Final Fantasy VII Remake is a modern day reimagining of one of the most loved Japanese role-playing games of all time. The first of an undetermined number of parts, it takes the story of the original Playstation game, infuses it with modern storytelling and game mechanics, sprinkled it with beautiful cut-scenes and in game visuals, and rewrites the story in a way that will make the fans’ heads spin so much, they will talk and speculate about it until the next part comes. Is the game worth the wait? Let’s find out.
A word of caution though, there might be slight spoilers ahead.
The very first thing that will stand out to you is the game’s beautiful visuals. This game is visually stunning, and holds its own in a console generation that had a lot of graphically powerful games.
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Square Enix may have lost its edge when it comes to making top-notch RPGs, but a lot of their titles still look beautiful. Final Fantasy Remake, however, puts it up a notch. From the exquisite character models in both cut-scenes and in-game, to the beautiful environments, and finally, to the fight animations, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a feast to the eyes.
The graphical fidelity is on the same level as – and at times even superior to – Final Fantasy XV, a game which ran on Square Enix’s own Lumimous Engine. The Midgar slums were brought to life with iconic environments, tons of NPCs, and a lot of color. That said, like Final Fantasy XV, some NPCs look less detailed than the main characters. It’s not as bad as in XV, but it can be noticed by some.
There were also a lot of pop-ups during the game. I played the game on a base PS4, and that’s probably the reason why. They’re not bad enough to constitute a problem, but for eyes spoiled by the PS4 Pro and the PC, it can be annoying.
Graphically speaking, this is a game that is begging to be released on the next generation consoles and the PC. Things like the render of some objects like doors could have benefitted from the vast power of these future machines. Also, some people have pointed out that its use of “prerendered” backgrounds in one chapter as a step back.
I don’t share this opinion at all, as the game still looked visually impressive, especially for a console game. Unlike PCs, consoles have a set amount of resources to render polygons especially in a level this large. While it is important to be discerning when it comes to games and their eye candy, this isn’t the PC Master Race where we nitpick each pixel. Console games will always have trade-offs. If it serves the game well, it should be good enough.
All in all, it is a very beautiful game.
Music For the Ages
Final Fantasy VII’s score is known for being one of the most epic and memorable in video game history. Expanded materials (The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII) largely continued that trend, and Remake continues that tradition. With a mixture of old tunes given a new twist, and new tunes that sit comfortably with the old, you’ll never be disappointed with the overall track.
While legendary series composer Nobuo Uematsu is still credited with the score (largely because of the originals), other staff took over the task, and they did a fantastic job both of producing music worthy of a modern game, and keeping Uematsu’s touch and style on everything. I especially like the transitions from level music to low-key conflict, to battle theme, and then back again.
The voice-acting deserves praise as well. Both Japanese and English voice actors did their job very well. Their voice acting had emotion and life.
The Japanese VA were all veterans of the series, being literally the same cast as the Japanese version of Advent Children, but the English VA are all new and better. Usually with Final Fantasy, I prefer the Japanese voices, but in this game, both were equally good that I did my second run in English.
Cody Christian’s Cloud is much more expressive than Steve Burton’s, without sounding much different. No offense to Burton who I loved as Cloud for the longest time, but Christian perfectly brings to life a younger Cloud Strife. But I have to say, my favorite was both John Bentley as Barret (you knocked it out of the park dude), and Tyler Hoechlin as Sephiroth (didn’t realize Superman could do creepy evil characters).
The sound effects are great as well. The clash of Cloud’s sword, Tifa’s punches and Barret’s gatling gun are all made really well. But the SFX really shines during abilities and limit breaks, especially Cloud’s. Nothing feels more satisfying than hearing Cloud’s Braver connect on a staggered foe.
The “A” in ARPG.
The Final Fantasy series has come a long way from the turn-based traditional battle system of old and Final Fantasy VII Remake feels like a culmination of that process. Employing both real-time action with tactical elements was a genius move by the developers, keeping the frenetic action introduced by Final Fantasy XV while keeping things tactical by retaining the ATB bar that the original FF7 was famous for, and introducing “Tactical Mode.”
This is where Final Fantasy VII Remake shines: the balance between frenetic, Advent Children style action and the time-slowing Tactical Mode to allow you enough time to make a decision to either use abilities or spells for any member of your party. Going hack and slash will kill you, as certain enemies and bosses require certain tactics to defeat, and combining abilities on a staggered opponent yield massive damage. It looks and plays pretty, and is very fun as well.
It is not a perfect system, however, as you cannot control which targets your AI-controlled party members will focus on unless you take over them directly. You will be able to control which targets they will use their abilities on instead. Maybe a modified gambit system could have been used to micro-manage them. Still, this is a fine system that is deep, but very accessible.
Levels are mostly linear although wide environments like slums and the Wall Market are big enough that you can roam around. It does feel more like a God of War style of traversal than Final Fantasy XV, but I’m not complaining. Even the original game was linear until you get to the world map. It does make you feel like you wanted the ability to freely roam Midgar and in some ways, you’re free to look around, but you are always tied to where the story needs you to be. This isn’t an open-world game and that’s not a bad thing since at this point in the story, it doesn’t need to be.
Side quests are usually centered around that area with the exception of one or two that will require you to backtrack somewhat, but it doesn’t feel like a chore especially since you can choose to teleport to the quest giver directly after fulfilling the quest, sparing you from having to walk all the way back.
The problem though, is that the Side-quests aren’t as deep as games such as The Witcher 3. It does add some humor or a nice utilization of lore here and there, not to mention it provides an avenue for you to farm for XP, AP, and SP, which you will need to level up. Experience is for leveling up characters, AP is for materia, and SP is for weapons. Yes, the weapons can be upgraded in this game as well, allowing you strengthen the Buster Sword to a point that you can use it on the final boss. Materia leveling is still a joy, especially if you manage to figure out how certain combinations can work to your advantage.
Still, some side-quests don’t feel compelling enough. While it does help improve Cloud’s reputation as a reliable mercenary, it could have been a lot deeper, or even lengthier.
My last gripe would be the camera. It works most of the time, but when it doesn’t, it can prove costly. Like when in battle, the camera sometimes does not cooperate, and you’re left with guessing where the enemy is especially if they’re small insects scurrying around the area. I guess there is Tactical Mode for that, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the camera sometimes can’t keep up with the action.
Overall, the gameplay is fun, but with enough room for improvement for the next parts.
The Classic Story Remade
The appeal of Final Fantasy VII has always been its story. It is both a personal tale of acceptance and discovery, and an epic journey. It is for this that the original was loved and a slew of spin-off stories were made.
Final Fantasy VII Remake manages to tell a complete story out of the first 3 to 4 hours of the original game, and manages to include decent character development. Although the game is more consistent with Advent Children’s depiction of Cloud Strife than the original, his emotions and internal struggle were better depicted in this game.
And it’s not just Cloud: everyone in the party were brought to life in the best way possible. Tifa’s inner strength and vulnerabilities, Barret’s commitment to his cause and Marlene, and Aerith’s innocence were all brought to life by both the Japanese and English voice cast.
This game was mostly faithful to the original story, but it will be clear to everyone that important changes were made, not just to expand the narrative but also to take the story to a new direction. The latter has proven to be divisive to the fans, but I encourage you to play the game and have your own take on it.
It will not make much sense if you keep comparing it to the original or keep denying the canonicity of the Compilation. You will have to take it all into consideration as you ponder upon the changes in the context of this story. Simply put, the story and the world of Final Fantasy VII has truly been remade, the ramifications of which are yet to be known.
The game ends in a mind-blowing cliffhanger fashion that will make fans talk about it until the next part comes along, and that might be by design since this the first game in the Remake project.
Were the changes justified? I can’t really say for sure since there’s a lot of story left to be told. What I do feel is that they’re on a high risk, high reward scenario where the next part will be crucial to see if these changes pay off. On a personal level, I did like the changes and that big twist at the end.
Final Fantasy VII Remake had the unenviable task of trying to live up to a well-loved classic, and it did fantastically. It is a game that was made with great love and care, whose good points far outshine the bad.
While its linear fashion and some pretty big changes in the story may disturb longtime fans, the way the game was made and how the whole story was told is enough for me to wait in anticipation for the next part. I just hope it won’t take Square Enix another five years to get there.
* This review article is written based on an officially received copy of the game for the purpose of reviewing the game.