Square Enix will charge you £55 / $75 US (with a 22% pre-launch discount) to play less-botched re-releases of Final Fantasy I-VI.
It’s more difficult than you’d think to play old video games.
Some publishers just don’t release them at all. They sit in a vault, gathering dust, unloved and unwanted. Some have lost or purged the source data and can’t do anything with them, even if they wanted to.
Others make them hard to get hold of, bury them behind subscriptions, or even make them artificially scarce. And if you dare to invoke emulation, then you might face the wrath of their lawyers.
(Nintendo, for instance, does all of the above in some shape or form.)
So when retro games are made available to play on modern systems, it’s usually a cause for celebration… unless it’s Square Enix’s re-releases of the early Final Fantasy games. (Or Chrono Trigger. Or the Mana series. Or…)
For reasons unknown, over the years, the Japanese developer and publisher has been releasing “remasters” of Final Fantasy I-VI that are basically worse than the NES/SNES originals in every way. Weirdly smoothed sprites in place of crisp pixel art. Ugly bubble fonts in place of hand-drawn characters designed to be legible in limited space. The music. Urgh, the music.
But they’ve been the only way – outside of emulation or owning the original consoles and cartridges – to play these formative titles. And, god knows, Square Enix has charged us a princely sum for these poor ports on PC, mobile, tablet, etc.
It’s pleasing that, today, Square Enix has announced what it is calling “pixel remasters” of Final Fantasy I-VI. They will be sold as a bundle, with the first three games coming to PC (via Steam) and mobile devices on July 29, 2021.
So while you’ll be buying all six games in the bundle at once, only Final Fantasy I, II and III will be available on that date. Final Fantasy IV-VI will be available “upon respected release timings” according to the press release.
What are “pixel remasters”, we hear you ask? For starters, there’s a trailer on YouTube:
Which looks more like a promo for RPG Maker than a compilation of Final Fantasy games, to be honest. And there’s an accompanying press release, which says:
“The pixel remaster series brings all the magic of the originals combined with quality-of-life upgrades while staying faithful to the retro design of these masterpieces. Fans can look forward to enjoying a host of updates including:
- Redrawn 2D pixel character and background graphics, featuring iconic Final Fantasy character pixel designs created by Kazuko Shibuya, the original artist and current collaborator
- Beautifully rearranged soundtracks, overseen by original composer Nobuo Uematsu
- Improved gameplay, including controller and touch controls, modernized UI, auto-battle options, and more
- Dive into the world of the game with supplemental extras like the bestiary, illustration gallery, music player, and the ability to save at any time”
So they’re still tinkering. They couldn’t just leave them alone. At least it’s Kazuko Shibuya and Nobuo Uematsu doing the tinkering on the Final Fantasy pixel remasters, though. That’s something.
And then there’s the price. The Final Fantasy I-VI pixel remasters are currently available to pre-order in a bundle on Steam with a 22% pre-launch discount, which makes them around £55 / $75 US. (That’ll be closer to £70 / $100 US when they’re not being sold at a discount. Ouch.)
Clearly, Square Enix can’t stop fiddling with them, and they can’t stop gouging us to play them, either.
Still, they can’t be nearly as bad as the previous attempts. Can they…?