Available on: PS4
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: April 10th 2020
*Disclaimer: This review has been split into my own experience with the first game and the remake, there are spoilers in the last half of the article, so you are safe to read up till then and not have the story spoiled.
The game of a generation
Final Fantasy 7 is a game that helped change the gaming landscape for the large majority of gamers out there, sure we had RPGs before this, but they were as far away from being mainstream as you could possibly get. Then in the late 90s, in the height of the success of the PS1, this strange as heck game comes out where the characters look like they fell out of a box of Lego.
To this day I don’t even remember why I got it or even how, I can probably thank my brother for this as he always had his ear to the ground and knew what was going to be good and on the cutting edge, I still remember him telling me about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before they showed up on TV, so any recommendation from him is one I will always take.
Final Fantasy 7 the beginning
Around this time, gaming for me, in general, consisted of racing, fighting, and platformer games, so the story and character development were pretty foreign concepts to me. That isn’t to say I didn’t play other types of games, but nothing really captured my attention in a way that had me coming back to see a full-on story develop. Until FF7 came along and blew me away.
Right from the start, I was being thrown into a fully developed world with characters that for the first time didn’t feel like throwaway generic background animation. Now granted I’m talking from the point of view of a 15-year-old kid who didn’t get out a lot, so no doubt people will see the game differently from me.
I loved how I could be relaxed and enjoy FF7 while still being totally engrossed in the story, I also really loved turn-based combat, and FF7 did it so well. I finally felt like I didn’t have to button mash just to get to the next stage or run through a level with near-perfect timing.
When I started FF7, I clearly didn’t realise the scope of the game and I had no idea how long I would be playing it for, but it was a damn good investment and I think FF7 is where my completionist habit was formed as I had to see everything, collect every weapon, beat every boss.
Final Fantasy 7 the end
As with all great games, there comes the end, and it was a pretty emotional story to power through. Nothing I had played or would play for a few years would even come close to touching the same level of excellence that FF7 had left me feeling. To this day the original FF7 is one of my all-time favourite games and while I rarely look back and play older games, the memories I have of this game have stayed strong with me.
So, when I heard that we were getting a remake I think it’s safe to say I was at equal parts excited and terrified at the same time. A lot of questions went through my mind, was this going to be a remaster, or a complete overhaul of the game with the same story dropped into a new beautifully rendered engine. These questions would go unanswered for a while. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Final Fantasy 7 or any in the series, this pretty much sums up the average reaction to the news when we first heard FF7 was getting remade.
When teasers were dropped, I was once again excited, the gameplay looked incredible, well beyond my expectations, the mechanics were interesting and I could already see little changes to how the game would play, I was actually massively supportive of this unlike many out there.
Then came the news that would devastate my feelings towards the remake and would likely be the reason I would not touch it for many years to come. The story would be portioned across multiple games, this broke my heart. The decision was controversial, to say the least, and I know a lot of folks have come to terms and accepted it, I am not one of these people.
So why am I writing this, well I think you can guess by now, I did play the Final Fantasy 7 remake, courtesy of my PlayStation Plus subscription, so while not technically free, I did get my hands on it without having to buy the game.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake beginning of the end
I knew I would be conflicted playing the remake and was almost hoping to be disappointed in the game, at least this way I could leave it behind me and go on as if it had been just a bad dream. To no one’s surprise, it was a great game, visually and technically it’s a masterpiece, running on my PS5, it’s hands down one of the best-looking games I have had the joy of playing.
Once again, the characters are the best thing about FF7R and they really stand out, even going so far as to develop the more minor characters from the original, and they have come a long way from their 90s counterparts. At the time I didn’t realise how bad some of the dialogue was, but thankfully that also got the overhaul treatment while still paying respect to what made the original so amazing.
The combat is nothing short of breath-taking, seamlessly blending a real-time hack and slash with a turn-based action selection system. I have seen some games try this and fail, but FF7R pulls this off so well. There are some great mechanics in the form of staggering your opponent that adds strategy, so you aren’t just mindlessly using the same mechanic over and over again to bring down your enemies.
The Materia from the original makes a comeback and is pretty easy to get a hand on how to use along with a newly revamped weapons system which pairs very well with the spells and abilities you gain from Materia use; this allows for a nice bit of customisation of characters without adding too much complexity. The inventory system feels nice and simple to use, and to be fair I found myself using very little bar the odd phoenix down when things got bad. The Summons Materia (which act as temporary guardians for the players) make a return as well and are visually phenomenal, always coming in just when the fight is getting dire.
The turn-based portion of combat comes in the form of a ‘slow-mo pause’ where the action is still happening but at a fraction of the pace, almost like watching a high-speed video of a bee flapping its wings. With the action slowed down, you can view the battlefield and then issues commands to your party, this works so well as you still feel the pressure of the fight as it’s never really paused.
The way FF7R is split into chapters is nice, and I really got the sense of an unfolding story and would help the completionist in me to go back and revisit parts of the game after I finished, but this in itself was also a double-edged sword. There was a feeling in the back of my head that I managed to box up and bury away very early on, I knew that the story was going to “end” a lot sooner than I know it did in the original.
I knew how many chapters FF7R has and so when I was getting near to the last few, that feeling I had buried came back with a vengeance.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake the end of the beginning
I will say in very clear word FF7R is a great game, the story is incredible, the mechanics are so clever and easy to get to grips with, everything about the game should place at the top of my favourite games of all time, just like it’s original, but it is not and this is no fault of the game itself, but more my expectations.
I know there are plenty of folks out there who disagree with me and that’s ok, I welcome any constructive exchange on this topic. I am well aware that I probably come off as entitled or something to that effect, but as it stands, I can’t help be see the love I had for the original taken and carved up into multiple games and DLCs.
At the time I joked that I would be playing the whole collection on the PS9, and now to see FF7R already be adapted for the PS5 along with exclusive content which seems to be locked out of PS4 users’ hands, I am deeply disappointed that my joke may be closer to reality then I would care for.
+++++++++ Final Fantasy 7 Remake Spoilers +++++++++
You have been warned, this is only for those who have played the game to its completion or are happy to have the story spoiled, which is not something I really want, if you have a way to play FF7R, please do.
I said this many times and it’s not a surprise at this point, but FF7R is not the full story that we will get to look forward to. If you compare this to the original, we finish up the game around about a third of the way into the story. I was fortunate enough to have avoided pretty much all spoilers of FF7R, so I wasn’t sure how much or even if the story was going to deviate from the original.
We definitely get a much more expanded story than the original with characters like Wedge, Biggs, and Jessie given some much-appreciated character development, in the original they were throwaway characters, but this time around they have been some real TLC and I found myself wondering and hoping they would make it to the end and still be around in some way, know full well they were never part of your core team.
As to the main characters, I was a little sad we only got to see Red 13 for a small bit and didn’t even get the chance to play him, but the rest of the gang you get to control were awesome and each felt like they had their own style, but the way the groups are forced to change due to the story, it felt a bit jarring at times.
New elements added to the game like the racing levels were fun at first but quickly felt repetitive and very boring, although they did add a new character who I thought was just awesome in the form of Roche, I really want to see more of him in the next games.
In fact, most of the bad guys in the game were pretty awesome, the Turks were cool and charismatic with Reno and Rude having much the same sort of flare that we got from Advent Children. Rufas was a total badass coming in towards the latter part of the game, his fight was crazy and I did not see coming nor was I prepared for how frustrating his counters were.
While we are talking about bad guys, we cannot leave out the big one himself, any moment you hear that music started, I swore the temperature in the room would drop a few degrees and I would get a chill on the back of my neck as the platinum devil would come into frame, Sephiroth. Every scene with him left me with more questions than I had answers as nothing felt like it was on the same track with the original story.
It was a few chapters in when I started to see the game splinter a little from the original story, and then I saw more and more deviations, I went through a lot of the game confused by what was happening but looking back it was actually pretty clever what was done. By now you know that monsters in the form of spectre’s show up when things start to change, and this is the world attempting to correct the path you are on.
It’s not till the end that I realised this really meant we could see a radically different end to the FF7 story. I know this upset some folks as there is something to preserving the story of the original, but for me, I love the idea.
The final chapters took my literal breath away, while the fighting was a little repetitive, the final fight was just off the wall crazy, it was everything I could have ever wanted. So when it ended the real disappointment I had been holding off finally took root, and I knew that everything I feared about the game had come to pass.
It was an epic introduction to a well-crafted and beautiful story, but it didn’t feel like a whole game to me, and I still feel a little bit cheated by this as entitled as that sounds, I felt like we the player deserved more for what we are willing to support.
The sad party as well is that my argument only seems to be getting stronger with time as we have seen with the announcement of Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade on the PS5 along with PS5 only content. It was nice to see that Sony are willing to give a free upgrade, but I feel like the final price for the whole FF7 story is going to be a steep one, and as much as it breaks my heart given how high I hold the original, it’s a price I won't pay.
Play this game if…
You like story-rich games
You loved all that is Final Fantasy
You enjoy a mix of turn-based and real-time combat
You enjoy a refreshing new take on a timeless classic
You’re team Tifa, or I guess you can be team Aerith as well
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