I can remember like it was yesterday the day that I bought Final Fantasy VII back in 1997. Yes, I’m that old and yes, there’s going to be some nostalgia in this review because I was there.
For the young kids and Gen-Z generation that don’t understand or want to understand, Final Fantasy VII was an epic game on so many levels. It had a story like no other, a look like no other, a villain like no other, an unforgettable cast of characters/heroes, it was on three CDs which at that time was a big thing, it was everything that you wanted in not only a Final Fantasy game but a game as a whole. It was everything.
Over the years since the original we’ve seen a bunch of different variations of the original FFVII game, from modded versions to a “remaster” but never a complete redo in current gen graphics. So when Sony announced that FFVII was being officially remade in 2017, it set the gaming world on fire. In my opinion there is NO game that needed to be remade like this game.
FINALLY! After 20 plus years of fans and faithful begging for it. We got it. It’s everything what we wanted from it. While I have not finished the game and I’m still involved, I’ve played enough of it at this point to have an opinion for a review. Here is my take on probably the “Game of the Year” (Yes, I’m calling it early) on what to expect and what I liked and didn’t like. There’s a lot to absorb.
THE DRAMA UNFOLDS RIGHT AWAY
Right off the bat, when you start the game up and in Square Enix fashion you’re thrown into the typical melodramatic Final Fantasy cutscene. You feel like it’s going to be epic. Game on. It’s nighttime and you’re at the train depot in Midgar, you can see that the look of this game is so modern and every character this time looks like a human being unlike the boxy polygonal characters we got in 1997 albeit revolutionary back then. Not only that, there’s actually voiceover work. No subtitles. Our heroes talk.
Immediately, you’re thrown into combat and you get a sense of what the battles are going to be like but you can’t help but be excited about the nostalgic journey you’re about to head on going forward. Midgar is just as gloomy as you remember it. In order to get through this game though, you’ll need to know the basics and understand how to play and what you’re getting into. The FFVII remake can be challenging.
ATTACKING & CHARACTER SWITCHING
The Final Fantasy VII Remake has completely steered away from the traditional turn based battle format its predecessor used and now uses a real time action based format just like you used in Final Fantasy XV, if you played it then you know what I mean. If you didn’t then let me school you.
This style of play can and will take some getting used to. The FFVII purist in me doesn’t necessarily like it but it’s not all that bad. You’ll be using a variety of button presses and the menu to successfully pull off attacks and win battles. With this type of battle style it means that you’ll have to plan out your strategy of attack down to spacing, knowing your enemy type and character skill. If you plan on button mashing in this game, you won’t get far, so plan ahead as best you can when you’re engaged in battles.
The square button is your general attack and the triangle button is your Punishing Attack. The objective in battles ideally is to build up your ATB gauge as much and as often as possible. You can only do this if you are battling successfully. The more you build up this gauge the more you’ll be able to use items, abilities and limit breaks and get your enemies outta there quickly. The longer battles continue the more you’ll end up using MP and items and risking a game over.
Once Barrett joins your party you’ll get your first sense of how party battles will take place. Character switching is essential. Barrett’s specialty is ranged attacks so from time to time you’ll find that you’re going to have to switch characters during battle. There’s no favoritism in this game as the enemies and environment won’t allow it. Tifa, Aerith, Red XIII and whoever else joins your party will all require the same dynamic. What you don’t wanna do is just switch your characters for the sake of switching. Yes, you may have your favorite hero but trust me this game will remind you that it’s important to fight based on the enemy and not just because you like a character. Archetype is key.
It’s important that during battles you understand each character’s abilities and PAY ATTENTION. It’s very easy to get lost in battle and forget to heal yourself, cast a spell or summon because you’re so focused on winning each encounter as each encounter is extremely engaging, even more so the tougher the enemy. More times than a little bit I suffered a game over just because I wasn’t paying attention in battle.
Staggering your enemies in this game can be difficult to pull off but it is essential to battles and your success during the course of your play in this game. Learning your enemy is how you stagger them. There’s also a materia that you’ll earn in the game that will greatly increase your chances of winning all of your battles. No spoilers though. Figure it out.
MATERIA, SPELLS, SUMMONS AND WEAPONS
Materia is a key element to your character progression just like the original FFVII. These gems are basically your key to learning and mastering certain abilities, learning certain spells and if you get lucky enough, summon powerful allies to help you in battle.
The thing about materia is finding the correct balance between your materia, your weapons and equipment. This will be based solely on how you like to play the game. Some want an HP rich character for attacking prowess, some may want to have a balance between attacking and elemental spells or you could just have a support build just for healing. You’ll find in this game that sometimes you’ll be using a piece of equipment just because of the materia slots and not it’s ability. That’s why knowing your play style is key. There’s really no wrong way to do it because you’ll find so much materia in this game but nailing down a plan for your party is important. The active battle system doesn’t really allow much time to plan, it’s snap decision making and good use of the menu.
Spells more or less in this game are more complimentary and aren’t quite as vital as they were in the original game BUT they are super important. The basic spells Fire, Ice and Lightning if leveled all the way up are beast mode spells so realistically there aren’t many other spells you really need. You get them early in the game so level them up right away. It pays dividends. Of course learn the spells that suit you best and play thru the game that way. There are powerful spells that you acquire and some you’ll have to do some work to obtain but if you can you’ll be the ultimate kick-ass party in the game.
Weapons and equipment in any RPG are critical to your characters’ progression and that’s very much the case here. This game thus far gives you some pretty good variety but you can really just modify your standard weapon i.e the Buster Sword and make it better or use what you like. I would have liked to see there be sidequests for the ultimate weapons like there was in the original but I guess you can’t have it all. There are sidequests within the game that you can do that grant you some really good weapons and items. So don’t be mistaken by what I’m saying and think that this game has nothing to offer. It’s just not as robust as it’s predecessor but that’s okay. Sometimes having too many weapons and items clogs up your inventory and it can be hard to manage and maintain.
FINAL THOUGHTS SO FAR
Final Fantasy VII remake is incredible, it’s everything I wanted and expected from this game. While it’s nothing like the original it’s better in some ways but in most ways it doesn’t compare. I’m not going to make too many comparisons though. Both games have different identities. There’s was a lot about this game I loved. I loved the current gen look of the game. The voiceover, story and how Square Enix really humanized Cloud, Tifa, Aerith and everyone you interact with. The combat system is something that I have a love/hate relationship with. On one hand I love that I can fight in real time and really see my limit breaks and attacks be acted out on screen as I command them. I hate character switching though. It’s really annoying and sometimes you’ll completely forget to do so when you’re entrenched in battle. You’ll end up losing members just from being unaware so it’s harder to keep an eye on your party, especially the weaker members.
The story is much improved and more clear but with that comes the fact that the game is very linear and follows a focused path. It’s not like the original which was a true open world game that allowed you to play the game your way and explore your environment. I used to love the grind of level building and searching the world for more powerful enemies to fight and level up. That’s gone here but that’s just a nitpick for the purist in me. All things considered, the Final Fantasy VII remake is an incredible game. A worthy Game of the Year candidate. It’s that good. It’s not an incredibly difficult game however so I strongly suggest that in order to get the best value out of this game, space it out a bit. While I haven’t finished the game, I look forward to the remaining parts of the game and maybe playing it over because it has a ton of replay value. So, if you’re thinking about buying this game, think no more. It’s a must have for 2020.