Nearly five years. This game was announced almost half of a decade ago. I have been waiting for this game since my sophomore year of high school (fuck, I’m old). And now I’m a grown-ass man living in my own apartment, doing my own thing. My life has dramatically transformed in more ways than one over the years. All the while, no matter where I was or what I ended up doing, I was waiting for this game.
“This is the year!” I’d say every year. “This year, we’re getting some info! Maybe a trailer! If God is real, we might even get a release date!” Every E3, I watched Square Enix like a hawk. Every press-conference, I waited for something. Anything.
Then, last year, it finally happened. And now, this year, the impossible happened. The game actually fucking came out!!
So, the question stands: was it worth it? Even if this game is only part one of god knows how many, was it worth waiting for? Or was that half a decade of my life wasted waiting for a disappointment? Is this game worthy of being called a remake of Final Fantasy 7?
Oh fuck yeah it is!
Story: Defying Destiny
Or ‘defying the purist fanboys’.
The story goes much like it did in the original. Except, you know, everything past Midgar was cut out for a later game. Everything from Cloud’s first bombing run with AVALANCHE to the team’s escape from Shinra HQ is covered in this game. Only this time, there are a few extra additions. And by a few, I mean a lot.
The main addition is the hooded specters, known as Whispers. These strange, ghost-like entities appear several times throughout the game. Sometimes they grief our heroes, other times they provide support. The mystery behind them is one of the central driving forces of the story, so I won’t spoil anything here. Personally, I’m still not sure whether their addition was a good or bad thing. But it was certainly new and it was certainly weird.
Either way, it does make a great metaphor for those really hardcore fans that only want that story to be what it was in the original. Fun fact guys: new things aren’t always bad!
There are also all-new characters. I already discussed these yesterday, so I’ll keep it quick. But in a brief summary, these guys are a mixed bag. Some of them add to the story in unique and interesting ways. Others only serve as new boss fights or providers of side quests. None of them are as good as the old characters, but I hesitate to call any of them bad.
Speaking of which, all the old characters are better than they’ve ever been! Each one is unique, likable, and plays off of the others wonderfully! The early-game conflict between Cloud and Barrett is incredible! Red XIII has some incredible dialogue, especially with Barrett (why does Barrett get all the good chemistry?) in the late game. Tifa and Aerith develop a quick friendship that is absolutely adorable and I love it!
Also, Aerith says “Shit” at one point. That was the last thing I ever expected to hear from that character and I love it! It makes her feel like an actual person! Plus, it’s hilarious!
Many of the story’s setpieces have been expanded as well. Remember the escape from reactor one at the beginning of the original, which consisted of three screens and a brief dialogue exchange with Aerith? Well, now that’s a whole level! That two-screen bonding moment with Cloud and Aerith? Dramatically expanded, giving both characters plenty of time to more organically bond! The sewers and the train graveyard? Both have been expanded into entire dungeons that could easily last an hour each or more! The fight to stop the plate from falling? Rather than a two-screen farewell to three characters, it’s now a huge cinematic moment! Not all of them are great; the train graveyard lasts way too long, considering it comes right before the battle for the plate. But none of them are awful enough to warrant cutting!
It’s not just the setpieces, either. Several other things have been expanded as well! The war with Wutai is now a major central piece in the story! AVALANCE expands from a four-person team led by Barrett to a massive organization, which Barrett is only technically a part of! The mayor of Midgar goes from a nothing NPC you can talk with to a central figure in the plot with his own story! It’s all amazing and makes Midgar feel truly alive!
It’s basically the opposite of the RE3 Remake. Instead of condensing the original, it expands it in a natural, interesting way! Not to throw any shade at REmake3.
I’m getting off track, let’s get back on topic.
Can we talk about how fucking amazing the dialogue and voice acting is?! Seriously, the script here is spectacular! The characters have some natural, interesting, and often funny exchanges that perfectly encapsulate their personalities! There are more than a few odd lines here and there, but they’re vastly overshadowed by all the great dialogue! I never thought that a Square Enix game would have organic human dialogue, yet here we are!
And then there are the NPCs. Holy fuck dude, they bring Midgar to life! Every single one has something to say at any given point in the game! They all have thoughts and feelings on what’s happening, which gives everything in the story a true sense of weight and consequence! Everything you do, from the main story stuff to completing side quests, changes how the NPCs think and feel. Your actions have genuine consequences on the world around you!
Unfortunately, the side quests themselves aren’t all that interesting, both on a gameplay and story front. They often boil down to ‘character asks you to go kill monsters’ or ‘character asks you to go gather materials’ or ‘character asks you to go find other NPCs’. They’re plenty rewarding, which helps prevent them from feeling like pointless padding. But compared to a game like, say, Witcher 3, where the sidequests are often their own contained stories with their own characters, this is definitely a bit disappointing.
Now, let’s talk about the ending. I won’t spoil anything here, don’t worry. But this is a mixed bag. On one hand, it perfectly wraps up the story of the Midgar segment while brilliantly paving the way for part two. On the other, it includes a few new endings for old characters that don’t make any sense. Plus, I’m still not sure if it wrapped up the story of the Whispers or if they’ll still be a presence in the next part. Either I’m an idiot or that part of the ending is confusing.
But my self-esteem is low enough as it is, so I’m going to blame the game.
While I do have my gripes with it, I can’t say that I hate the newly revamped story! It’s a faithful recreation of the old while still being bold enough to do its own thing! It has an amazing script with fantastic voice actors! It is spectacular and I can’t wait to see where it goes next!
Man! 2025 couldn’t come soon enough!
Presentation: Simultaneously Wonderful and Terrible
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way. This game has some serious texture loading issues! There are some areas where tons of different textures will either show up late to the party or not arrive at all! They stand out like a sore thumb, especially when the rest of the game is so pretty!
Also, I loathe the facial animations. Not the fully animated ones in the pre-rendered cutscenes, mind you. Those look fantastic! But conversations that take place in-engine are practically intolerable! The lip movements are just so unnatural and robotic! They’re wildly distracting! It doesn’t help that the camera zooms in so close to the character’s faces so often during these exchanges!
The camera cuts every time a character talks during these and it’s super nauseating at first. Just fucking hold the camera still! You’ll get used to it, but I did feel that was worth pointing out.
Aside from those nitpicks, this game looks absolutely gorgeous! The character models are incredible, perfectly bringing the PS1 classics to life with incredible, hyper-realistic detail! The lighting makes every single environment come to life! It may not run at a flawless 60, but it does run a consistent 30!
Friendly reminder that this is a PS4 game.
But the strongest highlight is easily the music! Holy fuck, this OST is mind-boggling! All the classic tracks have been resurrected with fantastic fanfare! The new tracks are just as good, though they don’t stand out nearly as well as the old ones (save the Sector 5 Slums theme; that track is fucking amazing). Plus, the timing of the music with what’s happening on screen is downright artful!
Although I can’t say I’m a fan of the dubstep tracks. Yes, there are dubstep tracks. And they’re reimaginings of some old music. They’re only a small portion of this amazing soundtrack. But personally, I couldn’t stand them.
Hopefully, the texture loading issues can and will be fixed in a later patch. Honestly, that’s easily the biggest problem here. I can tolerate the rest. But this is supposed to be an HD remake. It does look phenomenal most of the time. I just wish it looked that good all of the time. To quote Final Fantasy 7 Machinabrided:
Wallace Wisdom #55: Consistency is key.
-Barret Wallace, Final Fantasy Machinabrided Season 4 Episode 1
Gameplay: No, it’s not like Kingdom Hearts, shut the fuck up
Anyone who says this has clearly never played the original FF7, this version of FF7, or any Kingdom Hearts game. If you think like this, shut the fuck up, play those games, and get back to me. Now, with that said…
*Deep breath* Here we go.
FF7 Remake is an action RPG. It simultaneously upholds many of the classic gameplay mechanics that made the original game so distinct while introducing plenty of its own to make it stand out. Together, they blend together to become one of the most interesting, fun modern RPGs I’ve played in years! It feels like what Final Fantasy 15 was supposed to be!
You know. Good!
There are four playable characters in this game: Cloud, Barrett, Tifa, and Aerith (poor Red XIII is restricted to a support role in the endgame). Each one has two basic moves in combat, restricted to the square and triangle buttons. Square is a basic attack, which varies from character to character (Cloud swings his sword, Tifa punches, Barrett shoots, and Aerith casts projectile spells). It’s in the finer details where they start to stand out.
Cloud’s triangle button activates his Punisher mode. While in this state, his attacks are much slower, but they do much more damage. Additionally, if you block a melee attack in this state, you will instantly launch a counterattack. Properly balancing normal melee attacks and Punisher mode strikes is the key to Cloud’s gameplay.
Barrett is an entirely range-based character. His triangle attack unleashes a powerful barrage of attacks. However, after using it, he needs to recharge. Luckily, if you press the button a few more times, you can speed the process along.
Tifa is basically a fighting game character and I love her. At any point in her combo, you can press triangle to launch a more powerful attack. With her power-up ability, you can change those triangle moves to more powerful strikes, which you can also use at any point in a combo. Properly stringing these moves together makes Tifa a bit tricky, but she’s super rewarding to play as.
Aerith is a ranged support character. Her triangle move can be charged up into a powerful spell with a strong burst effect. Honestly, it isn’t all that useful. You’ll be using her other tools far more often than that.
On top of all that, each character has special moves that they can unlock through their various weapons (we’ll get to those). These moves have a variety of utility, from more powerful attacks to support spells. These are what truly set each character apart. You’ll be using these quite often in battle.
Now, let’s talk about weapons. Each character has a multitude of equitable weapons. However, unlike your typical RPG, these aren’t just resigned from relevancy after you find a new one. Rather, each one can be upgraded throughout the game! You can give them stat boosts or even extra Materia slots! Plus, they each have one of the aforementioned special moves, which you can permanently unlock after using several times! They each have different stats, which makes each of them worth using at higher levels. With this, you’re encouraged to use each weapon to your own liking. Want to use the Buster Sword from beginning to end? Or do you want to keep it varied? That’s all up to you and it’s all viable!
And yes, the Materia system is still here. Some Materia, typically the spells, carry over from the original game. But other all-new ones give you extra combat options. Some give you extra abilities, others give you new moves in combat, and others power up the other Materia! Mixing and matching them to your liking makes your team highly customizable! It has a ton of depth and it makes the game much more replayable!
Quick note: fuck the Assess Materia. That should just be an ability. I fucking hate having that shit waste one of my precious slots!
Summons have also been drastically overhauled. In the original, they were basically just flashy super-attacks. But in this game, they serve as extra party members! The summoned monsters fight at your side for a given time! Not only are they super cool, but they can easily turn the tide of battle in your favor! I fucking love these guys!
Which is good. Because some of these fights are super hard! Especially the boss fights! Speaking of which!
The boss fights are a mixed bag. Most of them are absolutely amazing and are a ton of fun to fight! Others are draining and frustrating. Primarily the bosses that summon weaker monsters to help them. I’ve always hated boss fights that do that and this game is no exception. When these fights are good, they’re absolutely incredible! But they can be super frustrating!
Especially when you die. Which you will. Because this game can actually be super hard when it wants to be! The difficulty spikes in this game are real!
Oh, and for you true purists, yes. The minigames are back. From sneaking out of Aerith’s house to doing squats and pull-ups, all the minigames from the original are here too! And yes, they’re all as glorious now as they were then! They even added a few new ones that are actually super fun!
This game is a ton of fun! It has a few frustrating moments, but that could just be me being a salty bitch. The combat is easy to learn and difficult to master, making it a ton of fun to go back to play. The minigames are a wonderful change of pace that keeps the game varied and interesting. It’s an incredible game that perfectly captures the essence of the original while still being its own game!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go replay the final boss another eighty-seven times. Because that was clearly the best boss in the history of video games.
Nearly five years. That’s how long we all waited for this game. All the while, we all thought that there was no way this game would be good. There was no way in hell that this game would live up to the hype. Surely, there could be no way that a game as beloved and important as Final Fantasy 7 could be remade well, right?
It’s not perfect. Far from it. It has a ton of issues in basically every department. But the positives far outweigh the negatives! This is a truly phenomenal game that perfectly captures the magic that made the original game so good!
Now, there is one major issue with it. Personally, I don’t know if people who haven’t played the original game will be as dramatically affected by this game as people who have will be. Newcomers may not be able to see what makes this game so special and may only see it like a generic action RPG with too much hype behind it. I could be wrong. But that could very well be the case.
Still, whether you’re a huge fan of the original or a newcomer to FF7, I would highly recommend playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake! It’s a phenomenal game, even as a standalone product! If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll feel lots of emotions, all of them good! If you’re a newcomer, you’ll (hopefully) find a very special game well-worth your time!
Phew! I think that about covers it! Now I get to wait for part two!
I’ll see you guys in 2056!