Game Reviews

Final Fantasy VII Remake

I have an long history with Final Fantasy VII. When I was young, I read a lot of video game magazines that wrote glowingly about Squaresoft and, specifically, Final Fantasy III. Final Fantasy III was out of reach for me, but I got Chrono Trigger as a gift. It didn’t immediately gel with me, but I caught on to it within a year and ended up loving the game, the world, the look, the style, the music, all of it. I managed to get my hands on Final Fantasy, and it was okay. Ugly. Slow to action. I didn’t love the random encounters. It was no Chrono Trigger.

I learned that the follow up to Final Fantasy III, confusingly titled Final Fantasy VII, would be coming to Playstation. I got to experience the Playstation because my girlfriend’s family had one. I played demo discs and Crash Bandicoot. When Final Fantasy VII arrived, I bought it immediately. I had no income, no Playstation, but I had this game. I played it on my girlfriend’s family’s Playstation. It was fine. Good looking backgrounds, but blocky characters. Great music. More active than Final Fantasy, but still not direct input. Those dreaded random encounters.

It was no Chrono Trigger.

I didn’t finish Final Fantasy VII on my girlfriend’s family Playstation. I moved on and played Wipeout or Crash or more demo discs. I eventually got my own Playstation and took another run at Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t finish it again. Over the years, I picked up those incomplete saves, eventually completing the first disc of the three disc game, but I never finished Final Fantasy VII.

I played all of the Final Fantasy games up to Final Fantasy X before concluding that I did not like Final Fantasy games. The closest I got to finishing was getting pretty far into Final Fantasy VIII. After owning Final Fantasy VII for years, before I ever owned a Playstation, I sold it to a friend. He wanted an original copy without the Greatest Hits packaging. I didn’t need it anymore; I was done with the game.

Many years later, Final Fantasy XV was released. I read reviews that said it was a different kind of game with more direct input. I received a copy of it as a gift. It didn’t immediately gel with me, but I caught on to it within a year and ended up love the game. The boys, the world, the look, the style, the music, all of it. I played it like a character action game. It was a lot of fun.

After finishing Final Fantasy XV, I was ready to give the Final Fantasy series another go. I went back and played Final Fantasy XIII, which was bad, and Final Fantasy XII, which was okay. I didn’t finish either of them. I’m looking forward to Final Fantasy XVI. In the meantime, Square Enix was working on Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is good and I’m writing this review because I finished it. Or, I should say, I finished this part of it; the remake is still incomplete. I’ve technically gotten further in Final Fantasy VII than I have in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but that’s because they’re releasing the remake in parts. With that breaking up of the game, they’ve also expanded what constitutes the part that they have remade. Stretching my memories, I could not describe exactly what has been added (with one major exception) to the game but I know that it is more Final Fantasy VII than Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII Remake gets a lot right. It introduces more direct control in line with Final Fantasy XV, which I appreciated, while still allowing me to switch between party members and directly control their actions mid-combat. I found myself playing it like Final Fantasy XV, in which I mostly controlled Cloud and let everyone else just do their thing, and that was a mistake. The game wanted me to use every character in combat and it encourages this with the weapon proficiency system.

Each weapon comes with a special ability. If you use that ability in combat enough times, that character becomes proficient with it and you can use that ability with any weapon. The trick to this is that abilities require ATB, ATB builds faster with the character you control, and just playing Cloud all the time will never get you enough proficiency to get all of the weapon abilities, which are useful. I was making the game much harder for myself by playing it like Final Fantasy XV.

What I did not love about Final Fantasy VII Remake was the pacing. Across 18 chapters, the last third of the game feels like a real slog. The last two chapters are a combination of the game’s largest dungeon and a gauntlet of boss fights. This, combined with several other sections of the game that drag on, make it feel padded. Sometimes it feels like they’re fleshing out the city of Midgar and the people who live there, but more often it feels like they’re putting stuff in to take up time so that this remake takes longer to complete than the original because they had no intention on doing this all in one game.

In completing Final Fantasy VII Remake, I have not done anything that I haven’t already done in Final Fantasy VII, except it took much longer for me to make the same amount of narrative progress. I’ve gotten further in less time in the original game than the remake will allow. I still feel some sense of accomplishment in reaching the end of the remake. I haven’t yet slain the Final Fantasy VII dragon, but I reached the end of this segment of the game. This gives me hope that will reach the end of the next segment of the game, and could see it to its conclusion. Maybe, if I revisit the original, I could reach the end of that game too.