I’ve whacked another 10 hours on top of my Final Fantasy VII Remake playthrough, and I’m starting to really get to grips with it. I don’t feel like I’ve seen everything yet, and suspect there’s plenty more to come. But……I know what the remake is all about now.
If you’re not too interested in the detail, just know that Final Fantasy VII Remake is exceptional. There’s very little to dislike, and I’ve found that it’s towing the line between JRPG and Western action game, really nicely. As much as I love Final Fantasy VII, my days of long text-driven RPG adventures are mostly gone. My concern was that I may be bored quickly. But no, Final Fantasy VII Remake is action-heavy and fun. All whilst maintaining the essence of the original.
As I previously mentioned the combat in the Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t the traditional turn-based affair. It’s action-heavy, and you control the characters, doing all the attacks whilst your squad auto-attack.
Auto-attacking sounds terrible, but this is Final Fantasy, it’s not a botched fan effort. Your allies attack automatically and like yourself, build-up an action gauge. The actions are then allowed once the bars are filled. These are typically special attacks with your primary weapon, spells or item use.
If you see that your allies (lets use Tifa as an example) have actions ready, you can leave them to use them on their own, or you can quickly hit a trigger button and pull up a menu to control their actions. So pick classic Final Fantasy potions or ether. Perhaps cast a spell on the enemy or do a special attack.
You can also swap between your party at any time and assume full control of whomever you desire. Barret is perfect for range fighting, and I often switch to shoot at well-placed turrets and other weapons.
So you still have that classic Final Fantasy combat feel, with all the spell and items you know and love. You also have a faster-paced combat system, rooted in action instead of turn-based strategy.
It can get frantic, and sometimes it feels overwhelming switching between your party to heal each other or cast a spell that you maybe haven’t got materia for, as Cloud.
I didn’t know what I wanted or expected from a 2020 re-imaging of Final Fantasy, but I know this is what it should be. Take a breath, don’t let boss fights become overwhelming. Use the time you get when everything slows down as the menus open, and just survey party health/MP. You’ll be fine.
With this being part one of the remake, it’s apparent quite quickly that the pace of the story is different to the original. Square are developing so much more narrative and character exposition here.
Mix the time being taken to tell a more in-depth story with incredible motion capture and really solid voice-acting, and you’re hit with the realisation that Final Fantasy VII Remake is so much more than Final Fantasy VII could have ever been. And that’s kind of the point in doing a remake, right?
So far, I’ve bombed a Mako reactor and had a failed attempt at another. But whilst hitting the main traditional story beats of working with Avalanche and stopping Shinra, you’re engaging with the whole cast of characters you remember from the original game.
Moment to moment game play when you’re not in combat, is drenched in character and charm. It’s almost like you’re playing the Final Fantasy VII you remember with those rose-tinted glasses you have on.
I don’t know exactly where this part of the remake will end, but I’m engaged and largely not bothered about how it went down originally. It’s become a totally new game, using key plot points and then just built around those to create something entirely new, yet incredibly familiar.
Worth noting that I have a rule of always playing Japanese games with subtitles and Japanese voices, but for some reason here I’ve stuck with the English voice acting and it’s genuinely very good. I’ve heard some familiar voices (and had to look-up who they were!) and found the delivery to really help capture the essence of each character.
The “holy shit!” moments
My strongest memories of Final Fantasy VII were of course the story and the world itself. But it was made up of so many moments that made you think “holy shit”. Usually some of the FMV clips, which, at the time we state-of-the-art cinematics, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Final Fantasy VII Remake delivers these moments in spades. Sure, the quality of the cutscenes is incredible, but that’s not what takes your breath away.
The cinematography of it all is something else. Well-placed cameras to highlight areas and moments of game play, and the score. That famous, wonderful Final Fantasy VII score, all fully realised by an orchestra instead of midi instruments.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching things happen on-screen, hearing that score swelling-up in the background and just thinking “holy shit”. Final Fantasy VII Remake delivers a cinematic experience in ways that other games can only dream of.
On to the end
I’m definitely struggling to be objective here. The nostalgia is kicking-in hard, but if we’re being honest, everything here is just actually that good.
My big concern is that the story will drag-out further than it needs to and the game might feel artificially extended. It’s all well and good adding context, depth and narrative, but if it’s ultimately to pad-out the game’s play time, that will be a disappointment.
All I can do now is carry on playing Final Fantasy VII Remake and see how it goes. Now it’s time to commit and see it through to the end. I’ll be doing some streams of my playthrough as I go, too!
At this point, I’m pretty confident that it isn’t going to run off a cliff and turn into a terrible game. So long as the pace of the story continues, and I get to learn more about this whole cast of characters I’ve known for decades, I’ll be happy. This could very easily be a ninjarefinery.com game of the year for 2022. Although it already has stiff competition with Elden Ring, Vampire Survivors and Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak or maybe even Fortnite.