Final Fantasy 7 Remake

My first memory of Final Fantasy 7 was watching my brothers play through it when I was eight years old. I had seen nothing like it before and was absolutely fascinated. I've played it through myself a couple times since 1997 and was eagerly awaiting this remake. While I might not be as enthusiastic as a lot of fans, I was still hoping it would live up to expectations. Fortunately, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a fantastic game that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The entire game takes place in Midgar in what is the first four or five hours of the game. This was one of my bigger concerns especially as it's my least favourite portion of the original. The other worry was that things would be padded out so much the game would become tedious. Thankfully this is not the case and I would even say I'm glad that this approach was taken. Focussing on the city allows you to see how things work, how people live and the consequences for both yours and Shinra's actions. The slowed down nature of the main story beats works to submerse you in your surroundings.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

The overall story remains pretty faithful. There are a number of changes to suit the kind of game it is now and the fact it's only a small portion of the original as well as some other additions and omissions. You get to spend more time with Biggs, Wedge and Jessie and their characters are fleshed out considerable. I didn't really care for them before but I particularly enjoyed these sections. There was only one addition that I found to be odd and out of place; a fight with a SOLDIER who I believe is an entirely new character. I would go as far to say their personality was extremely tedious.

Your time is split between following linear story paths and designated sections where you are free to explore a more open area and complete side missions. The side missions are hit and miss, though the majority aren't that interesting. Following the story of the Angel of the Slums is fairly fun and not particularly taxing but if Johnny ever shows up in these games again I think I'll scream. It was a real joy to explore the Wall Market, Sector 5 slums and Sector 7. I felt the Wall Market especially was really well designed, with plenty of verticality and small alleyways to explore.

I'm happy to report that there are a good number of mini-games. While it doesn't quite compare to what I hope the Golden Saucer will bring you can play darts, fight in a battle arena and hit the Wall Market gym and challenge the overwhelmingly positive bros among others. There are also VR missions (VR within the game, not actual virtual reality). This is the way that Square has brought summons into the game. A young Shinra intern seemingly follows your every move and once you provide enough battle data or in-game challenges you can fight Summons in 'VR' to acquire the materia for them. These fights are fun and the summons are beautifully realised.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Materia works in almost the same way as you'd expect. Each weapon has a certain number of slots, some single and some joined, only this time you are able to upgrade each weapon. Blue materia appears to be a lot rarer and 'all' has been replaced by 'magnify', still affecting all targets but considerably weaker. The spells look fantastic and I was able to create a range for each character that I was happy with. You can see the materia slots on the actual weapons which is a really nice touch.

The battles are one of the games strongest points. The turn based fighting has been replaced by a more active approach. You can attack and block freely and doing so increased your ATB gauge. Once one of the two bars has been filled you are then able to cast a spell, use an ability or item, summon or limit break. The abilities that are initially tied to each weapon are fun to use and each fight can be an absolute spectacle. It's also fairly easy to lose track of yourself. The game doesn't pose much in the way of challenge though there are some odd difficulty spikes with a number of seemingly innocuous battles where I died with barely a scratch on the enemies. These are where only specific tactics work. These are few and far between and are fairly easy once you work it out.

I had an absolute blast playing through the game. There were plenty of nostalgic moments, be it for a certain location, character, score (which has also been redone and is outstanding), item, enemy or reference and each brought a smile to my face. The four main characters have been written well. I wasn't a huge fan of Aerith in the original but I liked her much more here. There are some moments of cringe like when Cloud cannot comprehend the concept of a high five which is just unfathomably uncomfortable. Also, the characters occasionally use 'bitch' at an enemy which is just odd. If I have to hear Tifa state that she could really do with a shower one more time I think I will lose my mind. I appreciate characters having one liners so they aren't silent during gameplay but the frequency at which they were repeated was too much. One nice thing is that new ones were introduced to further reflect character's relationships with one another as the game progressed.

In the traditional Square way some of the game looks mind bogglingly beautiful and some looks like placeholder textures. Parts of Midgar were a real spectacle to explore and looking across the expanse of the city from the slums gave such a sense of scale. Then you use one of the paths from one area to the next or talk to an unimportant NPC and it's almost jarring how rough it looks. I appreciate the scale of the game but it still made me to a double-take when coming across an area like this. Compare the two below screenshots. Imagine if the latter was part of the original reveal and how different the reaction would have been.

Skylar and Plux

Skylar and Plux

I do wonder how progress will transfer to the second game. There are a considerable amount of items, equipment and experience as well as my characters setups. I greatly enjoyed exploring the world and am looking forward to doing that in the future remakes. I'm also looking forward to having Red XIII as a playable party member. He's always been my favourite!

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a fantastic remake and a great game. There are so many areas where the developers could trip or make questionable decisions but in my opinion the majority of their direction is spot on. There were a few story beats that led me to raising an eyebrow, especially the nonsense about destiny; something I don't believe in and have a hard time buying into within fiction but then again this had to be a complete story as well as the first part in the series. I think this was the exact right time to make this remake and I cannot wait to see what the next instalments have in store.

5

In Short

  • + The city of Midgar looks wonderful for the most part
    + The character designs are spot on
    + Battle system is a lot of fun and looks fantastic
    + Materia system is faithful and fun to develop

  • - Some awkward moments with character dialogue and interactions
    - Side missions could be a lot more interesting

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