Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

April 21, 2020

The Final Fantasy VII Remake has generated equal amounts of hype and controversy. The game has been a long time coming, giving gamers plenty of time to debate if they want to pay $60 for only part of the story. After all, this release is limited only to early adventures in Midgar. Despite all of the love for the original Final Fantasy VII, the big question remains: is the remake worth it?

The answer is an absolute “yes.” Square Enix turned what could have been a glorified remaster into something new and exciting. The game is great for those who have played the original, but it is surprisingly-friendly to newcomers. What makes this game so great? Our comprehensive review has all the answers.

Dynamic Combat

Combat is by far the biggest change in the remake. The original game had characters act when their Active Time Battle (ATB) gauge filled up and basically had each side taking turns until battle was over. As a player, you could just sit back and plan your next attacks at your leisure.

In the remake, the default combat is fully dynamic. You run around three-dimensional spaces and pelt your enemies with standard attacks. These fill up your ATB gauges, allowing you to use items, abilities, magic, and your deadly limit breaks.

It may sound too fast-paced, but time slows to a crawl when you hit the command button. This lets you plan strategic attacks, meaning combat doesn’t feel like one big “hack and slash.” And you’ll need to balance different attacks and stances in order to “stagger” enemies. This puts them in a state where they take extra damage.

If this seems overwhelming, or you just want the new game to play like the original, select Classic Mode. In this mode, the game controls all combat movement and attacks. You can just kick back and select the right special attacks and targets as you see fit.

Expansive Content

One of the first things you’ll notice about this remake is that everything is much bigger. Areas that were little more than giant boxes in the original have become complex, multi-level mazes in the remake.

Fortunately, the map and waypoint system make it easy to find where you are going most of the time. And upon completing certain sidequests, the game offers to teleport you back to the quest giver. Anything that reduces the back and forth on these massive maps is a good thing!

As a side effect of this expansive design, all of the areas from the original game feel like genuine communities. Sector 5, for example, feels more distinct from Sector 7 than ever before, and each new area seems to have its own personality.

Crazy World-Building

One thing I wasn’t prepared for in this game was the sheer amount of world-building. Sometimes, this reveals additional details about supporting characters, letting players see Jessie’s aspirations as an actress and the family accident that led her to AVALANCHE. 

Other times, we get interesting insight into agencies like Shinra. Players will discover that Shinra produces a propaganda cartoon starring a dog named Stamp. Stamp graffiti even becomes a major plot point, and you get a chance to collect his cartoon’s theme song.

You could argue some of this is overkill that is mostly there to pad out the game’s runtime (between 30-40 hours, depending on how thorough you are). But if you’re already committed to these characters and this world, then every extra detail makes Midgar seem that much more like a real place. 

Core Characters, Evolved

Nobody gets better development than your core characters. The remake doesn’t change any of their core backgrounds or motivations. However, we get to know these people much better than the original game’s terrible translation allowed.

In the original game, Barrett came across as an unfortunate stereotype. He’s still full of righteous anger in the remake, but we also get to see how surprisingly funny he can be. And his motivation to save the planet has never been clearer.

Tifa remains a strong and spirited physical combatant, but the remake presents her as someone who’s not exactly down for the cause. She’d much rather be tending bar or taking care of Marlene that engaging in domestic terrorism.

Aerith (called Aeris in the original) is still a flirty healer, but the remake shows that she perfectly combines sass and warmth. Her banter with Cloud lets us see why they grow close in such a short period of time, while her heartfelt community service shows us her spirit of sacrifice.

And protagonist Cloud is more than just a tough mercenary in this game. We get to see a clear divide between the tough, no-nonsense persona of Cloud the ex-SOLDIER and the frightened kid who still wants Tifa’s approval. He is socially awkward despite being a badass. And him opening up to the communities around him is the perfect way to introduce players to this world.

Emotional Narrative

Want to know the signs of a good story? When the stakes are high and nobody thinks of themselves as the bad guy, then you have a solid tale ahead of you.

That’s exactly what you get with the FFVII Remake. For every major move our characters take (including attacking numerous Shinra reactors in an attempt to save the planet), we see the consequences. We see the lives they end up hurting and the very real reason why many in their own community dislike what AVALANCHE is doing.

While some of the antagonists descend into mustache-twirling villainy (mostly Heidegger and President Shinra), characters like Reno and Rude are portrayed as good people forced to do bad things. And Sephiroth (presented mostly via flashbacks and visions earlier in the game) is pitch-perfect as someone both mysterious and dangerous.

I keep coming back to this word, but it all feels much more realistic than you’d expect from a game about giant swords and magical creatures.

Pacing Problems

If there is one fly in the ointment of Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s this: it suffers from occasional pacing problems.

You get numerous opportunities to play side quests throughout the game. While these are mostly optional, ignoring them means missing out on better items and materia as well as a lot of experience. On top of that, characters like Tifa and Aerith will often pressure you into helping others out.

This means that just as you’re getting really invested in the mysteries of Aerith and the Turks, you’ll end up in yet another area where the locals need help. And no matter how beautiful the graphics and the voice acting, that help is always some variation of “talk to this person” and “kill these enemies.”

In this way, repetitive side quests slow down an otherwise engaging primary narrative.

Jaw-Dropping Graphics

As we near the end of the PlayStation 4’s life, we are seeing more and more of what the system can do. And with this remake, Square Enix has created one of the most beautiful console games you will ever play.

The graphics are also perfectly seamless between standard gameplay, combat, and cutscenes. That is a marked improvement over the original game, in which characters looked realistic in combat and cutscenes and looked like Popeye-inspired art the rest of the time.

Seemingly every character and environment are rendered in the same level of exquisite detail. You’re likely to spend much of your first day playing simply wandering around and scoping out how beautiful everything looks.

This game will outshine just about anything else in your PlayStation 4 library. And thanks to this remake, it boggles the mind to imagine how good the next generation of gaming will look!

Final Verdict

Is the Final Fantasy VII Remake worth your time? Absolutely. It is an instant “must-have” for any Playstation library, whether or not you’ve played the original. And it has enough depth and charm to keep you coming back for more.

Originally, I was on the fence about remaking a single game into several different parts. After playing this first part, I can’t wait to jump back into more adventures with Cloud and his crew. And in a few years, maybe we’ll get a chance to play through a Final Fantasy VIII remake on the PlayStation 5.

What do you think of Final Fantasy VII Remake? Sound off in the comments below!

Category: Reviews

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Developer:
Square Enix Business Division 1
Publisher:
Square Enix
Platforms:
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Release:
April 10, 2020

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