Final Fantasy VII Remake is, simply put, a spectacular game. It's exactly what fans wanted in the remake: gorgeous visuals that remind '90s gamers of the awe they felt in the original, a fleshing out of the already-endearing cast, and a flashy, frenetic battle system with the substance to keep gamers engaged.
And materias? Still awesome. There's just something about gaining abilities through shiny orbs that appeals to our innate tendency to collect objects, as opposed to drawing skills from enemies or filling out a skill board as in other Final Fantasy games. The materia system for the original Final Fantasy VII was probably the easiest Final Fantasy skill system to get into, and it feels the same now.
For longtime fans, for those who have waited for this game since it started life as a tech demo for the PS3 in 2005, it's hard to find faults in the game. But yes, there are some. Visuals obviously prioritized character models so there are some low-res environmental textures here and there. There's also some traditional find-the-lever, flip-the-switch style exploration that's tedious at times, and at its worst, could feel a little like padding.
Some of the nostalgic hype may be lost in younger gamers, but taken even without its history, the game is likely to become among the best Japanese-RPGS (JRPGs) in this generation. It's pretty great for the PlayStation legacy as well that it gets to close this console era with the remake of a game that served as a pillar for the original PlayStation.
With our general thoughts of the game out of the way, let's look back at our Final Fantasy VII Remake journey so far, and relive our favorite moments. Again, SPOILERS ahead, and we'd recommend reading only if you're 30 hours into the game or have finished it.
I was watching a let's-play of the original Final Fantasy VII, and was surprised at how aesthetically pleasing the pre-rendered backgrounds of that game remains. This just means that it's not just that the 2 games, the original and the remake, are pushing their hardware; it also means that the game really benefits from inspired art direction. The result: the most beautiful videogame slums I've seen.
I can't count the number of times I've stopped throughout the game just to get a screenshot.
One of the defining characteristics of the setting is the teeming, looming megalopolis visible from the slums (as seen in the screenshot right below) where the more privileged live. The social divide is among the themes of the game.
Also, a theme: passive-aggressive romantic advances:
The eyes for the main characters in the game are very expressive (like hero Cloud's below), and are matched with standout voice acting. Although, I would say the nature of the story and the style of writing are quite young-adult in nature; possibly in between Ni No Kuni's cartoony romp, and the dreary, almost humorless Witcher 3.
We absolutely couldn't get enough of the flashy combat moves:
I also loved how the characters' combat mechanics felt so differently from one another: Barret with his long-distance support fire; Tifa with her relentless in-your-face hand-to-hand assault; and Aerith's dancey, ranged magic attack. Cloud's sword combos feel the most traditional of the bunch.
Fans know of the Cloud-Tifa-Aerith love triangle but there's a new player in town vying for Cloud's attention: Jessie. And she gets super-close with him in this motorcycle sequence we thoroughly enjoyed:
Cloud says, "uh-oh."
We can't wait to see how they'll put in the Knights of the Round Table summon in the succeeding Remake episodes. Imagine all those knights ganging up on Emerald Weapon. Remake's summoning system is fantastic, and the summons are necessary in difficult boss battles. And as usual, seeing their attacks is a visual treat:
Get your lightning materia ready:
There's enough stair climbing in the game that at one point Barret quips about having to climb another one, with a tone that's almost self-aware. The game has a real sense of humor, with Cloud being funnily dry and smarmy at times.
One of the best sequences in the game is when you first meet Aerith. The scene in the original game is among its most memorable ones, so it's lovely to see how beautifully recreated it is here:
It's been too long since I played the original but I loved how the Remake has a bigger opportunity to really develop the relationships between the characters. In this sequence, the two pair off to find a way to return home after a what was an accidental meeting.
Remake, for all that happens throughout it, feels like a gradual reintroduction to the game's characters, and takes the opportunity to show in detail the relationships between characters. For those who missed it, Remake comprises the original game's first 4 to 5 hours only.
Aerith's pad is a beauty:
In their downtrodden community, you'll have to wonder how else they're making their dime to live in such a relatively big house. Aerith must be a big-time flower supplier!
How cool is it that we get to fight summons in "VR battles" with the special VR gear below, in order to get them to fight on our side?
Cloud really does take after his mom, Claudia, doesn't he?:
Get out of the way, Johnny!
Wall Market shenanigans:
Don't you just love Corneo?
Did you know that the game's producers made sure that both Aerith and Tifa had equal screen time so fans from the pro-Aerith or pro-Tifa camp wouldn't get mad?
Boss battles in FFVII Remake – diverse in style and flavor – are one of the best parts of the game, with the fights against Reno and Abzu being some personal favorites. But we can't wait to go toe-to-toe with this baddie:
Here's another pretty screenshot of the slums:
The Barret sequence was pretty fun with his gun mowing down rocks and crates:
For those who played and completed the original game, this scene in the Remake is meaningful and holds emotional weight:
Toad Cloud is the best Cloud:
But the absolute best part of the game? Tifa's Starshower, a move where she basically becomes the Raging Demon of Midgar. Seriously, we need Tifa as a Tekken addition!
(Disclosure: Square Enix provided a review copy of the game.)