Video Game Reviews

Final Fantasy VII: Remake – A Stepping Stone

The original Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games of all time. Most of that may be due to an excessive amount of nostalgia, but I have played through it more recently and it’s still a fairly solid game.

A few years ago I saw a technical demo that showcased the opening scene of the original FFVII but with a massive graphical update. I understood that it was just to laud the hardware of the PlayStation 3, but I was still disappointed. A small part of me hoped beyond hope that we would get a remake of FFVII. But, the reasonable part of my brain said…

I like that the reasonable part of my brain is an old lady.

Well I did, sort of, but a few years later Square-Enix decided to actually make a remake. I was over the moon. I also made sure to keep an eye on the release date.

Well, it finally came out back in April of 2020, but I was not one of the people who bought it upon release. 

There were a number of factors involved. It was really only going to cover the first several hours of the original game. The story was padded in order to bulk it up to the size of an entire game. It was pricey, given the fact that it was essentially one-eighth of the story of the original. Lastly, the more action-oriented combat was not exactly what I was looking for. 

Well I finally took the plunge, and I’m here to let you know if the wait was worth it. 

A Visual Feast

The one unequivocally good thing I can say about FFVII: Remake, is that it is beautiful. It’s amazing to see what the polygons of my childhood have evolved into.

What a difference over two decades can make

The characters are amazing to behold and stay true to form. Being able to see Barret, Tifa, and Cloud with PS5 graphics was just the best. Even some of the lesser characters such as Biggs, Jessie, and Wedge were a delight and a surprise to see with updated graphics (did you know Jessie was a girl… I certainly missed that the six times I played the original).

The environments, with the exception of some weird skybox images, were works of art in their own right. Seeing the sector seven slums, Wall Market, and the Shinra building as fully realized places caused some serious explosions of nostalgia that I’m still grappling with.

The animation was also a noteworthy addition to this smorgasbord of visuals. Watching the Guard Scorpion wall run as it shoots a barrage of lasers and missiles was a particular high point during the game’s opening sequence. Even the little things, like the kids running around the slums, or the people arguing about collectible items in Wall Market were detailed enough to breathe life into the world, a feature that the original was sorely missing. 

Active Time Battle

I did not like the combat in this game…Like, at all. Yes, it was impressively animated and super stylish and flashy, but it was absolutely no fun for me. Now there were three modes of combat, and I stuck with the one I picked at the beginning. I tried the other two briefly, but none of them really struck a chord with me. 

My biggest issue with combat came when Aerith joined my team. I really wanted to have her as my main playable character, so that I could control the battlefield from the back and have Cloud do all the heavy lifting combat-wise. This did not work for a number of reasons. 

The first reason is that when you are controlling a character every enemy — and I mean every enemy — immediately knows it. They drop whatever they are doing, and whoever they are attacking, to gang up on the person you are in control of. This is fine when you’re playing as Cloud, who can take a punch, but when you’re Aerith it means you are next to useless. I almost quit playing the game a couple of times because the combat pissed me off to an extent that I haven’t experienced in several years.

A visual approximation

There is a difference between tough but fair combat and combat that’s just unfair. This felt like the latter. 

I often found that dodging did not work, Blocking was not a good plan because you’d get stuck in a perpetual cycle of blocking, and it was sometimes hard to figure out what was going on in some fights.

My Mind on My Materia and My Materia on My Mind

Materia was one of my favorite parts of the original FFVII. It was decidedly less than that in the remake. 

I really wish that the developers would have used a different system for magic and skills, but I understand why they didn’t. Materia is/was a huge part of the central story of FFVII and to remove it as the main progression of skills and abilities in the remake would have caused a…

Not that that’s hard to do

In the original, leveling a piece of materia felt like an achievement. It gave you stronger magic, better skills, and, if you mastered it, a brand new baby materia of the same kind. It is still one of my favorite magic/enhancement systems in a Final Fantasy game. Unfortunately, all of that has been stripped away with the new combat system. 

In the remake, materia felt gimmicky. I think it’s probably due to the fact that what once took hours and hours to level, happened nigh instantaneously. It could be that If I had never played the original game, none of this would have been an issue. Unfortunately, I did play the original so having Fire 3, or Firaga if you’re going with the new names, by the time I made it to Wall Market was unsettling. 

My favorite part about materia, in the remade game, is that I could see it slotted into the weapons that my characters were using. Not the greatest of achievements, but it was something that made me smile.

The Very Simple Plot of Final Fantasy VII

While most of the story and plot elements of Final Fantasy VII: Remake are essentially the same as the original, there were some changes made. Some big, some little, but all remarkably obvious to players of the original. To keep things simple I’m going to divide certain elements into things I thought were good changes, and things I thought were bad changes. (might be specific spoilers so read at own risk)

Bad Changes

  • Padding entire sections with unnecessary gameplay (Under the sector 5 plate and Hojo’s lab
  • Removing a large portion of the Wall Market quest and replacing it with a dance segment
  • That kid who gives you materia for completing battle requirements
  • The second run on the sewers under Wall Market
  • Combat; all of it

Good Changes

  • Seeing Aerith save Marlene
  • Getting more of an opportunity to know Biggs, Wedge and Jessie
  • Showing that Avalanche was more than just Barrett and Co. 
  • The Shinra building ascent

Now there was one other change… and it really is the biggest, and most interesting, part of the entire remake. However, since it is also the biggest spoiler, you might want to scroll down to the next heading if you would like to experience it for yourself.

WOOP WOOP!!

So, the biggest change from the original is the addition of “the whispers”, strange cloaked figures that show up at seemingly random parts of the game. For a while, it’s unclear what their purpose is. Sometimes they help you. Other times they hinder, or actively attack, you. 

Once you approach the end of the game it is revealed that these “whispers” are the avatars of fate, and they have been trying to make sure that the remake lines up with the original. Cloud and Co., however, are not having any of that and slay the Whispers and destroy the Arbiter of Fate in a sequence straight out of Kingdom Hearts.

In the closing moments of the game you see that by doing so, the story has been irreparably changed. So, going forward, there is nothing to keep the story in line with the original FFVII. This means that the developers of the remake have basically given themselves permission to change the story completely if they so wish. This makes the remake a mere stepping stone for the rest of the series. 

I cannot stress how much this changed my opinion of this game.

Please Insert Disk 2

Overall Final Fantasy VII: Remake is an ambitious start to what will, likely, be a game that is several installments long. It often hits you right in the nostalgia before smacking you in the face with one of its many bizarre choices. Though it is not a completely faithful remake, I applaud what the developers are trying to do and I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what the second game has to offer. 

I’m giving Final Fantasy VII: Remake a 7/10 for just barely hitting the nail on the head

I’m giving Final Fantasy VII: Remake an 8/10 for attempting something different and branching out in a new and interesting way.

Unfortunately/Fortunately, both scores are now canon and there’s nothing you can do about it.  

2 thoughts on “Final Fantasy VII: Remake – A Stepping Stone”

  1. This was a well written review. I felt you brought up some valid points about Final Fantasy VII Remake, especially with the needlessly long segments in the sewers and unnecessary gameplay. The time it took me to complete the game was 40 hours and the sad part was that by the time I got to the end, I was just waiting for it to be done. The side missions felt like chores and the backtracking involved to complete them was not fun. Maybe, in the place of the lackluster side missions, they could have included playable flashback/mini-story segments that showed why Barrett, Tifa, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie joined Avalanche in the first place. What event in their lives triggered it? When they did make the decision that was what they felt they had to do? I would have been cool with a much more linear game if it meant the characters were further developed in this way.

    Where Final Fantasy VII Remake really shined though and really hit it out of the park was bringing the silent and expressionless characters of the original Final Fantasy VII to life. That made me feel a connection to the characters like never before. Hearing their voices, seeing their expressions and emotions as they interacted with each other, and experiencing a living, breathing version of Midgar was amazing. Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake was a really good game with some very noticeable flaws. And I really enjoyed the battle system. But I can understand how it wouldn’t be for everyone.

    Great post!

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment! It definitely had some nostalgia for the original FFVII, and I really appreciated their original take on the way the ending of the game changed the story of the original. But I also agree that some flashbacks on those characters would have fleshed it out and would have been better than padding it with meaningless filler. Maybe they’ll get the balance right on the next take… Fingers crossed!

      Like

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