Final Fantasy VII Remake
For 20 years, players have wondered what a post-PS1 version of Final Fantasy VII would look like. Early PS2 tech demos showed what FF VIII cutscenes would look like in real-time, and it led to a strong desire for a remake of the game even then. We would get PS2 and PSP offshoots of the series and plenty of Cloud in other Final Fantasy-related games – but no remake. Rumors would swirl and we’d hear nothing. The PS3 era saw these rumors reach a new level as fans could easily play FF VII on that device on either a disc or via digital download and play it with some minor quality of life improvements.
Finally, with the PS4 era, we got word that we would in fact see a remake – and it kept getting delayed. Renders would come and go, and it would look stunning. Now, after years of hype and an exciting demo release to whet the appetite of fans, it’s here…kinda. Final Fantasy VII Remake is a full-on reimagining of the classic – but only part of it as the succeeding post-Midgar portions of the game will be released later on. Still, for what it is, does the remake improve upon the original concept or is it just a new coat of paint?
Final Fantasy VII Remake offers up a complete reimagining of not only the story of FF VII, but its cast of characters, motivations, and relationships to one another. Combat has also shifted from being turn-based to giving you an option for that, but primarily being action-based with some commands thrown in for good measure. The world-building done in Remake is incredible because after playing through the re-release of VII on Switch recently, it allowed me to see just why this version of the story works better than it did before – at least so far. The big caveat to this remake is so many popular parts of the original game aren’t visible yet, and it feels like trying to review an entire book while only having access to the first quarter of its content.
FF VII Remake expands on the characters in ways that weren’t done, or in some cases, couldn’t be done before. In the original game, the text-only approach left things less open to interpretation when it came to motivations and it affected some character arcs. The AVALANCHE group’s goal of taking out Shinra is the same in both the original and remake, but there’s more internal questioning and doubt if the ends justify the means now than there was before. Jessie winds up blaming herself for some of the damage caused to the city, and the scope of the group’s actions is felt more in the remake than the original game.
Now, you see extensive damage to areas that were devasted by the blast the group (in theory) was completely to blame for and you can see the human cost of it. Barret’s daughter Marlene asks him if everyone who died will come back and you can see him struggle to lie to her face and tell her they will. Jessie’s crush on Cloud from the original game is fleshed out into more of a bond between the two – with Jessie obviously wanting him, but her becoming one of the few people early on he feels like he can open up to, so there’s a greater bond formed between them now than there ever was before.
Body language is also huge to how things are interpreted between the characters and that’s something that really couldn’t be gotten across full even with the PS1’s cutscenes. The regular in-game movement outside of cutscenes does a good enough job of portraying things like awkwardness or anger. The massive increase in facial detail helps a lot too – and seeing characters like Barret who had dimension in the first game, but the unrealistic look to them hurt the emotional side, now be given normal human proportions helps a lot. Before, Barret felt like a construct of a real person who was hard to take seriously due to his design – now he feels like a fleshed-out character with a lot of depth to him.
Final Fantasy VII Remake may tell a much smaller-scale version of the original game’s story – but it does so while greatly increasing the depth of everyone involved in it. Characters like Jessie weren’t given much in the original, but are now given a fair amount of depth. The history between Cloud and Sephiroth is expanded upon as well to add more stakes to their story. The remake does a better job at making you care about the world’s plight and see the damage caused by it on a person-to-person level – but its greatest strength is also a weakness.
The remake being a multi-part experience hurts the nature of the story since the original game was self-contained and this isn’t. Remake gets you hooked on the characters in new and exciting ways, but without the complete experience being present, it feels like buying the PS1 original and getting to the end of the first disc, only to find that the others are missing. Hopefully, Square Enix reveals a timetable for the rest of the remake because as it stands, it’s incomplete and hurts the overall value for players. Fortunately, they did at least make it somewhat clear that Remake wasn’t the entire experience – but without it being on the front cover or the Remake being titled Part One, it will lead to some lost consumer goodwill.
Fortunately, the remake as a whole is a smashing success. The redone action-centric combat is a lot of fun and feels mar more modern than the original’s turn-based approach. That style is an option here as well, and might be preferable to those who want to take a more passive role in things – however, the speedier combat also allows you to make faster progress in the game and it’s more engaging too. The camera is generally always where it needs to be even during hectic battles, and a simple right stick click allows you to target a new foe if another one falls right in front of you and leaves you with only enemies surrounding you.
Visually, the remake is a mixed bag despite doing a far better job of sucking you into both the world and its inhabitants with better graphics. There are some impressive metal textures all throughout the world – but then things like doors or rocks show up that look unfinished. It’s jarring and takes you right out of things – especially when they’re in prominent locations that you can’t help but look at because the camera is dead-set on them. Clothing details are through the roof now and things like Barret’s tattoo work shine nicely.
The soundtrack has been revamped and manages to work in everything that made the original so good while adding a lot more depth to the songs themselves. The sound effects have been redone from the ground up, but small things like victory chimes remain intact for a touch of the past mixed in with the present. The voice work is something that will be divisive in the long-run, but I found added to the presentation. Some secondary characters had somewhat flat performances that didn’t go beyond the archetype for the character – like an early encounter with a cowardly Shinra employee where the acting was right in line with the cowardly guy he was playing, but it felt one-note. The major cast all works very well together and the cast has chemistry together, which helps a lot. The story is great to see unfold in a new way, but to hear it unfold for the first time changed things and added more layers to it.
Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a must-buy for fans of the original – but with some caveats attached. Those going into it expecting the complete FF VII experience from start to finish with a new gameplay setup and graphics will be disappointed, while those going in knowing that it is part of the overall package, just with a poor name choice, will wind up quite happy with it. Being able to go between a more classic gameplay approach or a modernized one offers up a lot of freedom to players, while the story itself remains my favorite in franchise history – and it’s now told with more depth and detail than ever before. The revamped graphics aren’t perfect – but do a better job on the whole of conveying the story, while the voice work helps it gain a new level of gravitas that wasn’t there before.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of Final Fantasy VII Remake for the PlayStation 4 provided by Square Enix.