One of the most storied franchises in all of video games, Final Fantasy holds a place near and dear for many fans. Debate online as to which game is the best in the series leads to forum threads hundreds of posts long, with each participant laboriously explaining why their chosen Final Fantasy is number one. Even discussion on the best Final Fantasy battle theme can generate heated debate. But there are two titles in the franchise that stand out when it comes to which Final Fantasy titles would benefit from a remake: Final Fantasy 5 and Final Fantasy 6.
After a flashy showing of Final Fantasy 16 at a PS5 showcase event, there hasn’t been too much news regarding the latest entry in the long-running franchise. Square Enix plans to reveal more details about both FF14 and FF16 in 2021, so while everyone waits, it’s a good opportunity to revisit some classics in the series, and how they might fare if they were remade.
Pop culture finds itself currently in a period of intense nostalgia, brought on both by the consumer and those that are producing entertainment. On the production side, it is seen as safer to invest in something that is already an established hit. Rebooting Full House, Saved By The Bell, or Final Fantasy 7 is a safer bet than making a risky investment in a new IP. And fans are reacting to things from their childhood, and remembering the good old days. When a remake or reboot shows up in TV or video game form, fans gobble it up like a comfort food. Because this formula seems to be working (for the most part), it is not at all surprising that there are plenty of video games being remade these days.
With a video game remake, there are a number of areas where something from a previous era can be improved upon. Graphics are a major way to update how a game looks, while improvements in sound design can bring new life to the audio of a game. Often the narrative can remain the same, but some franchises also take advantage of a remake to tweak elements of a story to make it flow better. Final Fantasy 7 Remake played with its narrative to fill the city of Midgar with so much life, that even die hard fans of the original have to appreciate the effort. Coupled with the exceptional graphics and clever reimagining of the soundtrack, it is no surprise that Final Fantasy 7 Remake was a huge hit in 2020.
Final Fantasy 5 feels like it might be the most neglected entry in the franchise. Besides the first and second games, which at this point really show their age, FF5 has long been overlooked. When Final Fantasy 4 was given a worldwide release as “Final Fantasy II” one would think that the next entry in the franchise would also be shipped around the world. Not so. Final Fantasy 6 would take that spot, releasing internationally as “Final Fantasy III” and leaving Final Fantasy 5 in its dust. While the game did eventually make its way to the West in the Final Fantasy Anthology on PS1, its only other appearance internationally has been in the form of a lacking PC port. Final Fantasy 5 on Steam features some unfortunate sprite work, and employs a flavorless mobile-styled font, giving all text and menus a very low-budget look.
This is a game that needs to be given a fair chance to shine, and with a bit of love and polish, it actually can. This is the last Final Fantasy game to be directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the famed Square Enix developer, who would only produce and oversee future entries in the franchise. Playing his last Final Fantasy directorial effort has some appeal.
The game represents a refinement of the Final Fantasy formula to that point, featuring all the classic elements that make the series what it is, while striking a nice balance of those elements. The game also features arguably the best job system in a Final Fantasy title (FF Tactics excluded). With 25 different jobs to choose from, battle strategy can vary greatly depending on what job the characters have. Plus, each job gives the characters a different outfit, a nice little touch that would look great in a remade game engine, think Octopath Traveler or Bravely Default.
Unlike Final Fantasy 5, Final Fantasy 6 is universally acclaimed and is often lauded as one of the series’ best games, if not the best in the franchise. While FF5 is the refinement of a tried and true formula, Final Fantasy 6 took the series in a new direction. The game features a huge cast of characters, and while Terra usually takes top spot, any number of the main cast hold their own with rich, heartfelt backstories. FF6 does away with the crystals that featured prominently in the previous games, and dreams up a fresh narrative that blends traditional fantasy with elements of steampunk and feels grandiose and cinematic in scope. Despite how revered it is, like Final Fantasy 5 it has never received a proper remake or remaster aside from a flimsy PC port.
This is the game where Square Enix emerges as a leader in the industry. Imagining video games as something akin to films, where art design, direction, music, and writing begin to include filmic qualities. Iconic scenes like the Opera, or the coin toss between Edgar and Sabin, are moments that linger because of their cinematic quality. Final Fantasy 7 would be the game to take these ideas to the next level, delivering the same kind of vision on the more powerful PlayStation hardware, but Final Fantasy 6 showcases the beginnings of that movement.
For this, the answer is quite simple. Square Enix has already showcased a wonderful game engine in Octopath Traveler that would make the beautiful sprite work of Final Fantasy 5 and 6 shine on modern consoles. It wouldn’t necessarily make sense, and Square Enix likely wouldn’t have the resources, to bring the games into full 3D using something like the Final Fantasy 7 Remake engine. Give the soundtrack a few loving rearrangements (some of the best music in the Final Fantasy series to be sure), and these games would really take off.
Octopath Traveler sold very well for Square Enix, especially considering it was a new IP. The look of the game felt like an evolution of the classic Final Fantasy games for the SNES, creating pixel dioramas bursting with detail. Applying that diorama style to FF5 and FF6 would only help to increase the theatrical feel of the Final Fantasy games, while retaining the nostalgic charm that makes a good remake.
Final Fantasy 5‘s job system would look great in the Octopath style, and by taking a cue from Bravely Default, adding in something akin to that game’s encounter rate slider would do wonders to eliminate the battle grind that made the original FF5 a bit tedious. With Bravely Default 2 launching soon, there are games today that definitely retain the feel of Final Fantasy 5, so remaking it would be a case of borrowing little bits from Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler.
Final Fantasy 6 could go all in on the Octopath style by borrowing the graphic engine, but also overhauling its narrative structure too. This might seem like something purists would hate, but FF6 shares a lot of DNA with Octopath Traveler on the character front. Perhaps in the beginning allowing players to choose which character’s story they want to tackle (like Octopath‘s character selection) would be an interesting way to give the game a refresh. If a player wants to see Edgar’s story, they could focus on that, before tackling Terra’s or Locke’s story. Eventually the narratives would have to converge as the heroes take on Kefka, so the plot threads would have to intertwine, but in the early game it would be easy to split the narrative like this.
Final Fantasy 5 and 6 have been linked for some time now, as the two came packaged together on the Final Fantasy Anthology back in 1999. They are also the only two games in the franchise that have not been revisited, with FF1 and FF2 upgraded sufficiently for PS1, FF3 and FF4 receiving DS remakes, FF8, FF9, FF10, and FF12 getting remasters for modern consoles, and FF7 getting the full treatment last year.
After a year where remakes were everywhere, remake fatigue is something to consider. With that said, these games should be high on the priority list, despite the many other projects Square Enix is juggling at the moment. Remaking Final Fantasy 5 and 6 would not be as huge an undertaking as the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but even reimagining them in the Octopath Traveler style would be a lot of work.
While a solid argument can be made for Final Fantasy 8 getting a remake in the same vein as Final Fantasy 7 (it could easily follow a similar episodic formula too), the games that would really benefit from a fresh take are definitely Final Fantasy 5 and 6.