PlayStation 49.40
Overall 9.40
Few games generate a level of devotion that Final Fantasy 7 does. If you were around in 1997 and liked video games, FF7 was a monumental moment in gaming history. It felt like the first major video game blockbuster, something so cutting edge and stunning that it captivated an entire new audience to appreciate a genre that was not as popular outside of Japan. FF7 became a seminal moment of our growing up with video games so it stands to reason that any attempt as a remake would come with huge expectations. Now square took the odd path of breaking down FF7 into multiple parts, this first remake only serving as the Midgar intro; they promised it would feel like a full RPG. Well it does, not only does it feel like a full game it’s the best game Square has made since FF12.

By breaking down the game into parts they were able to flesh out and expand the Midgar portion of the game significantly. This means that nearly every single moment is recreated not just as it was in the original but better than ever. The characters and dialogue are vastly improved, Cloud and the gang explore their relationships far more than they did before. While a lot of the dialogue and acting is anime in nature it’s the best character work I have seen in a square game in a long time. Every character, even ones that were minor side characters like Jessie, get far more fleshed out arcs. The emotional moments resonate more, the characters even easier to fall in love with.

The core of the remake is the new battle system that takes real time combat and melds it with the ATB system of FF7 to create a great hybrid. It feels like they took their lessons from FF13 and 15 and finally made a combat system that is fun to play as an action game while retaining the strategy and teamwork of the turn based battles. During fights you will need to change on the fly to each character activating their abilities and spells which increase the ATB, as well as dodge or block attacks. It may seem weird at first to see your AI teammates sort of stand around and do nothing but that is because you are supposed to be changing constantly. The materia system is as fantastic as ever allowing for full customization of each character and some pretty cool combinations that can make your character self heal, become a ATB building tank or a super mage. While a lot of enemies can just be beat by mashing attack that will not work on the games many spectacular boss battles.

Every boss in remake is a multistage battle which tests your skills and planning.   Enemies all have weaknesses, some are as simple as ice hurts fire, others are immune to certain attacks unless you interrupt their attack, or build their stagger bar. Stagger from FF13 is back and it’s used in very smart ways here, spells and weaknesses usually build the bar quicker and you will need to stagger the bosses so that you can do maximum damage. This means each fight starts off like a sort of puzzle, how do you get it to stagger, using assess let’s you peak at its stat page to find out strategies and weaknesses for that enemy. Then you must execute that plan while huge attacks come from all sides and managing three characters on the fly, each hitting targeted points with specific attacks while keeping everyone alive. Start adding in summons and limit breaks and you have yourself one hell of a party. The bosses are usually epic in nature, with cutscenes breaking up the different forms, having to use the environment to survive all while the best hype music plays. It’s the best combat system square has ever made.

What I love most is that much like how FF7 was the poster boy of AAA gaming in 97, the remake retains that spirit. Sure big budget games are a dime a dozen now but a well executed one that feels like a modern blockbuster is usually reserved for the Naughty Dogs or Rockstars, here Square pulls off an adventure that is constantly moving with incredible setpieces and action sequences that are taken right from the original but greatly expanded. This game is linear, so was midgar in the original so it plays into square’s recent trend of making more cinematic linear games but unlike FF13 this is not one giant tutorial. And unlike FFXV the game doesn’t feel disjointed and unfinished. It’s incredibly polished and keeps the feeling of adventure going non-stop, at worst a few levels drag on a bit too long but at the end of each awaits a boss battle that makes it all worth it.

When this game hits its highs, my god is it exciting. I cannot describe to you how fabulous the entire Don Corneo section is, complete with a new death battle coliseum with incredible announcers and the greatest dance number I have ever seen in a game. Or the dreaded somber moments after the section collapse, now told in striking detail with many more NPCs and a focus on the aftermath. And then there is the ending which I will get to later, but holy shit it gives MGS a run for its money.

With the expansion comes some side quests and new areas which seem to be causing the most negativity for the game. Yeah the side quests aren’t going to win any awards but I found them to be better than the average garbage that plagues most games now. I generally enjoyed many of the new side characters introduced and one, Johnny, that got greatly expanded. The game designates when you can do side quests, it’s mostly regulated to three chapters where you have the freedom to run around and complete these objectives for great rewards and to battle some unique enemies, the only way to see some classic FF enemies is to do these side quests. Plus building up my materia and weapons is so well done in this that any opportunity I have to gain new skills I take. Because the side quests are limited to certain game sections there is no danger of the player getting lost in meaningless side quests rather than advancing the plot like the classic “get out of the hinterlands” quote for Dragon Age 3.

Most of the levels are rather basic in nature, some offer twisting paths that are actually linear section in disguise. Yes a few areas tend to feel like a dungeon that over stays it’s welcome.  The long sections and the fact that there is no real freedom nor party choice is what holds this game back. Again those are by products of this being the beginning section of a much larger game. Can square make a full open world and a deep RPG managing a massive party of 9 like they used too? They have not done so since FF12. Those are questions for another game, for now I can marvel at how faithful this remake was, down to the most minute details like a weird item shop with a gun in wall market. A random button timing press mini game in one of the plants. If it’s in FF7 midgar it’s almost referenced in some way in this remake. Until the end...

I won’t outright spoil the ending here but I will hint at things so if you don’t even want a hint skip ahead a paragraph. The ending is one of the most bold and shocking endings I have seen in a game. I understand it’s extremely controversial, purists may hate it but I think the promise of something different going forward is so exciting. Plus this game needed a proper ending! What better to come up with a proper ending than to create something new rather than botch a fully faithful remake. The final moments for me were everything I want in a grand finale, a parade of increasingly awesome boss battles, exciting setpieces, and the story reaching a dramatic crescendo. It leaves me so very excited for the next installment.

I mentioned how great the characters are, mainly because this voice cast nails the tone perfectly. Anime can tend to feel really cartoonish but Remake tightropes the line between comic book like and dramatic masterfully. When it needs to be over the top it works. When it needs to be heartfelt and emotional they nail it. Graphically the game is stunning to look at with a few odd texture issues you may have read out there. In general though it’s a looker.

The real MVP of FF7 Remake is the music. The original’s score is already legendary, imagine taking that and updating the music to full orchestrated tracks and done in ways that enhance every scene. They know when to hit the audience with the piece of music they want to know and then they surprise you with new mixes that enhances the whole experience. I would say this is in the running for the best score of this entire generation.

To say Final Fantasy VII Remake is a triumph is not an understatement, it nails capturing the essence of the source material perfectly and augments it with better combat and writing. As a fan of big summer movie like games, FF7 nails everything a AAA game should be. Some FF7 purists will be upset at the changes, some hardcore RPG fans might not even like the real time combat or how linear the game plays out. For me I understood what we were getting here and it blew past my expectations; so much so that I have little worry about what is coming next. This is Square’s best game in years, and my leading candidate for GOTY.
Posted by Dvader Tue, 21 Apr 2020 19:01:57
Wed, 22 Apr 2020 00:02:31
I'm still suspicious of the combat. Nyaa
Wed, 22 Apr 2020 09:22:28
I've bought every final fantasy game and the last one I beat was FFVII (so I've got some catching up to do!).

Having said that I was really wanting to buy this game based on your review, but I've already got to play, 8,9,10,10-2,12,12-2,13 ... shit I cannot even keep track of what I have bought and not played at this point.

Good review Vade.
Wed, 22 Apr 2020 13:41:15
Well now we have time for epic JRPGs. Get to it!
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