After nearly half a decade of anticipation, Final Fantasy VII Remake is out. Or rather, Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 1 is out, allowing gamers to experience the magic of Midgar for the first time since the 90s if we ignore the hundreds of times FF7 has been ported to modern systems and you replayed it then.
First, a disclaimer. In the first section of this review I will give a spoiler free analysis of gameplay and what I think of the game as a game first. However some minor spoilers are bound to be sprinkled in there. The second half will be my thoughts on the plot of the remake and will have MAJOR spoilers, you will be given a warning before I go into that section of the review.
Now then, let us begin with the gameplay. Unlike the original Final Fantasy VII which was a Turn Based RPG, FFVII Remake is an Action RPG (ARPG) battle system with some Active Time Battle (ATB) elements. In the original Final Fantasy VII, and most Final Fantasy games, you would wait for the ATB gauge to fill up and then your character would be able to take their turn, however time did not stop as you took your turn, so you would need to react fast or your enemy would take their turn simultaneously, it would be best to plan you turn ahead of time. Remake incorporates ATB into an ARPG battle system in a unique way. The best way I could describe this battle system is if Kingdom Hearts requires you to wait for an ATB charge to fill up before you could use spells and such. However don’t let that Kingdom Hearts comparison mislead you, the magic and abilities you need to wait for the ATB to charge to use are much more valuable than Kingdom Hearts’ magic and items. More often than not in Remake they’ll be the difference between life and death.
Enemies will constantly bombard you and your party members with attacks, your health will be chipped away like it’s nothing unless you are quick to heal or kill an enemy. Often in battle you’ll need to quickly think and choose between using that charge of ATB to heal yourself or use an ability/magic to deal a large amount of damage to the enemy. The game starts off slow of course, and gives you plenty of time to catch your bearings, but it doesn’t take long for the game to take off the kid gloves, you’ll need to get used to ATB or die. However, although you’ll likely die a lot if you don’t get used to ATB, the game rarely left me feeling frustrated, whenever you die you can be brought to right before the battle you died in, allowing you to heal up any health you may have been missing before the battle, switch up your materia, or just simply think through your strategy. Very little of the game left me frustrated with its battles, I could only think of a few stand out examples of times where I died from anything’s fault but my own. The only major of those examples being an encounter with a pack of dogs as Tifa and Aerith in Hojo’s lab, that battle is the only one I can point my finger to and call brutally unfair, and if I can only think of that one battle after a full 32 hour playthrough, I think it’s fair to call the game balanced.
The game features 4 playable characters and I shall go over them briefly;
Cloud Strife: The poster boy for JRPG protagonists and an ex-SOLDIER, first class. Cloud is a close range character with his buster sword, his unique skills all involve slashing at enemies in various ways, he’s the most normal character to play as but he has some of the most powerful skills in the game like the Triple Slash and the Counterstrike.
Barret Wallace: Leader of AVALANCHE and loving father, Barret’s main means of attacking is using his gun arm to shoot enemies from a range, while his normal shots continuously chip away at enemy health, his charged attack can do some major damage and even make enemies get knocked back, potentially saving you from attacks. He also has some useful skills to take less damage, or take damage a party member would have taken for them. He was personally my favorite character to play as, but that appears to be an unpopular opinion
Tifa Lockhart: Member of AVALANCHE and Cloud’s childhood friend. Tifa is fast and close range, but she’s also made of glass, her primary skills involve punching, kicking, and making herself stronger. She was my personal least favorite character to play as since I couldn’t get the hang of not dying as her, but as an A.I. controlled party member she served her purpose well enough
Aerith Gainsborough: Local florist and victim of one of pop culture’s most well known spoilers. Aerith is a long range fighter like Barret, however she uses magic based attacks, she has abilities to help keep the party happy or more her spells more powerful by doing things like casting them twice
Players of the original FFVII may take notice that one character is missing from this list, the beloved Red XIII, yes Red is not playable in this game and it is very disappointing. I hope very much that future games of this remake series make this beloved character playable
Being Final Fantasy VII, the game of course has a Materia system, fans of the original game will be very pleased to see that materia works almost identically to how it did back in the PS1 days. You can equip materia to slots on your weapon, which will allow you to use spells aligned with that Materia from basic attack spells like fire to incredibly useful abilities like a party heal. Some materia can be linked with other materia to give special attributes like a spell homing in on an enemy or your normal attacks always having an element of magic to them. The materia mechanic being able to be transplanted almost exactly as it was more than 2 decades ago into a modern age game is a true testament to how good this mechanic has always been
Summons, a Final Fantasy staple element, are in this Remake of course, players of FFXV are likely wondering if the summon system is better in VII Remake than they were in that game, as they would appear to only randomly appear there. I would say the answer is yes, during bosses or a particularly long enemy encounter a summon gauge will appear and fill out over time, once it’s full a character who has a summon materia equipped can use some of their ATB gauge summon one of the game’s Summons, fierce deities that can deal major damage to any boss and utterly destroy ordinary foes. While the summon is active on the battlefield any party member can use some of their ATB gauge to give the summon orders to do massive attacks. While summons may be powerful and dealing a lot of damage to your foes, you yourself are still likely taking damage, so you must again frequently make the choice between using your ATB for a major attack or healing the damage you’re taking.
Now that I have said all that I could on the basic gameplay of the game, let’s take a brief moment to talk about the level design itself. There’s no denying it, FFVII Remake is a hallway game, most of the game you are being led down hallways to fight enemies and get to the next part of the story. Now, while hallways are very easy to make boring in games, they aren’t impossible to do right, and I think FFVII Remake does a good job at hallways, most areas in the game feel unique from each other both visually and narratively, and while you are doing the same thing in every areas, the game moves briskly enough that it never feels monotonous.
Midgar has been expanded for better or worse with its level design in order to expand it from being 2 hours long into being 32 hours long. However, very little additional story segments are added to Midgar itself, instead everything has become bigger. A good example for the design of the entire remake is how what was once a 2 screen big sewer segment is now an entire dungeon. Nothing is brief anymore, everything is a large section now. However, although everything has become large and the length the size of a full game, the game’s pacing feels very good, defying most logic. The game flows from one story beat and area to the next with some time to breath during certain story segments. I never really felt bored with any segment, and anything that could have gone on too long would usually end before it did, with the only real exception being Hojo’s lab, which is now a full dungeon and goes on for very long in what should be the climax of the game
Sidequests were a joy in this game, most of them are really short just being a fight or two, however the character interactions between the Final Fantasy VII party are always a joy to witness, I did all 24 sidequests available to the player in a first playthrough, the Tonberry and Behemoth sidequests in particular were some of the most fun I had in the entire game. The squats minigame sidequest and the pull ups minigame sidequest were also quite fun with great music, even if the pull ups minigame began to hurt my fingers on its highest difficulty
He’s coming! Run!
And that’s my basic rundown on the gameplay, from here on there will be major spoilers for the end of the story, if you do not want to be spoiled do not read further. The review ends here for you. I think the game was great, but I need game 2 to judge it as a whole. However, my final advice is that you do not play this game unless you have either
- Have played original Final Fantasy VII
- Have played Crisis Core and absorbed years of pop culture that surrounds FFVII
These are the two audiences this game was made for, for reasons I cannot go into before discussing spoilers. This is your last warning to stop reading.
So, Sephiroth. The man, the myth, the legend. Sephiroth. Probably one of gaming’s most well known villains, certainly Square Enix’s most well known. From his theme to the iconic death of Aerith, this man has become an icon for Square. There was never a scenario where a Midgar centered game doesn’t majorly expand upon his role. No matter who was put on the game or what vision they had, more Sephiroth was always going to happen.
Which is why I think we honestly hit the jackpot with how this remake’s plot has turned out. Of course there’s some utterly silly stuff like Cloud checking on his noisy neighbor and seeing Sephiroth, most of the pre-finale Sephiroth scenes in this game are the remake blowing their load way too early, just so they could have Sephiroth be in the trailers. Then you learn what the plot of Remake is and what it’s going to be, and I for one have forgiven it’s use of Sephiroth.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before “Why can’t you just use a phoenix down to bring back Aerith” it’s been the butt of internet jokes for as long as the internet has existed. The answer has always been “No duh, because the plot needs her to die” now imagine if the plot of Final Fantasy VII had a physical form, one that has always been following the characters but never seen or heard, arbiters of their fate
The plot of the remake is the characters defying this fate, the plot of Final Fantasy VII is going to be changed, the final fight of the Remake is against a physical manifestation of their, mostly Aerith’s unavoidable fate. For twenty plus years players of Final Fantasy VII have viewed the death of Aerith as unavoidable, because it was. It was always her fate to be killed by Sephiroth, no matter how many times the game is played, no matter how many times you buy it on new consoles, Sephiroth will kill Aerith. So what better form can the physical representation of their fate take than that of Sephiroth
The concept of plot armor is also brought up in a way in the story, when Barret nearly dies in the finale, the same invisible arbiters of fate that always guarantee that Aerith shall die save him. Because Barret didn’t die in Final Fantasy VII, so he can’t die here. At the end of the game all those arbiters of fate vanish, while this does mean that the unavoidable fate of Aerith dying is gone, it also seems that the concept of plot armor will not be applying to future games in the remake series. Anyone can theoretically die in the future games in this series
What does this all mean? Hell if I know, what I think of all of this can be summed up by the reaction me and my friends have had: “Wack.” Everything about this concept is very odd, this isn’t going to be a remake of Final Fantasy VII going forward. Things are going to be changed in drastically ways, ways that we may not even be able to fully comprehend at this point in time. I can’t even imagine what they’ll be doing from this point on, but I’m here for this crazy ride.
However, although I’m really enjoying what this game has set up for the future of the remake series, that can potentially be to the game’s detriment in the future. Right now, it’s a great game setting up a very interesting concept for a sequel, but if that sequel is bad then this will retroactively become worse by extension as it will just be setting up wasted potential.
For now, I shall remain cautiously optimistic about the future of the Final Fantasy VII Remake series. Will it be good? Here’s hoping, but only the lifestream knows what fate this series will have from this moment onward
Thank you for reading my article on the Final Fantasy VII Remake. If you would like to see me review another recent game, check out my review of the new Sakura Wars game [link]
If you want to read an article about a company who is very friendly with Square Enix, here’s an article about WWE’s recent Wrestlemania written by Jre [link]