Most people are done with Final Fantasy VII Remake reviews, but having just finished it, here’s my two-penny worth and opinion whether it’s any good.
A double-edged Buster sword on my to-do list: finish the Final Fantasy VII Remake, then publish a review on it, has now been officially ticked off. Well, I’m writing this now, so it’s a task that will soon be completed.
Any fan of the original, or those who had been actively tracking the developments, will have had the release date pencilled in for April 2020, but copies were scarce due to COVID-19.
A month after release, Final Fantasy VII Remake Deluxe Edition landed on my birthday lap, and I’ve been playing for the last five weeks in-between reviews. About 30 minutes ago, I finished it, and here are my thoughts.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Review
Back in the late 90s, I was able to get hold of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation. Not knowing anything about the Final Fantasy series or never having played a proper JRPG (unless you count The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past), the genre was a bit alien to me.
A turn-based strategy game that focused heavily on story, levelling up characters and combining the correct types of magic and items, won me over almost immediately. This was the age where FMV (full motion video) cutscenes ruled, and I was a massive fan of this type of storytelling.
When introduced to the characters, their names could be changed, so as a teenager, I was swift in renaming Cloud to my name, and Aerith to my then-girlfriend. Final Fantasy VII, from Square Enix, was intoxicating, and it was the first console game where I was able to track my hours (70+), until I got to the final battle and deleted my savegame in error.
Almost 23 years later, I’m playing it again, only this time it’s much more different.
You may have read my preview piece from when I played the demo, so rather than continue down that path, let’s cover a few other areas, such as how long you can expect to play the game.
It’s no secret that Final Fantasy VII Remake is episodic – when the next instalment is out, I’m not sure, but without any spoilers as such, the story covers Midgar. The same landscapes and points of interest remain such as Wall Market and a few familiar faces, only there are a few twists in the narrative and for veterans of the original, there are lots to see and do.
In this first playthrough, I clocked in 46 hours.
Savour The Taste; Practice Makes Perfect
When I got the game, I had a few exchanges with other gamers asking how long it took them. Most said around 25 hours to complete without completing all of the sidequests in the game.
Naively, I was aiming for the platinum, but as you need to redo the game on hard difficulty, I’ve put it on the backburner – mostly based on my experience with the last couple of chapters in the game.
Before that, I planned out my game and decided to level up once I was able to; improving my stats, weapon abilities and materia. There are 18 chapters in the game, and I’d say around chapter 15 I was at level 40 or so.
Be advised that levelling up doesn’t necessarily overpower you – the key is load-outs.
Said load-outs relate to which weapon is equipped, but more importantly, the materia as this can literally change the tide of a battle. Materia consists of the following food groups:
- Green – magic; i.e. elemental such as fire and ice.
- Yellow – command; learn enemy skills or steal.
- Blue – support; wards and magnify.
- Purple – complete; HP and MP up.
- Red – summon; Ifrit, Shiva, et al.
Individual stats increase through combat via EXP and materia levels up through AP and placed in weapons and accessories. With each level increase, a new skill is learned or improved upon. Summon materia are maxed out from the outset.
If you’re struggling, it’s the strategy, not your statistics.
Set Pieces and Filler
Final Fantasy VII Remake reviews have been done to death, and other than walkthroughs, guides and tips and tricks, everything has already been covered in other write-ups.
Even if you’ve played the original, it goes without saying that you should play this remake – even if you think you know what’ll happen next, it’s not always the case.
Rather than spoil the game by detailing the story, let me give my perspective on the experience.
The Midgar section in the original was never my favourite. It wasn’t until I had left the compound that I started to enjoy the game with the open-world, random encounters and hidden treasures scattered around the 3D landscapes.
In my experience, a lot of Final Fantasy VII Remake felt like filler. Sure, the visuals are stunning, the characters while already established, have enough depth to them to carry the narrative, but there are so many dialogue sequences, and sections where you have to crawl through vents that it just felt a bit padded out, and lacking the action.
Fast-forward towards the tail end of the game, and I was borderline rage quitting. There weren’t enough opportunities to save while feeling confident that the autosave will retain my place (if you recall, I deleted my saved game before – I didn’t want this to happen).
Again, in fear of spoiling it for you, the game belts out one hardcore boss after the next without any time to have a breather. What made this worse was an arcade section involving a motorbike where I had to retry a few times as the mechanics are entirely different from the rest of the game.
The battles that followed that, while challenging, were in no way as frustrating or absurd as the biking section.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest games of all-time as far as I’m concerned, and if I were reviewing it back then, it would have received a perfect score. This remake has the same enchanting storytelling that had me gripped from the opening sequence up until the credits, and on that part, it achieves full marks.
However, I can’t help but feel that there were far too many sections in there to pad the game out unnecessarily, and the arcade segments had me on the verge of bailing out as some parts were irksome.
Before playing the game, I was under the impression that Final Fantasy VII Remake might have gone the same way as Hitman in that a few years down the line, all the episodes would be released as a compilation.
Having finished the game, and after a breather go back to tackling the hard difficulty, I’d say that this is very worthy as a standalone title in terms of value, experience and gameplay. Sure, the journey will continue, but this first instalment is a very big game if you do all the side quests, and earn all the trophies.
Sure, there’s not the same scope for exploration as there was in the original, but things have changed, and Final Fantasy VII Remake is ground-breaking and it’s evident why it took so long to come out.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next part.