The time has come. The Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster releases have been building to the debut of FFVI. It is a big, beloved game and, after some other takes on it over the years, there was the hope this version would do it justice. Well, people don’t need to fear. It absolutely does this installment justice.
FFVI is a tapestry of a game. There are 14 playable characters. We have clear-cut heroes. Some folks’ morality may be a bit dubious. There are times when some really good people happen to be on a really bad side. And what is especially striking about it all is that so many of these people are well-developed. As we follow them through their lives, both in bad times and worse, we get to know most of them rather well.
Which is partially because Square Enix does an incredible job of telling its story. After all, we begin as the villain and invade an innocent town. From there, we learn the greater scope of a war, meet the resistance movement fighting against it, and watch as the forces of good grow. The party splits, then reunites. Enemies become allies. Terrible people do increasingly horrifying things. It is a lot to take in, but it is all handled well. Especially considering the limitations of the medium at the time.
Gameplay remains unchanged. Players form a party of up to four characters. They can equip them with Relics, which offer special perks like protecting a near dead ally or bestowing haste upon the user. There are Espers that can be equipped to increase a character’s stats and let them use magic and that being in battle. You go from town to town and dungeon to dungeon around the world in the name of fighting the Gestahlian Empire and Kefka. Fights are turn-based. Some characters have special gimmicks in addition to the standard attacks, like Sabin who can use fighting game-like Blitzes, Gau’s monster-like Rages, and Relm’s ability to Sketch monsters and have her art fight for her. While those can be a bit odd and require a bit of extra work, they can pay off in practice.
The niceties from the other Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster entries are present in FFVI, which is appreciated. There are the detailed maps. You can toggle them off or on in locations, and even make them bigger in the overworld. Autobattle is an option. There’s a CRT filter. You also can check the concept art and music from the main menu. Not to mention the sprites for characters and enemies look great and backgrounds look good. And of course the autosave and quick save features return. The former is especially handy in the event the player forgets to move a party member they must protect to the back row for one fight.
There are also some liberties that, well, the other Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster entries didn’t get. Square Enix pulls a bit of an HD-2D remaster for the opera scene, one of the most iconic moments. There’s a voiced song, the backgrounds are in 3D, and it really stands out. The extra detail is appreciated. I will admit that it sounded a bit odd when I heard it, though. I suppose that comes from being accustomed to the SNES and GBA “performances.” But it is a nice touch.
Which brings up something wonderful about FFVI. While its story does involve fighting certain enemies at specific places, it is one of the early examples of an RPG that experimented with objectives. Early on, you’re taking part in defensive maneuvers by managing three parties to keep enemies from reaching a defenseless person. To get through an occupied town in lockdown, you need to approach certain people and steal their clothing to accomplish specific goals. You take part in an opera. There’s a dinner party you must navigate. You go through daily chores. It did so many things that were fresh and new at the time. Guess what? They still feel innovative!
As with the other Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster releases, FFVI has its quirks. For example, the fonts used in the UI are still atrocious. Which, considering there are six of these now, seems pretty egregious. Either that should have been fixed by now or Square Enix should have offered an additional option. You can’t access the bestiary, which might be handy in-game, unless you’re in the main menu.
I noticed a few quirks exclusive to FFVI as well. For example, you can cheese some Sabin’s Blitz techniques using keyboard controls. Aura Cannon is supposed to be down, diagonal down, then left. I exclusively pressed down, down, left and saw it register. This is also the only Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster I played that didn’t almost immediately load a save. In FFII and FFIII, I’d see the loading banner flicker once after the save loaded and I was in-game. In FFVI, it flashes at least four times while the game is in action before I would be able to begin playing again. Again, they are minor quirks, with the loading even being something I could imagine being adjusted with a patch.
Final Fantasy VI was an incredible game when it debuted in 1994, and the FFVI Pixel Remaster is just as wonderful. It is a fantastic JRPG. The set pieces here can still feel innovative all these years later. The game still manages to give many members of its exceptionally large playable cast attention. When you happen upon a secret, say an additional bit of storytelling, it still feels special. There are some minor quirks to this release, but it’s honestly lovely.
Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster is available for the PC and mobile devices.