Final Fantasy VII Remake review (2020)

The first part of the remake to one of the greatest RPG’s of all time, Final Fantasy VII, is a fresh take on the game, offering an emotionally engaging story with gorgeous visuals and a revamped combat system. Does it live up to the hype in every way though?

Before I get into this, I can’t say I’m an expert when it comes to Final Fantasy VII. I never played the game in its entirety and it’s partly because I didn’t grow up with a PlayStation. I did try playing it recently before Final Fantasy VII Remake was released and I did enjoy the portions I did get through. However, it’s an extremely long game and it was hard to find the time to play it. I will say though, this quarantine has provided plenty of time, at least for me, to delve into Final Fantasy VII Remake and I’ve had a ton of fun with it. When it comes to spoilers, I can’t say it could be considered spoilers since the game has been around for years. But, there are people who haven’t played it, so I’ll keep it to a minimum.

From what I’ve seen, the game stays true to the original in terms of the world, the characters, and the story. I do think it’s done much better in the remake for a variety of reasons, though. For one, the game engine is vastly improved and that’s obviously apparent because of the technological advancements. From the detail in the characters, to how the story is told with the character interactions, to the cut scenes, and the detail in the world, the remake is superior in every way, at least when it comes to this aspect. With this comes distinctions in the way the game is played and the story is conveyed. You can say they’re both very similar, but also drastically different.

At least in my experience, I’ve gotten a lot more from the story in the remake since it feels much more personal. Before I get into the combat, I have to discuss how connected you’ll feel to some of the characters, specifically Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and Barret. You play as these characters through the majority of the play-through and each offer something different since each have their own struggles and problems to deal with. But, in some way, they all seem to come together since there’s a common cause to fight for. Cloud is definitely the most complex considering what he has seen and the trails he has gone through. Barret also has a tough exterior at first glance, but also has a good heart. Tifa’s connection to Cloud is something special since they’ve been very close since their childhood, and Aerith is simply the heart and soul of the group, at least when they’re together.

Mix all of their stories and backgrounds together and you get a more fleshed out story being told. I’m not stating this isn’t the same in the original, but I feel it’s done much better in the remake because of the reasons already mentioned. There are other characters who also feel important in certain aspects of the story as well, such as the rest of the Avalanche crew (Biggs, Jessie, and Wedge), and even some of the villains you come across, including Reno, Rude, the Shinra crew, and even Sephiroth. As discussed, I won’t go heavy into details, but it all comes together in surprising ways, especially for those who have never played the original game. Then again, this isn’t even the whole thing.

The combat is probably the most notable change when it comes to the game, along with how you travel in the new world. The original is a turn-based RPG, so it’s much slower paced and you actually have time to think about your next move. In the remake, the combat has opted for more of an action-RPG style, similar to the gameplay seen in Final Fantasy XV and the Kingdom Hearts series. There are a lot of combos involved which can be used to gain an advantage against certain foes. It does get some getting used to, especially as you advance through the game and start facing off against more formidable creatures and opponents. But, it comes together nicely once you get the hang of it. That being said, it’s also unforgiving, especially if you aren’t careful and get hit with certain abilities and moves.

Each character plays differently, which I thoroughly enjoy. Cloud and Tifa are both close range fighters, so you normally want to use them to get into the middle of the action and cause immediate damage. On the other hand, Aerith and Barret are long range fighters since they use ranged attacks. Barret is also a tank since he can be upgraded to have higher HP. He even has some abilities that when activated, he takes the damage instead of the rest of the party. Switching back and forth in-between these characters adds a fun and strategic dynamic. You can also place different materia orbs for each character, such as Ice, Lightning, and Fire materia, which come in handy. There are other kinds of materia orbs which have different functions, including HP Up, Deadly Dodge, and even Summons. Playing around with those and finding the best fits/combinations is very entertaining once you see it in action.

As for the equipment, everyone already comes with their own weapons, which you can upgrade over time. You can also opt for buying new weapons, which can come with different abilities and, in most cases, be more powerful than the weapons you’ve already upgraded. Plus, you can also upgrade these newly equipped weapons to aid you as you move forward. The only gripes I have with the combat is the monotony of it. As you progress through certain stages and different parts of the world, you find yourself fighting the same villains over and over again. It can get slightly tedious and sometimes, you just want to face something new, which is why the big boss fights are always exciting since they present a new challenge compared to the dozens of Wererats you faced before.

As for the world, it’s extremely visually appealing. As you travel to the different sectors, reactors, slums, and so on in Midgar, you can really see the detail around you. I have to say, compared to the original, it’s definitely improved, but it was also expected considered the graphical upgrades of the PS4 compared to the original PlayStation. That being said, one major gripe is the lack of doing anything in some of these areas. I can’t say some of the side quests weren’t fun to do and, in many ways, very rewarding for the journey. But, that’s really it, if I’m being honest.

To be more specific, the only things I remember doing are throwing darts at the Seventh Heaven bar in the Sector 7 slums, or lifting weights in sector 6. Other than that, I can’t remember much else going on in the world or other things to do to kill time other than the main story. You run into a lot of characters, but most of them are there to offer you side quests. Everyone else, you can barely interact with. Maybe I’m a bit nit-picky since there’s still a lot to explore. But, I wish there was a bit more life to it. Then again, it probably wasn’t meant to be the type of game to include no boundaries and endless freedom to explore. You can’t always go wherever you want here since, in many cases, you’re forced to complete the task at hand. You can always backtrack later on, but the exploration feels more limited and linear than it should be. If Final Fantasy XV got anything right, it’s definitely the exploration aspect.

Overall, I think the final product could’ve been better in many ways, but I can’t be disappointed with what I’ve played. I’ve definitely enjoyed the whole journey, especially because of the story, the characters, and the intense/challenging boss fights. There’s a ton of variety in terms of weapon variety, customization, and materia selection. You’ll be able to play around with all of that and determine which is the best fit.

It’s pretty sad I don’t know when the next part comes out. In fact, I’m not even sure how many other parts there will be. This game is already substantial in terms of how many hours it can take to beat it, especially if you do all the side quests. As mentioned already, this can very well only be 10% of the entire game. It’s not like Square Enix has released a roadmap of how the other parts will be distributed. I may very well have to pay $60 for all the remaining portions. Will it be worth it? Most likely. But, the unknown can be really frustrating, especially when this game leaves you wanting to play the rest.

I definitely recommend playing this game. I’m sure most players will agree with me when it comes to the negatives, such as some aspects of the world exploration, the repetitiveness, and the lack of knowledge of what’s to come. But, the good far outweighs the bad in almost every way. It’s a memorable journey, that’s for sure. I’m very much looking forward to completing it in its entirety when the time comes.

Score: B+

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