Final Fantasy VII Remake Review – The Things We Do for the Planet

    Title: Final Fantasy VII Remake
    Developer: Square Enix
    Release Date: April 10, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Action RPG

If you are to ask on the internet, what is the best game in the absurdly long-running Final Fantasy series? Final Fantasy VII would come up almost immediately. Released initially for the PlayStation back in 1997, it was the definitive RPG for its time and many people’s first exposure in the west to the JRPG genre. So when a remake was announced back in 2015, people lost their minds. I was incredibly excited at the prospect. Cut to five years later after Square Enix’s obligatory development hiccups, and the fully-fledged remake is finally within our grasp.

Final Fantasy VII stars Cloud Strife, a mercenary and former member of the SHINRA company’s military squad SOLDIER. Armed with his trusty buster sword, he’s been hired to help out Avalanche, an eco-terrorist group who want to overthrow the malicious government. Cloud might be just in it for the paycheck to start, but things begin to spiral out of control when he’s caught up in the government’s plans to eliminate Avalanche by any means necessary.

For this remake, players will find a shift in genres from turn-based RPG to a more action RPG combat system. This happens to offer a perfect blend of turn-based RPG elements with real-time strategy mechanics. As you run around and hit foes with your basic attacks, the ever-present active time bar will fill, once you’ve got yourself a full bar, you’re able to consume it at any time to use an item, ability, or a spell.

Additionally, you are able to guard and dodge but don’t think those actions will be as powerful as they are in other Square Enix Action RPGs like Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy XV. You’ll need to supplement those abilities with materia and weapon abilities to make the best use out of them. It’s an enjoyable system that creates a nice flow to the battles, along with offering more strategical and thoughtful elements found in challenging turn-based games.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake presents a very interesting way of doling out upgrades to give the player more options to fit their playstyle. Weapons no longer simply get outclassed by the next new shiny sword, as you’ll be able to spend the SP you get from level ups on upgrades that will give you access to new abilities, stat boosts, and materia slots. Each weapon has its own unique array of upgrades allowing you to adapt to any playstyle that you want to take. SP can also be used to improve weapons, and you can reset your SP on a whim, so you don’t need to panic about setting permanent upgrades.

Materia works very similarly to how it worked in the original game. Each of these magic rocks gives you various skills and abilities, such as fire or cure. Also, new materia had been added for more specific gameplay elements such as for parrying or dodge attacks.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake’s full story will be split into multiple parts, with this first entry covering the events within the city of Midgar. However, don’t think because you know the story like the back of your hand, that you’ll know all there is to here. There’s a significant expansion to be found here with previously existing minor characters, such as the avalanche trio becoming much more fleshed out. The game isn’t open-world by any means, but it’s exceptionally satisfying to explore when you get the chance. The slums of Midgar have much more depth, too, with tons of voiced dialogue from people as you pass as well as recurring NPCs with new sidequests that add just that bit more weight to the world. There are also several minigames that make gameplay more interesting. Who doesn’t really want a squat-off set to an EDM version of the battle theme?

Beloved sequences in the original game have been given serious attention and lots of love. Scenes like Cloud dropping into the church are given a new life and had me grinning like an idiot from start to finish. I’m sure that some of these new scenes will be sticking in people’s minds as well, the expansions of the in/famous crossdressing scene, as well as the much earlier appearance of Sephiroth and the new fights at the beginning and the end of the game.

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The cast of Final Fantasy VII has been treated with the utmost respect. If you were scared about the characters being toned down or mischaracterized, you’d be extremely pleased to hear Barret yelling about the government destroying the environment for their own selfish interests (amazingly even more relevant than it was 23 years ago). There’s also Aerith being an absolute ball of fun with all of her teasings and dragging Cloud into situations he doesn’t want to be in.

The cast also looks so damn pretty, those visuals are absolutely first class, and I could stare at them for hours. The cutscenes blend into the gameplay almost seamlessly, with the number of cutscenes that are clearly pre-rendered able to be counted on just one hand. They drip with weight and emotion, too, thanks to some superb voice direction and music that has a swath of fantastic remixes of nostalgic pieces. It’s a cinematic masterpiece that reaches absolutely jaw-dropping heights.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake pulls no punches. The story feels complete as it builds up to a fantastical ending sequence that has me running out of compliments. This game is something of a marvel to experience, which is why I’m now eagerly awaiting the next installment as I contemplate playing again. It’s easy to see how much respect and admiration the developers have for this story and these characters during every minute of this adventure, which made it difficult to put down, even for a minute.

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait five years for the next entry. But if the following releases are anything like this, well, then it looks like we are in for many years to come of Final Fantasy VII Remake as Best Game of the Year.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter