This past Saturday, after 38 hours and 38 minutes I completed the Final Fantasy 7 remake…part one. I was unsure if I was going to jump into the game immediately at launch or not. I was deciding between the remake of Final Fantasy 7 or Resident Evil 3, and I opted to play through the former(first, anyway). Two separate games – Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the FF7 remake have pretty much dominated all video game discussion for the month of April. Normally, I find myself playing a number of different games during a given week(s), likely assisted by the combination of child-like enthusiasm and an attention span to match. However, I was able to complete the “only 40 hour” FF7 in 15 days. I do not feel the game is perfect by any means, but I still really, really enjoyed the updates and modernizations Square Enix brought to the beloved classic. There are aspects of the game that I absolutely loved and others that I felt could have been better. As I’ve been talking about the game a fair amount on here since starting this blog last year, I decided to make a quick write up of things I liked about the game along with things I didn’t.
Note: I only realized I had written down 7 different things about Final Fantasy 7 later, I swear.
I was cautiously optimistic about the new combat mechanics of the FF7 remake after seeing some of the gamplay from Square Enix’s E3 presentation last year. After trying out the demo in March, it felt like it had taken some of the swordplay elements from Devil May Cry and the stagger mechanic felt vaguely similar to the posture/stamina meters in From Software games. I was pretty satisfied with the combat after playing the demo, but was hoping battles and boss fights later in the game wouldn’t just turn into simple button mashing. Any reservations about the new combat system have been put to rest as I really found myself enjoying the flow of alternating combos of basic attacks, abilities and spells. The combat isn’t perfect, but provides enough depth to be engaging. It was especially enjoyable when your party is able to take down multiple enemies as you seamlessly switch between characters or just give attack orders to fellow party members. I know others have pointed out the combat mechanics in the game makes it feel more like Kingdom Hearts, but I personally enjoy incorporating more real-time combat elements in 3D RPGs. The updated combat also made for some epic boss battles in the game, some of which seemed to take about 15-20 minutes just to take them down. One the most stubborn bosses was Hell House, which felt like it took a half hour to bring down.
The music of Final Fantasy 7 is iconic and generally regarded as one of the greatest of all time. There’s a richness to the classic soundtrack in its lush, fully-orchestrated score. I had goosebumps just seeing the camera zoom out over Midgar as the music begins to swell as the FF7 logo appears on screen. The new renditions of the soundtrack are simply beautiful, not much else to say about it…
Playing through the 1997 version of Final Fantasy 7 recently, I was a bit surprised just how invested and attached I became to the characters within the game. It was even easier playing through the remake, the characters are given greater personality and depth. The further I progressed in the game, the more attached I felt to Barret, Tifa and Aerith – who seemed almost annoyingly positive concerning everything about her life in the slums, but after a while you begin to see the lingering sadness that dwells within. Avalanche members Biggs, Wedge and Jessie who are seen as lesser, background characters are brought to life with distinctive personalities and quirks. Characters that had always been an afterthought before, I found myself genuinely caring about.
I’m a little bit torn on the game’s visuals – in one moment, the character models and environments are the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen on my PS4, only for the graphics to get a serious downgrade when roaming the slums of Midgar. Some of the graphics in Sectors 5 and 7, along with some of the NPCs more closely resemble the PS3 tech demo from years ago. It may not have been as noticeable if it wasn’t in stark contrast to the otherwise stunning visuals in other areas of the game.
I’m not one to criticize a game for moving slowly, but a deliberate pace is different from contrasting nonstop action sequences with other sections that seem to serve little other purpose that to extend the length of playtime. Some of the pacing in the FF7 Remake was a little uneven, particularly whenever the story brought Cloud and company back to the lower sectors of Midgar. Nearly every single side quest of the game is contained in Sectors 5,6 and 7. The chapter that finds Cloud escorting Aerith back to her house in Sector 5, upon reaching Sector 5 Aerith comments that there are many in the area that could use Cloud’s help. Most of these side quests wind up being little more than fetch quests, which in itself I don’t despise to the degree other gamers do, but seemed to derail the momentum of the game almost completely. If the side quests would have been spread out a little more evenly throughout the game I don’t think it would have been as detrimental, but similar to the contrast in visuals, hitting the brakes in the over-arching storyline to help round up random children for the Leaf House or finding Wedge’s cats for him made for another Jeckyll & Hyde aspect of the game.
The Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an incredibly ambitious game and Square Enix has done an impressive job with it for the most part. There are a few areas where the game had its sights set almost too high, with there being a number of perfomance issues in it. Some of the environmental textures were pretty rugged and there was a significant delay after pressing the triangle button to interact with various characters. Also, when controlling Cloud, you are forced to slowly squeeze through an endless number of tight spaces as if it were a Naughty Dog game, Square Enix clearly decided to utilize the developer trick of using theses tight spaces as a means to seamlessly load the next area. I may have lost track of how much time I spent slowly making my way through debris piles conveniently restricting access, save for a small area to pass through(I also felt this way playing Jedi: Fallen Order). Future installments of the game will most definitely benefit from the extra horsepower of the Playstation 5…
I’m not overly excited about the fact the remake of FF7 is being released in installments. Given how the first “episode” of the remake takes place entirely within Midgar, I’m doubtful the game will comprise of any less than 3-4 parts. The thought dawned on me while finishing up part one that we’ll be WELL into the Playstation 5’s life span before we ever get to see the game’s conclusion. Tetsuya Nomura and Square Enix have done a remarkable with this remake so far, but it’s going to be a test of patience from here. To be somewhat optimistic, I only first completed FF7 in its original form 22 years after it was released, so I’m hoping to finish the remake in considerably less time than that…glass half-full and all that, right?
The game isn’t perfect, but it is able to be genuinely fun and heartfelt at the same time. If you’ve played the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I’ve love to hear what you thought about the game. Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!