Final Score 10/10 Legendary - Reviewed on PS4 Pro
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is absolutely phenomenal.
I have been told my entire gaming career by multiple close peers how the original Final Fantasy 7 is one of the greatest games ever made. I never had the chance to play the original when I was younger. I was only 5 when it came out after all. It has always been on my list of games I wanted to experience, but the problem is that a 1997 title such as that hasn’t really aged well at all. By today’s standards the game just looks awful to me. It may have an amazing story, but I don’t know if my modern gamer eyes would have been able to appreciate it the same way gamers did back in 1997. Then when Square Enix announced that they were remaking the game, I was excited at this rare second chance to experience an amazing game, that I missed out on with out any negatives of aging technology. I saw the first trailer for the game, and I will admit it looked good. Years later, the demo arrived, and I played through the first 30 minutes or so of the game, and again I felt the game was interesting. It was a semi-linear action with a focus on pretty cinematic and high-quality character models. It was good, and I was excited, but I still wasn’t aware of what I was in store for. I played this game on a 23 year old promise and nothing much else. I have friends who have played ever single final fantasy game, a series I have largely never been a part of. In my defense, I have tried to give the series a chance on multiple occasions, but it has struggled much in modern day. I tried to get into it with Final Fantasy XIII, and much to the dismay of several fan friends who informed me I picked the worst time to start, that XIII was an anomaly and admittedly not great. Then oddly enough the series many fans voice as their least favorite somehow managed to get two sequels in a franchise that was even more of an anthology than Assassin’s Creed. Then came XIV which has one of the most disastrous launches in MMO history, and universally panned by fans. Then when XV launched I was excited to try it. However, at the time, I just didn’t have the patience for it’s incredible slow start. The game started with hours of nothing. Driving and driving, no, not even driving, riding in the passenger seat as riding around doing the most mundane things. I was not sold, and XV failed to capture my interest.
Final Fantasy VII Remake promised what was my final chance I was willing to give this series, and wow, did they knock it out of the park. Everything about this game is fantastic.
For this review, I am giving it a rare 10/10, and is most definitely a GOTY contender. 2020 proves to be an incredibly competitive year for that honor with games such as Last of US 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 coming; however, I could see FF7R taking it. On top of its technical score, it has the X factor. Quarantine aside, I couldn’t play it fast enough. This is a game I am so happy came at a time where I had the time to actually play it, put the time into it without rushing. Normally, working full time at my day job it is hard to review long games, 40-100 hour games in a time frame where I can both review and enjoy the game while it is still relevant. Being on furlough allowed me to invest more time into gaming, so that at least was a silver lining.
Is Final Fantasy 7 Remake a perfect game? No, but I don’t think that is the measure of a 10/10 game. Some games may hit 10/10 purely for a technical score, but may not capture my attention or enjoyment. Some games may have lower technical scores, but have the entertainment value that makes me love it and keeps me coming back. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is one of those rare Legendary titles that accomplishes both. It is technically phenomenal, but on top of that incredibly entertaining and fun to play. It has a few flaws, but they are outshined by its X factors, that indescribable thing that keeps one’s attention and draws you back to wanting to finish it to the very end.
Audio Editing and Pacing:
I want to get the negatives out of the way first on this game. Even though it is a 10/10 must buy, must play game, the flaws are there and enough to make note.
There are two main cons, and the first I will address is the pacing and padding of the game. I will admit, that this game is pretty oddly paced. There are times where the word “filler” popped up in my head, but honestly I do not think it is nearly as bad as some have said. Honestly, the side missions in the game are all optional. In fact, I really enjoyed their “psuedo-open-world” RPG elements. They took a narrative linear game, and found a way to at certain times have it open up to feel like an open area with side missions. It was clever. It has the focus of a linear story, but with the feel of an RPG that is more open. This sense of filler comes from the fact that it does become transparent where the developers stretched the story. Now, as someone who never played the original, I don’t have a comparison. For those unaware, this entire roughly 40 hour experience only spans to first 4-8 hours of the original game. So, obviously they had to stretch things. Sometimes it feels like depth was added, while other times fluff. However, It feels minor, and overall I am happy with the pacing.
My biggest real complaint has to do with the audio editing. Not the quality of the voice acting, but the fact that for every word spoken in the game there seems to be an audible grunt, sigh or other “non word”. At times, it really gets annoying. I don’t know if it has something to do with translations and Japanese taking less time and the grunts being filler, or if it is just a cultural/anime-inspired thing. But I swear to god every two seconds the characters are grunting or sighing loudly. I even tried to mess with the in game audio. If I could just tweak this game for one thing I would go in and delete 80% of the weird filler audio. There were so many scenes when silence would have been preferred over a sigh/grunt. It felt like the voice actors needed 5 more hours of actual dialogue to fit the scenes and moments. Even sometimes a simple yes or short sentence would have sufficed. There were times I wondered if they ran out of time to record enough dialogue. A game that was so perfect, this was one small flaw, that drove me nuts at first, but eventually my brain grew numb too. I may be exaggerating it in my mind, but it sure bugged me.
These small complaints aside; now let’s get into the what made this game truly special.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake has one of the best ensembles of memorable and likeable characters in recent releases. Tifa and Aerith are two of the best female characters ever. They have a balance between grace and strength, and definitely hold their own as characters against male characters. Too many games with a male protagonist, have the female characters be weak, submissive, or in constant need of saving. I felt like this was a game that played male and female main characters well. Also, they both obviously like Cloud without it being to ridiculous or "fan service-y". I also enjoy the fact that they subverted the archetype of the love triangle, by making Tifa and Aerith both friends and friendly towards each other despite it being obvious they both like Cloud. I had the opportunity to play this game alongside the Witcher 3 at the same time, and I also compare it in my mind to Mass Effect. These amazing games still fall into the love triangle archetype with the player being forced into some kind of “decision” with the female characters also being less than amicable towards each other. Granted this is still early in the story, but I thought that Tifa and Aerith were friends seems like a nice change of pace.
Tifa is easily my favorite character in the game. I am glad that she received several moments in the story where she took lead for the player to control. I hope that future iterations will see Tifa get front and center in the story. I would be ok with even more Tifa/Aerith lead missions in the part 2.
Barret is like Cloud’s main lieutenant character and the leader of the Avalanche group. I will admit that I didn’t like him at first. The first few hours, he comes off as what I described as “Cartoony”. His large unrealistic character design, mixed in with a stereotypical 80’s Action Hero voice and way of speaking. He just comes off hard to believe. Everyone else is otherwise a believable character, and here he was essentially a Hulk from the 80’s. However, he grew on me. What really makes his character work is his daughter and the way he acts towards her. Making his character a dad with a daughter to protect really made him relatable and changed my perception of him. When he was concerned for her safety and was relieved to find her ok, it all solidified him as a relatable character for me.
I didn’t learn until later that the side characters such Jessie or Biggs weren’t really much in the original game. Jessie seems like such an important character that learning she and the other Avalanche crew weren’t in much of the original was surprising to me. It just goes to show how good a job the developers did of expanding the 4 hours into 40. I won’t spoil the ending for the Avalanche crew, but I will say I’m still DESTROYED emotionally. #justiceforjessie
The combat in FF7R is some of the most fun action melee combat I have seen in a long time. I really reminded me of the combat in Mass Effect with the hybrid real time power wheel. I always praise how Mass Effect combines real time action with semi-paused menu to strategize, see the battle around the player, and select tactical abilities. This game really seemed to be that. I have never been a fan of turn based combat. I find it slow and emersion breaking, and that has been a barrier for me with the Final Fantasy franchise. I know many long time fans love turn based combat while others like me feel it is a relic of an older era. This seems like a perfect compromise. On lower difficulties and with the quick menu, a player could play it far more real time, and button mash their way through. However, more tactical players, or players on higher difficulties can pause as often as they want and issue commands over and over to different players making it feel like turn based. It is really clever and just incredibly well executed. I was blown away at how well the game makes the detail of combat easy to learn. Some games with level of detail, massive skills trees per weapon, “materia” which are essentially power up, and various equipment. It can get overwhelming for players not used to RPG style games, but FF7R makes it approachable without losing its depth.
FF7R is a linear single player narrative action game masquerading as an open world RPG and it is done beautifully. Some single player games don’t hide from the fact that they are very linear walk from point A to Point B story. Some games fall into the trap of just placing their linear story on top of open world that are vast and empty. I’ve never seen a game like FF7R that cleverly hides its linear nature while not falling into the common trap of just sticking their linear story on top of an empty soulless map. 90% of this game is linear, but the set pieces and the world is so beautifully hand crafted. Where it really shines is when the game tricks the players minds into feeling like this is an open explorable world. At several points in the game, the map opens up for you to explore several small detailed towns. The towns are filled with life and optional side missions. I also want to say that some many games, games I love like Witcher 3 or Assassin’s Creed, force us to do side missions to progress, and sometimes those side missions feel like time wasting fetch quests. FF7R makes all of its side quests optional, but I found I wanted to do them all anyways. While some games force you to do soulless side quests, FF7R doesn’t make you do them but you should. The side missions will take you all around these beautiful little towns and meet interesting people. They’re not perfect, there are still dumb fetch questions I admit, but they have charm.
This story kept me staying up late wanting to play more, and kept me engages all the way through. I could not wait to see what happened next. It also managed to do that without giving us an immediate threat or main villain. Sure the characters are on the run as fugitives but there isn’t a huge over-arching threat until the very end. While it had some pacing issues, I just can’t describe other than just charm. The story sucks you in and 40 hours later spits you out and you won’t know what hit you.
One of my favorite story elements of the game is how morally ambiguous it is. The game starts you off helping a literal group of eco-terrorists with the justification that the corporation you are fighting is evil. Still, the first act the player really does is blow up a power plant. This game doesn’t start you off very black and white. In 2020, it is interesting to see the protagonist on the side of Avalanche. More so, the game doesn’t shy away from the destruction and death caused by their bombings. They hear the impact it has on the general public. It gives you as the player enough pause. The game waits a very long time before proving to the player just how evil the corporation actually is. Even knowing you are the lesser of two evils, I loved the sub-plot of seeing Tifa struggle with their actions. She knows that sometimes being “justified” doesn’t make one feel better about doing morally grey things. There is one particular moment in FF7R that I have never EVER seen in a video game and it was subtle, but phenomenal.
Every game ever that shows a powerful protagonist, has the player slaughter their way through an absolute deluge of waves of enemies over the period of a game. It is a trope in video games to face off waves and waves of faceless nameless enemies. Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Witcher, Call of Duty, God of War, you name it. Sometimes games deal with morally ambiguous characters, but even during a difficult “kill them or don’t” moment, we never seem to question the morality of killing endless waves of enemies. The good guys are still good guys even after being a one man army who has murdered hundreds.
This game is no different, and we see Cloud fight his way through what seems to be an endless army of various enemy types. In fact, one gameplay postive I have for FF7R is just how many enemy types there are! So many games top out at 5 or 6 and this constantly introduced new ones, with many Bosses also feeling unique.
That being said, the most common enemy type being the Shinra corporate soldier. He is basically an faceless, nameless canon fodder for Cloud and you must have killed a thousand of them in the game. They are essentially storm troopers. What shocked me was the game takes a moment to have Cloud bump into a couple of these soldiers late in the game while walking down some stairs during a cutscene. Instead of yet another battle to occur, the game has one of the soldiers speak and recognize Cloud. Clouds seems to have been suffering from amnesia this whole game and doesn’t know who he is. The soldier seems excited to seem him, and that it has been a long time, and that he wanted to go grab another soldier buddy of his to share that Cloud was there. The soldier leaves and never returns because Cloud’s group leaves. It is a moment that reminds the player that the soldier is a real person, a person with feeling and just a man doing a job. The entire game has a sub-plot story arc about how innocent people sometimes are working for evil people. I just found it fascinating for the game to humanize the cannon fodder it has thrown at you for countless battles.
I don’t want to discuss the story to much because I want to avoid spoilers in this review. I will say there is a surprise for those who didn’t play the original. Throughout the entire game, the players encounter ghost like phantoms that we learn later in the game are “guardians of Fate” and they show up anytime the game seems to diverge from the original, seemingly forcing it back. They aren’t enemies press as sometimes they hinder you and other times help. I didn’t know this was a new edition to the game. If you didn’t play the original you won’t potentially notice this even if you do finish, but the developers are setting up the notion that this game doesn’t take place in the same universe. It is implied that there are alternative universes and that the characters won’t be “bound by fate”. I won’t spoil why that happens because it’s awesome, but this means that “Part 2 could vary even more from the story. Even more, it is implied that Sephiroth KNOWS he is defeated in the original’s timeline and is trying to bend the multi-verse to his victory. I didn’t understand until it was explained to me how the game differs on to another path. A couple characters that died in the original are still alive at the end of this game, and the fate enforcing ghosts weren’t there.
I had the original of 7’s ending spoiled for me a long time ago so I know the shocking end. Does this mean the ending could be different? The idea that the main villain is essentially an “Evil Dr. Strange” who has seen the future in which he loses and is going back to change it, is fascinating to me.
I don’t even have to type. Just LOOK at this game.
All in all, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an absolutely stunning game. It is a 10/10 not because it is perfect, no game is, but because everyone should play it and it achieves that difficult X factor that a 10/10 needs. I can’t recommend it enough.