I was not a launch day owner of the PS1 and was about eleven or twelve years old when i finally got a PlayStation. I vaguely remember seeing Final Fantasy 7 and all the fervour behind it. However, looking at the visuals, it was something that put me off immediately. When Final Fantasy 8 released I was instantly attracted by the visuals and remember playing the 1 hour demo. The CGI and visuals were stunning, but now the sheer amount of text and the turn-based battle system detracted me from the series completely.
Over the years I have picked up a few plot points from FF7 over the years and felt as though the game has pretty much passed me by. I was briefly tempted by FF15 with its active battle system and the fully voiced acted scenes, but for some reason, likely due to the lack of time and now a grown man with a job I again skipped it. But, when the remake for FF& was announced, I committed to playing it, this is the time I get sucked into this world, and spoilers…I did!
The world of Midgar is perfectly realised. It seems like a real place. It massively helps to have the horsepower of a machine like the PS4 Pro, but you can tell it would have benefited from something more powerful. The texture pop in is very distracting and what is worse are the non-playable characters also popping in as you run through the slums. Also lining up for button prompts can be very annoying.
You play as Cloud Strife, and ex-SOLDIER. He starts off quite reserved and uptight. Now he sells his services as a mercenary to the highest bidder. The eco-terrorist group Avalanche are the rag-tag group that enlist him to help with taking down ShinRa the company that has effectively created the city of Midgar. They began by mining Mako, the essence of the Earth that is the ‘life-blood’ of the planet. The complexity of this issue is continually touched upon. They understand the city couldn’t exist without the Mako, but they also know the planet wouldn’t live for much longer if they keep using it up. To add an extra wrinkle to this inter-twined story. Cloud himself used to work for ShinRa and brings his own back story to play.
The characters are all brilliant, each one designed really well with very unique looks. They would normally be ridiculous, but I find that they developers managed to give them all realistic and solid back stories that justify them. It is a bit odd that you travel through the world, and all the ‘normal’ people are so easily distinguishable from the ‘hero’ characters. Cloud, Tifa and most of the Avalanche members are great. Barret is the only one that seems like a bit of a caricature. He shouts almost every line even when upset. Somehow you will find yourself warming to him. Aerith is the complete opposite, very twee and adorable but to a fault. She comes across very one-sided even though you get a brief look into her childhood, I hope she is developed further in upcoming games.
Each main character has a unique fighting style, two are close combat fighters and the other two are mostly ranged. Thankfully, the gameplay is more active. You have to wait for an ‘ATB’ bar to fill to allow you to perform ‘Abilities’, ‘Spells’ or use items. You can attack as normal, but the bulk of the fighting gameplay is waiting for these bars to activate which they do slowly overtime, or faster when you attack. You are given up to three party members at a time which fight alongside you. You can switch between them all at any time and use them tactfully to keep you healed up and attacking correctly. Because dying on a complex boss is a massive pain. Thankfully it checkpoints before every battle.
To layer deeper onto the combat; the main function of the gameplay. Multiple weapons and materia are used. combinations of these will give you the edge against the dozens of enemies you face throughout the game. Materia ranges from ice or fire spells to ‘Summon’ materia to allow you to call in support which can tilt the battles in your favour.
The biggest fear for fans of this title was that Square were going to stretch out the story and milk it for whatever fans are willing to pay for it. I totally understand this argument. The game features the Midgar section of the original. It took me 40 hours to complete, almost exactly. I even did pretty much everything. All side missions that were open to me, VR battles and mini games, so that in itself is a win. I wonder if I would have done this had it not been for COVID-19 lockdown though? Maybe? I might even go back in and collect some of the things I missed using the chapter select option.
FF7 Remake sets up a lot of things, and those who have played the original will know exactly what is coming up. But these will scenes will be re-imagined for a modern day audience. There were scenes in here I can’t imagine on the original. During the whole game I was floored and wondered, ‘how did they do that on the PS1?’ and ‘was that in the original?’ Particularly the motorcycle sections. It’s not a perfect game and the biggest thing against it is the lack of ‘open-world-ness’. It is quite linear and the over world is not present at all. I would have loved the ability to visit other areas, but perhaps that is to come?
I feel quite satisfied with the game as a whole and as a self contained thing it is very impressive. For someone new, it appears like the story is so well written and the character developed brilliantly due to the fact that there is so much fore-shadowing going on, you can really appreciate the work gone into it. Think how the Lord of the Rings books/movies created a believable world, so does Square with Final Fantasy 7 Remake. There is no doubt that I am in for the long haul now and hopefully the technical hiccups are fixed on the sequels.
- Replay Value