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Final Fantasy 7.77: You are (not) a Remake
~ Review by Manhalt (April 2020)
Final Fantasy 7 Remake has finally been brought into the modern world, something fans wanted for a long time. After years of waiting it has finally released, but with some caveats. This isn’t actually a full remake as it only contains the Midgar section of the game. It also isn’t a true remake in the sense it contains the same story. There are changes that people will not enjoy and I’m one of them as you will see in the following review. It is probably more apt to describe it as reboot rather than a remake and I believe it was a mistake for Square Enix to call it a remake. I tried something new for this review by breaking it down into several categories, Gameplay, Combat, Visuals, Music, and finally the Story. The story contains slight spoilers and is placed after the overall grade of the game so it is easy to avoid. Each category is also assigned a grade on how well I think it was implemented into the game.
Pacing is what almost made me put this game down. I’ve never been so frustrated with the amount of hallways and forced slow walking parts in a game before. It is torturous in some parts. There is a way to run in the game, but you would never know it because the game loves to force you to walk in almost every section possible. It might have to do with loading in the next section, but later on in the game, you are allowed to run in some of those sections so that isn’t always the reason. But let’s talk about the former, because I think this is a decent example of bad game design. I think I would rather have a loading screen then watching my character slowly squeeze between some tight walls. Or design level quests in such a way where I don’t have to bounce back between the two so much where it becomes frustrating.
World Gameplay or anything outside of combat is lacking in a sense. You can swing your sword with square, but you can’t repeatedly swing it over and over. It is one clean swing animation and it takes a couple of seconds to swing again. And no jump button so all there really is to do is walk forward to the next locations and since most areas are single hallways with one way to go, you will be doing it a lot. I feel like adding the ability to swing your sword over and over again and letting the player to jump would brighten up the lacking details of the hallways with nothing to do besides move forward. Though it might not add anything to the gameplay element, it would be an engaging distraction as you move through levels.
Though this is about side-quests specifically, but I think it ties into a solution that I kind of addressed earlier. The pacing of the game is slow, because they want to force the game length to be longer than needed. Puzzles are another obstacle in the game world that is sprinkled spend that aren’t very difficult, but seem to be there to squeeze as much time out of the player as possible. This ranges from how the puzzles are set up to the animations of the characters trying to solve the puzzles. It feels like the entire game was hit with a Slow spell in doing almost anything. Which brings me to the side quests. I believe the co-producer or maybe Nomura himself said the side-quests would be on the same level as the main quests. Well, that was a straight up lie. I would say it adds little and nothing all that rewarding. The side quests are mostly fetch quests or go beat the monster with very little story attached. I read that the main team completed the main story quests and most of the layouts while the B-team finished adding in side quests and characters. It is very telling while playing the game throughout.
The fluff added in to justify the game being sold in parts wasn’t worth it. I was excited to see a fully fleshed out Midgar, but it turns out that wasn’t truly the case after all.
I was skeptical with the announcement that combat would not be staying turned base and would update to meet current gaming standards. I’m more of a purist so I was bummed, but honestly I was wrong. The combat is the best feature about the Remake. It really takes the action and turn based combat and fuses them together pretty well.
The combat is real time with a real time swing and a unique character action button that fits to each character’s skills so Cloud has Operator mode which allows him to swing to heavy attacks causing more damage while being really slow. Barrett has an Overcharge ability that he shoots twice with heavy damage. The blended turn based element is waiting for your attack-time-battle meter to fill up where you can take a “timed action.” So time won’t stop, but it will slow down to a point it becomes almost indistinguishable from stopped time. You press X to trigger your ATB to select an Ability, Magic, or an Item. All of this together gives a nice blended action and strategic combat feel that I think is superior to Final Fantasy 15’s.
I’ve only a few nitpicking issues with the stellar combat of Remake and it boils down to rolling, limit breaks, and summons. Rolling doesn’t have an invincibility frame and so the reason to roll is almost diminished as most enemies magnet to you when attacking so you usually take the hit. In most circumstances, it is just better to block if you can. The downside to blocking, is that it seems the animation to block takes a while so you really have to be aware of an attack. It takes the fast pace action out of the action part of the combat.
Limits breaks are rare and almost seem impossible to actually get in combat. You will almost never get them in normal combat as your meter is reset to 0 after every battle. So your only chance is in boss fights and sometimes, you defeat the boss quick enough that it was never really a factor anyway. The second issue with limit breaks is they aren’t a 100% hit because it happens in real time. I’ve had enemies just walk away after Cloud landed his first strike in Omnislash and take no other damage because it doesn’t stun them in place. If you played the game, you might ask, “Why not stagger them first before triggering the limit break?” Well back to my first point, usually I would get the limit break so late into the battle that the boss’ health was almost depleted so staggering them again might’ve ended the fight before I got the chance to use the limit break.
Onto Summons, summoning in Remake brings out the summons onto the field to fight alongside of you where you get an additional choice in your characters’ ATB. The choice is to use an ability of the summon’s with various effects. These abilities could be very useful depending on the elemental weakness of the monster you are fighting. Similarly to limit breaks, I was only ever able to use summons during boss battles, but the meter when it did show up, filled faster then the limit breaks’ meter. And this brings me to my nitpicking part, you can’t use summons whenever you want, you need a special meter that only shows up in specific battles so it really limits summoning. I miss being able to summon Ifrit to decimate lowly level encounters.
Combat Grade: A
I have my issues with combat, but it was easily the most distinguished feature of Remake and probably prevented me from disliking the game outright after finishing it. I hope Square Enix carries over this combat with a few tweaks into future Final Fantasy games.
The main characters are exactly what I pictured in my head while playing Final Fantasy 7 all those years ago. Even the different sections of the game being brought into the modern world are breathtaking. It’s like they knew exactly what everyone pictured while playing the game. And some of it is the best looking game I’ve seen running on current hardware.
Textures never loading seem to be a constant issue throughout the game. You will see some of the best looking characters try to open up a door that looks like it was designed and textured ten years ago. It is a really jarring experience. Side characters and characters filling up space also have a similar issue. They look like the tech that brought them to life is old while the main characters look stellar. This really hurts the overall visual fidelity of the game unfortunately and when speaking to certain NPCs, it just takes you right out of the game. This was hard to look past because it seemed to be always present.
Visual Grade: B-
The re-orchestrated Nobuo Uematsu pieces are phenomenal and nothing takes you back on a nostalgia trip like hearing the battle music “pop” into existence while running around the world. In Remake, there is no transition from world to battle so everything has to flow in together which I think was done well. There are some jarring changes when running through the world but nothing noteworthy.
Some of the original music and remixes fall flat onto my ears where they try to incorporate electronic dance music or hamfisted genre into a remix, but alas nothing really ruins the experience.
Music Grade: A
Overall Grade: C
Jessie’s background mission. The voice acting really came into its own while bringing life to previously voiceless characters. I would say some of the lines they had to deliver were beyond cringy, but they managed to make it work. I would like to point out that Barrett’s lines and voice actor came off as trying to sell a WWE promotion in the first mako reactor missions which was bizarre, but I think was toned down later in the game.
Barrett giving his best WWE Smackdown speech: https://youtu.be/zJWPeNIEd8Q?t=88
Every other change to the storyline in the game. It comes off as a terrible fan-fic someone would post on tumblr. I wish Nomura would’ve kept his Kingdom Heart plotlines in, well, Kingdom Hearts. Besides the overall story changes, some of the conversations between characters are just cringy. I believe at some point Cloud called someone a bitch out of nowhere that didn’t really fit the scene. It was almost like a twelve year old had to write a story with a badass protagonist and just learned about cursing the other day. Now, the original does have its fair share of cursing, censored of course, but it is easier to forgive because translations and reading can be easier to filter.
Story Grade: F
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