I don’t think there is a remake that has as much to lose as Final Fantasy VII.
It is a game that is adored more than most and while it has a story that kinda holds up in 2019, there is a lot about that game that is dated, with most people’s tinted glasses filling in more story from Wikipedia articles than actually occurred in the game itself. I am one of those fans, and I was keen to see how the first part of this remake could be a game by itself and the start of something bigger.
Yet somehow it exceeded every expectation I had.
Anyone with experience of Final Fantasy VII will know this game as being the first four hours of the game, or the Midgar sequence. Newbies will experience a story where a mercenary helps an eco-terrorist group to complete the bombing of a Mako reactor. The mercenary is Cloud and he is new to this line of work as he joins the team of Jessie, Wedge, Biggs, and Barret to destroy this reactor as Avalanche knows that draining the world of Mako will kill it.
They hail from the slums that lie under a massive city on a platform that is completely run by the games antagonist, the Shinra Electric Power Company. The Shinra Electric Power Company pretty much owns everything, thanks to advances in Mako technology. Everything about this game’s story is enhanced, with every character including ones that were previously glorified footnotes in the game after two hours.
At no point in the game did I feel like they had unnecessarily added plot to pad it out, there are some puzzles in moments where I felt like that, but the game is cut scene heavy overflowing the brim with plot. Most of this is character development, as the team interacts with each other and learns how to work with this new mercenary as their little bombing routine kicks off events that are so much bigger than they could have imagined. Even Cloud who starts off as the JRPG mopey dull and uninteresting protagonist character develops a personality and becomes one of many that you will actually come to care about.
One of the things that is most impressive is how well they nailed the combat. You will do hacking and slashing like modern final fantasy games, but as you fight the ATB gauge fills up which lets you unleash more powerful attacks. Some are weapon attacks which you get by using the right weapons, and others are gained by equipping materia to slots on your gear. You can switch between party members on the fly, or leave others to auto attacks and use their ATB attacks as they fill up. It is a balance of old and new that excels.
The game even has a classic mode which has the whole party auto attacking, and you use the ATB attacks as the bar fills up. You can choose the difficulty mode at any time during the game so dabbling with these modes is encouraged. Personally I used the classic mode in the arena when trying to level up materia which made for a fun change of pace.
To help make sure the story has the impact it does is the game’s look and sound. The music is as much classic Final Fantasy as it is new, and the voice acting is better than most games get their hands on. Added to this is the stunning visual design that makes the whole thing look and sound like the masterpiece that it is, which only helps you become attached to the excellent cast of characters as you go on this ride with them.
The game is relatively linear for a final fantasy game where you can only access certain areas in chapters, and most of it has you limited to following a sequence of events. This tends to grind a lot of Final Fantasy veterans’ gears, but given the plot heavy nature of the game, to keep this in under 50 hours, it earns the right to be linear. Hell the 50 hours felt like a lot less and that’s definitely how you want to feel at the end of the game.
Some puzzle scenes, like the original game, felt a touch drawn out at times which I don’t feel added that much. But at the end of the day I was enjoying playing the game itself so much I didn’t mind , and any frustration was because I wanted to keep experiencing the excellent plot. There was also a game breaking bug in one tense scene which had me trying to look through a vent and unable to leave the scene until I Googled it, found others had the same issue, and loaded a save which cost me a half an hour. This was especially notable because the game is 50 hours of polished glory.
I also had one annoyance in battles where flying enemies that hover up and down would keep hovering up when you attack in the air. Because you don’t control jumping, characters would sometimes jump and attack, and other times attack on the ground missing the enemy. Monsters would then sometimes hover higher when you character jumps and attacks, and create this bizarre cycle where they would keep going higher until you landed a final blow or focused on another enemy.
I was so ready to pick this game apart bit by bit, but I have so little to say badly about it. My only two critiques are ones that would be forgettable in most games, but in the masterpiece that is Final Fantasy VII Remake is notable because of how excellent the rest of the game is. The story ends in a perfect moment that wraps up the game’s plot, and prepares for Part 2.
I want to get stuck into Part 2 now, so I hope the wait isn’t too long.
Released: April 2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix