It’s taken a little while, but the final game in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster project has arrived. In some ways, it’s the game that people have most been looking forward to in this line. In other ways, there’s been a hint of dread about it. Given the scope of the other Pixel Remasters and the state of the original Final Fantasy VI, this game perhaps stood to benefit the least from this remake. Yet for mobile gamers, it’s not so much about taking the place of the original game but rather the somewhat maligned 2014 remake. That feels like an easier bar to clear, at least.
Is Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster ($17.99) the best version of the game, then? That’s a very difficult question to answer but if I really look deep into my heart, I have to just barely lean towards the negative. It’s very close, and this Pixel Remaster does score a couple of minor wins in some categories, but I still think the original Super NES version is the best official means of playing this all-time classic. This is a close second though, and for mobile players it’s certainly a substantial improvement over the previous version in most regards.
Let’s talk about the misses first. The new visuals feel like a wash, in my opinion. The original game’s level of detail is pretty much the same as this new version, so it doesn’t feel particularly valuable or necessary to have remade them. The new soundtrack also doesn’t feel entirely needed, but it’s generally quite good. The risky move to switch to full vocals on some tracks, particularly the famous opera scene, doesn’t fully pay off. I’m not sure the new UI, which resembles that of the other Pixel Remasters, is quite as functional for touch controls as the one in the previous mobile version.
As with the other Pixel Remasters, there is no external controller support. We’re also still stuck with a terrible, hard-to-read font. Back when this all started, I gave Square Enix the benefit of the doubt and hoped they would fix the font. I’m giving up on that foolish naivety now. I still don’t really care for the eight-directional walk, and there are definitely some brand-new bugs to be found. The extra content added in the Advance version isn’t here, but I don’t feel that is much of a loss. The extra Espers, dungeons, equipment, and bosses were nice little bonuses, but I can’t say I’ll miss them terribly. It all felt a little out of place to begin with.
As for the wins, the biggest is simply that this is a rather fine version of one of Square Enix’s best. People will find nits to pick; I just did myself. But I firmly believe that nits are all that can be found. The frankly hideous graphical clash in the old mobile remake isn’t an issue here. The new soundtrack keeps up its end far better than that of the compromised Game Boy Advance soundtrack. When the biggest issue you can scare up is the lousy font, things are going pretty well. And hey, sometimes it does look better than the original. Sometimes it sounds better. It generally reads better, using the improved script from the last remake. This is a good way to play Final Fantasy VI, and only a hair’s breadth away from being the best way.
I’ve focused mainly on how the game compares to other versions mostly because you probably don’t need me to talk too much about the game itself. Many, many words have been written about Final Fantasy VI. Even on this very site, my old pal Eric “Mystery” Ford spun out a full review and yours truly did an RPG Reload look back on the game. We even recorded a whole episode of the RPG Reload Podcast about it, back when that was a thing. There are a million reviews of Final Fantasy VI on the internet. I won’t ask you to sit through another full one, especially from a guy who would just be repeating himself. Let’s do a quick one instead.
You’ve got an excellent story with a memorable cast of characters, one of the best RPG soundtracks ever, some surprisingly complex and gorgeous visuals for a JRPG of its era, a rather smooth difficulty curve, varied gameplay, and an overall level of ambition that you can’t help but admire. Yes, it can come off as melodramatic at times. When the game opens up in its second half, the pacing slows down considerably. It’s a bit too easy to break the game’s challenge, and it’s easy to lose the differentiating factors between the characters once the magic system comes fully into play. But even its flaws aren’t enough to bring down the overall experience all that much. This is on the short list of absolute must-play JRPGs. If you somehow haven’t played Final Fantasy VI before, you should.
So let’s leave it at that. While this may not be the definitive version of Final Fantasy VI, it’s close enough to the best to be worth it. It handily replaces the previous version we had on mobile, and some of its improvements make it worth another trip for those who have already played it in any of its other forms. Some of the lingering faults found in previous Pixel Remasters frustratingly reoccur here, and the whole exercise does have a vague sense of pointlessness about it in light of just how little it improves on the original. Still a great version of an all-timer, and that’s more than enough.