It takes a lot of work to be the black sheep of a series as inconsistent as Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy II has generally found itself in that position since it first released on the 8-bit Famicom back in 1988. It’s an odd game, in many ways establishing the SaGa series more than it sets up further Final Fantasy games. It went unlocalized for a rather lengthy period of time, which meant when it finally did come it was being judged against games that came ten years or more after it. Memes about the game were established in the West before the game itself ever had a chance. Unfortunately, I feel like the Final Fantasy II ($11.99) Pixel Remaster has once again drawn the short straw. Of all the Pixel Remaster games so far, this is the one that loses the most.
I’m assuming many readers will be familiar with the original Final Fantasy through one version or another, so I’ll cover the changes and differences first. This new remake breaks ranks with the others in that it does not use the previous version as its basis. In many respects, this game acts as though it’s the very first remake of the original Final Fantasy. That means a new art direction for the sprites that hits a little closer to the original designs, a Vancian magic system instead of MP, and perhaps most importantly, the absence of any and all dungeons, bosses, and other paraphernalia from the other remakes.
I don’t know what has been in the water at Square Enix the last few years, but I’m happy for it. The 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy games can only be re-released and/or remade so many times, I suppose. We’ve received localizations of classic games I never thought we would see like Romancing SaGa 2 and Romancing SaGa 3. We’ve seen the latest SaGa, SaGa Scarlet Grace, get a release on new platforms and in new regions. Even the classic Game Boy games that kicked off the SaGa series (unbeknownst to those of us in the West at the time) got reissued on the Nintendo Switch. And now things come full circle, after a fashion. SaGa Frontier Remastered ($24.99) sees the very first game in the series that was localized under its original title make a return, hopefully to a warmer reception than last time.
Following this pattern, it would seem logical to think that Final Fantasy 8 would arrive in 2016. Well, we did get a Final Fantasy game that year, but it was the rather impressive port of Final Fantasy 9. Unlike the previous game, this felt like it was rebuilt for the hardware. Perhaps that was the hold-up with Final Fantasy 8? At the time, I thought we’d see the eighth game arrive in 2017. Instead, we got the original title Final Fantasy Dimensions 2. Hm, maybe in 2018? No, that ended up being Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition. Oh, I see! 2019 is the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy 8! Square Enix, you sly dogs. But no, no such luck on mobile that year. It did come to other platforms. Perhaps it was just a bit behind on mobile?
There are some things that you don’t realize you want until you actually have them, and for me this mobile port of Konami’s classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($2.99) is one of them. This is one of my favorite games of all-time, one that I obsessed over for a couple of years following its release on the PlayStation in 1997. I found every item, uncovered every secret, and squeezed out every last percentage point of map exploration. I’ve replayed it time and again on various platforms and have written numerous pieces about it, with the most recent being less than a month ago.