Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Collection Review - Pixel Perfect
Over the last decade, gaming has seen its fair share of incredible bundles of titles. In some cases a sheer weight of number made the impressive package, and in other cases it was the curation of select brilliant titles that made the compilation shine. Having been stranded on PC and Mobile for (frankly) far too long, another of the greatest collections of games has now made its way to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation. Final Fantasy 1-6 through the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Collection have finally come to their obvious homes and for the older diehards, as well as newcomers, the launch is the ideal modern way to dive deep into the annals of the Final Fantasy franchise.
The sentiments shared by millions about the first half dozen Final Fantasy titles over many decades remains true with the launch of the Pixel Remaster Collection. Final Fantasy VI is still the GOAT of the batch, IV subverts expectations in a range or ways, while I-III are extremely reflective of a team of developers who were still trying to find the magic in the IP, with II still being the black sheep of the franchise. The narrative arcs of each game are more expansive with each release, reflective of a team whose skill set was expanding vastly between each game’s launch, and this collection is definitively the best way to examine the growth of Square across a seven-year arc that spawned six sensational titles. The plots continually grow more elaborate, the characters for diverse and impactful, and the scale of the narratives, greater, but regardless of the story Square chose to weave, and the approaches to storytelling of the day, in 2023, those plots still resoundingly hit the mark.
The growth and evolution of the early Final Fantasy franchise is quite apparent in the gameplay of each of these games too. While each game features a form of turn-based combat, the birth of the Active Time Battle gameplay that was introduced in Final Fantasy IV adds extra complexities to the mix that were much appreciated at the time, and most certainly will be if you’re playing the Pixel Remaster Collection entries in sequential order. Aside from this tweak to the flow of combat, the six Final Fantasy titles play very similarly, though the improved technology powering the latter three titles (which released on the SNES as opposed to the NES) granted the team a bit more scope to flex in the world design. Whether characters are driven by their jobs, or player agency over them fluctuates throughout the six titles, as Square looked to find the model that worked for them best, but by the final game in this bundle, they had well and truly found their groove. Of course, turn-based encounters, multiplied by the number of them that you’ll need to contend with, have waned in popularity over the subsequent decades, so, much like other JRPG remasters of recent years, players have the ability to speed up the game, turn off encounters altogether, auto-battling, and more. These additions make the grindy aspects of early Final Fantasy titles a little more palatable for new players, but also a bit easier for those returning fans who want to re-experience these titles with less fuss.
Of course, these games are, as the name implies, remasters, and so the visuals have been tweaked in a range of ways. The NES titles have benefited the most from the new graphical style that translates well to widescreen nicely. Final Fantasy IV-VI also receive nice visual improvements although they are less pronounced than the original trio. Everything looks sharper, from character and monster models, and the worlds look increasingly more impressive as you progress through the six titles. Nobuo Uematsu’s outstanding soundtracks are more impressive than ever, with rearrangements made, and orchestration added to further bolster the impact of some already impactful and iconic themes. The once contentious UI style of the initial launch on PC/Mobile has been addressed with a ‘Pixel’ style that looks much better as well.
Each of these six Final Fantasy games hold a huge place in the hearts of millions of people, for a variety of different of reasons, but with this Pixel Remaster Collection, there is now no better way to experience (or re-experience) these classic games. The emotional highs and lows still pack a punch, the gameplay is the perfect throwback for older fans, and more accessible than ever for the new, and the visual updates make the games look like modern pixel-art designs, with the music hitting notes that were previously impossible with older technology. The Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Collection fills a gap that was begging to be addressed by Final Fantasy fans and does so in the best possible way.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Collection was reviewed on PS4 using a review code kindly provided by Bandai Namco Australia