Final Fantasy 7 Remake is one of those rare games that aims to please gamers from 2 completely different generations. First, there are those who played the original game back on the PlayStation in 1997. Then there are the newer players who’ve probably played some of the last few modern titles. Looking at the sales figures of FFXV, there’s plenty of new players that the franchise got hold of recently. And then there are people like me, who’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. I know, shocking! Fans have waited at least 5 years for the remake of the classic JRPG, so suffice to say that it has a lot of expectations riding on Square Enix to deliver on.
Okay alright, let me preface this by saying I have played 2015’s Final Fantasy XV before. Specifically, I played the demo for about an hour before giving up on it. For long time fans of the series that might sound extremely negative. Fret not, as there is a happy ending to all this. One of the reasons I never played a Final Fantasy game before is because of the obvious, and stupid, reason – the numbering on the titles. Getting into an established franchise is already hard enough for most gamers, and for a franchise with 15 titles (actually more), it can seem pretty daunting. Fortunately, I did a little bit of research before starting Final Fantasy 7 remake.
For starters, one of my revelations when researching more about the franchise was that the games have quite independent stories and worlds. Think Black Mirror, where each episode exists on its own, but together the show talks about common themes. Sigh! Well, that was a relief.
Story & Gameplay Impressions – Color Me Impressed!
Before I talk (or in this case, write) more about my experience with the game, let’s take a refresher on the world and characters of FF7R. The game takes place on a nameless planet which runs on ‘Mako’, essentially its life-force. The grand Shinra corporation controls the entire planet while harvesting Mako in many of its reactor plants across the city of ‘Midgar’. The story follows ex-Shinra soldier Cloud Strife as he joins eco-terrorist group Avalanche to take down the evil Shinra corporation. The rest of the game follows his exploits as he makes new allies and meets people from his past, some of whom present some serious threat to him as well as Midgar. All of this information presents itself to you in the first 10 minutes of the game, so it’s natural that you might feel left our in the story towards the start. Thankfully though, Square Enix released a demo that covers roughly the first hour of the game, where you can soak in most of this introductory information.
Getting to the game itself, it’s a fairly well made JRPG. I’ve never personally been into turn-based combat, so it was a nice thing that FF7 remake employs a more standard approach with real-time combat. It still has the Active battle system (ATB), slightly tweaked from the original, but it never slows down the pace of combat. I really like that. Don’t get me wrong, turn-based combat sure has its place in modern gaming, but for a game which has updated itself in every category imaginable, it only made sense to do the same with combat.
With those 2 worries out of the way, I was open to exploring every nook and cranny of the game. Having seen only some gameplay off of Youtube of the original FF7, I was blown away by the remake’s visuals. Now, this is what I’ll call AAA. Every aspect of production here is top-notch, from the environments to the characters and everything else in between. Final Fantasy 7 remake also expands vastly upon the original game, which is the reason why the game will be split into multiple parts.
Another aspect I’d like to talk more about is the music. Nobuo Uematsu returns to the role of music composer, brilliantly recomposing many of the original game’s themes, along with some nice additions. You can also add music to your collection throughout certain areas in the map, reminding me of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. However, there are still certain problems with the implementation of OST while exploring. Like Spider-Man, the music kicks in regularly when traveling around the map. Unlike the friendly neighborhood’s outing, the music will bleed into the cutscenes of side missions as well as sometimes main missions, which can seem quite weird tonally. It’s this area that I was really put off by, where the randomized music playing in the background contributes to a weird feeling of unpolish.
FF7’s Mild Technical Issues
While the game’s art direction is excellent, it also lacks polish in multiple areas in terms of technicality. Square Enix has used some rather low-resolution textures, particularly in the slums. I was hoping we’d get a patch by now but alas, Square hasn’t spoken anything about it. We’ll talk more about the issues in a dedicated article soon, but for now, that’s the big issue that you need to know about. Framerate seems fine for the most part, targeting 30fps on PS4 and PS4 Pro. Again, for more details regarding the performance of the game, check out our upcoming article when that drops. With all that in mind, the game does look incredibly gorgeous most of the time, especially in the cinematics. Compared to the original, Square Enix had a herculean task ahead.
As an RPG I think the game gives you enough freedom in upgrading your gear and other stats like magic abilities. You can also set your gear to be upgraded automatically, with the choice of focusing on offense, defense or a balanced preset. You can find/purchase orbs known as Materia to upgrade your weapons and give yourself unique abilities, as well as your party members.
All that is fine, but what is slightly surprising here is the pretense of player agency in the narrative. You can’t do anything do change the course of the story. It’s not like The Witcher or Elder Scrolls series of course. It’s a pretty linear story. This would have been fine if Square Enix hadn’t included the occasional dialogue choices, which have no impact on the story whatsoever. Fans of the original PlayStation game will have seen this coming, but for newer players like me, it’s a little out of the left field.
Currently, I’ve roughly halfway through the main quest, with the game being about 30-40 hours long judging by how fast players are finishing the game. Personally, I’m taking my sweet time with it. There’s plenty of new content here to keep fans of the original busy, with extended missions, side quests and a bunch of collectibles. However, that length does come with some problems, as unlike some of the other large AAA games, Final Fantasy 7 doesn’t take the time to introduce new characters or concepts. It revels in its own world that it has built, with the result being that new players can feel a little left out.
Often times the game will throw characters and terms at you, expecting you to already know about them. I actually had to go and read a little about the world of the game online to get my bearings right. It’s pretty blatantly clear that Square Enix had planned multiple parts for it, seeing has just how much of the lore require more exploration.
As I now sit here with the PS4 turned on in front of me, waiting for me to start the game again, I have to wonder – Is there a satisfying conclusion to this? I know the story at large won’t have an ending in this game, but I do want some sense of finality here. Perhaps the multiple-part spanning FF7 will be able to satisfy me in a way the Marvel Cinematic Universe has? Only time will tell…
In the meanwhile, I’ll get started on the review as soon as I finish it. There are a bunch of story beats and gameplay mechanics yet to be discovered. However, if you’re a long time fan of the series, or are looking to pick it up, I will heartily recommend it to you. For gamers who want a more comprehensive look into the game and want a more hard verdict, please wait a while for our review.