Interview: Discussing Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Sprites and Designs


Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster installments are giving people a new way to play classic Nintendo and Super Nintendo games on modern platforms. Part of that involves a new look, with updated pixel art accompanying each release. To help get into that, Siliconera spoke with Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Art Director Kazuko Shibuya, who also worked on the original games, and Producer Toshio Akiyama to talk about the sprites and design in the games.

Jenni Lada, Siliconera: What was it like returning to work on sprites and designs for older Final Fantasy games for the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster entries after so many years?

Kazuko Shibuya, Square Enix: I think the reason why I was able to gain this opportunity is thanks to the fact that I’m still actively at Square Enix. So, I was just genuinely glad that I’ve continued working for so long, and grateful to be able to revisit my own work, and starting point, from 34 years ago.

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How influential were the 16-bit games like FFIV, FFV, and FFVI on the sprites for the first three Pixel Remasters?

Shibuya: For Final Fantasy I, FINAL FANTASY I, Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy III, I
refrained from filling in extensive details, and kept the visuals looking similar to how they did on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The field and battle animations use Final Fantasy V as a basic point of reference, so they can nod their heads and wave their hands.

Of these six games, Final Fantasy III and IV ended up with 3D remakes. Did the they affect the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster sprites, designs and development? And did any parts of the 3D remakes rub off on them?

Shibuya: I didn’t have the 3D remake in mind at all.

With games like FFIV, FFV, and FFVI already being 16-bit titles, did that mean fewer changes? How did you approach working on them?

Shibuya: During the Famicom era, regardless of the number of bits, the pixels were arranged in a unique way meant specifically for them to be displayed on a CRT monitor, where colors blur, expand, and stretch vertically. They aren’t meant for liquid crystal displays (LCDs) at all, where each pixel shows up with vivid clarity. In this remaster series, we’ve redone the art with the intention of displaying it on an LCD screen.

Additionally, in terms of character size, we added more leeway above and to the left and right of the original 16×24 pixels across Final Fantasy I through VI, to give the characters’ poses more freedom. This allows arms to be extended laterally, and for capes to sway or flutter.

For Final Fantasy VI, due to the large head-to-body proportions, the height of the head was prevented from fully being shown, instead making it look completely flat. At the time, I desperately wished I could have just one more pixel on top. My wish came true in this remaster. (The reason why it doesn’t look awkward in the original version is thanks to the CRT monitor, which expands and stretches images vertically.)

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Each Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster entry has its own art gallery. How did you decide which pieces to share?

Toshio Akiyama, Square Enix: Mr. Yoshitaka Amano has created so very many illustrations for us, but there have been few
opportunities to view them together as a collection. Therefore, we have included as many illustrations as possible this time. I think we could even call this a complete collection.

Additionally, for Final Fantasy IV through VI, we had the characters’ super deformed illustrations, which had been created at what was Square at the time, so we also included all of those.

How did more modern sprite-based Final Fantasy games, like Brave Exvius and Record Keeper, influence character and enemy designs?

Shibuya: I wasn’t thinking of them at all here, and they didn’t influence them at all.

With King’s Knight’s remake being associated with FFXV, are there any other classic games you worked on that you would like to see return and revived somehow?

Shibuya: Perhaps The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner. The game had included the option to view it in 3D by using special 3D glasses, but I think this could be done with CG now!

The Final Fantasy I, II, and III Pixel Remaster entries are available on PCs and mobile devices now. Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster will appear on September 8, 2021.

Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.