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Review | Final Fantasy VII Remake

"Hate them and love them - Square Enix finally got most of the things right and we are honored to play that masterpiece from 23 years ago which set some ground rules for the genre and the whole industry. Experience the loving memory, now in 4K!"

by Foggy, 12-04-2020, Edited by: Jim

I remember my first contact with FF7. My old man came with the game and told me he has something new, apparently good as well! He also told me I need to finish first 2 discs to play the 3rd one. Of course, as soon as he left, I put disc 3 in my PS1. Didn’t work out!

Lifestream and Final Fantasy stream

Although back in those days I’ve only watched my old man play, I fell in love with the game. My first real contact was around Disc 2, where I tried to grind a bit. How easy is to tell a kid to do something hehe. I busted my ass off with grinding, didn’t even notice the timer on a save point got stuck at 99:99 hours!

Few years later, I was ready for this. I took my English vocabulary and started my journey. And man was it something else. That was and still is, the best game of my life. I just connected and every few years there is a time for me to replay this wonder of a game. So, with the new remake plans, I was happy and really careful; messing with what I loved so much can be a double-edged sword.


Start and the icon of the game in one

Let us remind ourselves who are the masterminds behind the scene. Who developed this gem back in ’97 which defined this genre and direction of many JPRG to come? Original producer was Hironobu Sakaguchi, who left Square and went to Mistwalker studios. That man is a God! Super Saiyan one! If you think about early FF titles, Chrono Cross, Parasite Eve, Front Mission 3…There are no words to describe how sad I am that this mastermind now develops games for mobiles.

Current space in remake version of the game filled Yoshinori Kitase – original director and writer. Tetsuya Nomura is now a director on this project, while he was an artist in OG (Original Game). We can add Naoki Hamaguchi and Motomu Toriyama on this position as well. Kazushige Nojima and Yoshinori Kitase were the guys behind the scripts, whilst now we have only Nojima on this position. Without further ado, let me just say Nobue Uematsu was and is on music segment; so in general, I would say we are good with the remake structure of people! 23 long years people, 23 years…


The girl which will break many hearts. Aerith is the type of girl you bring home to meet your parents

First Impressions

Demo was out few weeks before the actual release. I think it made a negative impact on people. I was one of them. I was not feeling the game, nor the combat. It was just simple and weird with that camera. I had fears that they will not incorporate that feeling that FF7 OG had, I those fears were realized partially. With all that in mind, 90GB felt like an eternity to download. Then, it was ready. I was ready.

My first impressions were still a bit off. Something didn’t felt right. Maybe it was just my nostalgia, but I think it was the soundtrack. The re-mixed many songs, gave them fresh and new direction. Not that there are bad, they are really good, but I am more of a fan of original music and those melodies. Here, I feel like they want too much out of the songs. Battle song starts, after few tunes, it goes into something else. Why? Why would you do that to me? This is my personal objection, don’t mind me, soundtrack is not bad, it is just not my cup of tea; being a fan of the OG so much.


"C'mon with all those light effects!"

The greed and the connection

The whole idea about getting the game out in episodes was to expand the story. Sure, I can dig that. The second part of the story is that the Square gentleman’s want to earn some green papers on us. Yeah, we will buy the game 7 times. I hate that fact and I really disapprove this approach. Fun fact is that this episode covers around half of the original disk 1. Holy cow. So, what, we will wait 30 more years to get the whole game? Although, disk 3 is very short, so the best case scenario is probably getting 3 episodes. Hopefully, soon.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, even though this story is 23 years old. I loved it. Every bit of it. Still, there are couple of downsides and if you play for the first time, you will be confused at the end. Nojima went a bit Kingdom Hearts in here, which I don’t honestly like.

You will for sure enjoy some scenes in 4K, your characters don’t carry toasters instead of their first – that is all great to see. On the other hand, expect some scenes to be a bit different, even cut out, like the one where you go down using the pinball machine platform in Seventh Heaven bar. I miss those, but new ones are added which can compensate that.

What I didn’t understand was the Roche guy. They added one new guy to the story in early chapters and gave no explanations whatsoever who he really is. Weird addition. Even though some people constantly complain about the slow pacing – that is the truth; but I loved it that way. Why to rush anything when we finally have this in front of ourselves and when we have opportunity to expand one of the best stories we lived 23 years ago? I don’t get it, but that is also maybe just me. This can get annoying on your second play through, as you cannot skip some parts, so it can get on your nerves when trying to rush through chapters.


The whole Avalanche party in one picture. To bad you can't go downstairs with that pinball machine...

I’m telling you a final fantastic story…

All about the story was good back in the days. The whole universe about earth is filled with energy (lifestream) and all beings start from there and end back in it was a good concept. Even the side projects in this universe, such as Crisis Core were good – story wise. Maybe some like Dirge of Cerberus not so much, but general idea about the world is what I like.

Lifestream keeps everything flowing, life depends on it. Of course, there was a giant greedy bastard called Shinra. They (he) built a city, like a facility that slurps the energy from the lifestream itself, transforming it into electricity and producing materia – chunks of energy that can be used to grant magic powers. Doesn’t it remind of our present and what our electrical companies does to us? Minus the material part, but that would be awesome!


Jessie is the new crush in the game and one of the most lovable characters you will meet

Cloud (main guy you play with!) will come as part of the Avalanche group. It is a group of people who are against Shinra killing the plan slowly but surely. In the beginning, Cloud is here just for the money, as he recently quit SOLDIER (special Shinra division made of soldiers which had special powers, as they dip them in lifestream itself to grant them special powers). He was a first class SOLDIER, badass fighter. With the story you will watch his transformation and care about the others, but that is something you need to relieve by yourself. The story is good, slow paced, detailed, with some “black holes” which will leave new players confused. But I don’t see any other way, it is Squares fault they publish in episodes and now they cannot explain everything here, what would they talk about in later episodes then…


Cloud, being a SOLDIER, is affected with flashbacks from all the mako energy that he was exposed to

The act and presentation

There is not enough words I can use to describe the acting in this game. Both that and the voice of our heroes. 10/10 without any doubt. You will for sure feel them, live through them and draw that energy. The humor is also great, when Barret picks on Cloud and does some comments, they are simply hilarious. Presentation of the game is really something else. Impressive to say at least. When you are watching a scene and the next moment is actually you playing it…I love everything about this segment. Both Japanese and English dubs are great.


One of the most beautiful locations

What gave me satisfaction is that every living being in this game has a voice over. Every random NPC will talk when you go pass them. Even though side content is not at the same quality level, the fact they gave us audios on everyone is worth the praise. Those NPCs can be annoying as they produce more titles that your screen can hold, so make sure to turn that off in your options. And since there are more NPCs on the streets, they kind of lost that unique touch and dialogues there were holding in the OG. Nevertheless, main storyline is above everything else and your focus will be there.

A need for a side content

Side quests start weak. Typical fetch quests with awful NPCs. I don’t want to get rid of the rats or find the kids in the town – give me something fun! That was the first point of danged alert I got.

When you actually go through that first part of the game and the quests themselves, you will notice they expand the story and flow of chapters a bit. So, it’s not like they are just fetch quests. Even the second part of the game is few levels above with this side content, probably because of the fact that more important NPCs give them to you, so it kind of raises the importance and uniqueness. Personally, I had no issues with this content, it was decent, nothing special, but ok experience – mostly since of the additional story reveal.

What is new is that you now have a complete map/minimap with quest markers, which means you will barely get lost. Or not even at all. I prefer when I need to work my way through, not when the game holds my hand, but I can live with this. Map is good, so at least something.


Yeah, like you can focus and find your way even through linear locations with the mini-skirt like that

Landscapes, locations and the game linearity

First few in-game locations are nothing special. Midgar is a bitch when it comes to presenting something beautiful. Still, I disliked the use of many same assets which ends up with seeing the bloody cone for 100 times through the game. The whole game is a bit like a bunch of hallways (FF13!) where you can barely miss anything. I miss some hidden path, some secret, eastern egg, something…I would call that a minus, but at the same time, experience those old OG locations in this kind of graphics is everything but ugly and boring. Midgar is a bitch, like I said, not a grateful location to begin with.

Second part of the game is much better and you will love what they did there. Wall Market and Chapter 9 is great, so many things are unchanged and scenes there are just hilarious. Cloud as a woman, again in 4K, that is something you must see.


Don the porno man announcement - Cloud will be the best woman in this chapter

Expert the linearity and simplicity, wrapper in a beautiful basket. Just look up from the Slums and tell me it is not spectacular to see the celling. Do not expect fun and many puzzles, mostly it will be you, your companions and some talking while you fight and trying to reach your goal. Do not get me wrong, even with those flaws, the graphics are a wonder, I have more than 800 screenshots. I’m not even kidding!


Not the Concrete Genie this time

Battles – a win on its own

Second, maybe even the most important aspect of the game – battles and the fighting system. Changing legendary turn-based system into action fast paced Kingdom Hearts style one is a tricky decision. I hated them because of this. Then, FF7 Remake happened. Boss fights happened. It was everything, but not simple at all. Not a button masher at all. Fighting system is lifestream of this game, alongside its story. You will have to love what they did here, they developed action approach will enough ATB use that it can satisfy many people.

Everything is performing in real time. While you hold or kick your square button to attack, you will fill the ATB bar. You can fill 2 of those and then you can use your special abilities, magic, items or summons later on. It certainly feels like combination of the old and the new system. I loved it. You can also dodge, defend and even counter on some occasions. It certainly is a pinch of fresh air. While you wait that ATB bar, you play, making it dynamic and fun. You can also change through 2 styles/perform different basic attacks with the triangle button. Do not try playing on Easy, Normal is just enough to enjoy and Hard is if you want a real challenge.

Many people complain that AI is garbage. I can agree with that, but at the same time I don’t expect the game to play by itself. I expect to control most of the events and how I want to spend my specials. That is the whole point, to develop a strategy, deplete that HP bars and survive while you aim to stagger the enemy. Stagger, the new mechanic.


Stagger that piece of crap and spam lighthing on it

Here lies the gist of the battle system. Aim to exploit weaknesses and you will eventually stagger enemies. That is when they are exposed to high damage and bringing out the best works wonders. You can’t just mash your way through, it doesn’t make much sense. That, I like.

ATB bar can fill 2 times – 3 if you combine with special Refocus materia. Some abilities require 2 bars, some 1. Imagine being in low HP situation and you can’t attack, therefore ATB will not fill as much and you can’t heal since you miss the ATB bar. You have to be smart and careful, even build a tank character and provoke enemies on him. Magic attacks can save your life, mostly enemies/bosses have weakness on elements. Combine with element absorption and you will feel like the king. Every time I tried to force my way through, I died.


Do not, I repeat, do not enter this fight without all 4 attack magic elements

What is great in all this, is the fact that enemies have good variety number. They are all different and they require different approach. Enemies with shields are weak against magic, but they will hit you real hard, plus they will mini-stagger you if they hit you. Meaning, they will interrupt your flow and even inflict some status on you, like paralyze you which means you will act as a sponge. You also need to be careful about your MP; points are low and limited, meaning you will not be able to abuse magic and win your way through by cheesing.

Stagger and weaknesses are the best cure against harder bosses, don’t you forget about it!


Sphere grid weapon upgrade system. Simple but fun to experiment with

Weapons and RPG system

Preparation is half of the job. Weapons, which number is not great unfortunately, but enough as this is only half of disk 1, you will be able to upgrade through in-game upgrade system. All weapons can be upgraded in direction that certain weapon will offer. This means you can use your default weapons through the whole game if you want. By leveling of collecting manuscripts, you will get those points to spend on weapons. Of course, every weapons comes with slots for equipping materia, as well as the special ability which can be learn from the weapon and used across others when you learn it.

Materias, as said, can be linked. Elemental plus fire on you weapons connected slot means you will attack with fire elemental. Doing the same on armor slots means you will defend from that element and even absorb it when you raise materia to a certain level.


Taken before Leviathan wiped out the floor with my bodies

Leveling and grind is not easy in this game. Not difficulty-wise, but convenience wise. Since there are no random encounters, you will have to depend on different means to respawn enemies. But, you don’t even have to grind EXP. If you plan to do multiple playthroughs, you don’t have to grind at all. The flow and development is just about right, so there is no need to grind. Maybe only AP for material levels, which can come in handy on certain difficulty. You can also test your skill in coliseum in few places through the game.

Summons are present, but they pose a different help than before. When you spend longer time in a fight, summon bar will appear. When it fills, you can call equipped summon and he we act like 4th character. You can spend your ATB to perform summon attacks and when his active time depletes, he will attack with the strongest attack and disappear. They help a lot, use them if you struggle.

In all of this I only had issues with the camera. But, you can adjust some camera levels in options. Still, I had issues when I was hitting the celling and I saw nothing in certain situations.


Good ol' Ifrit. The most common, yet one of the most effective summons. Always call them, always.

Boss battle are most definitely the beauty of the system itself. Every boss fight is different, dynamic and fun in its own way. Add beautiful environments and animations in certain phases of those and you have a winner.

Some bosses will kill you. Don’t worry, you can repeat the last battle and maybe prepare better. This is kinf of an in-game flow, since you have no idea what to bring on a certain boss. Sure, you can bring variety of elemental magic, but you never know until you scan them what to do. I see this as a plus, since I love to explore my possibilities. To reincarnate your favorite OG battles speak for itself. I’m happy that they ditched the FFXV battle system and made this, it is so much better. Even though, I already see that many will also hate it. That is fine, we can’t all like same things.

Your biggest ally are your Limit breaks. Even though you have 2 (Braver is common ability here), there will be super cool to use and they will save you near the end of some boss fights. Beware, you can miss with your limit break.


The point where game just got better and starts to go that way

Just as a reminder – whichever weapon you equip, that one will be shown in all animations. Coolio!

Duration

With all things given, expect 30-50h for your first run. For many, that will be it. I think it is worth the money. Side content could be better, but with the fact that it is expanding the experience, I don’t see it as a minus so much, even though some quests are just lame.

You can save your game whenever you like, which is another thing I dislike a bit. I want those save points man!

If you go for a hard run, expect another 30 hours minimum, plus by getting all collectibles will take some time. Even one chapter has branching paths, so expect a bit of surprises and neat stuff on your second run.


Sephiroth is my nr. 1 villain. Cloud is, on the other hand, presented so well, I start to like his personality.

Conclusion

To sum things up. FF7 Remake is a game which defines genre on its own terms, while being decent follow up of its parent. Even non JRPG lowers can find some love with the battle system and I’m sure you can find some love for the characters and the story. Presentations of the game is really on a high level, this is for sure the most beautiful anime game ever developed. Just be aware that the game “opens” after 10-ish hours. That’s just the way with JRPG’s.

For all the fans out there – no worries. Don’t judge too fast, let the game flow in with its ideas and a bit of freshness. This were good ground terms for first FF7 attempt, they can just build on this. It is a modern FF, but with enough nostalgia to keep you entertained. I only see the ending as something to possibly hate, but I wouldn’t go that far as not much can be said for certain.

If I’m being completely honest, I would go around 88-91 with the grade. Since I really want to praise Square with this lovely game, despite its flaws, I’m going with higher grade.

Some technical problems like dark/light changes can present an issue. That comes with slow rendering, so you can see some blurry objects, but that gets loaded fast. They will patch it up for sure. There is so many things to look at, you will not even notice this later.

We need sequel, fast. Tomorrow is not fast enough, give it to us yesterday.

"Almost perfect (near-perfect) runner up of a modern-retro experience called Final Fantasy VII."