Floating on Cloud Nine
Final Fantasy VII came out in 1997 and served as many people's first introduction to jRPGs. While opinions of the game vary (I think it is simply good), there's no denying the impact it has had on gaming. From continuing to top best jRPGs of all time lists to being influential for many future games in the genre, Final Fantasy VII is really a colossal treat. However, parts of the game have aged rather poorly, and the desire for a remake has always been huge. So finally, Square Enix has given the fans what they've been asking for. Final Fantasy VII Remake is here, and is it everything you could have hoped for?
For those unfamiliar, you play as a mercenary named Cloud who's hired to help an eco-terrorist group known as Avalanche. Their goal is to stop mega-corporation Shinra, who's actively destroying the planet by sucking up its energy and using it as a power source. However, while Shinra provides the initial threat, it's clear there's more going on. Cloud's old arch-enemy has come back from the dead, he meets the last member of an extinct race, and there are mysterious phantoms attacking for reasons that no one understands.
If Your Hair is Spiky for Four or More Hours, Call a Doctor
For the most part, both people who have never played Final Fantasy VII before and fans of the original should find plenty to love here. The characters are well fleshed out, the story manages to move at just the right pace, and there isn't a ton of filler. If you've played the original, the new character development on both Avalanche's team and the main cast should be more than enough to keep you hooked. It's not until the last couple of hours that newcomers will likely get lost, a problem that could have been easily avoided.
Final Fantasy VII Remake only covers up until the end of the Midgar segment of the original game. Several characters that would go on to be major players in the original game, such as Hojo, Red XIII, and Rufus, made their debut in this segment. Unfortunately in Remake, this translates to Hojo and Red XIII playing super important roles in the final few chapters despite having almost no character development or prior mention. Rufus flies in on a helicopter to serve as a random never before mentioned late-game boss before flying off and out of the game. Fans will get a kick out of this, but new players will likely just be left confused and wondering who these people even are. It doesn't feel like there's any good reason to forgo adding more scenes with these characters, especially when the Remake instead leans heavily into finding ways to shoehorn the rather forgettable Heidegger into scenes instead.
This is, of course, not getting into the completely new stuff in the final chapter. I'm going to keep this vague because I don't want to spoil it, but it's pretty clear you're either going to love or hate the ending. I personally loved it, having felt it was a fantastic departure from the original game while still fitting in with the world. However, it's going to have some massive changes in how the next chapter/episode/game/whatever of the Remake saga plays out.
As for gameplay, Remake manages to combine real-time action with its turn-based roots in a shockingly satisfying way. I mentioned back when I previewed the game for E3, but this manages to take elements of the original game, the Kingdom Hearts series, and even Final Fantasy XIII and mashes them together into an impressive super beast. The basic gist is that you'll use Cloud and his friends in action-tinged combat. As you continue to damage enemies, you fill the ATB bar, which eventually lets you select more traditional magic or special attacks while time almost stands still. While regular attacks work fine, the attacks you earn are the real damage dealers.
However, you'll want to use this in conjunction with another major system, and that's stagger. Ripped straight from Final Fantasy XIII, damaging enemies fills their stagger bar. Fill the whole thing, and they'll become stunned and take extra damage from attacks. Some enemies go into a pressured state, which means attacks deal more stagger damage. Many fights involve trying to figure out how to manipulate this bar and take advantage of each enemy's eccentricities. It quickly becomes a fantastic thrill to work out all the little tricks that put someone into a stagger state. Sometimes it's just using magic they're weak to, others it's hitting them during specific attacks. No matter what it's always a joy to figure out and exploit.
In addition to this, each playable character has their own little quirks that you can make use of. Cloud can switch between two different stances, Tifa can charge up her moves, Barret has access to a heavy-hitting attack, while Aerith can lay down magical mines. As they gain new weapons they can learn new abilities off of these weapons as well, giving access to even more unique combat options. It meant I enjoyed playing as every character in some way, and actively encouraged me to switch between them and use all of their skills to make my way through each battle.
One Winged Lame-o
None of this would matter if Remake didn't actually have fun enemies to fight, but the game is absolutely full of them. I was worried most of the normal enemies would just be cut down hilariously easy, but many actually had quite the kick to them. I had to get clever with how I approached each battle, as the simple act of mashing attack like a mad man only brought me so far. It was easier to utilize Cloud's counter-attacks against the speedy dog enemies, robots always took extra damage from lighting attacks, while flying enemies meant having to get creative with magic or bring in a character with ranged attacks. Each fight felt at least a little unique, and I had to approach them all differently.
Even better was the many boss fights. There wasn't a single one that didn't promptly impress me due to its sheer spectacle. From giant robots that require a full team to battle to one-on-one duals between Cloud and other highly-trained fighters, it's all the exact kind of combat I crave. Each fight had unique elements, requiring dodging lasers, attacking weak points, cutting off limbs, killing minions, and more. Every fight is a winner, and even Remake's weakest boss fights would be considered the highlight of other games.
Doing Squats For The Planet
Once you finish up with combat, you're left to run through levels. Remake is a mostly linear game, with you running through sections of Midgar without deviating from the trail too much. A couple of times the game opens up and allows you to accept side quests, with a few hub areas scattered in the game's eighteen chapters. Unfortunately, none of the side quests are particularly interesting, with almost all of them either being "run around and find things" or "arrive at location X and kill enemies." Before long I found myself wanting to skip the side quests, though there are a few good rewards if you stick them out. If you do choose to do all the side quests, you're likely looking at getting around 40 hours out of Remake.
Several times, usually in the story but occasionally in side quests, you stop for a minigame. All of them are pretty simple affairs, such as coordinated switch pulling, squats, plunging out a clogged pipe, playing darts, and more. While none of the minigames stand out as addicting, they're all cute and don't wear out their welcome. The best, however, is a dancing minigame that blew me away. I don't want to spoil it at all, but it's totally worth seeing when it happens and left me on the floor laughing.
However, just finishing the story doesn't mean you're done. You can go back to past chapters and replay them, with a new hard mode providing a nice challenge for anyone looking for it. There's also a pair of combat arenas that you can participate in, both of which provide some of the most challenging fights in the game. You can also earn summonings by completing challenges and then battling the summonings. It's a sizeable chunk of extra content and should provide many more hours of fun.
All of this is in what is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful games of the generation. Every character model seems to be meticulously detailed, and combat is always flashy and eye-catching. Perhaps the only blemish on the visual presentation is that textures occasionally fail to load. It's a bit weird, especially when you see something like Cloud's ultra-detailed character model against a door that's more blurry than the typical original PlayStation graphics. I also absolutely need to mention Remake's astounding soundtrack. From remixes of old songs to original tunes, every single song can be described as "a banger." Even more impressive is just how much there is, with the game having hours and hours of music for your listening pleasure.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Review | Final Thoughts
There are many things that Final Fantasy VII Remake could have been. It could have played it safe, or it could have been a total disaster. Instead, it's an absolutely amazing game, managing to revitalize a jRPG classic and turn it into one of the most absurdly fun games of the generations. From a thrilling plot with great characters to fantastic combat that never gets old, to just being straight-up beautiful, there's a lot to love with Final Fantasy VII Remake. Unless if you want the next part of the game now. Here's hoping we're not in for another five-year wait.
TechRaptor reviewed Final Fantasy VII Remake on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer.
- Fantastic Story and Characters
- Absolutely Stunning Visuals and Soundtrack
- Impressively Fun New Combat System
- Great Boss Fights
- Plenty of Extra Content
- Fun Minigames
- A Few Late Game Story Beats Don't Work
- Boring Side Quests
- Occasional Texture Issues