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December 2022

Final Fantasy

Platform(s): Android, PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: July 28, 2021


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PC Review - 'Final Fantasy: Pixel Remaster'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 4, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The original Final Fantasy comes to life with completely new graphics and audio! A remodeled 2D take on the first game in the world-renowned Final Fantasy series! Enjoy the timeless story told through charming retro graphics.

It's the game where it all began. Before Blitzball and MMOs, before Espers and Cid, before even Chocobos and Moogles, there was the original Final Fantasy. Probably one of the most remade games in history, it's a classic for a lot of reasons. Not all of the iconic elements of Final Fantasy hail from this original game, but it has enough of them to make it a foundation for the entire franchise. Final Fantasy: Pixel Remaster is the latest re-release of the classic, but alas, it's also not really the best.

The original story of the crystals doesn't have a ton of story. You play as the Warriors of Light, the chosen ones of legendary crystals, who appear in a time of great need to battle the forces of evil. You've heard this one before, as it's a theme repeated throughout the franchise, from the classic SNES titles to the latest "violent smashing and screaming chaos" that is Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster has a nicely redone translation, but the original game comes from an era when even a simple translation was sufficient.

Since this is the very first game in the Final Fantasy franchise, the gameplay in FFPR is simple. You have a party of four, and you hit enemies until they fall over; in general, it's the minimum amount of JRPG available in the genre. That isn't a bad thing because the relatively simple gameplay makes it very easy to pick up and play. Similar to Dragon Quest, it is satisfying in its simplicity and ease of play, and Final Fantasy works best in short bursts, especially given the many user interface upgrades over the NES version.

The entire game's UI has seen a serious overhaul. Things are significantly more modern, with standard menus and options like optimal equipment. There's also an auto-battle function that repeats the last action taken, which is particularly nice for FF1, where you're not going to swap actions very often. There's also the godsend of a built-in map, which makes some of the NES-era dungeon and world design much easier to navigate.

Final Fantasy has you create a cast of four characters from one of several classes: Black/Red/White Mage, Monk, Thief, and Warrior. Unlike later games in the series, most of these characters don't have special skills. Mages can use magic, Monk does more damage without equipped weapons, Thieves are the faster, and Warriors are the bulkiest. It isn't until later games that the various jobs started to get their own gimmicks. These classes can all upgrade later in the game, but that only amounts to improved stats and a sprite change.

Early Final Fantasy was more heavily inspired by games like Dungeons and Dragons, and that includes its magic system. Instead of the MP system seen in later games (and even later re-releases of Final Fantasy), FF1 uses a "spell slot" system, where you have a set number of casts per level, and must purchase spells that you can cast.

I'm not sure that reverting to the original system was for the best. Early on, it means that your mages have extremely limited pools of MP, and that means they can spend a lot of time unable to do anything meaningful. The Red Mage probably does the best out of the lot, as it is a reasonable physical fighter in addition to a reliable spellcaster. It's more accurate to the NES game, but I think makes spellcasters less fun than they would otherwise be.

Part of why I'm not big of this change is that Final Fantasy has been rebalanced to be less "grindy" overall. While this also means it is somewhat easier, that is balanced by the fact that the ease comes from faster level gain, cheaper item costs, and other things that help the flow of the game. If you played the Game Boy Advance or later re-releases of Final Fantasy, you have some idea of what to expect. However, those versions had an MP system instead, and that change means that physical fighters, who are already very good in FF1, pull even further ahead. You can do well with the various Mages, but they thrived when their big damaging attacks stood out more.

The weirdest thing about FFPR is that it exists in a bizarre middle ground between previous re-releases of the game and doesn't quite hit the mark. It's mentioned as being based on the NES version, and it is in most ways, from the general design to the use of the spell slot magic system. It also has new cut scenes, changed areas, completely rebalanced combat, and other things that keep it from being "the NES version but prettier." On the other hand, it's missing a huge chunk of the bonus content found in other releases of the game, such as the extra dungeons and bosses.

This leaves fans in a frustrating spot. If you were hoping for a 100% faithful remaster, then FFPR isn't it. If you were hoping for the bonus content and new magic system from the later releases, FFPR also isn't that. Rather than being the ideal or perfect version of the game, it feels more like the developers pretended the other versions didn't exist. On its own, it is a fine version of the iconic game, but when compared to almost any other release, it's found wanting. The only advantages it has over the NES version are the improved visuals, QoL designs, and the less grindy difficulty.

The visuals are nice. It's clearly a graphical upgrade based on the original NES version, and everything looks crisp and clean. In some ways, it makes me think of what a SNES remake of Final Fantasy would look like. It doesn't look as good as the PSP release which remains the high-water mark for adapting Final Fantasy 1's visuals. The new font is also awful, and I'd recommend looking up the guides on how to change it as soon as you can. The new soundtrack is excellent, hitting a mix between feeling like an NES score while having enough extra elements to feel modern. The soundtrack is the big star here, despite the Pixel Remaster title.

Overall, Final Fantasy: Pixel Remaster is a slight disappointment. It isn't a terrible port, but it feels half-hearted. For a game remade and remastered as often as Final Fantasy, it's easy to compare this release to the others and realize that it doesn't have a ton going for it. The updated visuals are nice, and the remastered music is excellent, but otherwise, it's a slightly easier and slightly more user-friendly version of the original NES game. Choose Final Fantasy: Pixel Remaster if you can't play one of the many other versions that have more content.

Score: 7.5/10

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