It’s time to take a look at 2020’s Game of the Year title. I’ve been waiting many years for Final Fantasy VII Remake to come out and it was all worth it. You can feel the polish and development time that went into this title. It’s easily the most theatrical game I’ve played since FF XIII-2 and it is fair to say that this one is even higher budget. You could make a case for this being the best Square game yet. I would have to ultimately have it top FF XIII-2 and Kingdom Hearts 2 as the best RPG. It’s really just a definitive title and one that has a ton of content. After beating the game which took around 24 hours, that’s just the tip of the content here.
So the story starts by introducing us to Avalanche. They are a group of terrorists who are trying to blow up various Mako reactors across the planet. The reactors are controlled by a company known as Shinra which basically owns the planet. While this does make life a lot better for many, Shinra excludes the poor who have to live under a dome. Avalanche intends to bring the world back to how it used to be by blowing everything up. There will be a lot of casualties but the idea is that it will ultimately make the planet a better place. To this end, the group has hired a mercenary named Cloud. The guy’s an Ex-SOLDIER which means that he is pretty tough. SOLDIERS in this universe are people who were bathed in Mako and trained by Shinra to be ultimate fighting warriors. Cloud’s just in it for the money but sooner or later he’s going to have to make a decision. Keep on helping Avalanche and fighting Shinra or going his own way.
The plot is ever changing in just about every RPG but especially in something like Final Fantasy. That plot really describes the first few hours and then things change quite a lot. Part of the fun is seeing all of those story details so I won’t go much farther than that. As it adapts the content you’re used to, you will notice one new subplot involving some ghosts that keep flying around and messing with people. It’s a pretty interesting plot and the game gives you a lot of foreshadowing that this will be important. The game goes in some pretty interesting directions by the end. I can’t say much more than that, but what I will say is that I’m not even more hyped for the sequel. It’s really a superb ending in every way.
The climax is pretty great. You certainly have a lot of boss fights to sift through and great visuals. It’s also pretty challenging so make sure you’re ready. I lost the fight the first time so I had to regroup and barely clutched it out the second time. That’s one of the fun parts about the game. There are a lot of times where you will be at the edge of your seat throughout a boss because you’re so low on health and it feels good to get the win. A lot of the battles came down to a last hit situation. It’s a tough game that doesn’t feel unfair. You can always polish up your fundamentals in order to have an easier fight. I didn’t notice many locations for grinding EXP but you could also do that if needed. This is probably the first RPG in a while where I didn’t do any grinding this time. There just wasn’t a need to do so for me.
Some bosses did take around 30-40 minutes as a result though. It’s the price of being low level but it was worth it. I admit that if I had lost any of those fights that would have been unfortunate though. I came really close so many times. My advice is to always make sure you have a bunch of Phoenix Downs and potions. Keep in mind that you can’t use any items unless you have an ATB gauge loaded up so you may also want to equip Revival earrings as well just in case. Those activate automatically so you don’t need to worry about not using the item in time by mistake.
As expected the graphics here are absolutely top tier and same for the audio. It feels like a full movie experience and this game could easily pass itself off as a movie if needed. You could stitch these cutscenes together and just add a few new ones for fights and it could be ready for theaters right away. In particular a game like this always needs a great opening and FF VII delivers absolutely. Then we’ve got the soundtrack which is over 6 hours long according to Youtube’s playlist. That’s pretty crazy. I love to see all the variety here and the various remixes of the classic themes are intense. One of them even seemed to borrow from Advent Children which was a really nice touch.
I haven’t really talked about the gameplay but it is naturally pretty great. It’s a real time 3D hack and slash as you try to destroy the opponents in front of you. One change here that makes it a bit more like an RPG is that you can’t use any items unless you have enough meter which effectively makes it “your turn” to do an action. It makes the battles more intense because you can always choose to use a super attack, use a summon, use an item, or use a spell. Each one costs a spell bar and the only way to build it back up is to attack an enemy with normal attacks. What this means is that if you’re on low health and you just used a bar on an attack, it’ll be a little bit before you can use a potion. Keep this in mind when planning what you will do.
In most battles there will be 3 of you in the party so you can switch to them at any point. You can also just give them orders like which attack to use. For the most part they will never use any super attacks or spells unless you tell them to so when you switch over to them they will probably have a full bar. I recommend telling them to do something whenever they charge up. Also if you have it, give one of them the auto cure spell as soon as possible because that’s a spell they can use on their own whenever you’re low on health. The parry technique is also very handy here. Try to block and counter as often as possible because it builds up the opponent’s stagger meter pretty quickly and can put them in a pressured state. There are a lot of nuances to the gameplay but you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.
There is also the occasional level that uses different gameplay. I always think it’s pretty impressive when a game adds a new gameplay style even if it will only be used for a level or two. A good example of this is the motorcycle levels. There are only two of them in the game but they’re both a ton of fun. It’s a nice change of pace and as I also love racing games what beats mixing the two up like this right? In Advent Children Cloud was definitely a really good expert on a bike so it’s good to see him get to use those skills again here.
As mentioned, the length here is pretty good. It took me around 24 hours to beat the main campaign and that’s considering that I didn’t really do any side quests. The closest to that was when I decided to quickly take a ride on the slide at the park. Beyond that I just played the game straight through and never looked back. I can also see the Platinum Trophy for this game being pretty difficult so that’ll take time too. Even without a post game this would be worth the 60 bucks and with all of the extra content it goes without saying. It’ll be very difficult for any game to take this one down even in the next few years unless they suddenly announce the next Super Smash. Final Fantasy VII Remake did what all Final Fantasy games tend to achieve, it has once again set the bar higher for all AAA titles.
The game has a ton of highs and no real lows so what was the best part? Well, the best part of the game to me would actually be the opening act. Everything up til they destroyed the first Mako Reactor was my absolute favorite part of the game. In part I think it’s because it was the intro so I was still absorbing everything as this really fun movie. It’s all incredibly impressive and while the game never lets up, it’s hard to forget such a beginning. I also liked Cloud’s personality quite a lot in the intro with how direct he can be. The guy was pretty fed up with everything at that point so it made for a lot of great banter between him and Barret. Of course, they had a lot of great scenes after that as well like running up the stairs to the top floor. That segment is great so I hope you don’t choose the elevator there. In general the first act just feels like a really solid mystery thriller. I also liked Cloud’s first confrontation with Reno and Rude. Considering how terrible they looked in Advent Children it’s nice to see how they used to be fairly powerful.
There aren’t a lot of boss fights against human type opponents so enjoy them when they show up. From fighting another SOLDIER to taking on a Shinra boss, it’s always hype fighting another human. These battles really test your knowledge of the parry system as well as your pure fundamentals. You’ll need them if you’re going to take them out. In particular the fight on the roof against the gun wielder was a lot of fun. The fight against Rude was also a lot of fun with the various hand to hand techniques he would use against you.
The cast is also pretty great as expected. Cloud’s basically a perfect lead who does whatever he can to help his friends out. It’s also pretty nice to see his character arc here now that you know the events of Crisis Core and Advent Children so you’ve already got a pretty broad scope of what he’s been through/will go through. Tifa is also a lot of fun as always and tries to be a moral compass for the group. Barret’s probably been helped the most by this remake as I didn’t really notice the guy so much in the original but here he is one of the starring characters. He gets a lot of great moments throughout the game and I really like all of his enthusiasm for the cause. This guy definitely believes in saving the planet whole heartedly even if Cloud thinks he is crazy.
Aerith is more of a mixed bag for me though. She keeps a lot of secrets throughout the game and is intentionally not helpful. Talking a little more early on would have helped out quite a bit. I’m sure she has her own reasons for doing all of this of course, but until we see what those are she can be more annoying than helpful. It doesn’t help that in a fight she’s my least favorite ally to have. She’s good for aerial enemies but beyond that give me Tifa and Barret any day.
The other fighters from Avalanche are cool as well. I’m not a fan of Wedge and he’s mostly there just to give the group more of an unguarded fellow. Biggs is a solid member who seems like your average soldier. He’s got a sense of humor and is a nice guy. I liked having him around. Then you have Jesse who gets a big role here. She’s fun and charismatic although based on some dialogue from the other members she does like stringing people along. Cloud doesn’t fall for it, but this is a bit dubious so it’ll keep her from passing Biggs here. There are a bunch of other supporting characters of course but those are the main ones.
For the villains, well Sephiroth is awesome as always whenever he shows up to mess with Cloud. A lot of the time you have to decide if he is really there or if it’s just Cloud’s head messing with him. Get ready for a lot of seizures. Cloud had a lot of those in Advent Children but he usually didn’t get them quite so much in the OG timeline so you have to wonder what’s affecting him so much. The SHINRA vice president Rufus is a lot of fun here. I didn’t care for him much in AC, but here he seems like a pretty tough boss and in general just a guy that you don’t want to mess with. The other SHINRA leads are less memroable but serve their purpose as good villains. The mad scientist is more on the iffy side. He’d be my least favorite villain if not for the Don also being around. That guy was definitely the weakest one.
Reno and Rude are solid villains as well. Despite all their tough talk and how they act like they have morals they still do everything their boss tells them to do so I still see them as villains. There’s also another SOLDIER who shows up at one point which was interesting. I thought all of the SOLDIERS were already dead by this point outside of Cloud so I wonder how he will play into the sequels or if other SOLDIERS will show up. I guess it makes sense there would be more, we just usually don’t show them. Assuming they are all First Class level that will make for some pretty fun boss fights soon. Somehow I doubt any of them would be quite as strong as Sephiroth, Genesis, or Zack so Cloud should be okay though.
Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a superb game. It is excellent in all aspects and there is not a single weak point to be found in the game. The gameplay is stellar, the cutscenes are out of this world, and the soundtrack is quite dynamic. When you mix all of this together then what you have is an amazing package that ism’t likely going to be defeated anytime soon. I’m hoping the wait for the next installment isn’t too long though. Now that we have all of the character models and assets (Aside from new characters who need to show up) I like to think that we could have part 2 by late 2021 but most likely I guess it would be late 2022. That sounds like ages away though. Ah well, in the meantime it’ll let us discuss the ending a lot more. I’m looking forward to reading the Reddit theories and watching the Youtube ones.