Game Review | Final Fantasy VII Remake
But what is being 'remade' here?
Game summary: A former soldier joins an eco-terrorist group in a mission against the electric power company he used to work for in order to protect the planet and all who reside on it. (IMDb)
I never finished the original version of Final Fantasy VII, mainly because it was simply too long for me to stick with at that time. So how would I react to a remake that barely gets into the story at all? Actually, I really enjoyed it. Final Fantasy VII Remake is too long to go down as one of the best of even the past console generation, but it's still pretty damn good.
To start with, the music is absolutely incredible. I have to say that first because if there's anything about this game that could be considered a 10/10, it's the score. From the moment the music starts just before the title screen appears right up to the end credits, it's absolutely magnificent and a lot of the music here now rank among my favourites in gaming.
It's a shame the other audio aspects don't quite match up, even if the voice acting is pretty good too. The dialogue the cast have been given isn't anything special, but everyone seems perfectly matched to their characters - even if Barrett drifts into caricature at times. I couldn't fault any of the performances, just what they've been asked to do.
And what is it with all the weird exhalations, grunts and groans that pepper the dialogue? I've never met anyone (that I can remember, at least) who makes all the strange noises every character here does when reacting to something. It's not a big deal, but it never stopped sounding odd even by the time the game was over.
The visuals almost match the music in terms of how the quality can range: the full-on cutscenes look flat-out incredible and wouldn't be out of place in a movie release; the in-game models are of distinctly lower quality than that, but still look really, really, really good; and then there are textures that look like they were just taken from the original game.
An exaggeration? Maybe, but only just. There are some seriously low quality textures in this game (so many shitty doors! Why were doors such a problem?), the worst of which are when you're high up and looking down at what looks like little more than a flat image. I get that the developers didn't want to build an entire city to be viewed from above, but come on.
As for the difference between the cutscene character models and the in-game models isn't that big, but the transition between the two isn't hidden as well as in games like the Uncharted series, which almost seamlessly switches between the two. Again, the in-game models still look amazing, but Final Fantasy VII Remake just lets the seams show occasionally.
The characters are all as I remember them too, although whether that's accurate to the original game and not just how my memory has unconsciously 'upgraded' the past to match this game is something to consider. But each of them has their own distinct look and personality that could make any one of them the star of their own game if needed.
The biggest issue the characters face is that this is only part one of multiple entries (three? Four?) and they don't really change all that much by the end of the game. That's not exactly great for what was a 40-hour experience for me, but it helps that they are all likable and entertaining enough that I was happy to spend that much time with them.
Aerith remains my favourite as I remember her being in the original Final Fantasy VII, with a little twist that I'm not going to into here in case I spoil what's to come. However, I do remember not really caring that much about Cloud before and he's definitely more interesting now - I can't wait to see how his story unfolds here.
You might think that a little strange as I know a lot about what's to come already, but there's a reason for that, which is that this game could really be called Final Fantasy VII: Remake - that colon being important. Those who haven't played the original they might remain in the dark for now, but this feels almost like a 'sidequel' than a remake at times.
Avoiding discussing the story because I would find it hard to talk about without going into exactly why newcomers might have a very different experience to FFVII veterans, I will say that there isn't enough here to justify just how long this game is. There are more than a few flabby sections that could've been trimmed out and nothing would've been lost.
I've read that the following instalments are going to be far more plot-centric and with fewer diversions away from the core story, which I think is a good thing. For such a linear story with limited options on how to proceed, I can't understand why there are so many side stories that feel like they should be in poor MMOs rather than a big budget blockbuster like this.
It really feels like the developers were trying to make it a blockbuster in every sense, with so many controls in combat that it does get a little ridiculous at times with how many meters you have to keep track of if you want to get through the tougher battles. Final Fantasy VII Remake doesn't ease you in either, throwing system after system at you right from the off.
Learning to use the actions menu as much as you can early on to give yourself some breathing time is definitely recommended, as well as making sure to switch between characters to get used to how they all control. There are points where the party is split up and you'll need to know how each member is best played to avoid frustration.
Which reminds me of how the most difficult opponents I had were often random groups of enemies that would luckily score critical hits or stun my characters to the point of not being able to react. One boss aside, the so-called tougher fights were all relatively simple to get through compared to some of the smaller battles.
The main reason I want to bring up something that might sound insignificant is that it was like a peek behind the curtain and seeing how the systems weren't maybe as cleverly implemented as they otherwise seemed. I struggled to get through fights more than once with one group and would quickly come up against almost identical opposition and flatten them with little to no effort.
It made me wonder how good I actually was at the game and how much was just luck for the AI or myself in deciding whether a battle would be easy or not. I played almost the entire game through on Normal, but I did try out Classic to see what that was like and was disappointed that it was only an option for easy difficulty.
Yes, Classic takes away the needs for blocking, dodging or positioning your characters, but why not make the enemies hit harder or use more damaging abilities more often to compensate? Normal mode was easy enough as it was, so I would definitely advise keeping to that setting unless you find yourself really struggling and getting angry with the game.
These little flaws in every aspect of the game (aside from the music) are what stops Final Fantasy VII Remake from being a modern great. There's always something that seems to puncture any extended period of brilliance and shatter the illusion of how good the game is, which is still really, really good indeed.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a great game that suffers from an ending leaving you with more questions than answers thanks to how little of the original story has been covered so far. It's far longer than it should be too, but the incredible music, amazing visuals and great characters more than make up for these problems.