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Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

The original Final Fantasy VII is the very game that got me into RPGs. When I first played it, I knew this was the genre that was meant for me, and it still remains one of my favourite genres to this day.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this story, as Final Fantasy VII was the game that made RPGs cool and popular. Even over 20 years later, this masterpiece is still making an impact. There are spin-offs, a movie, merchandise, and still so much love for this classic. Fans had been after a modern day remake for many years, and excitement ran high when it was confirmed the remake was a reality. Now us fans have it in our hands, and as someone who grew up on this game and have completed it no less than 10 times (and counting), I’m very excited to give my thoughts on this new remake.

Midgar Brought To Life

Midgar is one of gaming’s most memorable locations. The Midgar portion of FF7 may be rather short in the original, but still remains as a great location to start your journey. For those unaware, this remake only contains the Midgar portion, but has been more fleshed out to feel like a complete story in its own right, but more on that later.

The first thing you’ll notice when diving back into Midgar are the gorgeous visuals. The majority of this great city might look like a dump, but the steampunk style is still a wonder to behold. There were many times I just stood still and admired the view, gazing at that daunting plate above our heads. It’s an experience I never had in the original, and being able to see the plate above allowed me to see what it feels like living in the Midgar slums- trapped and closed off from the world above. While the environments look great from afar, I’ll admit up close the textures can be quite poor, so it’s best not to look at things up close.

Not only does Midgar look great (for the most part), the city and slums just feel more alive than in the original. There’s a lot more people around, and you can sense when the emotions are running high. When you’re on your way back to Sector 7 after bombing the first reactor, you’ll notice everyone panicking and can see the damage that was really done. In the original, you hardly sense this at all, and it makes you feel even more connected to Midgar than ever before. As you casually stroll around the slum throughout your journey, you can listen in on people’s conversations, which helps give more life to this game.

In terms of the level design of Midgar, it’s quite linear, but as was the original. If anything, this remake is less linear than before, but I do wonder if they could have put a bit more effort into it. So much about this remake was given a face-lift and clearly brought to modern day, but I wish they could have brought the level design along with it.

There are many moments of strictly walking along a straight path, and it’s not exactly fun. To be fair though, there are some areas that are set up like your typical dungeon, where progression involves unlocking areas, backtracking, and solving puzzles to progress. These areas were great, though they were few and far between.

Fresh New Combat System

Even though this remake’s story and characters are all great, it was actually the combat that was the highlight for me. The original game had turn-based combat, which is commonplace in this genre. This remake takes that idea and incorporates so much more.

In fact, this remake takes a lot of ideas from previous Final Fantasy games and combines them into one cohesive and deep combat system. Of course, the Materia system remains, but it also includes the Stagger system from FF13, learning skills from your weapons like in FF9, and a very subtle version of the job system from FF5. Each weapon your earn isn’t simply just a more powerful version of the weapon before it, they can all be upgraded with different purposes in mind. Some weapons might be more melee-focused, some are more magic-focused, or some based around defense. This allows for so much flexibility when assigning roles for each character.

Some boss fights might be all about requiring magic, so you can have every character with higher magic attack stats and focus on that. Other bosses might be strong against magic but weak to staggering, so you’ll need to work around that. By equipping the right weapon, the right materia combinations, and understanding all the characters skills will be key to success in combat, and that’s why it’s so great. The depth is so much more than I expected, and I relished the chance to flex my muscles in each battle, and had no reservations in retrying tougher battles to rework my strategy to give myself the best fighting chance.

Each character you control in combat actually feels like a distinct combatant, rather than an empty canvas like in many JRPGs. Each character’s skill set usually revolves around a main purpose. Tifa, being a much faster fighter than the others, is great for building up the stagger meter and building pressure, whereas Aerith is more magic-based where her skills revolve around enhancing her magic usage. Because of this, there are no real weak links and every character is worth having on your team.

If I could find just one criticism of the combat, it would be camera issues- specifically locking on. When locking on to enemies you expect the camera to follow them well, and while it works well most of the time, there were times the camera didn’t cooperate. There were plenty of times I needed to unlock the camera, spin it around to get a good view again, then lock back on. It did get annoying at times because the action can be so intense, not being able to see enemies you’ve locked onto can be catastrophic.

Fleshed Out Or Padded Out?

As I mentioned before, you’ll only be playing through the Midgar section of the overall story, meaning this approximately 5 hour section needed to be stretched out to be considered a full game in its own right. But is this game more fleshed out? Or simply padded out to make up the hours? This answer is both.

I like to think this remake is more fleshed out than anything though. Almost every part of the Midgar story is really magnified, there are even new additions that I quite enjoyed. For example, chapter 4 has you going on a new, separate adventure with Avalanche members Jessie, Biggs and Wedge. In the original you don’t spend much time with them, but in the remake, chapters like this allow you more time with them, and therefore are able to create some kind of bond with them.

You’ll also spend more time in Wall Market, which for me is the highlight of the entire game’s story. Wall Market has even more to do, and is even seedier than before. The game’s last few chapters do great job of building up towards the game’s conclusion, and the Shinra HQ was an absolute joy to explore.

The best part about most of the game being fleshed out is that it helps turn this once relatively short story into feeling like an epic one. By the journey’s end, it really does feel like a huge adventure. Even though it’s understandable most people would have just preferred the entire FF7 story, I really don’t mind the whole thing expanded upon over multiple games.

That being said, I think future games in this remake series needs to cut out the obvious padding, as it was indeed there. In fact, there were some chapters that did not need to be there at all. Chapters 13 and 14 were examples of clear padding, and the storylines behind them didn’t contribute that much, if any, to the overall story. There were times you had to re-explore the same areas again, both with the main and side missions. They just killed the momentum the game’s story had going, but luckily picks up again afterwards.

Speaking of side missions, most of them were your typical fetch/filler quests. Go kill these monsters here, go kill these bandits there, they’re mostly unoriginal and could have been a lot more interesting. The only upside to them were the rewards were quite good, and of course any reason to hang around longer in this game is worth doing!

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review Summary

This remake has done a great job of capturing the spirit and magic of the original Midgar section. I’ve loved the fact that it’s been expanded upon to give a more fleshed out experience, though some padding problems do slow things down a bit.

The combat was without a doubt the best part of the remake. With a combination of different systems brought together into one cohesive combat system, it provides plenty of depth, strategy and fun that you don’t always get with JRPGs.

As someone who grew up on this game, I can easily say I’m very happy with this remake. It’s not perfect, but the pros outweigh the cons, and I’ll be eagerly anticipating the next instalment.

Score: 9.4

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