Review: Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake. After years of waiting, it is finally here! These days, many classic games are seeing remastered versions and re-releases. Naturally, most of these are welcomed by fans. But often enough, these remasters seem to come out of left-field. This game, however, is a title that fans have begged and pleaded for. For years, industry experts said it wouldn’t happen. But finally, Square Enix gave in and now Final Fantasy VII Remake is a reality. I should go on record and admit that I was a bit hesitant to support the release of this game. For me, the original Final Fantasy VII was an absolute masterpiece. Few RPGs in history have ever  come close to touching my heart the way that game did. So, when the discussion of making a more modern version of such an iconic game was first being bantered around, I was quick to turn a blind eye to the news. Sure, the thought of seeing these beloved characters and locations rendered with today’s graphics was very appealing. But so many games these days get tarnished by things like paid-DLC and online features that end up feeling shoe-horned in. I guess I figured it might just be best to leave things alone and let the legacy of Final Fantasy VII remain in the past. However, once I actually saw the game sitting on the store shelf, the temptation was too great and I caved. With that said, I’ve spent the last month or so putting this game through its paces and I’m finally ready to share my thoughts.

Before diving into the specifics of the game itself, let’s take a moment to discuss the inevitable… different editions. As is the case with most top-name titles these days, there are a couple of different versions of the game to choose from – each including a number of unique in-game perks. For someone interested in buying the game, all of these different variations can be a bit confusing. So I’ll do my best to simply things. To start with, we have the standard edition. This is the version you are most likely to find at your local store. This release contains the game itself and nothing more. Next up is the Deluxe Edition. This version includes the base game, an art book, mini-soundtrack and the Cactuar summon DLC. Finally, there is the 1st Class Edition. This version of the game includes everything mentioned thus far, but also features a special playarts figurine and a second DLC summon; Carbuncle. If the summons are important to you, you can save some money by purchasing the standard version and upgrading to the Digital Deluxe Edition for $20 on the PSN store – this option will net you both DLC summons, but you won’t get all the physical extras included in the physical deluxe editions. It’s also important to note that there’s a third DLC summon, the Chocobo Chick. This little guy is available to anyone who pre-ordered the game (regardless of version).

Considering the big confusion that surrounded Final Fantasy XV‘s version/DLC debacle, this release (even with three different editions) is much more simplified. In fact, the only other DLC that’s even available for the game are a handful of barely useful items included as part of a Nestle Candy promotion. Personally, I collected two of the three items available before the promotion ended and I didn’t find them particularly useful. If you missed out, don’t worry, you didn’t really lose anything of value. Plus, knowing SE’s track record, all of these items, and even the Chocobo Chick DLC will likely become available on PSN for a small price in the months to come.

So, now that all that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the game itself. To start, it’s important to understand that Final Fantasy VII Remake doesn’t contain the full Final Fantasy VII story. In fact, I’d say that when it comes to storyline, only about the first 15-20% of the original game is included in this release. That’s because Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be released episodically and this is the first of an unknown number to episodes. The contents of this entry cover the “Midgar” portion of the original game. (SPOILER ALERT) – To be more specific, this chapter ends shortly after our heroes rescue Aerith from the Shinra Headquarters.

That doesn’t mean that Final Fantasy VII Remake is short in content. In fact, it’s the size of a regular RPG title. It accomplishes this by taking the story provided in the original Final Fantasy VII and expanding on it. All of the scenes and story elements that you know and love from the original game are included here, but this time they are presented with more detail and background information. Also, there’s a number of new subplots and side stories that were not touched on the first time around. This leads me to my next point, which I must warn you is going to be very spoilerish, so if you want to be completely surprised by everything this game has to offer, you may want to skip to the next paragraph…  SPOILERS START NOW:   Aside from just including new sidequests and bits of lore, Final Fantasy VII Remake includes an entirely new plot element. It’s something that actually makes this title end up feeling less like a remake and more like an entirely different chapter in the series. Even though this game starts out as a retelling of the original, it quickly becomes obvious that there’s something else going on. One of the new subplots involve a group of ghost-like entities called Whispers. These Whispers appear at various points in the game and have a big part to play in the story. So big in fact, that players will immediately wonder just how their inclusion here can reconcile with the events of original FFVII. Well, as it turns out, they don’t. Even though this game starts out as a simple remake, by the time you reach the end it becomes obviously clear that something has changed and we have now ventured off into an entirely new timeline. When the credits finally roll, fans will be left at the edge of their seats wondering just what’s going to happen in the next chapter. (At least, that’s the reaction I had. – Here’s to hoping Aerith gets to live this time!)

The story of Final Fantasy VII is an undisputed and timeless masterpiece. But these days, that’s really the only thing about the original game that doesn’t seem dated. Final Fantasy VII is over twenty years old and when looked at by most modern gamers, it shows its age. This is where the Remake really shines. Gone are the blocky polygons and blurry pre-rendered backdrops. Final Fantasy VII Remake is gorgeously rendered in 3D. This game gets just about everything in terms of visuals right. From the quality of the character models, the dynamic lighting and shadows, and even the on-screen UI. The entire game is a pleasure to look at from beginning to end.

Of course, the visuals aren’t the only thing that’s been improved. If you were worried about the soundtrack, don’t be. All of Uematsu’s classic compositions are intact and have been re-recorded in superb quality. A handful of secondary tracks feature a slightly new spin, but all of the beloved fan-favorites still remain tamper-free and maintain their original integrity. There’s even a few new compositions that fit in wonderfully with the original score. I give lots of praise to SE for resisting the temptation to tinker too much such a legendary soundtrack.

The biggest difference between the Remake and the original game comes in terms of gameplay. When Final Fantasy VII was released, it still followed the classic “Final Fantasy RPG” formula. This version, however, is much more reminiscent of recent entries in the series. To start with, the combat is mostly action-based. When battling enemies, you have complete control over one specific character. Standard attacks are executed by button-press, the same is true for blocking and dodging. Magic and other special actions, like Limit Breaks or abilities, are controlled by menu. While controlling the main character, actions of other party members are controlled by AI. But, you can switch between characters at will. Each character has their own style and feel when it comes to fighting. For example, Barret and Aerith excel at ranged combat, while Cloud and Tifa are more geared toward close-quarters melee. If you’re fan of the classic game, this new system is radically different at first. But it doesn’t take much to get the hang of it.

Like in the original game, there’s a variety of weapons and equipment that become available to the characters. In this version, each unique weapon has it’s own special skill. If these weapon skills are used frequently enough, the character will learn them and be able to execute them even if they switch to a different weapon. Also, each weapon contains its own set of buffs and perks that can be unlocked as the player levels up in combat. Other aspects of the game, like the materia system, work pretty much like they did in the original FFVII with a few minor exceptions.

There are several intervals in the game where you are asked to make various choices concerning the story. This might be as simple as choosing “heads or tails” for a coin flip, or helping another character decide what type of outfit looks best on them. At first glance, these choices don’t seem to have much impact on the game itself. In truth, whenever you’re presented with one of these options, there’s really no wrong choice. But, if you want to see everything this game has to offer, you’re going to have to go back and make different selections. Many of these choices provide some subtle differences to the way secondary quests and sub-plots play out. Thankfully, once you’ve completed the game there’s a New Game + option that allows you to replay previous chapters. This enables you experience all that the game has to offer.

But even with this New Game + system, I still recommend taking your time during your initial playthrough. There’s tons of content in this game and some of it is easily missed if you’re not careful. Take the time to explore every nook and cranny, participate in the side quests, virtual battles, and training simulations. Many of the game’s best items and materia can only be discovered through these means. And who knows, when the next chapter rolls out, it’s possible that our saved data might be imported in some way.

So, if you’re an old school fan like me who isn’t sure if this game is worth your time, let me put your fears to rest. It is. Everything you love about the original FFVII is here, plus more. The nostalgia is strong, but so are the surprises. I’m eager to see what the next chapter will hold, even if we have to wait several years to get it.

Difficulty: Variable –  This game features multiple difficulty settings. The default setting is “Normal” and it is what I recommend for most experienced players. Early battles are relatively easy, but the difficulty slowly ramps up as the game goes on. Players who don’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the combat system are likely to have a much harder time than those that do. The “Easy” setting turns the game into a cake walk. So much so that I really don’t recommend it unless you simply want to enjoy the story with no challenge whatsoever. It really blunts the edge that much. Once you’ve completed the game you unlock the ability to play “Hard” mode. This is the exact mirror image of “Easy” – enemies are harder and the use of items is limited. On the upside, experience is earned at a much higher rate when playing in this mode. Certain in-game rewards are only available in “Hard” mode, so despite the increased difficulty, it’s actually worth a look if you’re a completionist trying to 100% the game. Finally, there’s a fourth option called “Classic”. This mode of play attempts to recreate the original FFVII combat experience. It does a decent job, but in the end it just feels off. This game was designed to be an action-based game and it shows. For me, “Classic” mode just didn’t vibe right.

Multiplayer:  None.

Story: As was the case with the original game, the story in Final Fantasy VII Remake is second-to-none. It’s faithful to the original while adding some new details and couple of surprising twists. If we’re being honest, this is probably the reason you’re playing the game.

Originality: Even though this is a remake of a classic title, it’s been redesigned from the ground up. There’s plenty of new mechanics and side quests to keep experienced players engaged.

Soundtrack: Again, one of the best things about FFVII is the music. That hasn’t changed with this Remake. All of the classic pieces are here, re-recorded and presented in the best quality yet. The soundtrack to this game is simply superb, as is the voice acting.

Fun: This is one of those unique games that’s likely to appeal to both fans of RPG and action games. It doesn’t matter if you like tackling oversized boss monsters or completing classic RPG-style side quests, this game has it all. I enjoyed every moment from start to finish.

Graphics: When it comes to graphics, this game showcases the best the PS4 has to offer. Everything from the rendering to the lighting is just stunning. There’s not much else I can really say.

Playcontrol: No major issues. For the most part, the game controls fairly well. The only real annoyance comes in terms of navigating some terrain or positioning yourself in the right spot to climb up and down ladders. But aside from that, everything else feels pretty spot-on.

Downloadable Content: Some promotional items, pre-order perks, and collector’s edition bonuses.

Mature Content: Strong language.

Value: As you might expect, this game sells at a premium price of $60.00 for the standard edition or $80 for the Deluxe. The 1st Class Edition is an SE Store exclusive and sells for the ridiculous price of $330.00. For the best value, I suggest grabbing the standard and upgrading to the Digital Deluxe version.

Overall score (1-100): 95Final Fantasy VII Remake is a near perfect game. I guess if I had to nitpick, I would point out that some of the sidequests and additional filler seems to be a bit excessive at times. But of course, much of that is completely optional and I’d rather have a game with too much to do than not enough. Also, it feels like nearly all of the DLC were items already in the game and then excised out after the fact to try to make a few extra bucks. But all that aside, if you’re a fan of the series, there’s absolutely no reason not to play this game. I mean that. Even if you don’t own a PS4, this game alone is reason enough to get one. It really is that good. The worst thing is going to be waiting for the next chapter.

Originally Available: PS4

Available on: PS4

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)  –  Final Fantasy VII Remake

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia