Final Fantasy 7 Remake – Shadows Over Midgar
Final Fantasy 7 has always been a special game to me. It was one of the first games my cousin showed to me when I was young, and since then it was like a match made in heaven. From rewatching Advent Children countless times (I know, I know. I was a kid; don’t judge me), to playing Kingdom Hearts, to actually, genuinely dressing up as Cloud for a Halloween, it would be hard to say Final Fantasy 7 hasn’t influenced my life in some way. So to say I was excited for Final Fantasy 7 Remake would be a bit of an understatement.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix. Many familiar faces line the list of people working on it, from Tetsuya Nomura directing it, to Nobuo Uematsu composing the music for it, both with help, as this was a rather heavy undertaking. While the meaning of the term “remake” seems to have narrowed, I would say that Final Fantasy 7 Remake follows the definition of remake to a T.
The story is nearly identical to the original 23 years ago: former SOLDIER member Cloud Strife takes up a job as a mercenary. One job is working for the eco-terrorist group Avalanche to stop the Shinra Corporation from using up all the energy that the planet has to not only power the world, but bring forth technological advancement. What starts out as a seemingly noble journey turns into a downhill struggle for survival.
Now, the pacing of the story can be questionable in some areas. The newer areas are rather well paced, and you don’t feel like you’re hanging around them too long, but some of the original areas that they expanded upon can run a bit slowly. To be honest, it never bothered me much on my first playthrough, but I bet on a second run I will start to feel the game get a bit sluggish as I’ll have to shimmy my way through slits in the wall more times than I could count. However, through all of that, the game had several saving graces that kept me from getting bored, which I will touch upon before giving my final verdict.
First off, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has some of the best character writing I’ve seen this year. Giving us more time to experience Midgar has also given us more time to learn about the characters we follow. Not only are the main characters like Cloud and Tifa given more chemistry to work with, but those who used to be designated as minor characters like Wedge and Marlene turn into much more than that with the amount of depth they are given.
There isn’t a single piece of dialogue in this entire game that I dislike, and they are all wonderfully given to us through the stellar work of the voice cast. Final Fantasy 7 Remake hits you with the laughs, the cries, and the tender moments that tug at the heart-strings. Which only makes me happy as it means I get to enjoy my time with the reimagined characters I grew to love.
Back With A New Coat Of Paint
Relating to that, the characters and the world they inhabit are gorgeous. Every character model is lovingly recreated to make good use of the power of consoles this generation. There isn’t a single character in this game that looks bad; even the cats are wonderfully rendered and animated.
However, it’s not all rainbows, but there are plenty of sunshines, as the lighting sometimes does the bulk of the heavy lifting. Things will look pretty from afar, but once you get too close, it might deform and you’ll start to see the cracks.
Not only that, but it feels like something that wasn’t supposed to happen. There are multiple times where the camera will zoom in on a flower whose stamen is like five polygons, and it’s the same flower that is seen being given to Cloud by Aerith, rendered beautifully. In addition to that, multiple backgrounds and skyboxes look so good that it’s hard to believe the plate of Sector 7 above is just an image. But then you see the city from high up and you can tell that it’s an image, with actual artifacting. Needless to say, there’s plenty of inconsistency.
On the opposite side of that, what isn’t inconsistent, as I’ve said, is the lighting. From daytime to especially nighttime, Midgar is gorgeously well lit, whether it be the bright sunshine filtering over the Sector 7 Slums or the neon-filled streets of Wall Market; I couldn’t help but just stop and admire the world I knew returning with a new slick look.
A Lively Midgar
Speaking of, the world feels so alive. I marveled at the amount of lines the NPCs you walked past were given. There was no shortage of it; always there was something new for them to say, whether it be some random one-off, or a discussion about the story’s events. This is a big improvement to the original as, sure, you’ll get to talk to a few guys about the goings-on in Midgar, but to hear the fear in someone’s voice as they worry about what Avalanche will do next, it was just another step-up from 23 years ago.
Backing all this is a marvelous soundtrack. I am not exaggerating when I say the soundtrack of Final Fantasy 7 Remake is the best I’ve heard in a while. Every song I remember from the original are given remasters improving upon the old (with multiple amazing remixes of “Let The Battles Begin” and others), and the new ones only compliment the score by adding in fresh sounds to the mix. Sometimes you think you’re getting a new song, then it sucker punches you in the gut with notes from the original tracks. The music sets the tone perfectly no matter the scenario, whether it be walking from district to district in Wall Market, or engaging in tense combat with your foes.
Let The Battles Begin
What combat is in Final Fantasy 7 Remake can only be called a true hybrid, mixing the systems of both RPG and action to give us what may be my favorite combat in a Final Fantasy game. First, you have your regular attack, usually dealt with each press of the button, but you will never breeze through the game by just attacking.
Through the use of Active Time Battle, or ATB, you can use items, spells, and abilities to level the playing field. Every character has only two bars of ATB that refill at a slow speed, unless the player is possessing that character and attacking, which fills the bar faster. This encourages the player to switch between characters on the fly, making it feel like you’re actually a team, using each character’s strengths to add something to the battle, whether it be the stagger-filling blow they possess, or the magic they can cast through the use of materia.
The combat is highly customizable. Each character has their own weapons, and will gain more throughout the playthrough. Every weapon can be modified and upgraded with points gained through leveling up. These upgrades can range from attack boosts to an extra materia slot, allowing more complexity in the way your fights will go. Not only that, but each weapon has a special ability that can only be used with that weapon unless you use it enough to become proficient, allowing the use of it among all of that character’s weaponry. No matter who you like to play the most, there will be something for everybody. All of the four characters felt great and were fun to play as in their own ways.
So with all this added depth to the combat, how does the opposition fare?
Old Threats Return
Many fan favorite enemies return to the field, each with more added to them to make the fight more interesting. There are very few enemies I loathe to fight, and very few times I’ve actually decided to flee, as every fight engaged me, keeping me on my toes no matter who I faced. Nothing felt like a grind, as character progression was perfectly paced to keep up with the increasing difficulty of the enemy. On Normal difficulty, it was never easy, but it was never too difficult either. Every time I died, it was only due to my own stupidity, and not the game being ridiculously unfair. This continued into the boss fights.
The boss fights are the peak of the combat. The old bosses of the original are back with a fresh coat of paint, being given new layers of depth that add to the fight, while new bosses, most of the time being old enemies promoted up to boss, are there to give us something new to throw ourselves at. Every boss fight felt like a fair challenge, a wall that I knew I could get over if I tried hard enough. There wasn’t a single dull moment in any of these fights, and they are what I looked forward to the most as I traversed each dungeon.
And as I’ve said before, some dungeons can feel like a drag, especially near the end when things are ramping up for the finale, but you have to go through a series of labs and fight a bunch of things for some crazy dude’s amusement.
Edge of Creation
However, it’s all the good things I listed that kept me going through this game. The writing, the characters, the music, the combat, all of that is what kept me from getting bored. This is a fun game. A good game. There’s a bit of a snag with the ending though. Some people have their takes with it, thinking it ruins the entire game, but without spoiling anything, I would say it’s gotten me more excited for what’s to come next.
Overall, I think Final Fantasy 7 Remake is my game of the year. It’s given me the biggest smiles all year, and a lot of heart-touching moments, alongside blood-pumping action with a killer soundtrack, that I can’t think of anything outdoing this. If you’re a Final Fantasy veteran, this is a great step up in the combat it’s been trying to capture for years, and if you’re new, things might be a bit confusing, but otherwise it should be an enjoyable experience!
Did you enjoy this review? Check out our reviews of Boot Hill Bounties and Receiver 2! Do you enjoy what we do? Check out our Ko-Fi, and consider dropping us a coffee! If you want to do what we do, we’re looking for new writers and editors! Fill out the form here if you’re interested. Thanks!
Reviewed by Freelance7 on the PS4.