System: PS4 | Released: April 2020
Developer: Square Enix | Reviewed On: PS4
"The reunion at hand may bring joy... It may bring fear... But let us embrace whatever it brings. For they, are coming back"
For years, Square Enix hinted and teased at the idea of a Final Fantasy VII Remake, And at E3 2015, the teasing ended and the shock hit fans around the globe hard.
Square Enix finally announced the long awaited remake!
The internet was hit with a large amount of excitement, whilst hit with a similar amount of worry and uncertainty that they wouldn't even be able to pull off such a large task and meet the expectations of millions of gamers.
So, did it meet expectations? Were Square Enix able to create a masterpiece after the mixed reception from their last numerous Final Fantasy titles?
Let's jump in and put the game under a critical microscope.
Due to the size and importance of this game, I have broken the review up into specific sections, so we can really focus and analyse all aspects. Enjoy
1. A full game but not the full story?
Did you know?
Final Fantasy VII Remake was awarded with 'Game Of The Year' for 2020 by SkyPunk Media
Watch the SkyPunk game awards here
1. A full game but not the full story?
On the run-up to the release of the remake, fans were left asking if the remake would be the entire story of FF7, or just a small segment. It was then confirmed that the game would ONLY cover the city of Midgar segment, which in the original game, could be completed in around 4 hours.
Fans concerns grew as the full original game takes 20-30 hours to complete, questions were asked how many parts the story would be released in, and if Square Enix were going to milk the nostalgic game for financial gain.
Tetsuya Nomura (one of the games directors) stated that the technology and funding they have now, gives them the opportunity to create the game and world they originally wanted to make. Fans were assured that the first instalment of the Remake would be huge and would bring in around the same amount of hours as their other main franchise Final Fantasy titles.
Was this true? well, the game shipped on two Blu-ray discs, totalling at 90GB of data. After grinding at this game for a full week on release, my first playthrough came in at 43 hours. It felt like a full game and more to me, I was one of the few who were excited that this whole game was taking part in Midgar. The city is huge and dense, more than satisfying, with plenty of story, characters and things to do. I only felt like the game slightly padded itself out to increase game time in one specific chapter, but it didn't really strike as a negative.
Now, the directors did assure fans that whilst the story and game would differ in parts to the original, It would try and stay true to it. Which it shows, but is handled beautifully, and makes you question whether you prefer how things go this time round. BUT towards the end, the story drifts heavily, now this also isn't a negative, but with promises that the story wouldn't stray too far from the original, It was kind of a cheeky move by Square. Although the large amount of fans and gamers now welcome the changes and see the game as more of a sequel... sorry, can't go further without spoilers, But if you have played the original and are yet to play the remake, I hope that grabs your attention. NEXT
Now let's start by saying that Square took on a bigger job by releasing this on the PlayStation 4 instead of waiting for the PlayStation 5. This game pushes limits, and it shows.
In short, the character models are superior, along with enemies, equipment and even materia (magic). Some of the landscapes are gorgeous and really blow you away. Now, this is also where the PlayStation 4 shows it's limits. The huge backdrops this game has to offer are mind-blowing, but if looked at in more detail, can be seen to be lacking quality, same thing with occasional textures hidden away in the games, along with the now 'Infamous door' at the place Cloud stays at in sector 7.
Now before you begin to worry, these aren't a big issue but it's easy to see that they prioritised the characters and other elements and with the PlayStation 4 at the end of it's lifecycle, something had to give. Alongside this, the game runs EXCEPTIONALLY well on both the base PS4 and the PS4 PRO. Now, there are no bonuses for playing on a pro, although the game might feel a little smoother, they both run at 1080p at 30fps... I normally get distracted with 30fps but there are few titles where it's unnoticeable, and this is one of them.
I have no idea how they managed to pull it off, especially when there's a lot of animation and fast paced combat at times, it feels like the game is running at 40fps, which I can't wrap my head around.
The cutscenes are unreal and seem to look in-engine but slightly enhanced, yet It can still be difficult to see the transition from cutscene to gameplay, which is always a bonus. There are a few select cutscenes which are next level, beautifully pre-rendered and make the Advent Children movie look dated. The lip syncing is ok, but let's remember that this game was created by Japanese developers and it's easy to see the motion capture and lip sync are the same as the Japanese version, which is fully understandable on game this size but still doesn't damage the overall product.
GRAPHICS - 9.5/10
We all know that games from the 90's are best known for their audio, primarily music, especially the Final Fantasy franchise. Final Fantasy 6,7,8 and 9 are award winning for their catchy melodies and can bring back memories with just a few notes. The task of modernising the highly rated Final Fantasy 7 music was no easy task, But with a large amount of the development team which also worked on the original, they poured their heart and soul into every aspect of this game. A staggering 7 and a half hours of music were produced and recorded for this first instalment.
Now, granted that not all the music was recorded with a real orchestra and the majority was produced with a digital orchestra, But it's hard to even notice but yet again understandable with the amount of music used and the price that a real orchestra would cost.
What really brings the music to life is the fact they brought those amazing melodies from the original and played around with them in layers. For example, take the battle music, just before a certain fight, there may be only a few instruments playing, then once the fight finally begins, the full track would join in and hit hard. If the fight breaks up for story or anything, the pace of the music may slow down and leave only a few instruments, like just the hi-hats to keep the tension high. It does this all through the game and it keeps you fully engaged and can sometimes take you a while to actually be aware that the track has slightly changed depending on circumstances.
The voice acting is also one of most impressive I've witnessed in the game, although as your typical JRPG, the characters release a lot of "ooh's" "ahh's" and "hmph's". But the voice actors have really applied all they have into the project, all acknowledging they know the importance of this title and handle the pressures amazingly well. Conversations flow and don't feel like they're simply read from a script, the animation also compliments this.
With all of this taken into account, I have to bring to light that I don't feel all the sound levels are balanced, as it happens with other titles but is something I pick up on quickly.
It seems like they know how important the music is, they blast it out at you as loud as possible. Even normal ambient music whilst in towns can be overpowering and drown out the vocals, I had to turn the music volume down to 7 to make if feel more settled. But after I did that I'm happy to report that I had no more issues or complaints with audio.
Gameplay was as worrying for fans as the story changes. Would Square bring back the highly popular turn-based system, which Square have recently come to abandon? As their latest entries to the franchise have all orientated around fast action packed gameplay, which has received a mixed reception from fans.
Square Enix settled things with a gameplay demo, showing that variations of both their turn-based system AND fast paced combat will come together in this title.
How? you might ask. Simply hack and slash with characters, whilst dodging and parrying to fill up your ATB gauges to unleash more powerful moves, abilities and spells. Any time during the fight, hit the combat menu button and the game will massively slow down to almost a stop, where you can plan out your abilities, tell other party members what to use, and my most favourite, just rotate the camera watching Cloud slice his sword through and enemy like butter or watching Tifa slowly flip in the air as she unleashes her somersault attack.
I think this is the best combat system since the gambit system which was implemented into Final Fantasy XII, to read more on that, check out Shaun's Final Fantasy XII Review.
As with every aspect of this game, I noticed flaws or issues. With combat I have two small issues which only slightly annoyed me at times but I learned to adapt to them and hope they master it for part 2.
1. The party members which you aren't controlling at the time, don't appear to do much, they occasionally make an attack which takes away a little from the intensity and pace of combat. This also causes an issue with non-controlled party members ATB bars not filling even half as fast as your controlled party member. So to get abilities and support from other members, you have to constantly switch characters and go crazy with them.
I strongly feel they need to altar this, even if the non-controlled party members are attacking just slightly slower than the controlled member. This would make it feel more like a team fight and that everyone is giving the enemies their all.
2. My 2nd issue with combat is that the enemies appear to go for the player controlled characters a lot more than the non-controlled characters. This is deeply frustrating when you switch to Aerith or Barret which are used as long range attack/support characters. They take damage easily and are a big blow to your strategy if taken out of the fight.
You can quickly switch to Aerith and within seconds, the enemy would ignore Cloud shoving his 6ft buster sword up their arse, and rush straight to Aerith. To avoid suffering from this too much, its best to use the combat menu to command their abilities or switch to them and quickly attack to fill their ATB bars and then switch back to Cloud or Tifa before your supports hit the floor.
The game knows that it's mini-games and activities were a vital part of the original, so it is with the rest of the franchise, the remake is no exception to that. Plenty of activities, Darts, the famous gym squat challenges along with pullup challenges. Arena fights, summon battles, block attacking time trials, the bike chases. The game constantly keeps itself fresh with having mini-events throughout the game. Never breaking away from the main story for too long, which I take as a positive.
The game is semi open world, In open world titles, I tend to spend a ridiculous amount of hours doing side quests and activities and then eventually crawl back to the main story, feeling a little lost and less involved.
With the game broken up into chapters, certain chapters have their own quests and mini-games which stops you from going around doing everything in one go. Which is nice as you get little break from the main story to have more fun, immerse yourself more and level up, before jumping back into the main plot without feeling like you've left it too long.
Now, with all the positives and the few negatives I have towards this game, which may I add, I've begged to be created for years! I was blown away by the remake and seriously didn't expect Square Enix to be able to pull it out of the bag, but they did.
The story changes I liked, the ending on the other hand, I was originally disappointed, I think mainly to the point that they promised the story wouldn't stray too far. But after getting over that fact and hearing peoples theories about what's happening or could be about to happen, It's made me do a complete 180 on the game. Did I originally want a straight remake of the game? Yes, But Is that what I really wanted? I think my change of thoughts say not. Now the story can change in so many ways which makes It that even hardcore fans have no idea where this remake franchise will take us, And for me, that leaves me excited to see what's going to happen in the future.
I love how much they expand on ALL characters, Even Biggs, Jessie and Wedge which didn't get much attention in the original. I have fallen in love with this title and can't wait for another playthrough, but holding out for a PlayStation 5 upgrade or a PC release.
For fans of the original, I feel the majority will love this game, as I did, with all their hearts. For newcomers, I feel the game will still be amazing but may suffer from not knowing much around certain characters, including the main villain 'Sephiroth', which doesn't offer much explanation as to why he's the bad guy. I do highly recommend playing the original first, but if you can't bring yourself to play an old PlayStation 1 game then don't worry, You can still jump straight into the remake, you're still guaranteed to have an amazing time
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