Remasters! Remakes! It seems like half the games industry these days consists of games we’ve already played before. That’s not a bad thing, of course – if you enjoyed a game once, chances are you’ll enjoy it again. That’s certainly the case with the ongoing Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series, a set of games designed to bring back the glory days of classic Final Fantasy. We’ve only got the first through third games at the moment, of course, but let’s take a look at those.
What we’ve got here is yet another effort at remastering the early Final Fantasy games. It only stands to reason we’d go this direction after the Final Fantasy VII Remake did so well, after all – clearly nostalgia works! These games are all based on their initial NES incarnations, outside of some bugfixes and quality of life features, so don’t be surprised when you see spell charges in Final Fantasy I or when heavy armor penalizes your magic in Final Fantasy II. As mentioned, right now only FFI through FFIII are released, but that’s plenty of gameplay for fans of classic adventures.
Final Fantasy I is where the series began in 1987, of course, and it basically plays like a more complex and perhaps more competent take on the first Dragon Quest game. You’ll create a party of four characters, each with a selection of four jobs, and get to work saving the world from decay using the power of the magic Crystals. This is a straightforward game as you might expect, with a pretty typical plot (save for the bizarre ending) and an easy-to-follow gameplay loop where you visit towns, buy and equip new gear, visit dungeons and repeat until done. It’s still a solid experience, especially with some quality-of-life changes like preventing your characters from swinging at air if their target dies, but sadly we’re missing some of the bonus content we saw in several other remasters of Final Fantasy.
We’ll skip a game and go to 1990’s Final Fantasy III, since it’s a little more recognizable. This is the first introduction of the Job System we’re familiar with from future games. Unlike FInal Fantasy I, you’re able to switch your characters’ jobs at will, allowing for a far more customizable party as well as the addition of many new jobs to play around with. As with all the remasters, this game is based on the original NES release, so it’s tough as nails – enjoy the multiple segments of the game where your characters need to be inflicted with the Mini status, preventing them from effectively fighting without magic, for instance! The autosave feature included in these remasters will prove to be a saving grace.
Finally, 1988’s Final Fantasy II is…strange. It’s really got more in common with the SaGa series than the Final Fantasy we know and love. We follow Firion and his orphan friends as they join the resistance against the villainous Emperor of Palamecia. The character development system here is unlike any other game in the series, since your characters don’t gain experience points but rather improve directly in the stats they use in combat. A tank will gain health as they’re damaged; a fighter will become stronger as they swing their weapons; a mage will become better at magic by casting. It’s bizarre, but a lot of fun once you get used to it.
Naturally, the core of these Pixel Remasters is their presentation and they absolutely do what they came to do. The newer, remastered pixel artwork is fantastic when it comes to both heroes and monsters, demonstrating a love for the originals while still maintaining a fresh take on things. One minor complaint might be assigned to the default font, which looks a little squished (especially on the PC version), but a simple tweak easily found online makes it easy to correct this. When you’ve done so, the games all look and play like a dream.
At around $10 each or around $40 to buy the whole FF1-6 collection, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters have proven to be a great deal so far. These classic games still hold up today, though the lack of some of the bonus content added in other remasters stings a bit. This is still a great way to experience these games, though, and even long-time fans are sure to enjoy revisiting their favorite JRPG adventures once again. The future looks bright with remasters of FFIV through FFVI on the way as well.