When the remake for Final Fantasy VII was announced back in 2015, fans all over rejoiced. As a brief background, it was one of the most celebrated RPG games that came to the PlayStation 1 and became so popular during its time thanks to its gameplay, story, and characters. You probably already know about Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith and what the original game was about so let’s not waste any more time and get to this new remake.
Made to be nostalgic
Final Fantasy VII Remake follows the same general premise of the original version and even begins the exact same way. It starts out with the opening shot of what seems like particles in the air that smoothly transitions to Aerith in an alleyway and zooms out to reveal the city of Midgar. The shots are very faithful to the original and even dialogues would sometimes ring a bell for fans of the game.
As for graphics, they obviously did a complete overhaul on this remake. Exploring or walking around the city of Midgar, you’ll really see the details of the city in a way that it becomes immersive. Character design is now correctly proportioned and has a more realistic look.
How realistic? You can even see independent hair strands when you look closely at the characters.
The attention to detail is simply impressive. For example, the Materia (items that boost characters’ stats and abilities) you equip is seen in each character’s weapon and the color varies depending on what type of Materia you’re using. Not only that, even the game’s musical scoring was fantastic and brought back memories as it was still arranged by none other than Nobuo Uematsu himself — the guy who did some of the most iconic Final Fantasy soundtracks of all time. One can really see how Square Enix poured its love for this game.
What I don’t like about the game is how they stretched the story out and added certain ‘fillers’ that kind of feel irrelevant to some parts of the story. Furthermore, there are lots of side quests that I feel were put to stretch out the game.
Truth be told, certain tasks seem more of a chore than an actual quest. Stuff like retrieving an item for someone or hunting a certain creature is very Final Fantasy in its essence, but does get tiring after a while. Plus, the game made it in a way that you’ll miss out on unlocking good items if you skip on these mostly mundane tasks.
But not all these fillers are bad. I noticed they used some of it to add depth to the supporting characters of Avalanche (eco-terrorist group against the evil ShinRa company) and the player now has more personal relationships with each of them. Giving these sub-characters their own moment helps them be relatable and easy to connect with and that’s the good side of these fillers. The game also gives the main characters more depth through back stories.
All characters are likeable despite their cheesy and at times funny lines. It’s great that they really emphasized on character development in order to create a great story. As you progress, you often find yourself wanting to learn more about each character and the story has been laid out to get you more and more engaged.
As a fan of the original Final Fantasy VII, I was initially skeptical with its new combat system. Although as much as I love the traditional turn-based approach, diving into the new fast-paced combat system was surprisingly better than what I previously imagined. It was exhilarating doing stylish maneuvers and combining those moves with your abilities looks amazing and badass. Imagine doing a combo, switching seamlessly to another character, and then finishing your combo with a powerful signature move or a Materia attack! Satisfying!
Materia is still the main equipment for combat. You will often juggle between different types to find the elemental weakness of each enemy and make them stagger. When enemies are staggered, they are completely defenseless giving you and your party a chance to do a powerful attack within a limited time.
In addition to that, there’s this ATB meter that fills up. When this meter is full you can execute each of the characters powerful signature moves like Cloud’s Braver attack — making this the best move when enemies are staggered. They even retained the Limit Break system which I enjoyed using a lot. Seeing the iconic moves of Cloud like his Cross-Slash will surely put a grin on your twenty-something-year-old face.
Aside from that, there is a new weapons upgrade mechanics as well. As you level up, you gain points and those points can fill up the stats of each weapon of every character. This means that if you have a favorite weapon it will never be obsolete as long as you just keep on upgrading it. The weapon upgrade menu also has a sweet interface for your eyes to feast on.
Combat feels great and makes you think of different strategies for each battle. Even switching characters in and out is seamless that every move you make feels simply natural. Also, it’s great that whenever you command someone in your party, time slows down giving you options on who to command, what to do, and who you’ll attack. For some reason, it felt like the modern representation of the classic turn-based combat system.
They even kept the summoning Materia in the gameplay as well. Whenever you’re in a bad spot, you can summon a familiar ally like Ifrit. It’s important to note that you can only use summoning Materia when you’re facing a formidable opponent. When in battle, the gauge meter will start to fill up. Once your meter is full, that’s when you can activate it and Ifrit will arrive and lend his fiery aid in your battle. However, the meter will start to slowly decrease and once it’s empty, Ifrit will go away.
One small detail I noticed that seemed off was the attention of the enemies when I switch characters. The enemies appear to attack the latest character you switch into. For example, an enemy was attacking Cloud in close combat and when I switch to Barret and do long-range attacks, that enemy leaves Cloud which is just in front of him to attack Barret instead. Yes, it’s just a minor thing although it does feel unnatural. Nevertheless, overall combat style still feels and looks great and you won’t easily get tired of it.
One thing I also enjoyed is doing boss battles. I love how it transitions into a cinematic scene and dives right back into combat flawlessly. It’s also great how they reinvented the combat system but, at the same time, it doesn’t disappoint old fans by retaining some of the original game mechanics like the Materia system, limit breaks, and summoning allies. With or without nostalgia, all these mechanics combined with the new combat system make a great RPG. And Final Fantasy has never been this amazing to play.
They also added a lot of mini-games that you will waste your time on. Some are ridiculous and funny, some of them remind you of scenes from the original game, and some are just really fun to play. One particular mini-game that I waste countless hours on is the game of darts. Just trying to beat the top score of Tifa or Biggs would just make you keep on playing for extended periods of time.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most iconic games back in the ’90s and is arguably the best Final Fantasy installment from the franchise. 23 years later, we have the release of its remake and it did not disappoint one bit. Square Enix reinvented the traditional turn-based strategy combat system with real-time combat. Not only that, but they made the first chapter of the original story into a full game without sacrificing familiarity of each scene of the original game.
I patiently waited with excitement for this game ever since it was announced a few years back. Now that I have finally played it, I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Square Enix did a good job of reviving this iconic game, giving old and new fans something to talk about for a long time. The original Final Fantasy VII was already a great game and the remake brought an even higher level of enjoyment. This remake, for me, is the best game of the series so far. It doesn’t matter if you’re a returning fan who played the old game or playing it for the first time, I highly recommend checking it out.