Reviews July 17, 2020
There has been much hate surrounding this remake because many people, like me, failed to understand what Square Enix was creating. Because the original game was so extensive, the Japanese game-maker only delivered the first portion of the game.
Still, I’m talking about a 40H long experience with so much more lore, events, and fights than the original “Midgar Act” had to offer.
1997’s Final Fantasy VII is one of the best games ever released. Back then, it had state-of-the-art graphics, incredible characters, amazing gameplay, and haunting music. For many years, worldwide fans begged Square Enix to remake this RPG for modern consoles.
The company finally fulfilled the request and delivered Final Fantasy VII Remake in April 2020 with the same characters, weapons, powers, and stories you remember. Only that, instead of nostalgia, it works more like a re-imagining: they took the original story and made it better as they explored all of the things that needed to be explored.
It’s a multi-faceted story that will make younger players understand why Final Fantasy VII was held into such high standards. For older fans, though, it’s the game you’ve always known FFVIII could be.
Even if it’s just a portion and even though it doesn’t clearly say “Final Fantasy VII Remake Part I.”
Overall, the remake is a genuine improvement of the original game by fleshing out the characters, in particular, as well as the plot and Cloud’s quest.
In the end, it’s easy to see how much heart and love Square Enix devoted to this Remake, so why should we put down something so honest?
Keep in mind this game only exists because the company answered exactly what the fans wanted: an up-to-date long FFVII experience that does justice to the legendary legacy of one of the best RPGs ever to exist. Even FFVII’s original creator Yoshinori Kitase returned as the remake’s producer. Plus, FFVII’s character designed Tetsuya Nomura returned as the new director. The right hands created this piece.
We need to talk about the experience I had with this game. As I said, this is a 40-hour plus game. Though it’s not clear from the game’s promotional material, FFVII Remake is an episodic tale. This first installment is about the original RPG’s Midgar region, only that it’s about 4x times longer. Even if this is just Episode One, this game has a satisfactory beginning and end cycle.
Midgar city is where we meet ex-soldier Cloud Strife, now a mercenary. Just like before, the introductory scene is just on the verge of action. Cloud is helping Avalanche, a rebel group, in destroying the Mako reactor. Mako is the planet’s life essence, but the dangerous Shinra corporation is taking Mako as their main energy source.
You start your quest with Barret Wallace and Tifa Lockheart, both Avalanche members dedicated to destroying Shinra. You, Cloud, are indifferent to the group, but you slowly understand their cause.
Midgar is currently under the control of the mega-conglomerate known as Shinra Inc, whereas the No. 1 Mako Reactor is a super machine guarded by your typical FF mecha-army.
The story goes from destroying the reactor to escaping Midgard, and whilst the tale doesn’t differ too much from the original, some details go deeper, which makes the game fuller.
As it is, the narrative of this game will catch you and keep you playing more and more, just like the best entries of the FF franchise (FFVIII, FFX, and FFXII come to mind).
But there’s a downside to this episodic tale too, it doesn’t feel like a complete FF game. See, there’s no long travels, no world maps, no zeppelins, no temples, and especially no decision making. It’s just a straight path, over and over. That’s rare for an FF game. Not even mobile FF titles are so boxed.
There’s something very good, though, which is combat. It seems that Square Enix put great efforts into the gameplay mechanics, and it shows. So, even though you’re not getting the open-world experience you’re expecting from an FF title, you’re getting the best combat this franchise has ever seen.
There’s no turn-based combat here. Instead of that, we have real-time combat, much like FFXV, only better.
You get to learn skills as you do on God of War 4 or Devil May Cry 5. In other words, new powers are different combinations on your PS4 controller, so you must master your characters as much as they master their skills.
It takes something else from the likes of Jedi: Fallen Order or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. See, dodging and blocking is as important as attacking. means blind button smash won’t get you anywhere. But it’s also not as hard as the titles I just mentioned. It¿s just right, the right balance between challenge and fun.
Every attack consumes at least two blocks of your Active Time Battle (ATB) bar, which is fairly similar to what we saw on FFXII. You can restore your ATBs faster by using Materia (more on that later). You’re also able to pause battles to select your skills, movements, and items carefully, much like on the Dragon Age Series.
This real-time combat approach is as exciting as it is ferocious. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. You need to think fast and be quick with your controller. Sometimes, though, it seems like the enemies have gone beyond the matrix with its power, as they could kill you with one attack, or assault you non-stop with unblockable powers. These things don’t happen too often, but when they do, you may want to look around before you throw your controller.
For the boss fights, though, you’re going to need your A+ gaming skills.
Strategy, tactics, and a couple of Phoenix Down potions will help you survive the hardest battles, and there’re over 100 different enemies with various boss fights.
There’re 18 different episodes, each of them featuring at least one boss plus optional sub-bosses. Your last fight is, of course, Sephiroth. Here’s some additional info on the game’s walkthrough if you need that extra help.
Whenever things get too tough, you can lower the difficulty settings if you’re about enjoying the story. You can do that by tweaking the battle modes:
Standard mode: lets you use basic attacks, abilities, magic, and items during battles.
Classic mode: your character performs automatic basic attacks on enemies, and the enemies are much weaker.
I have to note that you control Cloud at all times but you can swap between the different characters at any moment, even during battles.
That said, FFVII Remake also has the famous “Limit Breaks”, those battle-changing attacks where you can summon a massive creature to aid you.
During your gameplay, you encounter many NPCs on towns and roads. They can give you side quests which usually involve slaying enemies. After you complete a quest, you earn Gil, the in-game money.
You can then expend this money on Materia, accessories, and weapons. Moreover, sidequests helo you uncover the world, which is why they don’t feel like your typical fetch quest. They are worth your time.
Although the game is linear and works in chapters, side quests are a reason to explore further and rest from the main quest. They are neither long nor boring, but they bring hefty rewards.
Aside from that, there’re puzzles and other mini-games you can encounter during your missions.
All in all, FFVII Remake has enough diversity regarding gameplay scenarios to keep you entertained and make it feel new and exciting every once in a while. That’s something that many real-time RPGs are lacking these days.
Another thing that makes this game quite a fun ride is its numerous weapons, each one featuring a unique combat ability. Now, to learn the weapon’s ability, you have to execute those abilities many times to raise your character’s expertise with the weapon. For example, you can get a 100 percent proficiency by using an ability about 12 times. Once you master an ability, you can use it even with a different weapon.
Leveling up also gives you skill points you can use to unlock weapon upgrade notes. You can select the upgrades manually or let the game automatically select the abilities. I recommend you do it manually for each character…that’s part of the magic of every FF game.
The Materia System is exactly how it was before. It’s about stacking “Materia Orbs” to your weapons and accessories to add a certain bonus to your characters. These upgrades may add a de-buff, a buff, a healing system, elemental attacks, and other magical skills.
You can collect Materia from battles, rewards, and stores. They give your characters plenty of flexibility and the possibility to play around different FF builds.
Lastly, another thing we can dearly enjoy as a gamer on this AAA title is its graphics and its soundtrack.
FFVII Remake is most definitely one of the better-looking titles of the passing generation of consoles. With a few exceptions movement glitches and hidden low-res textures, everything looks authentic and alive.
The characters, enemies, and the rest of the creatures exist with detail, and except some far background stills, the game looks stunning thanks to the power of its Unreal 4 graphics engine.
Lastly, this Remake does justice to FFVII’s OST, which is considered as one of the best soundtracks in the game industry. Te new version remixes the old 8-bit tunes and adds new elements.
We’ve also got some fresh tracks with vocals, so this old & new musical variety (which include EDM, Rock, Blues, Jazz, and Hip Hop) is the sonic imprint you need to transport you to Midgard, into Cloud’s shoes, in the middle of a world-ending conflict.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is only available for PS4. It will remain a PS4 exclusive until April 20201, when it’s due to arrive for Xbox One, PC, and at least backward compatible for the Xbox Series X. You can read more about the game’s mechanics or buy the title on FFVII Remake’s site.
Additionally, FFVII Remake will probably be available for the PS5 at launch because of retro-compatibility.
The fact that this is not the complete game and that I would have to pay the price of 3 or 4 AAA titles to enjoy the full FFVII remake bothers me. The fact that this is a straight-line experience divided into chapters instead of an open-world game also bothers me.
Nevertheless, Final Fantasy VIII Remake offers plenty of value for both new and old fans to enjoy. It has superb gameplay, fantastic graphics, and exciting OST. And, most of all, it delivers a complete story-line full of depth and character development. An easy pick for one of the best games of 2020.
I’m waiting for the next act, although I’m not sure if this formula will keep up with audiences in the years to come. Do you think Square Enix took the right desition in dividing FFVII into various episodes? Let me know in the comments below!