In 1997 I was a young lad. 9 years old to be precise. I only had my PlayStation for approximately a year or so. My brother and I put a lot of time into Tekken 2 and Wipeout, then my dad came to us with a game. I didn’t understand what it was except that it had 3 discs and the manual that came with it was quite chunky. This was Final Fantasy VII and it was a moment in my gamer life. This was the moment when I went from being a fan to being a gamer. I fell in love with this eccentric world and I fell even harder for the characters. Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockhart, Barret Wallace, Aeris Gainsborough (that’s the translation I got), Red XIII, Cid Highwind, Yuffie Kisaragi, and Vincent Valentine against the tyrannical Shinra Company and the demonic Sephiroth. Now 23 years later and many, many teases later Final Fantasy VII Remake has arrived and there are many questions.
Was it worth the wait? Does it deliver on its promises? Most important of all, does the story and its characters stand the test of time?
I will try and answer all these questions and give you my humble opinion of Final Fantasy VII Remake, the game all of us have wanted for years but I’m not sure will survive our expectations.
Final Fantasy VII Remake & so much more
Final Fantasy VII Remake is not just a remake of the original it is an expansion as well. For example, the biggest expansion is the exploration of Midgar itself. The world feels huge. From the steel sky and its artificial sun to the life drained slums, Midgar is filled with a lot of character. The higher levels of Midgar are also seen a lot more and they’re filled with a lot of interesting avenues to explore and people to meet. Within these areas are a ton of characters old and new and they all have their stories and you can get swept up in these lives and it’s a lot of fun.
One particular person named Chadley has a continuous side-quest going on throughout Final Fantasy VII Remake. As you give him battle data he gives you unique materia, not only that he also gives you access to summons the legendary entities of the Final Fantasy franchise. I cannot state this enough finish his side-quest and be sure to keep the Revival materia on Cloud so it is constantly levelling. This materia requires the most time to level and you’ll want it done for one of his data reports. The pay-off for this side-quest is spectacular.
It’s not just the new characters like Chadley that are interesting though there are also the original characters from Final Fantasy VII that have been given more depth and nuance. Jessie, Biggs and Wedge (to a lesser extent) have expanded roles in this iteration and it’s welcome for the most part. Jessie is a highlight for me and we learn so much about her motivations compared to the original and it’s quite heartbreaking.
Style but also substance
Final Fantasy VII Remake is also a stunning looking game. The beauty of the Church in Sector 5, the oddly hypnotic steel masterpieces that are the plates of each sector and the chaos when the game hits those epic moments in the final section of its runtime.
Another highlight of the game was the Wall Market which had some of the most infamous moments of the original. This has lovingly evolved into a section of mini-games that will make you laugh hysterically multiple times throughout your journey there. It’s a memorable section of the game and it instantly reminded me of a souped-up version of the Yakuza franchise.
Swords, sorcery & skills
The gameplay of Final Fantasy VII Remake is where I truly fell in love though. The gameplay is phenomenal. Playing as each of the various characters in the game was a hell of an experience. My favourite is a toss-up between Tifa or Barret. Tifa is a brawler and you feel her fists as they land against her opponents. Barret is a long-range fighter due to his gun arm and it feels unique and that’s the important part. That each of these characters feels unique, and they do.
Cloud was the only character I thought was a bit plain jane but that’s because he has a sword one of the most overused weapons in fictional history. Aeris was also fine, she plays long range but was super squishy compared to everyone else so I always found a little issue with her.
What is an excellent addition to the game and adds another element of strategy is the evolution of the weaponry. Players can level up each character’s weapons, giving the weapons new abilities. This means you can potentially keep weapons you prefer design-wise over others that maybe you don’t like. For example, the Hardege is a sword for Cloud but for me, the Buster Sword looks far better. Thankfully with the weapon system, I could keep the Buster Sword. It’s a little weaker but not enough to be too detrimental.
Then comes the cataclysm from the stars
I’ve been doting on this game so much but there are issues with it and some of them I cannot reconcile with. For example, the rendering of the backgrounds at times was diabolically bad. There is a section in the game where you’re looking down on the slums. It looked like a literal mat was placed underneath me. There were no details just vague imagery and it looked terrible. As well as these issues there is also less work put into the NPC’s design-wise so they like PS3 characters when they’re standing next to your polished and sexy PS4 characters.
On top of this when you’re running from one area to the next the textures pop in right after you arrive and that’s jarring. Worst of all was an omission from the game that I cannot reconcile with and I’ll say it below but be warned:
So ready, here we go: Red XIII isn’t playable! Like what the hell!? He’s iconic. He’s easily one of the most interesting characters and his moveset is brilliant and you don’t give me the opportunity to play as him!? For shame Square Enix, for shame!
Also, I will say that Final Fantasy VII Remake plays with the narrative of the original tale and from what I’ve read online there is a portion of the fanbase that does not care for this new iterations take on the legacy. I personally admire the chances the studio and Tetsuya Nomura has taken with this new channel in the lifestream and I look forward to when the journey continues whenever that is.
I loved Final Fantasy VII Remake warts and all. It’s not perfect but it is almost exactly what I wanted. I can’t wait to see where we go next after this.
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