When it comes to a series as near and dear to my heart as Final Fantasy, trying to pick my favorite is a very difficult task. It’s also a bit of a ridiculous task, as there is no particular need to pick a favorite. You can play them all! But it is a question that tends to come up when RPG fans gather, and thus it is one that I have reluctantly answered many times. The answer isn’t always the same, but certainly one of my more common replies is Final Fantasy V. And now, it’s this game’s turn to get its second chance on mobile in the form of Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster ($17.99).
I never expected to see ActRaiser again. A memorable and successful early release for the 16-bit Super NES in North America, ActRaiser hasn’t had a lot of luck since then. It was followed up by an incredibly misguided sequel that seemingly killed the franchise. Then its developer, Quintet, faded out under mysterious circumstances, taking much of its IP with it. The game’s publisher, Enix, merged with Square and the new company appeared to have little interest in massive chunks of Enix’s historical output. ActRaiser got a Japan-only port of its action stages for feature phones, and a Virtual Console release early on in the Nintendo Wii’s life. And then there was silence.
For about as long as I’ve paid attention to smartphone gaming, I’ve seen a lot of people wishing that the Game Boy Final Fantasy Legend games would come to mobile. It makes sense; mobile gamers tend to have an affinity for gaming on the go, so they probably put in a lot of time on their Game Boys back in the day. And if you were a Game Boy gamer who loved RPGs, you almost certainly came into contact with one of the games from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Legend trilogy. The years passed, and we got a lot of Square Enix games. Remakes, re-releases, and so on. But the Final Fantasy Legend games never came… until now.
Final Fantasy IV has had more remakes than any Final Fantasy game save the original. Up until now, there have been no less than eight distinct versions of this game, and Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster ($17.99) marks its ninth. Is this finally the definitive version, or are we left with yet another case of a version that is better in some ways and worse in others? If you know the general idea behind these Pixel Remaster games, you probably already know the answer to that question. Let’s ride it out anyway, friends.
When the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series was announced, one of the games caught my eye more than the others. While it’s natural to get excited over a more faithful rendition of the original game, or to want to see how the Super NES games would look with a new style, many Final Fantasy fans probably immediately jumped to Final Fantasy III. Historically it has been one of the less available games in the series, often skipped over for rereleases. The 3D remake was the first time it appeared in the West, and yes, that version has gotten around. But that version is also more different from its source than most Final Fantasy remakes. Thus, the Final Fantasy III ($17.99) Pixel Remaster represents the first time the original game has been officially made available outside of Japan.
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.