Review: Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster

23 Feb 2022
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Back in August of last year, we saw the release of the first batch of Square Enix’s Pixel Remasters with Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy III. Since then, we’ve also seen the release of Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy V with the same treatment. And now, because of how counting works, we have arrived at the final remaster of the NES and SNES era: Final Fantasy VI.

Originally released on the Super Famicon in Japan in 1994, Final Fantasy VI saw its Western release in October of that same year (as Final Fantasy III, but we can just ignore that part for now.) So with the game as old as it is, it might be surprising that some people out there have yet to dive into the world of Magitek and Espers. I myself, am one of those few people that can stand in a circle of Final Fantasy fans and awkwardly mention “Yeah… I never got around to FF6” while receiving the most audible gasps you have ever heard.

Thankfully, for people like me that never played the original on the Super Nintendo, or on PlayStation, or on the Game Boy Advance, or never played it the first time it got the PC and Mobile treatment, Square Enix is giving us another version to look at as if to say “Hey! You! It’s time to play this one finally!”

Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster is out today from Square Enix and is available on PC (Steam) and Mobile. The PC version was played for this review.

Return

Final Fantasy VI begins 1,000 years after the War of the Magi. This end of this war made magic seemingly vanish from the world. Now mankind, with its technological marvels, is looking to harness the power of magic once again.

Giving the player control of a wide cast of characters, Final Fantasy VI casts a wide narrative net. While the overarching story of resistance group versus evil empire certainly isn’t anything new, there are some twists, like the fact that your main antagonist in said evil empire is… well, a clown. A clown with a funny, yet terrifying 16-bit laugh. What I’ve been enjoying more than the main story however, are the narratives of the individual characters.

As someone who, before now, only had a couple hours of gameplay invested in the title, being able to finally dig in and experience what Final Fantasy VI is all about has been interesting. I’ve loved stumbling into small flashback cutscenes to get an idea of the history of certain characters, to see what their motivations are, and how they ultimately got to be where they are now.

Of course, some characters’ backstories stand out and play a larger role to to bigger plot of the game, such as Terra, who at the beginning of the game we learn can use magic and has an odd reaction to an Esper (this game’s version of Summons, Avatars, Primals… they really have had a lot of names haven’t they?) Her narrative in particular is one that is spread out across the entire game, while other characters’ histories might get lesser time in the spotlight. Regardless, I enjoyed seeing the individual stories of the characters and, in cases like Terra’s, how they played into the larger narrative.

The Decisive Battles

As Final Fantasy VI‘s story progresses, you’ll be slowly introduced to a large cast of characters, each with their own unique abilities that they bring into battle. Locke the Thief Treasure Hunter for example has a steal command so he can try and swipe items from enemies. There’s also Edgar, who can choose to use one of the many tools obtained during the adventure such as his Bioblaster or Chainsaw to execute different types of attacks to foes. Each character that joins the party will bring something different to the table and depending on your playstyle, everyone is sure to have their favorite, and least favorite characters.

Those who have played any of the previous Pixel Remaster titles should feel right at home when getting into Final Fantasy VI. That’s because Square Enix has given all of these titles the same user interface. Selecting optimal equipment or checking a characters spells looks nearly identical across each of these games.

Left: Final Fantasy VI Right: Final Fantasy

While I often find myself simply hitting “optimal” on the equipment screen, the one thing that the game doesn’t handle are the Relics, or what may be better known as accessories. Each character already has their own feel in battle, but equipping Relics can even further alter how a character plays.

A great example for this is that for awhile, my monk character Sabin had Relics that both allowed him to use two weapons, and also counter-attack when being hit in combat. One of his weapons also had an elemental effect and since these all stacked together, any enemy brave enough to take a swing at Sabin would be met with not one, but two attacks, as well as a burst of flames. It felt great! Other accessories can give characters haste, improve defenses, etc. I found myself excited every time I found a new Relic during my quest to save the world. I would hurriedly open my inventory to see what it could do and how it might change my current party build.

Later on in the game, players will gain access to Espers which can not only aid the party in battle, but also be equipped to characters in order to help them learn new spells. Some of these Espers will even grant bonuses to certain stats like HP or Strength when a character levels up. I constantly found myself in this part of the menu as I made sure that I was always unlocking something or making sure that there was some benefit that my characters were gaining while progressing and leveling through the story.

One last thing I want to mention here while I’m talking about gameplay: this version of the game supports both mouse and keyboard, and controller support. What it doesn’t have, however, is an on-screen keyboard to use for the character naming screen. So in the rare case that you’re like me, in a recliner with a wireless controller playing on a big TV, with your wireless keyboard out of reach… You’re going to have to get up and go get that thing, simply so you can hit the ‘Enter’ key. It’s such a small thing, and a situation I can’t see too many people finding themselves in. But all the same, it was an annoyance I had with the interface.

Setting the Stage

While the other Pixel Remasters have done a good job in recreating the look and feel of the original game for today’s gamers, Final Fantasy VI is definitely the best looking of the bunch. What was the most detailed looking game of the SNES era looks just as good, if not better after receiving the remaster treatment.

What’s more, Square Enix took one of the most memorable scenes of Final Fantasy VI and took the Pixel Remaster treatment one step further, adding in a bit of the HD-2D effect that they’ve used for games like Octopath Traveler. The opera scene looks and sounds as good as it ever has, with this new version including a fully voiced music track. The opera scenes by themselves I think are great, but when placed into a game that doesn’t include these HD-2D effects anywhere else, it does feel just a little bit odd against the scenes in the rest of the game. I’m sure it won’t take long for fans to see this and begin to petition Square Enix to redo the entire game in this style.

Diving more into the audio side of things, this version of the game also comes with a Music Player that lets you listen to the 61 tracks that were re-arranged for this release. While I maybe haven’t played through every entry in the series, one thing that I have experienced from the entire series is the music, and I found myself greatly enjoying the work done for the Pixel Remaster entry.

Now… and I know everyone has already talked about this with the other Pixel Remasters, but I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence with this review if I didn’t mention it… the font. It’s awful. It’s a bit funny to me that in something called a Pixel Remaster, one of the most noticeable changes is the incredible lack of pixilation on the font that the developers decided to go with. Not only does it not fit the aesthetic of the rest of the game, but it also feels very narrow. Scenes that have narration without the normal dialogue box surrounding it make the text feel almost squished. In a game that otherwise looks gorgeous, the font they’ve chosen sticks out in the worst way possible. It is honestly my biggest gripe with this release.

The Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster

Final Fantasy VI does an incredible job of re-creating a game that for some is a cherished classic, while also helping to bring it to new audiences (and people like me that simply never got around to it).

The game is as good as its ever been (apart from that atrocious font) and I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who says this is the best version of this game. Personal thoughts surrounding the opera scene not withstanding, the Pixel Remaster version of Final Fantasy VI truly feels like it is the best way to experience this game.

And for all of you other Final Fantasy fans out there that, like me, never “got around” to Final Fantasy VI, this is the perfect time to finally do so.


~ Final Score: 9/10 ~


Review copy provided by Square Enix for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.