Almost five years ago, Square Enix announced that they were remaking the beloved and iconic classic that is Final Fantasy VII. Obviously, this was met with a bevy of expectations from longtime fans of the original, and with a tumultuous development, including bringing development back in house and relegating the game to only the Midgar section of the original, many became worried. However, Square Enix blew all expectations and fears out the window, and created something truly special with Final Fantasy VII Remake.
By only focusing on the Midgar section, which is just the opening few hours of the original, Square Enix was able to not only to retell the beginning of the story of Final Fantasy VII, but enhance and reimagine the narrative and world itself with new additions. The city of Midgar feels like a real breathing city and is beautifully realized in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Looking up at the sky while being in the Slums and only being able to see the “giant pizza in the sky” that is Midgar is a sight to behold. The world is absolutely stunning to look at and is sure to cause you to stop and take it all in at numerous occasions.
The world is also populated by a plethora of NPCs that all have unique dialogue and react to what’s happening as you progress through the story. Though a bit more linear than the Midgar section of the original, Final Fantasy VII Remake adds some open areas for players to explore and complete side quests. These side quests may start a bit mundane, but develop into intriguing missions by the end of the game, and provide moments of character development you wouldn’t see elsewhere.
The characters of Final Fantasy VII Remake are absolutely incredible, and are the shining light of the game. The main playable cast of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, and Aerith feel exactly how fans have imagined them over the course of 20+ years, and are grounded enough to feel like real people. Side characters like the rest of the Avalanche gang are way more fleshed out and make you really care for them. Then, there’s the addition of new characters and enhancement of some minor characters that provide great fodder for the rest of the characters to bounce off of and interact with.
The game is rife with moments of character interactions, and you really see these character grow as the story progresses. Watching the characters interact with and get to know each other is an absolute delight especially as all the characters have different relationships with each other. Thus, they interact in different or amusing ways depending on who they’re with. Aerith absolutely steals the show with her charming personality bringing levity to an otherwise mostly dark world.
Combat is another area where Final Fantasy VII Remake really excels. Gone is the active time battle format of the original, now, in its stead, is real time action based combat. However, ATB isn’t gone in the remake. Now, each character has two ATB gauges that fill up as you execute regular attacks. Once filled, you can spend the ATB gauges to use magic attacks, items, and abilities which become key to taking down harder enemies. The stagger mechanic from some previous entries in the franchise returns in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Combat becomes extremely strategic as you try to figure out which combination of attacks and Materia spells will cause the stagger gauge to fill, and, thus, allow you to cause as much damage as possible to enemies once they’re staggered.
Combat truly shines once your party is completely full. Switching between party members is done with a press of the D-pad allowing you to change tactics on the fly. Each character plays differently as well such as Cloud being a mid range strong attacker, Tifa being a close range melee fighter, or Barret being a long range If switching characters is not your style, you’re also able to issue commands to your party members that have a full ATB gauge using the shoulder buttons. However, the most fun comes when you constantly switch between party members, fill their ATB gauge, and then execute a spell, item, or ability while immediately switching to the next member to start building their gauge and execute your next move. This provides a frantic yet strategic element to battles that is unlike most other games.
All in all, Final Fantasy VII Remake was well worth the wait. The game is a grand retelling of the Midgar section of the original. The combat is absolutely excellent, the world feels alive and is beautifully realized, and the characters feel exactly like they should. With how well Square Enix nailed this first part, the rest of the however many future entries are still in store to complete the story look to be in good hands ready to meet fan expectations.
Score: 10 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro