Hey it’s Pete here! I love it when a member of our Game On AUS community reaches out with a review. Big thanks to Harry FIR35TORM Cox who dropped this to me through our discord community, it was so good I had to share it with you! Enjoy, and join our discord!
by Harry Cox.
WHEN Square Enix officially announced the remake of Final Fantasy 7, fans from the original have never been more excited. They’ve been calling for a remake since they laid their eyes on the Final Fantasy 7 Tech Demo during the PlayStation 3 E3 launch.
It’s been 23 years since Final Fantasy 7 came out on the PlayStation, those younger gamers have aged and there’s now waves of new gamers coming from different console generations who most probably never looked at the games before their time. I too have played through most of the original a few times, but I was more of a Player 2 as I’ve watched my brother progressing through all 3 discs and completing the entire game. So, I’ll do my best to keep my nostalgic eyes from praising it too much, and wonder if this is the reimagining both the fans and newcomers wanted, or like in the movie industry, fall into that category where they didn’t really need to be remade?
Final Fantasy 7 Remake covers the Midgar section from the original, and while that section originally took 10 hours to get through, my playthrough took somewhere around the 35-hour mark, and that’s trying to do every side mission and explore every nook and canny. It’d be easy to mock that this game has suffered on what I could describe as ‘The Hobbit’ effect, but I’d be wrong. The story has been further explained as events that were implied, are now fully explained in detail. Some aspects and places have been reworked, and for good measure as if left untouched, they’d probably have been held in scrutiny by some of the newly developed social groups (society was very different back in the 90’s).
That said, it allowed for brand new characters that helped brought the world of Midgar to life, and minor characters like Jessie, Biggs and Wedge have gone through an extensive development. Now, rather than being people that you’ll forget quickly in the original, they have their profound moments that feels natural to story and with the added development with Jessie, you’ll get to know why the three joined the rebellion of Avalanche.
As for the dialogue, the simple text boxes and animations have been completely transformed into full blown cutscenes with voice acting and the signature cinematic direction Square Enix are known for. The voice actors that were casted enjoyed doing their roles as they’ve done a stellar performance for their characters, their voices added the finer details of the character’s personalities that couldn’t be achieved before.
Several moments that returned are given the full remake treatment that gave character interactions a more profound impact, and when it’s tied with the iconic soundtrack, I did have to leave the couch a few times as I struggled to handle some of the more emotional parts in the story.
The graphical advancements also heavily expanded the world of Midgar, in the original, we see Cloud and the Avalanche terrorists successfully blowing up a Mako Reactor, followed by quickly running past town sectors, jumping on trains and finally reaching the safety of Avalanche’s HQ, all through a series of pre-rendered backgrounds and the occasional FMV sequence.
Now with the use of Unreal Engine 4, Final Fantasy 7 Remake features one of the prime graphical showcases of what the PS4 can do, as the transition to full 3D environments meant that we can now see the size of Midgar in scale and we’re able to familiarise iconic landmarks and moments on a new perspective. The consequence of bringing everything to scale however there are some environments that only serves as a filler as you traverse between different areas.
My playthrough of Final Fantasy 7 Remake is played on a PS4 Slim and I’ve seen no sustained framerate issues, despite having a lot of action and effects on the screen during battles. It’s a marvel how Square Enix were able to push the graphical boundaries that could rival traditional CG movies, though when it does.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake does feature some amazing set pieces, especially on the first chapter and later on the game but it does inherent some of the technical issues Unreal Engine 4 bring. While exploring Midgar, world textures can take a while to load as you run through the environment, and at worst, some details can look like a horrible smudge. It’s a big shame when the character models look so detailed and amazing in motion, those lapses of quality elsewhere are going to very noticeable.
However, what you won’t be feeling disappointed is the soundtrack, and many of the music creations from Nobuo Uematsu have returned. The extra fidelity and instruments they included is lightyears difference to those MIDI tracks back on the original PlayStation. It’s not to say that the quality of the original tracks is subpar, the music is not just iconic to the franchise, but to the works of Nobuo Uematsu.
Some tracks have been given a complete overhaul, from changing tones, genre styles, even by shifting them to different portions of the game, while still being familiar for fans to recognise. During the game, you collect music discs that are essentially remixes of the soundtrack, and be played on jukeboxes that can be found throughout your progress. The remixes cover a wide range of genres, including Jazz, Funk, and even 90’s Hip-hop, and they all sound natural and gives you the feeling that they’re part of the game’s lore.
What also have been redone is the combat system and Square Enix had the difficult task of bringing their battle mechanics that’ll suit the standard we now see in RPGs. Instead of encountering random battles that switches to a separate screen, monsters and enemies are scattered around the world that you just walk in to start a fight, however the main attractions are going to be boss battles, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake will offer many of these unique battles with every one of them a sight to see.
During these battles, you mainly control one character at a time, and you can switch controls to a different party member, the rest will automatically do basic attacks and dodge at will. Each character will have its own ATB bar that fills up to two actions that allows you to do special moves, magic or use items. The ATB bar for all party members will fill over time but will do so quicker on the selected character you succeed delivering basic attacks to your enemies. Bringing up the ATB menu will slow everything to a crawl that this will allow you to decide and observe what’s going on in the battlefield.
It makes battles more tactical oriented, and you will be using these menus often to decide between healing up party member or perform a devastating move that could finish a tough enemy. There is a Classic difficulty option that attempts to mirror the original system, but when the only actions you can do requires waiting for the ATB bar to fill, the gameplay becomes unattached as during your idle moments, you can only watch your characters move around and do basic attacks automatically.
There’s something about mashing that button and able to deal damages in quick succession does keep me excited, and this method will be fine for your first battles but later in the game, you’ll soon realise that you’ll have to exploit your enemy’s weaknesses in order to deal some high damage, usually from the use of magic and Materia.
Returning from the original is the Materia system and it’s arguably one of the most flexible systems ever to come out on a JRPG, these colour coded orbs are what allows your character to use magic spells, special skills, summon creatures that will aid in battle or modify ability stats. Some Materia can be linked to other Materia that can enhance their effects, allow characters to automatically cast actions in certain situations or just simply earn XP faster. Yes, just like how your character level ups through many battles, your Materia will earn XP and will grow stronger, but they have to equipped to your character’s weapons or armour to do so.
You do collect more weapons and armour throughout the game that has different configurations on how you can equip your Materia, and weapons can be upgraded that will give you more material slots to improve your characters abilities. Each weapon you collect allows your character to use its unique action that can be learned by repeatedly performing that successfully and once learned, they can be used regardless what weapon they’ll use. The scale of weapons skills, the Materia levels and how they are equipped are going to be crucial if you want to see your character’s full potential, especially on the Hard difficulty which unlocks on your first completion.
This is where the combat system rewards to those who can able to exploit their enemy’s weaknesses, all enemies have their own stagger bar and once that fills from strong attacks, they’ll fall incapacitated and be exposed to receive greater damage. Some enemies during the later parts of the game can only be destroyed easily by staggering them first.
As the story progress through, characters will swap in and out of your party, so it’s important to know their distant fighting style and remembering to check your Materia and equipment. Cloud is your high DPS melee swordsman that can deal damage to multiple enemies at once, Barrett is your range shooter who also has a role as a tank, that has an ability to absorb damage from other party members, Tifa can deal some lightning quick punches and kicks to a single enemy, effectively turning them into a red pulp and of course like in the original, Aerith, your trusted healer who has high magic stats that will deal decent damage to enemies, she can still do basic ranged attacks that’ll fill up her ATB, but it’s nothing to write home about.
The only gripes I had with the combat system is enemies tend to focus their attacks to the character you are controlling, actions can be abruptly stopped that’ll force you to wait for the ATB bar to fill up again which can make the battles a clunky experience, and there’s has been a few occurrence where all my characters have been wiped out from certain enemy attacks combos in ways I couldn’t been able to avoid. At least on the game over screen, you can quickly redo battles, and resume the spectacular combats Final Fantasy 7 Remake will offer.
The issues you’ll experience will only be dwarfed by this amazing package Final Fantasy 7 Remake has. Despite only serving as a first part, it gives a faithful recreation on what die head fans wanted. Its development was indeed a long one, but the quality of the story, music and characters it delivers made the wait worth it, and it gives something to look for in the future.
With remasters becoming more common and given the same treatment as a brand-new title, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics and Final Fantasy 7 not only had one of the greatest stories from a video game, it’s technological advancements at the time redefined the medium that formed a path to what we see games today.
For the new players, it’s a chance for them to experience what the fans have embraced years ago, and as for returning players like myself, who knew how the story unfolded, the changes to that story gives an opportunity to reexperience those emotional moments once again in a fresh perspective. The big question we’ll have to ask, how long will we have to wait before we see a second part? That said, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a reminder that it’s not all about the destination, but the journey along the way that matters.