After years of waiting, the Final Fantasy VII Remake is finally (FINALLY!) upon us.
I was in Secondary One when the original FF7 came out on the PS1. I still have fond memories of rushing down to Siglap Center (with fellow fanatic Sikai) right after school let out. We bought our copies and then rushed home to play.
Weirdly enough, I never got into the game as Sikai or my other friends did. While they were excitedly chatting about how cool Sephiroth is or how awesome Knights of the Round materia was or even how to get limit breaks, I just stood around listening.
Instead, I was hooked on (and enjoying) Wild Arms instead because (and this will be blasphemy to many) I honestly thought that the original Final Fantasy VII was sorely overrated.
More than 20 years later, here I am.
I’ve seen (and tried) the demo at the Tokyo Game Show, replayed the demo when it came out on the PSN and now, I’ve played through the remake (courtesy of SIES) and you’re about to read about how I feel about it.
So…do I still have the same opinion? Read and find out…Oh and there may be minor spoilers if you’ve not played the original!
What is Final Fantasy VII Remake?
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a remake of Final Fantasy VII, a single player JRPG that originally came out for the PS1 in the late 90s. It was heralded as the game that made JRPGs (and RPGs in general) mainstream.
It was also the first Final Fantasy game to not be on a Nintendo console, a major thing back in the day.
It’s developed by Square Enix (known back then as Squaresoft) with Sony doing the publishing duties. It’s only available for the PS4 right now, but is a timed exclusive and slated to come to the Xbox One (and possibly PC) next year.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is actually just the first part of the whole story. The original game took place across the world of Gaia, while the new remake only covers the initial part of the game that takes place in Midgar.
Midgar was originally just a small slice of the game, around 5 – 10 hours of gameplay and that’s if you took your time and explored, as well as doing the optional stuff.
In the Final Fantasy VII Remake, the gameplay time’s been buffed to more than twice that. I clocked in at about 21 hours, with my sidequests around 70% done.
Despite the decent length, I honestly felt like I was playing an episodic game throughout.
Don’t get me wrong, the game’s full featured and is worth its asking price but knowing that you’re not getting the whole experience is something that irks me. The fact that Square Enix’s not said how data will be transferred to the next part’s also a contributor.
I don’t want to level up Cloud and company to Level 50, get all the limit breaks and stuff only to find out that most of the hard work will not be carried over.
While the story beats still remain mostly the same, areas you progress through have been upsized; what were once just a handful of screens in the PS1 game (which you can run through in a matter of minutes) can now take you upwards of half an hour (or more!) to complete.
Some dungeons fare better than most with this upsizing; particularly the train graveyard. It’s much more spookier now, with its own subplot. It’s a bit out of the blue (because it’s never mentioned before you reach the place) but it’s a pretty cool new addition to a location that was just blazed through in the original.
A Classic Retold.
The expanded stuff also applies to the story.
Without divulging too much, it’s safe to say that you’ll love the Avalanche members (Jessie and Wedge especially) more than you ever did. These characters now have much more believable personalities and in Wedge’s case, a huge love for cats!
On the flip side, you’ll also see how despicable Shinra really is, especially the President and Heidegger.
The Turks (a team of Shinra’s elite enforcers), who were portrayed as goofball villains in the original, also show their dark side more in the remake. Personally, I can’t look at Rude and Reno the same way again, even if they were semi-good guys (and seemingly reformed) in Advent Children.
Other parts of the story have also been tweaked to accommodate the minor story changes. Let’s just say that Cloud’s not the only SOLDIER you’ll be encountering in the story.
While most of the expanded stuff’s pretty good, I’m kind of ambivalent on the new mercenary quests Cloud can take out at certain chapters of the game. Ostensibly they’re there to boost his rep with the locals, but you don’t really see much difference whether you do them or not. They’re just there for busywork, with zero impact on anything. The quests you can do aren’t that imaginative either; you either have to kill something, find something or both.
With most of the game touched up or minutely adjusted, the game’s battle system has also undergone a total overhaul.
It’s now (mostly) real time, with you mashing buttons to attack….yup, the premiere JRPG is now an action RPG.
There’s a catch; you’ll need to fill up meters before you can do any advanced actions. That means while you can freely attack, dodge or block, you can’t use items, special moves, magic or summon unless you have your meter filled (which fills up as you attack).
Time slows down to a crawl (though the fight still goes on in the background) when you open the menu to do those actions, leading to some pretty impressive (but unintentional) slowmo moments. I wish the game had a photo mode just for this because some of the battles can make for really cool shots.
For the purists, there’s a Classic mode, which attempts to mimic the original’s ATB (Active Time Battle) system but since the game defaults to Easy mode if you choose that, it makes the game all too easy.
It’s a non-stressful mode to be sure (since the AI will do the attacking for you) as all you need to do is give commands via menus but it takes the fun out of the battles. That, and the AI can make some really boneheaded decisions (such as being too passive or not blocking moves you can see coming from a mile away).
That said, some characters have it much easier than others. Barret with his machine gun arm, can just hang back and fire with impunity if you’re skilled. The AI cheats a bit in this case (as it always targets the player) but you can also game the system by switching to another character if your character’s under threat.
If you’ve seen the screenshots, then you know that Final Fantasy VII Remake is a beautiful game. On 4K (with a PS4 Pro), it’s magnificent though there are some questionable textures that detract from that somewhat.
Texture streaming and pop up were issues I experienced regularly; especially if you’re running around in populated areas like Wall Market or the Sector 7 Slums. Blurry placeholder textures would suddenly morph to high definition ones as I ran past or crowds of bystanders would magically appear when I rounded a corner.
It’s an annoyance but if you’ve played a ton of games, not a particularly major one. It’s just something you have to live with. Perhaps on the PS5, with its much vaunted SSD, these streaming issues would be fixed. That is, if the game actually does become backwards compatible.
At the end of the day though, the best part about the Final Fantasy VII Remake has got to be its music. Even though I found the original game to be overrated, I’ve never taken issue with the music.
Somehow, the sequel’s upheld that opinion.
The remixed tunes are as good as the original (just like The Black Mages’ rendition of One Winged Angel (Advent Children) is as awesome as the original), coexisting peacefully. While I’ll always have a soft spot for the original version of Aerith’s and Tifa’s theme, the new tweaked versions are just as good.
I honestly can’t wait for the game’s soundtrack to come out next month. I’m sure as hell grabbing it when it does.
The Bottom Line.
Final Fantasy VII Remake has me rethinking my opinion about the game. I’m not completely sold on it yet (since the game isn’t complete) but what’s Square Enix’s done with the remake has started to win me over.
Characters that I’ve never given a second thought to (Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, Reno, Rude) are now much more fleshed out and more human, making them more relatable.
Barret (who in my opinion) was a lame Mr. T wannabe in the original, is now more lovable. Hell, he might even be my favourite now! Even Aerith (I still call her Aeris!), who I found to be too cloyingly sweet in the first game, is much more nuanced now.
If nothing else, the Final Fantasy VII Remake has made me care about its characters and I think that’s a pretty decent accomplishment. While the plot seems to be more or less the same, I have a feeling that Square Enix’s planning something major for the next part…especially after finishing the game.
Still, it’s by no means the best remake I’ve played (Resident Evil 2 holds that title). There are some questionable additions (like Cloud’s Mercenary Quests) that seem to only be there to make you spend more time in what’s just a small slice of the whole enchilada.
Those minor issues shouldn’t stop you from enjoying one of the best RPGs in years though. It’s not exactly the Final Fantasy VII you might remember (and you’ll see why when you finish the game), but it’s a great game nonetheless and well worth your cash.
Great remake with enough changes to keep you gasping in delight.
- Incredible visuals.
- Expanded story is great.
- Fun battle system.
- Streaming issues – textures and pop-in.
- Boring sidequests.
- Leaves you wanting more.