Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Review

Far from final, it turns out

By Paul Hunter

It's so awesome to get another chance to revisit this iconic Square Enix title. The original Final Fantasy birthed one of gaming's greatest all-time franchises, and even though it's a lot shorter and streamlined compared to later entries, there's no denying this game's appeal and impact. This first adventure gave us foundational Final Fantasy elements like the four Warriors of Light and the four elemental Crystals, plus it introduced the Job system. Whether you're a lifelong fan of the Final Fantasy series or planning to experience the franchise for the very first time with this summer's Final Fantasy XVI, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster on PS4 and Nintendo Switch is simply must-play gaming.

Let's head on into Final Fantasy's World A (the world was never named in the original release—unheard of in modern entries!) to check out what the Pixel Remaster has to offer. Here are three things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Remodeled 2D Pixel Graphics

The biggest upgrade in the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is clearly the enhanced 2D pixel graphics that completely reinvigorates and reimagines this NES classic. The entire overworld map, including all towns and dungeons, has been given a total makeover and now more closely resembles the high-quality visuals seen in the Final Fantasy SNES trilogy. Revisiting the four Crystal dungeons, among the game's other shrines, caves and towers with the rebuilt Pixel Remaster graphics almost feels like experiencing an entirely new RPG adventure. It really is such a massive difference.

Battles are also greatly improved with characters and monsters featuring enhanced sprites that look crisper than ever. They really pop when overlaid on the redesigned combat backgrounds that immerse you with all the added colour and details. The battle screen has also been cleaned up quite a bit with the removal of the 'windows' that separated your heroes and the enemies you're facing. The original 4:3 aspect ratio has also been converted to the 16:9 standard and looks amazing on modern HD screens.

Liked: Beautifully Rearranged Soundtrack

While the graphics are the most apparent update, the newly rearranged soundtrack by the original composer Nobuo Uematsu arguably has an even bigger impact on the experience. The orchestral music heightens everything from the battle sequences to traversing the world map to the short but effective story moments. I couldn't help but feel that the entire adventure felt much larger and more heroic than the original with the rocking soundtrack that begs you to crank the volume up. Square Enix clearly understands how great the reworked soundtrack is since they included a music player where you can play any of the amazing tracks at a whim.

If you prefer authenticity though, the console release of Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster includes the option of toggling between the updated orchestral soundtrack and the original soundtrack from the initial 1987 release. Even though I enjoyed it in the NES days, I personally couldn't get back into the original game's 8-bit chiptune BGM given just how exceptional the new tracks are, but I'm glad the choice is there for nostalgic fans.

Liked: Plethora of Perks

Looking beyond the stellar pixel graphics and beautifully rearranged music, Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster has tons of additional enhancement that makes this classic title even better. For starters, the UI has been completely overhauled with modern standards for much cleaner and easier-to-navigate menus. This includes the new pixel-style font for a more faithful experience, but you can also choose the 'modern' font included in the PC version (which received a fair amount of backlash).

In addition to the aforementioned Music Player that allows you to play the classic and reimagined tracks, the Pixel Remaster features a Bestiary detailing all the monsters you've defeated, including where to find them and which items they can drop. This is great for keeping track of the monsters you've beaten as well since there are trophies associated with completing the Bestiary. This version also includes an Illustration Gallery with concept art and character portraits that nostalgic fans will surely want to check out. It's a wonderful trip down memory lane and exciting to get a behind-the-scenes look at how these characters, towns and dungeons were originally envisioned.

Moving on to the turn-based battles, there are lots of welcome enhancements here. To begin with, there's now an auto-battle option which has your team continuously repeat the last action they performed, plus it speeds up the animations for even quicker fights. There are also options to boost the amount of experience or gil you acquire in battle, an amazing addition if all you want to do is relive this story without all the tedious grinding. Another subtle, yet excellent improvement is now your party will automatically redirect attacks when the enemy they targeted has died. In the original game, your characters' attacks would 'miss' if the enemy died earlier in that battle round.

Three new quality-of-life enhancements help relieve some of the original game's frustration. Firstly, you can now turn off random encounters at any time in dungeons or the overworld by simply clicking a thumbstick. This is great if want to explore without the nuisance of a battle every few seconds, or if your party is near death and you want to safely get back to an Inn to rest. Secondly, each dungeon now comes with a map so you can instantly see where treasure chests are or stairs to the next level. Purists may decree this as cheating or taking away from the sense of exploration, but I find the maps handy and appreciated that they saved me hours of wandering. And finally, the game includes a handy auto-save feature to help rescue you whenever you've forgotten to manually save.

While it's not a new feature, the classic 15 Puzzle minigame is also included and can be played while out on the sea if you enter the correct secret code. Neat!

Didn't Like: No Dawn of Souls Extra Content

For this Pixel Remaster, Square Enix based it on the original game that was released for the Famicom/NES back in 1987. I completely understand the rationale of wanting to give fans a reimagined version of the classic original, however, it is a tad unfortunate that the Game Boy Advance Dawn of Souls content isn't included. This meaty re-release included four extra dungeons and an expanded bestiary, among many other balance tweaks to further optimize the experience. With this content missing in the Pixel Remaster release, whether or not it's the 'definitive edition' is certainly up for debate.

The Verdict

Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is essential gaming for all fans of the series. This game is such a classic, and now looks, sounds and plays much more like a modern RPG. Going back to re-experience the timeless original game that spawned a global mega-franchise was just the dose of nostalgia I needed before Final Fantasy XVI hits this summer. With so many great enhancements, I had a total blast revisiting this gem and now it's made me hungry to check out the other five games in Square Enix's Pixel Remaster series.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster details

Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Role-playing
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.