Final Fantasy 7 Remake could have been my favourite game of all time but…

Final Fantasy 7 Remake could have been my favourite game of all time but…

Hello. I am Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today… I finish my first Final Fantasy game.

The Final Fantasy series, much like me when I eat chocolate, will never stop. Final Fantasy is truly a never-ending behemoth that is growing bigger than ever before, in most parts due to the growth of FF14 Online and the game in question today; Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

As a video game fan, I have of course been aware of the Final Fantasy series. As a fan of JRPG’s, it is bizarre that I haven’t finished one of the games prior to this one. Of course, I had dabbled. I started a couple of games on the GBA and DS, whilst also putting about 10 hours into Final Fantasy 15 and the same into the MMO Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. Whilst all of these games were fun in their own ways, none of them really encouraged me to keep playing, and Final Fantasy 15 actively put me off the series, with a story I found confusing and frankly repellent. For me, JRPG’s don’t need convoluted stories to succeed. Of course, I understand that starting small and then one day fighting God is one of the greatest tropes in the genre but the story of the Final Fantasy games I have played, have often just been too much for me to enjoy. But, much like the flow of time, things will ebb, flow and then change. And that change within me has very much inspired me to write this review. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an excellent game but what stops it from becoming my favourite JRPG or the favourite game of all time? Well, find out as I review Final Fantasy 7 Remake on PS5.

Final Fantasy 7 is a game I haven’t played but, as a video game connoisseur… no, that sounds bad, as a video game fan, I am acutely aware of how important this game was to the evolution of JRPG’s in the West. In a bold move, developer Square Enix has opted to not adapt the entirety of the source material into one game but instead reimagine and extend just the first 7-10 hours of the original game into a AAA 40 hour-long experience. This decision holds two risks. One, the game could become unnecessarily bloated as it attempts to extend its runtime. Two, you risk alienating original, hardcore fans by changing a game that means so much to them. It would have been easy to just remake the original game with prettier graphics but this game does so much more than that and, for the balls alone, they deserve a great amount of respect for this. And, let me tell you, in some areas, Final Fantasy 7 Remake reaches highs that very few other games can even dream of reaching. In particular, there are seven, count them seven, highs that I want to discuss. And let me tell you this now, these highs reach some incredible heights.

High 1: An action-packed, engaging first 2 hours of gameplay

It is not an exaggeration to say that the first 2 hours of Final Fantasy 7 Remake are the best opening hours I have ever played in a game; leaving the best first impression possible. Before this, it was Ghost of Tsushima but in terms of action, pacing and story, Final Fantasy even beats this game out. For reference, I still call Ghost of Tsushima the best game I have ever played so this truly is the highest compliment I can give. From the dramatic panning around the city of Midgar all the way to the Sector 7 slums, the opening linear sections of gameplay showcase this game at its very best.

Brisk, engaging combat. Character interactions that don’t stop the action. Stunning setpieces. A damn fun boss fight. An incredible soundtrack. These first 2 hours are the perfect culmination of years of development on this game. This little slice of the game showcases the very finest parts of what Square Enix have to offer in terms of creating an incredible interactive experience. I’d even go as far as saying that the more open hub area of the Sector 7 slums comes along at the perfect point to prevent the linear action from becoming monotonous and instead allowing the player some freedom of choice in what they tackle next; be it a side challenge, combat grinding or progressing the main story.

And I’ll tell you this, it would be unrealistic to expect the game to keep this level up for the entire 30-40 hour game time. I didn’t expect that. But the other side of this double-edged sword is that when a game starts off as strong as this one does, any dip at all is all the more noticeable. Regardless of what does follow, this doesn’t detract from the memory that this opening section leaves you with. As a newcomer to FF7 and Final Fantasy in general, I couldn’t imagine a better way to introduce a new player to this story or this franchise.

I could use many superlatives to attempt to explain how and why this first impression was so strong. However, as this would detract from much of what am I about to follow on with, I will refrain and instead move onto the next high:

High 2: Characters

I don’t like using big sweeping generalisations but I’m going to do it here anyway. The characterisation in Final Fantasy 7 Remake is among the best, if not the best, that video games have ever seen. The only doubt in my mind is the characterisation in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and, in my book, any game that gets compared to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is going to be one at an incredibly high standard. What I mean here in terms of characterisation isn’t really regarding the main character, Cloud Strife, but instead the motley crew he joins and the various side characters that populate Midgar. I’m going to go over some of them briefly now; imagine this as a 70’s montage if you will.

Barret: The big guy with a heart of gold, Barret is a really likeable man. The head of the Sector 7 branch of Avalanche, he leads his merry band of eco-terrorists to take the mega-corporation of Shinra on and liberate the planet from its exploitation and the use of Mako, the lifeforce of the planet, apparently. It’s amazing that the game literally places you into a group of terrorists and, despite their cause being just overall, Barret’s gruff demeanour makes this initially very hard to believe, as he is initially antagonistic towards the player (due to Cloud’s past as a SOLDIER with Shinra) but does eventually warm up to you as you prove your worth and you come to an understanding regarding Shinra.

Barret isn’t just a one-note eco-nazi, however. The relationship between him and his adopted daughter Marlene exposes a much softer, clumsier side of his personality, as he struggles to come to terms with his decision to choose to take on Shinra and attempt to save the world, above spending time with his much-beloved daughter. This can also be seen in the amount of love he holds for the members of Avalanche. This is brought into question a little when something goes wrong later in the narrative but the relief and joy that he exudes when a mission goes well paints him as an ordinary man having to force himself to do extraordinary things.

One other thing is the voice work around Barret. It is superb. Surprisingly, the English voice actor does a splendid job of bringing Barret to life, so much so that it made my decision to switch the voice acting from Japanese to English (something I rarely do) easy. I cannot emphasise how well his voice fits his character and, in a game where the English dub is incredible overall, Barret’s actor stands out as a star amongst stars.

Whilst not having enough time in the spotlight to really step out of his role as a passionate eco-terrorist, Barret makes enough of an impact to make him one of the first things you think of when thinking of this game and the characters in it.

Aerith:

One of the two ‘heroines’, so to speak, Aerith is a beautiful seemingly young woman who the protagonist stumbles onto in the opening hour before travelling with her about 7-8 hours later. For those who don’t know much about the original FF7, Aerith is one of the key characters in that original narrative and her importance isn’t diminished here, despite many key points not coming until after the Midgar story arc finishes.

Initially, she is little more than just a massive flirt. This personality trait makes me feel lonely, sad and slightly aroused all at the same time. She is upbeat, cheerful but careful not to share too much about her past or her personality overall. She seems happy just to follow Cloud along as if she knows what is about to happen anyway.

It’s not until the final annals of the story where we discover much more about Aerith. I can’t be bothered to spoil this here as her character was the original spoiler warning in the original Final Fantasy 7 and if you don’t already know about her character, you are a lucky bee. Suffice to say, she is a big deal in terms of the in-game universe, the planet and is a main driving force for many of the story beats that are introduced. It is not an over-egging to say that without Aerith, much of this story wouldn’t take place. I’m not her biggest fan because I happen to be on the team that supports a different heroine for Cloud, but can appreciate what she brings to the story to set her apart from the other Femme Fatale.

One thing I did want to note is that in the mid-game, whilst trying to rescue another of Cloud’s wannabe girlfriends, Aerith has to dress up in order to enter the bride selection ceremony for a sleazy underworld figure. However, everyone she comes across remarks that she is too plain or not pretty enough to win. This is unnecessarily harsh and makes me wonder about the level of beauty on show in the FF7 universe if Aerith is not considered above average in terms of attractiveness. Is every child born a supermodel? Whilst pondering this important thoughtlet, we’re going to move on to the antagonistic group for a bit.

Shinra Group & The Turks:

Shinra is the main antagonistic organisation in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. One of the more interesting aspects of the story is that in terms of the politics of the world, the player and Avalanche are the bad guys and Shinra are the group who are seen as law, order and all that is good. From the moment you are thrown into gameplay, you are fighting against Shinra, even before you know what they have supposedly done (and trust me, Barret doesn’t make you wait long for a speech) and it plants the seed in your brain that these guys are the ones who need to be stopped. This organisation has a cast of colourful characters who stand in your way constantly. Let’s fire through them quickly:

President Shinra: A man who is feared for what he has built and achieved but does little more than act cartoonishly evil as he pursues the dream he longs for. He gets what he deserves.

Heidegger: Shinra’s head of public safety. Essentially, the top man in Shinra’s Armed forces. He consistently butts heads with you and does little to hide his thirst for combat and wish to re-engage in a long cold war at any cost. A war-hungry brute who cares little for others than himself, he fits the despot led organisation like a glove.

Scarlet: This woman is a stone-cold bitch and proud of it. Fitting the cliched S&M mistress, Scarlet has a limited role in the grand scheme of this remake but one moment that does stand out is a scene where she swiftly deals with some reporters following the Sector 4 Avalanche bombing. I am sure there are many out there who have the twisted fetish where they enjoy being berated by this sort of woman but that person is no longer me. However, I can see that the groundwork done here will hopefully make her a formidable villain when the follow-up game releases some time in 2029.

Hojo: The antithesis to Scarlet, not in his perchance for cruelness but instead the amount of screentime and build-up he is given. For chapter 17, Hojo is probably the main antagonistic presence and his masochistic tendencies and neglect of humanity in the pursuit of science manage to create a villain that you really want to beat. In particular, when trying to make your way out of a trap you and your crew have been caught in, Hojo treats you as nothing more than lab rats and derives great pleasure from you squirming as he makes you undergo various experiments and fight your way out of his little slice of hell. Honestly, you probably see more of Hojo than you do of the rest of the Shinra and his cartoonishly evil disdain for human decency really reflects on what Shinra is willing to do to promote their own goals. Hojo is the personification of Shinra’s darkness and he makes the story more interesting when he is on screen.

Reeve: The complete opposite to the dark twisted Shinra, Reeve is portrayed as a man of the people who is attempting to act in the citizen’s best interest. Honestly, this sort of character was needed to act as a foil to the shadow Shinra rhetoric but I am just not a massive fan. I get it. I know that they needed to show that the heroes are morally grey as well as they cut down good people who just work for bad people but Reeve has such a little impact in this first game. Much like Scarlet, I am sure that Reeve will be more important later on in the sequel, probably more so, but I don’t know about him yet. There just isn’t enough information. Necessary but not interesting.

Rufus Shinra & The Turks:

Right. Quick lesson. The Turks are essentially the Secret Service of the FF7 universe and they report directly to Heidegger. The Turks, in my mind at least, are the equivalent of the Shichibukai of One Piece or the Gym Leaders of Pokemon. This means that whilst they aren’t the strongest in the world or the biggest threat, each is unique and brings something interesting to the table. Vice President of the Shinra Corporation , Rufus Shinra, is the son of the President of the Shinra corporation and is barely spoken about until his appearance late in the story. When he does appear he comes with the best of the Turks alongside him, one calling him ‘boss’, and then presents you with one of the best boss fights in the game and your limited exposure to him in particular, whets your appetite for the encounters you will have in the second instalment.

The other Turks get more screen time as they act as persistent antagonists to Cloud and his crew. Reno and Rude contrast each other nicely in terms of personality but have a bond that one would not oft associate with a maniacal evil corporate titan and come across as soldiers who have simply been dealt a bum hand with the situation they find themselves in. Tseng, the leader of the Turks, is a much more typical representation of a Secret Service Operative. He appears stoic, committed to the Shinra cause and ready to do what is necessary to achieve his goals. However, and yes, I’m saying this again, I am certain that come the release of part 2, my opinion and impressions of these characters will likely change s they grow and are allowed more time to breathe as the world expands. Ooh, I just thought of another comparison of the Turks. The Turks are like the Koopalings in a Mario game. You know, if the Koopalings were good. Excellent.

Moving on…

Red-13: Whilst his impact is lessened due to your inability to play as Red, he does join your party as an AI-controlled member in the latter hours of the story. One of the experiments in Hojo’s little lab of terrors, an intelligent tiger-like creature joins the party with the sole intent of getting revenge on his long time tormentor. Red begins wary of the party, in particular Barret, but does begin to warm up to the group as they progress through the final dungeon.

Red clearly knows much more than he lets on, much like Aerith, but this doesn’t define him. His intellect is much higher than his appearance belies and his relationship with Barret, despite being short, is one of the better parts of the long final dungeon, as they banter and learn how to work together as they progress. Moving into the follow-up game, it will be interesting how Red’s combat abilities work with the new battle system that the remake has implemented. Sure, he engages in combat as a guest fighter in this game, but that isn’t the same as experiencing that sensation of combat yourself. Regardless, Red is an entertaining, interesting and enjoyable character that blends into the world seamlessly.

The Avalance 3:

In the original Final Fantasy 7, Jessie, Biggs and Wedge were incredibly minor characters; only put in place to make Barret’s organisation seem bigger and acting as the red shirts in Star Trek. In this remake however all 3 of them actually become believable human beings.

Biggs: Top man. Before joining Avalanche he was the head of an orphanage and still tries to help out whoever he can. Usually used for recon and is the most vanilla of these three.

Wedge: A fat man who always wants food. Despite this cliche, Wedge suffers from lapses in confidence but always pushes himself to be more than he sees as himself. Not the strongest fighter or tactician but the member with the most heart. I see myself in Wedge and I can’t bring myself to dislike him.

Jessie: The most flirtatious woman in any form of media, Jessie spends most of her time teasing and flirting with Cloud. As the player, I didn’t dislike this at all. She is upbeat and, in chapter 4 especially, we get to see more about her past as an actress and her reasons for joining such an extremist group. Basically, she moves beyond the classic flirty-girl archetype and has a personality all her own;the flirting being more of a defense mechanism than anything else. My second favourite behind Tifa, if you were interested.

Sector 7: The various inhabitants of Sector 7 deserve a special mention. Compared to the other sectors, it was here that the gang called home and, as such characters such as Marlene, Marle and Wymer are fleshed out enough to make the area feel as if it could be a small shanty town and that they all live in the same community. Sector 7 has the sort of cohesiveness and closeness that makes the eventual downfall all the more heartbreaking, despite the consequences being different from the original game. Heck, even the two nameless Shinra guards have more character than many fully-fledged party members in other RPG’s and I still find this level of detail astounding. The Sector 7 Slums and the people who call it home are truly special.

But not Johnny. I don’t like Johnny.

Wall Market:

The expanded Wall Market is arguably the best hub area in the game, with a couple of big characters making it feel quite as special as it does.

Madam M:

The madam of a… hand massage parlour, Madam M is the most powerful woman in the den of depravity that is Wall Market. One of the three people allowed to approve candidates for marriage to their leader Don Corneo, she seems less interested in helping a man she actually despises and more in boosting her power among those who are equal with her. Honestly, my impression is that whilst short-tempered and a little bit of an elitist, Madam M is actually interested in the prosperity of Wall Market. Actually, I think the other 2 are as well. This is an interesting angle to take as instead of just creating some more minions for you to bypass before fighting Don Corneo, they actively help you and become allies to your cause as you progress through this story. For the woman in charge of the Red Light District, Madam M is a really likable character that I won’t likely forget.

Chocobo Sam: A cowboy who:

  1. Raises Chocobo
  2. Slept with Madam M

Nothing more needs to be said; this man is a legend.

Andrea Rhodea: Whilst a little overly campy, Andrea is a surprisingly strong adaption of a man with different from hetero-normal sexuality and is a key reason that a controversial scene from the original game (i.e. Cloud cross-dressing) is far less predatory and much more jovial. Clearly a showman above anything else, Andrea joins Madam M and Chocobo Sam in loathing the Don in charge and actually seems to be the head of things overall. My reasoning is that when you are saved from the Corneo mansion, your saviour references Andrea and is clearly willing to take orders from him. In the future, if we get to return to Midgar, it would be interesting to see the state of Wall Market after the fall of Don Corneo and what shape the town might have taken. My bet is the three big hitters taking charge but Andrea being the most prominent of these. A man I liked much more than my prejudices would have expected.

Don Corneo: Well, as the three previous entries will elucidate, he is hardly the most popular man in the town he owns but Don Corneo is one of the most memorable antagonistic figures that Final Fantasy 7 Remake presents. Sleazy. Perverted. Disgusting. Don Corneo is a truly hideous human being who sees others as beneath him and just pawns for whichever game he is in the mood for. He even refers to himself as the bad guy on multiple occasions, showing he is aware of how broken his actions are but is happy to take them regardless.

Whilst he can appear as a caricature of a villain at times, especially in the bedroom, his position was earned through some sort of tactical nouse and this does shine through on occasion, with backup plans galore and various tricks up his sleeve to bring his pursuit of the depraved further forward. A necessary evil.

Sephiroth: And so we arrive here. The villain everybody loves to love. Sephiroth. The man, the myth, the legend. Here he is in all of his glory. And… he doesn’t really do that much. Right, as a newcomer to the series as a whole, my exposure to the original release is limited. I’ve read some summaries and watched some videos but there are many holes in my knowledge. Here, it seems like Sephiroth appears often but rarely does more than scare the living crap out of Cloud each time. We do get a few cool flashbacks but for the one-winged angel to reach his full character potential, we are going to have to wait for the next instalment.

It was cool to fight him though.

Wow. That’s a lot of characters, and there were many I cut out or cut short for sake of brevity. That’s impressive and they are all sufficiently fleshed out that I had to do almost no research to remember any of them (other than Reeve). The pattern here is that, as this is not a full adaption of the source material, many of these characters are introduced sufficiently, are interesting, but then level you wanting more from their arcs as the story, in terms of the original game, is far from complete. This does not diminish how these characters have been adapted or how the new ones that have been added fit into this world and it is a testament to Square that they can leave so much out and still have so much here. Some may be noting that there are two big characters I haven’t spoken about and, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten them. But they will come later. For now, we move onto…

High 3: Reimagined combat

FInal Fantasy began all those years ago in the late 1980’s as a turn-based RPG akin to Dragon Quest ( its forerunner and a better franchise, according to me at least) before Final Fantasy 4 & 5 made the system more kinetic using the active battle system. From this point on, the series has adapted its combat game to game to keep up with modern trends, culminating in the open-world wannabe Final Fantasy 15 in having standard action combat. Final Fantasy 7 takes this action combat, puts into the skin of the beloved classic and creates an experience that completely surpassed every expectation I had for this.

Whilst never getting out of the first area of Final Fantasy 15, I found the combat I did experience fine and functional but it became repetitive and fairly dull to use far too quickly. Final Fantasy 7 Remake does not have this problem. With the four different playable characters all feeling unique and interesting to use, the variety helps the game stay fresh. Barret’s weaker but better for range thanks to his guns and Cloud’s up-close edgelord sword are both viable options and both can be used to win any encounter. Each weapon feels different and fun. And that is the key to good, lasting combat.

And this is without mentioning the ATB gauge. To utilise your MP and use special attacks or magic, you need ATB charge. This is gained slowly over time but actually increases quicker as you attack. This means that the game rewards you for attacking play. The more you attack, the faster you can use stronger attacks.

Another thing that can be used thanks to the ATB gauge is a number of summons. This allows you to summon some of the iconic monsters that the Final Fantasy franchise is known for, such as Ifrit and Fat Chocobo. These summons can be incredibly useful in the more difficult boss fights as they aren’t just one-off attacks and instead hang around for a while and allow you to use more ATB on them for their often very powerful attacks.

The final thing that makes this combat so fun to play is that the AI is not stupid. They follow instructions well and attack and defend intelligently. Furthering this, you can still choose how they use their ATB gauge by opening the menu. This sounds tedious and a little convoluted but in practice, it is neither of these. The combat in Final Fantasy 7 Remake is not turn-based in the traditional sense. There are plenty of other games that can do this. It also isn’t the same as the original Final Fantasy 7. No, I think this is better. This takes the best of modern action video games and blends it with the ATB system of its past to create a system that they are going to have to do something special in Final Fantasy 16 to improve on.

High 4: Those graphics

Much like a sandwich, video games are often tastier when they look beautiful. Final Fantasy 7 Remake might be the sexiest game ever made. The main characters all look incredible. In modern-day Japan, every single one would be a model and never have to do anything else again.

The game isn’t perfect, you know. The textures can sometimes look dreadful, even on the PS5 version. The elevator to the coliseum in Wall Market is probably the most egregious example of this but is hardly the most noticeable thing in the world. The faces of the NPC’s can be a little more noticeable but only because the main characters look as beautiful as they do. Again, not game-breaking, especially if you look at Sega’s Yakuza 7’s NPC’s and FF7’s look good in comparison, but you can’t blame a guy for wanting more.

I will always want more.

There is also a cutscene after the final boss and the already stellar presentation goes from amazing to movie-level perfection and will probably make people want another full-length feature Final Fantasy 7 movie (please don’t make that). Regardless, graphically, this game is an elite and it deserves the respect it has earned.

High 5: The deep narrative

For me, the story of a JRPG is what keeps me engaged. keeps me playing. It’s what makes me tell other people to play this game. And, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has an excellent story. A superb story. Granted, it is drawing on an established story and over 20 years of story-telling refinement but what has been achieved here with only part of the original game is mindblowing. In particular, Chapter 1 all the way up to chapter 10 are almost perfect; I can’t reallythink of a thing to change there. Well, maybe some of tedious hand puzzles, but they are mostly harmless.

And while I do think after this the game becomes stagnant near the end, something I will bring up later on, the story was always what kept me going in the dullest of dungeons. Even the filler sections were interesting enough to keep me engaged right to the very last cutscene. The fact that there is another, maybe even larger experience on the horizon to follow this one up is exciting and if they can make the story as half as engaging as this one, they will have one hell of a game on their hands.

There was one area of the story I didn’t mention and they are big enough to mention as a separate high.

High 6: Whispers

Once again, I have not played more than half an hour of the original Final Fantasy 7 so I have little to say on the story of the original piece. However, even as a newcomer, I can see the significance that the Whispers have in this narrative. Remakes are often stuck in a corner when they are being created; as developers rarely want to risk alienating the fans who love the original and will buy the remake, to begin with. Square Enix, it seems, did not have that fear. The Whispers are phantom-like creatures that act to keep events on course as they were in the original game; arbiters of fate, if you will. This leads to you fighting against these ghostly beings time and time again as you and Cloud struggle to fight this pre-ordained destiny.

And you do.

For better or for worse, the ending of this game has massive implications for the future of this series. The culling of the lead arbiter means that the past no longer has a hold on where this story can go: meaning that the developers now have a free hand in changing and editing what the original game provided. Whilst this will be far more impactful to long time FF7 fans, the fact that the oft-spoiled original story will be changing in the future makes me excited and a little anxious about how much risk Square Enix are going to put in. Are they going to reverse the most spoiled moment in video game history? Are other characters going to be at risk in the same way? Will the story take us to completely new locations? We don’t know. And it’s the not knowing which makes this inclusion quite as special as it is.

High 7: Cloud & Tifa

The final high is the two characters I omitted early and are truly the stars of Final Fantasy 7. First, Cloud. The main man. The standard player character. On first glance, he looks like a typical edgy teen with an unnecessarily large sword and enough snark for a parent to ground him, but before long you’ll warm to him and he will become one of the driving forces for playing this game. Far from being the emo, he appears to be on the surface, to me Cloud just comes across as a scared young man who is putting up walls to protect himself from more hurt. You can see after the first successful mission with Avalanche that he is hurt that they have not invited him to stay. He wants to be accepted but due to his SOLDIER training, he doesn’t seem to understand what love or companionship truly is. He is… broken. And you want to help him. He still makes some bad choices but, in his heart, all he wants to do is be accepted. By one person in particular…

Tifa. The dream woman. A confession first. I would find myself getting very depressed playing through the first half of this game as Tifa and Aerith relentlessly flirt with our blonde-haired bombshell. It dawned on me that no matter how long I live, I would never find a woman like Tifa. A woman who, despite the trauma and trouble in the past, was still committed to her childhood friend. The love. The affection. The caring tone.

Also she is sexy as fuck.

Moving away from the creepy stuff written above, she is also more than most female characters get to be in video games. Yes, she has emotional moments but they aren’t just hers; the male characters get to have these slumps in emotion as well. The defining moment for me and Tifa was the break into Don Corneo’s mansion. It was a perfect reversal of the normal save-the-girl trope we had been building up to and instead we were placed into the control of two powerful women saving their male friend. Her kindness knows no bounds. Her strength is incredible and she could kick you six ways to Sunday before you even saw her. Tifa is a strong combat unit, a strong character and a strong female role model that doesn’t fade into the background. Tifa, in many ways, is Final Fantasy 7 Remake. She is human. More human than any human I have ever met and leaves me melancholic about my romantic potential. I love Tifa and this game for me, is just an excuse to see Tifa once more.

And on yet another creepy note, that is the height that FInal Fantasy 7 Remake reaches. Seven massive high points that this game excels in. I would write an eighth one about the music except that I don’t know enough about music to eloquently explain how good it is. Because it is incredible, probably the best music in any RPG that isn’t a Dragon Quest. Maybe even better than a couple of them. I speak to my friend about this game sometimes and he always mentions the music. That stood out to him. And it stands out to me too.

But unfortunately, despite my hopes and dreams, this is not the perfect RPG. For the first 10-15 hours, I was in. I was sold. This game could be the one. But, unfortunately, the quality does dip and problems that you ignore when having fun become more noticeable and impact your overall impression.

Low 1: Chapter 9 onwards

The game makes the best first impression and it keeps that up for hours. However, the fun does finally come to an end. Wall Market, whilst slower, is still fun. However, following on from Chapter 9, Chapter 10 onwards really does begin to drag. It seems as if the game was attempting to pad its length. For me, a fun 15 hours is better than a padded 40 hours. Chapter 10 and 11 feel like nothing but filler, two combat-heavy dungeons back to back with very little useful story content. Chapter 12 ramps this up again with an admittedly fun if not a little long section. The problem here is that despite it having big story implications, this is another long section with mostly combat. Chapter 12 has some strong, emotional moments but it all feels just a little longer than it needed to be. Chapter 13 finally slows things down and changes things up, forcing you to play as not Cloud, before Chapter 14.

Chapter 14 acts as the third side quest hub of the game. The first two worked well and acted as a breather between the more action-heavy moments. However, despite this chapter doing this, I felt that many of the side quests available here felt just a little… bland. Generic fetch quests which added nothing. The fact that this chapter also took place over such a large area (the entire map, really) made the experience even more tedious. You can say that these side quests aren’t mandatory, and they aren’t, however, with the situation surrounding this chapter, it makes the whole reason for these quests existing a little more important than they should be. Given the chance, wouldn’t you help people who had been struck by disaster; especially if you were likely the cause of it. This disconnect really does affect the enjoyment of the final 10 hours of the game. And this is a massive shame because before this, I really did think that this could have been the best game I had ever played. And it’s still pretty close. Well, it would be, if it wasn’t for my next low…

Low 2: Shinra Tower

Carrying on from my previous criticism, this is where the game hits its lowest point. It is incredible how the earlier dungeon-like areas managed to remain narratively engaging whilst providing combat challenges but the final gauntlet descends into little more than a tedious slog that just won’t end. Even in the early portions of Shinra Tower, the padding becomes clear with the most ridiculous piece of gameplay in the entire game: Tifa jumping across chandeliers. This doesn’t take long, no more than 10 minutes, but none of this is engaging. You can then choose whether to take the stairs (which is long and tedious) or the elevator ( which is short and tedious). The tour of Shinra HQ goes on for an age. Yes, I will admit that some of the information fluff that surrounds these sections can be mildly engaging but when it is surrounded by nothing but the same old fights with the same old goons, it becomes boring.

Even following your encounter with Hojo, when the game teases you with a bit more excitement, it descends into another dungeon that lasts just a little bit too long. And yes, once you finally manage to fully ascend the tower, the game does find a second wind and ends very, very strong, the slog to get there does just bring the game down for me. To some, they may have been craving this sturdy corridor format where all you do is fight and listen but for me, this just wasn’t it for me.

Low 3: Materia System & Upgrade System ( Tedious, auto makes much more sense)

In theory, this idea is beautiful. The ability to completely customise each character through the use of material stones is an inspired idea. However, in practice, the UI and way that this feature is presented is clunky and offputting. After 3 chapters, I put each weapon onto auto-upgrade and kept the same material for each person. The material system, in principle, is good but the lack of variety this can cause amongst your party members leads to a homogenous feeling where battles can just become samey. Luckily, it feels different to move each character about, even if the moves you assign are often similar.

Upgrading the materia is dealt with better and upgrading a move by using is a really clever way to force players who want to experiment to do so whilst getting stronger at the same time. Honestly, the system is great but it just doesn’t do enough to be engaging for more than a tertiary look here and there.

Low 4: Cutscenes that confuse newcomers

This is not a remake of the original Final Fantasy 7. This is a reimagining of the classic. Regardless, there are some cutscenes that will only make sense to old, long-time fans. This does lead to situations where you can sit there and watch the scene and have no idea what is happening at all. This sort of disconnect can put newer fans off as, in a game where the story is so important and so, so good, any sort of blocker can really put the kaibosh on things. Whilst this criticism is not crushing, it really does go to show how much I love this game if I find such a small, insignificant problem like the occasional cutscene being mysterious worth mentioning. And that brings us onto the crux of the matter:

The Crux of the Matter

Final Fantasy 7 isn’t the perfect video game… but it is incredibly fun. So fun that it makes its flaws stick out more than they would in a more generic triple A game. Final Fantasy 7 gets so much right that when something isn’t 100% perfect, you notice it. You don’t notice all the bugs and flaws in Skyrim because you expect it of a Bethesda game and the core open world is fun but not much more than that. Final Fantasy 7 gets so many more areas bang perfect; the combat, the presentation, the characters and the story that one slip can make the game feel worse than it is in reality.

For me, this game is simply the appetiser that whets my appetite and gets me hungry to play the next instalment of this incredible game. However, much to Gordon Ramsay’s chagrin, the wait-time for the main course may be a long one. I give Final Fantasy 7 Remake…

Final Fantasy 7 Remake: 9.3/10- Almost perfect and one of the best RPG’s ever created.

I would have used my own images but I deleted all of my screenshots of this game before starting to write this because… I’m dumb? Regardless, the next game will use screenshots taken by myself)

Images from:

https://www.travenluc.com/final-fantasy-vii-remake-screenshots/

https://square-enix-games.com/en_GB/news/final-fantasy-vii-remake-screenshots

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/

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