“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
With the recent release of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD, and Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 HD remixes, the upcoming 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue for the PS4 and of course the Final Fantasy VII Remake on the horizon, it’s clear that Square has set their sights on high-def revisions of some of their best sellers of the past. Final Fantasy is the heartbeat of their HD revolution. So let’s have a moment of silence for some of the FF titles being shunted out of the way of the high-definition gravy train. Not saying these will never see the light of an HD re-release, just that are no announcements for one any time soon.
These are the top 5 Final Fantasy games that I believe could benefit the most from a little modern face-lift. Of course, a part of the appeal of these classics is their outdated and charming graphics, but a re-release will never obliterate these games in their original form, only allow for them to be re-enjoyed by a much larger audience. PC touch ups and crappy handheld ports do NOT count! Give me HD!
#5. Final Fantasy (1987)
Ugh, have you ever even tried to play the original Final Fantasy for the NES? I’m not talking about the touched up version released as Final Fantasy Origins, I’m talking about the brutally difficult grind-fest that somehow spawned a massively popular and beloved franchise. It’s hard. It’s hard to look at, too. That’s cuz it’s old. But you know what? Old things are great. Final Fantasy ’87 is your grandma who faithfully sent you a card with $20 in it on every birthday you had for as long as you can remember for as long as she could remember it was your birthday. Are you just gonna forget about grandma because she forgot your birthday? Of course you wouldn’t. She’s your grandmother.
Final Fantasy is just like your grandmother, full of memories of iconic moments in history that are nearly lost in translation, hailing from a time when RPGs were dominated by text-based adventures and the new visual appeal was novel and gimmicky yet influential upon everything that was to come. And your entire family (at least on one side) that came from your grandmother’s loins owes pretty much everything it has to her and her way of life. Final Fantasy ’87 represents a way of life that should be remembered and honored with an HD update, definitely more of a remake than a re-release. This was the iconic story that started it all. Bring back the job system. Expand it. Hone that difficulty and give us an actually challenging game in the modern library. Dust off the warriors of light. Bring back Garland. Fully score the soundtrack and beef it up. Bless the crystals!
#4. Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Final Fantasy VIII now looks almost downright ugly with choppy, over-pixelated graphics and blurry cutscenes struggling to convey their drama through the muck of its late-90’s PlayStation graphics. When the characters do something as simple as breathe or turn around, all of their pixels shift so jarringly it’s like trying to look at the game through a broken coke bottle. Its battle environments especially suffer from over-tiled textures. Cinematics are better, of course, but the cast are blocky and stiff. That’s a crying shame considering FFVIII is headed up by Squall Leonhart, second-most popular protagonist behind Cloud Strife, and the storyline is rich with characters and unique settings which perfectly embrace its definitively sci-fi setting. HD graphics could really touch up some of FFVIII’s arcane machinery and cityscapes. Balamb Garden, I’m looking at you. The Draw system could use an update or rehaul to make it more interesting. The Triple Triad card game might be a little more fun with some touch ups to make it more seamless and accessible. And while you’re at it, adapt that Chocobo mini-game that nobody in North America got to play since none of us owned a frickin’ PocketStation and make it part of the game, not just the launcher, PC!
#3. Final Fantasy VI (1994)
Final Fantasy VI (marketed originally in America as Final Fantasy III because Japan assumed yankees couldn’t count) was one of the most beloved RPGs on the Super Nintendo. Was. It’s amazing how few people have played this gem. Even though it was gorgeous in its 16-bit day, its top down view puts it a little out of reach with most modern gamers whose age groups it would appeal to. It’s mostly remembered now by players who owned a SNES back in the day and plowed through it on a summer vacation. But this is one of the definitive titles from the series. It regularly tops, or nears the tops of, lists of the best entries in the franchise. It has some of the best music from any SNES RPG. It’s got one of the best Final Fantasy villains of all time. It’s got a wide cast of memorable playable characters and a clever revamp of the classic job system. It’s got a story that goes so far as to let the bad guy win. If anyone were to ask me what title best summarizes what the essence of Final Fantasy is all about, I would point them to Final Fantasy VI but they’d lament that the Anthology re-release was trash with crappy cutscenes and load times, that they don’t own a Gameboy Advance or a Wii U, and that they don’t want to emulate it on PC or rebuy their Nintendo Wii they pawned off just to play a game that out of date. So please, Square, HD remaster/remake a definitive title in your franchise and redeliver the story that awed so many gamers in the mid-90’s. If this is really one of the best Final Fantasy’s and one of the best games of all time like it’s touted to be, then give it high-def.
#2. Final Fantasy III (1990)
Now don’t get confused with the previous paragraph. This is for Final Fantasy III, originally released only in Japan on the NES. It had a remake, as the picture suggests, that brought it to North American retailers for the Nintendo DS in 2006, some 16 years after its original release. But you know, I still haven’t played it. Not many have. Because handhelds suck. They do. I hate ’em. I’m not alone in that opinion. Remaking the classic that invented the job-change system for the franchise on a Nintendo DS or PSP, or releasing the Japanese version for the Wii Virtual Console only, is like holding out the cure for cancer in front of my face except it’s written in an archaic form of Sanskrit so obscure that you’d need to earn a PhD just to read it. I haven’t played it! I don’t want to buy a DS or PSP. I already have a next-gen PlayStation. Give America a console-based HD remaster of a game its never played. I don’t even know what an Onion Knight is!
Number 1, Final Fantasy XII. One of the most innovative titles in a series known for innovation and you can’t even play Final Fantasy XI on any system other than the PS2. Let that sink in. Nothing but PS2. Yep, you can’t find it on PSN. It’s not on the Wii’s Virtual Console, certainly. And no, there is no Nintendo DS re-release. Oh, it did get a sequel. That’s on the DS, I heard. Who cares? Final Fantasy XI needs a console re-release in HD and it wouldn’t be hard to bring it to a larger audience. It wouldn’t even need much of a touch up. The game was already beautifully animated. Its “gambit” and “license” systems made it a pure joy to play, I never got tired of its battles, it features a character driven storyline without a clear protagonist, and it’s setting was the richest and broadest interpretation of Ivalice to date. It was lauded as Game of the Year with multiple awards in 2006. It’s only ten years old but I can only play it on my rapidly deteriorating PS2? Get off your haunches, Square! Quite sitting on your hands and take my money.
Here’s a novel idea: once you finish your Final Fantasy VII Remake, why don’t you give us the biggest and most important release ever in all of video game history? Re-release every numerical title in the Final Fantasy franchise updated, retouched or remade for HD viewing in one giant collectors addition.
Just do it.
Agree with me? Is there a different title you’d like to see given the HD treatment? Comment below and let us know!