The Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters are not perfect, but I'm thrilled to be playing them on Nintendo Switch
The last two years have been an interesting time to be a Final Fantasy fan. We finally got one of the most widely anticipated releases in the form of all-new remasters for the first six titles in the series - but they were PC and Mobile exclusive. Fans protested and pleaded, even though console releases seemed like a sure thing from the jump. It's taken two years - far longer than I'd have expected - but we now finally have them, on PS4 and Switch, at least.
By the time this is published, the games will just be hitting digital stories - but I've spent a night testing and revisiting each of these games on Nintendo Switch in advance. I did so on my couch for maximum comfort, if you must know. If you're on the fence about buying or even double-dipping, I might be able to help you make up your mind.
At their core, do understand that these are largely the same ports of the same titles that have been on PC and mobile for a while now. As a result, my thoughts line up rather well with our original reviews. Scott split them up neatly into reviews on I, II, & III and IV, V, & VI. I recommend you give them a read. However, these versions carry a few new and exclusive changes and additions.
The changes made to the PS4 and Switch versions of the FF Pixel Remasters might seem small on the surface, but they feel like ones that these remasters should have always had. They’re welcome additions, even if there have been some unfortunate side effects introduced. These changes, it should be noted, are not yet patched into PC and Mobile, but in an interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu Square Enix vaguely says that they are "working on" bringing at least some of the changes to other platforms.
On the gameplay side, the developers have added in battle 'booster' tweaks to make them line up with Square’s standard for retro remasters. Encounters can be turned off, your various EXP can be multiplied, and you can increase how much Gil you get. These modifiers can be cranked to 2x or 4x, and can also be turned down to 0.5x for those seeking an extra challenge. Hell, if you want, you can even turn them to 0. This is something I adore, because it allows returning players to give themselves highly customizable challenge runs. I can see this being a blast for FF5, which already has a bustling community doing this with classics like the Five Job Fiesta.
The EXP multipliers are particularly interesting and change depending on which game you’re playing. With its ahead of the times leveling systems, Final Fantasy II is easily the most customizable of the bunch. Everything from weapon skill through to attribute points have their growth rates and other elements customizable independently. Alternatively, FF3 is probably the most lacking here thanks to no JP booster. Just EXP, encounters, and Gil. Granted, I can already see how the boosts FF3 does have could have saved me a lot of time and stress in the notorious end game. No encounters in the Crystal Tower? Say it ain’t so.
FF5 does enjoy a booster for ABP for job grinding, and FF6 has the same for Magic AP for Esper Skills. This is all really useful for replays, casual plays, and grinding. Battle booster cheats have been a staple for Square Enix's remasters, but these are some of the best yet in that category, too. These are strong additions that give these versions a significant edge over those previously released.
Which leads us to the question of performance. How is it? Fine, I guess. While we all wished these consoles wouldn’t have issues running games as old as these, that is unfortunately not the case here. Even on PC these versions would have occasional hitches and awkward scrolling, which are things I noticed here as well. One of Final Fantasy VI's intro cutscenes, for example, seems to hitch for as much as a full second at the beginning of a camera pan every time. Sometimes going from one area to another would cause drops, and I’m not exactly sure why. It's like the ghost of the CD-ROM loading from the PS1 versions of these games still haunts us.
Beyond the hitches, playing the games thankfully feels smooth, which is rather appreciated. Battles feel snappy from my testing and the pixel art for all the games is presented in a clean and crisp manner. If you've not checked in on these games since the original PC release, several patches addressed some complaints with the sprite presentation. All of those changes are present here, and the games look great.
I’ve always been a fan of how these remasters have looked, so I’m glad all of these gorgeous sprites and animations have made it over onto consoles without losing anything.
The scrolling isn’t entirely smooth still, but it doesn’t seem to line up exactly to how awkward it felt when the PC version launched. Maybe it was playing on an OLED screen that fixed it, but it didn’t feel as bad. Cities across the games still have it, but I got used to it more in this brief revisit when it drove me insane on PC. I’m unsure at this moment if a day one patch will drop to address this, but as of now they run mostly fine with occasional stuttering that might be a deal breaker for some.
If there was one thing we were all hoping for Square Enix to address with these console ports, it’d be the notoriously bad font. You couldn’t see any coverage on the PC releases without it including at least one complaint about it. While I lean positive on these remasters as a whole, even I wouldn’t go as far to excuse it. This was addressed in this port with another font option selectable in the game’s config menu, called “Classic” which aims to better fit the pixel art. This is all really entirely about taste, so we've compiled comparisons of the original font, a modded font on the PC release, and the new Classic font that you can see for yourself below.
Frankly? I don’t find this new font to be a complete solution to the problem. People focused on how the original Pixel Remaster font's modern trappings didn't fit with the pixelated look of the games, but that was never its only problem. The new font is a straight swap, and exhibits some of the same presentational problems as the despised modern font, like bad kerning. This all might seem like nitpicking, but the fonts are a huge part of these classic FF titles, where the majority of the experience is conveyed through text.
The replacement is rather thin, but I also wouldn’t have wanted a font that was too bold either. It’s in an awkward middle ground where it is better than the default font but maybe not still ideal, especially compared to some of the better fan-made font mods for PC such as the one featured in our comparison, which is based on FF6's original SNES font.
Having said this, I warmed up to it far faster than I expected. I kind of like it, even. Scandalous, I know! RPG Site editor Alex feels far less charitable towards the new font having enjoyed the PC mod options - so it's likely to split opinion. For me, on both my OLED screen and docked onto my television I never had any problems reading this like I did with the original. It scales well for some of the intro cutscenes across the series as well. I’ll always find the Dragon Quest XI font mod for the PC versions to be ideal, but I’m left with not too many complaints about this one the more I play the games with it.
While they were addressing font complaints, it seems like Square was also looking to fix their removal of FF6’s iconic intro credits. So much love was put into recreating the visuals here, and yet they originally missed the point of the scene by not realizing that without the credits it was just a drawn-out scene of three mechs walking.
It rings a bit hollow though, since for some reason they listed the staff for the Pixel Remasters instead of the original devs. Make no mistake, I do think the team responsible for these remasters deserves credit. Their work is genuinely impressive and I’m sure it was no easy feat to bring these together. However, not crediting the original team on one of the most iconic RPGs ever made when this was the best opportunity to do so doesn’t sit well with me. At the very least, the scene isn’t made worse by the three Magitek Armors walking to nothing for a few minutes. It's worth noting that while the intro credits are restored for FF6, they remain absent from FF5.
Another addition I’m sure many people will be thrilled to see is the option to change your BGM Type. The PC and Mobile releases only included the Arranged music, and it was so incredible that I honestly forgot that was the only option until this release announced there was a choice now. You can go into the Configuration menu now at any time and switch it to the original music, and I think this is particularly great for the SNES trilogy. I actually found my revisit to FFIV to hit better with the combination of the PR graphics (which, hot take, might be some of the best of this entire line-up?), classic font, and original music.
If I’m allowed to nitpick, I do wish the soundtrack selection wasn’t binary. While there are many divisive ports of these games, there are just as many great takes on Uematsu’s classic music. Where are the PS1 OSTs for I and II? Where is the DS/PSP version of FFIV’s OST? If we're offering choices, this would be a great way to add value to this package. These versions offering the original and newly arranged OSTs is nice, but overall limiting. I’m happy for any option, and this was overall a good move, but I was left wanting more.
Speaking of being left wanting more, there are a couple odd oversights introduced to these versions that I wish this latest port would have fixed (and then back-ported to PC, ideally). Two examples off the top of my head, why do the Warriors of Light in FF3 not have dialogue tags? A small exclusion to some that doesn’t make the game substantially worse, but a change I didn’t understand since the Famicom original had it. Secondly, the overworld pallets in FF6 have been unchanged. They’re still seemingly based on the GBA versions, and are a bit too high contrast.
Lastly, these versions of the games do still lack the bonus content for most of the games in this collection that received GBA releases. Some might feel that makes this far from definitive, and I think that’s a fair assessment. These seek to preserve the original versions of the games on offer, but I do think that if there was a time to add that content back in it was now. I don’t personally miss that content, as I’m not one to care for doing post-game challenges in RPGs, but I get the sentiment.
Despite all of my issues, I can’t help but feel thrilled that I’m playing these games on my Switch finally. The Pixel Remasters have been my ideal way to play each of these games. I adore the new sprites, I love the music, and there’s enough QoL to breathe new life into some of the more archaic elements. Despite my dislike of FF3, I adore that we have a widely available version of it based on the 2D NES original.
These versions hit more than they miss, and these console versions are the best versions of these remasters yet thanks to these small little changes. I really hope they’ll get patched into the PC versions, but in the meantime I will enjoy finally getting to play them on my ideal console for classic RPGs.
If you’re a hardcore fan with high standards, I still don’t think you’ll be entirely pleased with these versions. Sure, the additions are quite nice, but I’m sure you already have a list of which versions of each game you find to be truly definitive. If you’re a casual fan, or a newcomer looking to experience RPG history in an accessible format, then you can’t do much better than this. I still adore my Switch, finding it far more convenient than my Steam Deck, so I'm enjoying these revisits a lot. So far, I’ve found it to be a wonderfully comfortable way to play them even with the listed caveats.
I think there’s a lot to love in each of these classic games, and you’re in for a treat when playing them on Switch. If they address the performance issues? They’ll be definitive in my heart, at least.