Of all game developers, Square Enix seems to be acknowledging its back catalog better than most. This year alone has seen Chrono Cross (albeit in a slightly messy port), Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song Remaster, and NieR: Automata all make the jump to Switch. And with the future looking equally bright with Octopath Traveler II and Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, why does it feel like this weekend’s announcement was a bit of a misstep?
First revealed back at E3 2021 as PC and mobile exclusives, it’s taken Square Enix over 18 months to announce these console ports. The last of the Pixel Remasters – Final Fantasy VI – launched on Steam this February, so we at least understand waiting for all six to be released before announcing a port. And we get that you need a big celebratory announcement on one of the biggest franchises’ birthdays, and ports of classic games are always a surefire winner. Though by the time Spring 2023 rolls around, we’ll be close to two years since FFI, II, and III all came out on Steam and mobile.
To a lot of people, the NES and SNES eras of Final Fantasy are pretty special. Lots of RPG fans cut their teeth on Final Fantasy I, IV, and VI, while many other Final Fantasy tropes and mainstays were established in II, III, and V. Square Enix had to give these games the treatment they deserve and has created two physical editions – a standard one at £64.99 which includes all six games, and an extremely fancy Collector’s Edition for £244.99 (plus shipping) which includes a vinyl album, an artbook, a gorgeous box, and some pixel figurines. It’s a lavish limited edition that any fan would give up a lot of Gil to have – and Square Enix knew it.
Of course, there were a couple of caveats when Square announced these long-awaited ports to Switch (and PS4). One, in the UK, the rereleases were announced at 6 am on a Sunday morning, a time when most of us are still rubbing our eyes (and certainly not looking at our emails or Twitter) – and in the US, that means they found out about this at 1 am on the east coast. Second, both the Standard and Collector’s editions were both being sold “in limited quantities” – the standard version sold out within minutes, and at nearly £250 a pop, many were budgeted out of the fancier edition – which is now also out of stock .
Both of these versions were exclusive to the Square Enix store, so it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that there will be more available to buy, and we know from Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s pre-order debacle that people will be listing copies of the game on eBay for extortionate prices. So many fans feel that they’ve been left out of the celebrations and will have to settle for the digital releases. [Note: Square Enix has since restocked both editions on the North American store without any warning, so it’s worth keeping an eye out if you’re desperate for one.]
We have to wonder how long Square Enix has been sitting on this news, too. We understand announcing this on the series’ 35th anniversary, but this is something the company has been aware of for a while. In July 2021, the publisher said console versions would depend on demand – even though many fans were already crying out for these games to come to Switch (these were the days before the Steam Deck), but the demand was there from pretty much one day. .
Square Enix did stagger the release of the games on Steam and Mobile, however, with Final Fantasy VI only arriving in February this year. We absolutely get waiting until all six are out before letting them hit consoles – and Square Enix has also been working on patching these releases for a while (Final Fantasy I was last patched in August this year, for example). But it feels like Square always knew it wanted to bring the games to other systems, and instead teased it out over a long period of time before suddenly dropping pre-orders at the crack of dawn.
One sticking point from the PC versions remains, however – the font. Instead of choosing a retro, pixel font, Square Enix opted for a thin, white, simple affair that screams ‘quick and dirty mobile port’ and can be pretty hard to read at times. Square Enix hasn’t updated this at all, with modders coming to the rescue to create more fitting and readable text for the game. And when the Switch version was initially announced, the Steam screenshots were used to advertise them.
A few hours after they were announced, RPG Site spotted that Square Enix removed every single screenshot that had that bland, spidery writing. According to RPG Site, multiple sources have confirmed to them that the console versions will use a new font. Since we still need to wait until Spring 2023 to get our hands on the Switch version, perhaps the extra time is being used to get that font just right. Why it would cause such an issue when modders had the matter resolved in PC so quickly, we cannot say – we can only hope for a fix!
We are at least glad we’re getting all of Pixel Remasters at once on Switch. These games are significant pieces of Nintendo and RPG history. Plus, font aside, these remasters look great. The colors really pop (imagine those pixels on an OLED!), and the rearranged music is absolutely stunning. These are also the ‘truest’ versions to their original releases, which means some content from the GBA versions and other rereleases is missing, but the essentials are there. Square has still put a lot of effort into these remasters, acknowledging their importance in video game canon, and their popularity reflects that. Why the company wouldn’t anticipate demand for the physical version is beyond us, frankly, but there you are.