Final Fantasy VII Remake has always been a dream game for every fan of the series. It started as a tech demo that was first showcased during the reveal of the PlayStation 3, and since then, there has been a lot of voices and demand regarding a potential remake of the whole game. Square Enix, though, has been reluctant to touch this as a project considering how sacred and important Final Fantasy VII is for fans of the series.
It took them a long time to finally announce the remake–back in 2015–and since then, they have revealed that instead of publishing as a single game that encompasses the whole story, the remake will be released in multiple parts. Each part of the remake will be a fully-fleshed game that will offer hours of content. This was a bold claim and one that was hard to believe considering the pedigree of this remake. Cutting-edge visuals, hours of worth cutscenes, and a bold but ambitious story were all part of Final Fantasy VII and the remake had to live up to the sky-high expectations.
Speaking as someone who has loved Final Fantasy XV, I have always been excited to see what direction Square Enix takes for the remake. The first reveal trailer was a pre-rendered CGI that looked gorgeous and honestly, the final game does closely match the visual style that we have seen in the trailer. It is not as perfect as the pre-rendered CGI but it comes quite close. The reveal trailer in 2015 was quickly followed up with a gameplay trailer later this year which also showed potential, but it all went downhill afterward.
After the huge blowout and reveal in 2015, the project went into limbo with small drips of information and it took a while before it resurfaced again. This time, the development was handled internally and there was a huge gameplay blowout at E3 2019. Since then, it has been smooth sailing for the project with a minor delay that pushed its release one month back. Now that the game is finally out, it is time to see if the wait and hype behind it is worth it.
Final Fantasy VII Remake only offers a small portion of the whole story. This might feel weird at first but once you play the game, the decision starts to make sense. Square Enix has opted to flesh out every aspect of the world of Final Fantasy VII from the characters to the environment, story details, and locations. There is enough content here to last more than 30 hours for those who are playing it the first time. Sure, the story content only touches until the party is in Midgar, but part of the reason why it still manages to feel like a full game is because of the way it is handled in the game.
Starting from the first bombing mission where Cloud joins Avalanche–an insurgent group that is trying to save the planet from the evil shenanigans of Shinra–it is clear that the game and its scope has greatly expanded. It might take just a few minutes in the original game but here it can take a half-hour and the segment is immediately followed by an expanded look into the aftermath of the bombing. There are also plenty of high-quality cutscenes to advance the story, flesh out the characters, and give the users a better overview of this world.
Final Fantasy VII Remake ditches the traditional turn-based combat system and while it is easy to remain skeptical of the new action-focused combat, any doubt is cleared right from the first battle. It is a nice blend of active time battles with the free-flow combo system that is usually associated with an action game. You can attack enemies, use abilities and skills from a command menu, freely switch characters, and dodge, block, or counter enemy attacks. The battle system is simple yet fairly complex, especially in boss fights. The first true test of this battle system is the Guard Scorpion battle and it is from this point that the player has a pretty good idea and grasp on most of the mechanics.
Final Fantasy VII Remake has multiple playable characters that can be switched at any point with the directional buttons. It is satisfying to conduct multiple combos while switching back and forth between characters, and the game has allowed every option including giving commands to party members that are being controlled by AI. Learning the ins and outs of the battle system is crucial in some of the later boss fights and there are additional secret bosses and a higher difficulty to tackle once you are done with the main game for the first time.
Story-wise, I am not going to talk much due to the risk of spoilers but let’s just say that for the majority of the game, the plot remains fairly authentic to the original Final Fantasy VII. The gameplay segments are stretched to accommodate additional story elements and there is plenty of filler content as well. Sidequests are one of the weakest aspects of this remake. They can be rewarding but the context behind most missions feels meaningless. Some of them are actually quite fun, especially when we reach the midpoint of the game, but others are just plain boring and merely act as a checklist.
Since it was already known how long the story is going to be in the game compared to the original Final Fantasy VII, there was a curiosity among fans how Square Enix is planning to expand on the world. It turns out that their strategy was to offer plenty of cutscenes, linear segments, and also filler content that has nothing to do with the story. There is a lot of padding done to add more length to the game and while not all of it is bad, most of it could be trimmed to offer better pacing for the story. There are many new enemies and additional boss fights this time that wasn’t available in the original game so at least this is something positive. Boss fights in the game are quite memorable and require some serious skills especially if you don’t have a full grasp of the combat system.
Voice acting in the remake is top-notch and easily one of the best seen in a Final Fantasy game to-date. The soundtrack is just sublime and while I wouldn’t rate it higher than Final Fantasy XV, it is still amazing to listen to and some of the tracks are nothing short of being memorable. The bar is set quite high for the presentation and overall polish that the remake has received but the same can’t be said for its technical performance.
While Final Fantasy VII Remake offers excellent visuals most of the game, the quality remains inconsistent especially during the daytime segments. There are plenty of low-quality textures that appear odd in a world where your character models are highly detailed. As you explore around Midgar, it is hard not to notice how terrible the world can look sometimes, and jaw-dropping at another time. This inconsistent quality feels distracting the more you play the game and it is a shame to see, so I hope that this can be fixed with an update later down the line. Keeping this aside, the game has quite a good performance on the PS4 Pro and it looks gorgeous when no technical issues are hindering its quality with 4K and HDR on the big screen.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is easily one of the best Final Fantasy games released in more than a decade. It excels in world-building and character development offers an addictive combat system and gorgeous but inconsistent visuals. Finally, the soundtrack is out of this world with great composition and voice acting to back it. There are plenty of high-quality cutscenes that are seamlessly mixed in with gameplay segments making it feel like you are playing an interactive pre-rendered movie at times. It is truly a game that is hard to believe until seen with our own eyes.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is a reimagining of the iconic original with unforgettable characters, a mind-blowing story, and epic battles. The story of this first, standalone game in the FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE project covers up to the party’s escape from Midgar, and goes deeper into the events occurring in Midgar than the original FINAL FANTASY VII.
Final Score - 9.5/10
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a fan's wet dream come true. It takes everything that has made the original game memorable and expands on it beautifully. It has the potential to become the best Final Fantasy game released this generation, but it is not exactly flawless.