REVIEW: ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ is a Beautiful Reimagining (PS4)

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Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake is less of a remake and more of a reimagining of the original 1997 classic from publisher Square Enix. I say reimagining because this remake feels like a new game. While it is impossible not to compare the two, it is important to note that Final Fantasy VII Remake expands on only a fraction of the original story, turning the first five hours of the original game into 18 chapters that take about 30-hours to play. It does this by adding new areas, characters, boss fights, and side-quests. The remaining story is most likely being saved for subsequent sequels.

Like the original, Final Fantasy VII Remake follows Cloud Strife, a former SOLIDER, who finds himself in the middle of an ongoing fight between AVALANCHE, a group of environmental terrorists, and Shinra, an evil corporation stealing precious resources from the planet no matter the cost.

As reluctant as Cloud is at the start of the game, his relationship with his found family, most notably Tifa, keeps him invested in the fight. Like any good Final Fantasy protagonist, Cloud is moody, quiet, and struggling with his past. I am incredibly biased since Cloud is my favorite Final Fantasy protagonist. Luckily, this is the best version of the character. The dialogue is never outright cringy and instead, his awkward moments feel real. Additionally, his chemistry with both Tifa and Aerith is perfect. The voice acting in the game is top-notch. The main draw of Final Fantasy VII has always been its story and characters. The remake takes that original magic and elevates it.

The additional content gives the characters more depth. While traversing and doing side quests in Midgar slums,’ Sector 7, Cloud and Tifa’s banter is heartwarming and showcases their amazing chemistry. Cloud’s reaction to things around him is genuinely funny. His grumpy attitude matched with Barret’s over-the-top aggression or Jessie’s bubbliness is a recipe for some amazing character moments. I don’t think I have laughed this much during a Final Fantasy game, ever.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Cloud and Tifa after jumping out of a train together to avoid an attack from Shinra.

The character arcs are not the only thing that feels elevated. The combat in the game is the best Final Fantasy combat to date. It brilliantly combines the movement of modern action games with traditional turn-based mechanics. It feels like a combination of Kingdom Hearts hack and slash style with a traditional slow-downed weapons wheel. Combat feels tactical despite the speed. Knowing when to dodge, attack, or block enemies is key. Cloud has two attack styles and depending on the enemy type you are fighting, switching over to their slower but stronger style, Punisher Mode, saves a lot of time. Cloud can change his battle style by hitting square. Meanwhile, other party members have a special strong attack that can be used by pressing triangle.

In addition to basic attacks, Final Fantasy VII Remake gives each character special abilities and spells. Both of these can be customized to a certain degree depending on the Materia they have equipped. To use these special abilities, a character’s ATB Gauge. It fills as time passes and fills faster as you consistently attack and guard against enemies. Players can rotate between different party members in real-time during combat with relative ease and even command them to do specific actions even when they are not being directly controlled. In more recent Final Fantasy games, players could only control the lead character.

This new feature harkens back to the days of turn-based combat when players could command everyone in their party. When not controlling a party member, they act on their own. The ability to switch between characters becomes vital when a party member that isn’t Cloud has an ability that can easily weaken a foe. However, if you want them to use a specific spell or even get their ATP meter filled, it is best to take control of them completely as opposed to just giving the command. Combat is also beautiful to look at. Regular combat feels like a cut scene because of the over-the-top animations. From summons to limit breaks, combat in Final Fantasy VII Remake just looks stunning.

Overall, the whole game feels cinematic. Set pieces are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and the redesigns take inspiration from the original game but elevate to a level beyond my wildest dreams. Looking up at the sprawling metal structure above Sector 8 is incredible and adds to the scope of the world. Another reason for the cinematic feel is because so much of the story is linear. Similarly to the Uncharted games, Final Fantasy VII Remake has epic set pieces and moments that players will only see once. Additionally, it features a few hub areas that have multiple side-quests and NPCs you can interact with multiple times, reminding me of the newer Tomb Raider reboot franchise.

However, the game isn’t flawless. This biggest issue with Final Fantasy VII Remake is the camera. Sometimes the camera moves too fast or worse far too slow during combat. Additionally, there are points in the story while traversing where the camera is fixed. The quick zooming in and out is jolting and at times gave me a bit of a headache. I had a similar issue with the animations for some abilities. The bright lighting effects during combat animations with the rapidly moving camera feels cinematic but is also hard on the eyes. I wish more than anything Square had learned from their other game, Kingdom Hearts III and allowed for these additional animations to be turned off. It got to a point where depending on the setting, I could only play the game for two-three hours at a time. The camera controls can be messed with but it takes a lot of time to figure out and are pretty confusing. That being said, I am prone to migraines so this may not be a serious concern for every player.

In addition to the camera, my one other gripe is with the mini-map that displays quests. The option to select and focus on a certain quest doesn’t really work, so the mini-map always displays everything whether or not you want it to. This is frustrating because quest icons are all the same color, making it is easy to get turned around and head the wrong way. I will admit I have no sense of direction and get lost in games easily but in Final Fantasy VII Remake, it was especially bad. Multiple times while trying to finish a quest, I would head toward a completely different objective simply because it was all marked the same on the map.

Despite my issues with the camera, I don’t want to put the Final Fantasy VII Remake down. It is breathtakingly beautiful, from the set pieces to the character design, and features new and improved combat that is both modern and a love-letter to the original turn-based mechanics. Fans, or anybody who never got to the play the original, are equally in for a treat. I can’t wait to see the world be immersed once again in a game I have loved for decades.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is available now on PlayStation 4.


Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Despite my issues with the camera, I don’t want to put the Final Fantasy VII Remake down. It is breathtakingly beautiful, from the set pieces to the character design, and features new and improved combat that is both modern and a love-letter to the original turn-based mechanics. Fans, or anybody who never got to the play the original, are equally in for a treat. I can’t wait to see the world be immersed once again in a game I have loved for decades.

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