A touching reunion.
Title: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: Out now.
Tl;dr: The JRPG that blew you away in 1997 is about to do it all over again using just the Midgar portion of the game in this fantastic reimagining.
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In 1997, I was introduced to a little game called Final Fantasy VII. At the time, it was nothing like anything I had played before, as at that point I had never touched a JRPG in my entire life. Final Fantasy VII introduced me to Cloud Strife, an Ex-SOLDIER turned mercenary working for an eco-terrorist organisation called Avalanche as they set out to bring down Shinra and the energy they create through the use of their planet sucking machines known as Mako Reactors. Before all this, I’d only known the adventures of a furry little bandicoot named Crash and speedy hedgehog called Sonic. Unlike the adventures of those platform-hopping animals, the journey Cloud and his friends embarked upon was met with good times and bad, the game teaching me about loss, finding yourself, and overcoming impossible odds. Final Fantasy VII defined a generation of gamers like myself, so when they announced a remake of the beloved title it’s safe to say the world screamed with joy!
Welcome to 2020, where the Final Fantasy VII Remake is finally upon us. This is the first entry in a multi-game epic that retells the original story of Final Fantasy VII and, oh boy, Final Fantasy VII Remake begins to tackle the original story in a much-expanded version of the original narrative for the Midgar portion of the ’97 classic. We get to dive deeper into the stories of the beloved misfits of Avalanche: Jessie, Biggs and Wedge. Remake allows us to get to know these characters so much better than before and they really feel like core party members; from Jessie’s endless and uncontrollable flirting with Cloud, Wedge’s insatiable hunger for good eats, to Biggs’ caring nature toward the orphans at the orphanage. In Remake we get to meet more characters from the various sectors of Midgar including Marle, the landlady of the apartments in which Cloud and Tifa find themselves staying, as well as the kids who patrol Sector 5 and come to idolise Cloud Strife. Of course, unlike in the ’97 original, Sephiroth takes a bigger role in the remake, instead of just being a brief mention; Sephiroth actually appears in Remake.
Graphically, Final Fantasy VII Remake is insanely detailed, with facial hair missed during a shave visible, skin pores obvious, and even faint scarring and scratches on the Buster Sword. However, the environments are also incredibly detailed, although in more built-up areas like the towns there are a few issues with textures that load in at a very low quality, potentially a bug or the current generation hardware struggling to push out the high quality instantaneously, as they do eventually load-in. This could easily be fixed with a patch later down the line and shouldn’t detract from how amazing Final Fantasy VII Remake is, especially since a vast majority of the cutscenes are in-engine, with only about three or four being CGI cutscenes provided by Square Enix Visual Works studio.
In terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy VII Remake takes a departure from the turn-based combat of the original to a more action-orientated affair, however, the remake retains the Active Time Battle or ATB aspect of the original with commands needing one or two bars of ATB to perform certain actions such as using a potion, casting a spell, or using an ability like Cloud’s Braver, which is no longer his first limit break. Now, back when it was announced, people feared that the action-based combat would make the game too easy, with the mash-buttons-to-win style of combat that was found in Final Fantasy XV firmly in their minds, however, in Final Fantasy VII Remake if you just mash buttons, you will die. In the remake you need to consider your actions wisely and exploit enemy weaknesses, the latter of which you can discover by using the Assess materia on your enemies (much like the Scan materia from the original), which will give you a breakdown of the weaknesses and resistances of the enemy in question. Because of this, you should make sure to balance your party with various elemental materia to have all enemy weaknesses on hand, as well as curative, buff, and debuff spells in your arsenal to help level the playing field.
Now, yes, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a linear game and as such takes you from story beat to story beat, but in certain chapters you can break up the narrative by embarking on side quests, which introduce you to a bunch of new characters both new and old, and ask you to help them out with tasks like clearing out an abandoned factory so people can continue salving scrap to keep business alive or even asking you to help a journalist discover the identity of a Robin Hood-esque character known as The Angel of the Slums. I thoroughly enjoyed these side quests as we got to see Cloud be what he said he was gonna be, a mercenary/man for hire, and through these quest we really watch Cloud grow from his distant, self-proclaimed ‘cool guy’ into someone genuinely concerned for his fellow man. Whilst on paper they seem like any old fetch quest or kill monster task, they do actually help build the narrative up in the background, rewarding you with certain additional scenes later in the game.
Okay, here comes the bit I always love in video games. The damned soundtrack is on fire in this game! Final Fantasy VII Remake has a dynamic soundtrack, meaning that it changes depending on the situation. For example, one of my favourite scores comes from close to the end (don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler!). In the original Final Fantasy VII, when you make it to the Shinra building you are given a choice: to take a frontal assault, put the building on high alert, and take the elevators to the 59th floor whilst fighting a bunch of security guards and bots on random floors; or you can take the stealth approach and take the back stairs up 59 floors. This is one of my favourite moments where the use of dynamic soundtrack kicks in! So, you are in the Shinra building, the music is intense as you climb toward the upper floors to take down the greedy executives – and we’re talking flights upon flights of stairs in order to reach the 59th floor – and as you ascend the music steadily goes from high paced, with the characters ready to take down the greedy sons of b’s, to a gradual slow-paced version, as our characters slowly lose the will to live as the energy is seeped from them from each step. It made me chuckle: as the characters got more exhausted so did the music. One last thing on soundtrack, and that is that the game also blends field music with battle music in order to make each battle feel unique to that specific area.
So here we are! At the end of my review. I think I’ve gushed enough about Final Fantasy VII Remake but honestly, this is a great game that will sit with the original as one of the greatest games of all time and, thankfully, is accessible to all with various modes of difficulty to choose from, including Classic Mode, where the characters control themselves and you just input the commands using the ATB bars, which makes it feel more like the original. Final Fantasy VII Remake also has a plethora of post-game content, including New Game Plus, a harder difficulty that abandons the use of items as well as giving enemies stronger move sets and super bosses unique to the hard mode, for those who want a true challenge! So, definitely go out and buy a copy of Final Fantasy VII Remake, regardless of whether you have played the original or not because you really don’t need to have, and make sure to check out my piece on why I think Final Fantasy VII changed the world!
- An incredible reimagining of the Midgar portion of Final Fantasy VII with new moments and characters.
- A dynamic soundtrack that makes each story beat and battle come to life like never before.
- Solid action combat blended with the classic ATB system.
- Beautiful and stunning graphics, as to be expected from Square Enix.
- Some unfortunate texture issues that may be distracting to a critical eye.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is rated PEGI 16 and T for Teen by the ESRB. The game features a bunch of content not suitable for young ones including impalement, people being shot repeatedly, as well as sexual gestures and alcoholic content. Little Jimmy shouldn’t play it, even though it’s a really good game!
This review is based on a retail version of the game supplied by PR for the purpose of review.