and extra animations, like the dust cloud in the Cavern of the Earth. On the other hand, character sprites look like higher-quality versions of the originals, but they pale in comparison to those seen in the PSP and mobile remakes.
One area where the first three Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters fully deliver is the soundtrack. All of the classic tracks have been rearranged with the supervision of the series' composer Nobuo Uematsu. They all sound great, so much that a few of these rearranged tracks can be considered the definitive rendition of the original track. Some may prefer other versions, but it is undeniable that much care has been put into rearranging these classic soundtracks.
With the visual overhaul following a pretty specific vision and the gameplay tweaks, while welcome, not introducing any massive changes, who should purchase the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters? It is hard to say, to be honest. The games still feel and play great, despite the dated mechanics, but, as far as remasters go, they are kind of barebones, lacking the additional content seen in the PSP and mobile remakes and some additional visual options outside of the modern and classic filter. Some other technical issues, like the bad fonts, the games not saving the display settings and lacking a V-Sync toggle on PC, and some noticeable stuttering while traveling the overworld may also put some off. The worth of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters rests entirely on how the player feels about the originals and what they do what out of a remaster. If you're looking for truly modernized versions of these all-time classics, maybe the Pixel Remasters aren't for you. But, if nostalgia is about to overtake you just for reading about them, then the Pixel Remasters can be a worthy purchase if you're willing to overlook some issues that will hopefully be fixed in the future.
PC versions tested. Review codes provided by the publisher.
The first three Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters are a somewhat solid remastering effort that could have been so much better with a few tweaks. While the amazing rearranged soundtracks sound great and the balancing tweaks make the three games still feel great to play, the divisive overhauled visuals reminiscent of the 16-bit entries, technical issues like the lack of a V-Sync toggle and display settings not saving and lack of additional content found in prior remakes make these remasters a truly worthy purchase only for those who live and breathe Final Fantasy.
- Balancing tweaks
- Amazing rearranged soundtrack
- Overhauled 16-bit style visuals...
- ... that are somewhat inferior to those seen in the PSP and mobile remakes
- Horrible fonts
- Technical issues
- Lack of options and additional content