When Square Enix took on the enormous task of remaking Final Fantasy VII, a JRPG that left one of the biggest cultural footprints in gaming history, it was met with much excitement and anticipation from a community of die-hard fans who hold it very close to their hearts. After all, this was a remake almost 15 years in the making, even long before its announcement at E3 2015. Now, playing Final Fantasy VII Remake from the perspective one of those die-hard fans, I am left fulfilled, overjoyed, and taken aback by the fact that it even exists, right now, on my console. However, all of this is punctuated with an asterisk that leaves the current package very fulfilling, but the rest of the upcoming parts in a strange state of uncertainty yet again.
Note: This review is completely spoiler-free.
By now, if you know the story of Final Fantasy VII, you should feel right at home with the remake too. Taking place in the booming industrial city of Midgar, an eco-terrorist group calling themselves Avalanche launch an attack against Midgar's ruling corporation, Shinra, who are draining the planet of Mako, the life energy of the world. Their first bombing run has them enlist the help of one of Shinra's former elite SOLDIERS turned mercenary, Cloud Strife, and it's here, at the first bombing run beneath Midgar's massive floating utopia, does this epic tale begin.
As most already know, Final Fantasy VII Remake only encompasses the first section of the original game; the 5-6 hours you spend initially in Midgar. That arc is now fleshed out in the remake to accommodate a lengthier playtime of around 35 hours (which is how long is took me to complete the main story plus a few side quests). For the most part, it's fleshed out rather superbly, with the right amount of attention given to aspects of the story that needed the extra weight. In particular, the characters Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge have been given a considerable amount of development as opposed to them merely being under-cooked fodder like in the original.
Square Enix also wisely uses this time to flesh out not only characters, but entire levels, aspects of the world-building, and character relations. In that regard, it actually strengthens the original game in ways I did not expect, and all pulled off rather masterfully too. This is thanks to some truly fantastic writing and character dialogue that just enhances the dynamic between the team beyond expectations. You see this in full effect with our main party consisting of Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aerith. With Cloud at the center, each relationship is given so much more care and attention, that it honours the original without ever betraying what made these characters so endearing in the first place.
...they've wisely chosen to restructure and rearrange certain important story beats so that [Cloud] has an actual arc in part one.
Midgar is a world that feels lived in, and all without sacrificing an ounce of character or charm.
The revamped ATB system feels like a fusion of XV's great real-time battle flow with the tactical turn-based combat of the original.
...it's also the most rewarding and addictive battle system I've ever played with in a Final Fantasy game.
As spectacular as the climactic battles were, it all felt like Square Enix perhaps blew their load a bit too early, pardon my French.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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