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Final Fantasy VII review
by Pandsu

I'm gonna be honest; I set myself up for disappointment with this one. A lot was riding on me loving this game, when it comes to my personal ability to still get hyped for upcoming games. Most of the franchises I used to be hyped for have, either permanently or temporarily, become huge disappointments and, in some cases, simply weren't enjoyable for me anymore.
Silent Hill is dead. Resident Evil 4 wasn't Resident Evil anymore and anything after, including Revelations, failed to be engaging or scary anymore (though RE was back for me with 7 and 2 Remake). Zelda has been going downhill for a while and ended in Breath of the Wild becoming something that I feel like I'm just about the only one who doesn't really like it. 
And, well, Final Fantasy has also lost its luster with every new game following the phenomenal ninth main entry, ending in Final Fantasy XV which, after many years of absolute hype for FF Versus XIII, was an absolute snoozefest for me. Even Kingdom Hearts, which I used to love, became a bit too over-indulgent and ultimately ended up in pure, distilled disappointment once Kingdom Hearts 3 finally came out.

The fact of the matter was that I simply wasn't as hyped for new things anymore and didn't enjoy the franchises, that used to drive me to tears back in the day, anywhere close as much as I used to. If at all, really.

Now, I obviously understand that this is simply part of growing up, getting older, things becoming more predictable, you become more jaded, things feel less big, less special anymore. But still... the fact that Resident Evil came back for me and that plenty of surprises outside of my usual go-to franchises still gripped me as much as those proved to me that not all hope was lost and that it wasn't a simple matter of me just being a bit tired of Video Games. 

So I allowed myself to get hyped for this one. I loved Final Fantasy VII, which, as someone who grew up in Europe, was my first Final Fantasy ever and one of the first non-action RPGs I ever played (with the others being Mystic Quest Legend and Pokemon) and as someone who really enjoyed the majority of the Kingdom Hearts franchise and someone who still wonders what Versus XIII could have been if that was ever finished, I also didn't necessarily mind the fact that Tetsuya Nomura was directing this one. And when we saw early Gameplay, I honestly didn't mind the way they were adapting everything into a more action-oriented direction than what we saw back in the day.

And well, as you can see by the rating I gave this game, I do not regret my hype.

First of all, I, like many others, was just as bummed out and concerned by the announcement that this game would not be a full-on remake of Final Fantasy VII, but instead would just be a more in-depth, full-length retelling of the Midgar portion, with more to follow at a later, unspecified date in multiple further parts, how many of which note even Square-Enix was sure about at that point.
After beating the game, it now makes sense to me why they did it this way and why they don't even know how many more games they will release within this project. Still, it's not entirely without issue.
To reach a length of somewhere around 30-40 hours on a regular, first playthrough, Square added a lot of new characters and story elements. Some of these are great and add a ton that helps really convey what kind of place Midgar was supposed to be. They fully fleshed out characters that originally were mere quirky side-attractions without much substance and the way Square delivered these additions was, for the most part, masterful. There's just the right mix of 90's cheese and serious character that I just couldn't help but love.
Honestly, there is enough here to work with that Square could easily make DLC or a Spin-Off that explores even more of the city.
I do have to say that I wish the game was just a little more open. They make certain parts of the world feel so much more like places you'd return to more than you actually do and when Square announced that the game would only take place in Midgar, yet have the length of a full-on mainline Final Fantasy (which is honestly debatable), I was picturing an even more open, more fleshed-out version of the city, which could be fully explored, both below and above the big Pizza in the Sky.
I thought, with how they showed an earlier motorcycle segment in some of the trailers, you'd be able to get on your bike and drive around Midgar to all the different sectors and do quests that partake in new side-stories not seen in the original game.
I thought I would have more reasons to return to Cloud's apartment because of the way they build it up at the start. I thought I would spend more time in the bar (7th Heaven) and get to listen to the music discs I find throughout the game; in peace, without other background music or sound effects interfering.

What you get instead, however, feels more like a Final Fantasy VII: The Movie: The Game. So it feels more like a licensed tie-in. Or like an Uncharted with Final Fantasy flavor. Basically a game where you go through different gorgeous set-pieces in a fairly linear fashion, flavored with plenty of banter between the characters and flowing mostly like any other well-made, linear, 'cinematic' game experience and less like what you expect from an RPG.
Though then again, it's not like this part of the originally was any more open, though that would only take up about 10-ish hours of the whole 40-50+ hour experience or whatever. Still, JRPGs tend to be fairly linear and I, personally, tend to prefer such design over open-world stuff... so, you see, I am a bit conflicted. All I can say, really, is that it just didn't FEEL like a full-on RPG in the way it was designed and I kinda hoped to see even more of Midgar, people's daily lives, and the way things are structured and hoped the different sectors would feel more similar to different regions of other RPG worlds.

On top of that I did find that there were quite a few things, both mandatory and optional, that vastly overstayed their welcome and simply felt like padding to reach that 30+ hour playtime goal. Some of it feels utterly pointless, adds only little to either the world or its inhabitants and other things feel like they are building up to something but never actually go anywhere (like Roche. What was the point of him?).
I think they could've easily shaved 10+ hours off the regular playtime without losing anything of substance. And I didn't even do all the side-stuff.

The battle system used to look a lot like Kingdom Hearts in early gameplay, just like Versus XIII used to. I would have been okay with that but surprisingly I feel like I prefer what we ended up with in the final game, which is a bit of a mix of KH-esque real-time combat and the classic ATB system seen in the original, plus some experiments from other Final Fantasy games as well.
Basically, each character has a regular attack, block, evade and a character-specific extra function activated with the Triangle button. The game differentiates between mashing the attack button or holding it down for a different kind of attack and when pressing Triangle, each character does something different. Cloud, for instance, changes stances which changes his attacks to a more powerful variant but makes him move around very slowly. It also initiates an automatic counter-attack after a successful block. 
On top of this, each character has an ATB-bar split into two parts. On top of these regular real-time moves, each character can acquire a multitude of extra abilities and spells that can be picked out of a menu. By pressing X, the game slows down to an absolute crawl to give the player enough time to pick an action of of a drop-down menu, which consumes either one or two pieces of the ATB-bar and then queues up to be used, which sometimes can take a few seconds. This menu can be opened for the other two characters as well, who otherwise do basic attacks on their own, though the player can switch between them at any time and actively control any character in the party.
There's also Limit Breaks, though I am a bit disappointed that either these never change or only do so at a level much higher than what I got to when playing through the game at a normal pace.

With this kind of battle system, I really did feel like I was playing a real-time version of Final Fantasy VII instead of a Kingdom Hearts with a Final Fantasy VII mod applied. Though I found it a bit too easy and didn't think it encouraged the use of all of its systems nearly enough. For instance, I barely used any items (none outside of Potions, Ethers and Phoenix Downs) and only felt the need to block during the last few fights.

Also, there is a stagger system. This is very interesting and the basic idea is that you're supposed to exploit enemy-specific weaknesses, which usually can be learned about when using the Asses skill on them, in order to stagger them, which stuns them for a brief moment while making them take extra damage with each hit.
I enjoyed that system a lot, though I felt like I stumbled across staggers a bit too often and was very rarely all that encouraged to make use of this system since the same, mostly brute-force, approach works for the majority of the game. And I wasn't even playing on Easy, nor do I think I'm particularly good at the game.

The game's presentation, for the most part, is fantastic. As I said above, the way the characters are portrayed and performed is super charming, adding just enough new nuance without fundamentally breaking their original vision.
The game also looks great, though I did have to get used to how flashy it can be, with tons of sparks and effects littering the screen.
Character customization, unfortunately, doesn't go beyond what you would see in Kingdom Hearts, so all you can really see on the actual character models is which weapon you're currently using.
Facial expressions can also be a bit janky, especially when it comes to mouth movement.

The world also looks amazing. I got goosebumps at the size of the scale of Midgar and seeing certain places and events with this tech gets awe-inspiring at times. However, the visuals need a bit more polish, as there are some texture-streaming issues. Most of the time these are pretty brief and forgivable, but at times they get distracting and some assets, including certain textures that take up a majority of the frame during specific cutscenes, are sup-par PS2-level assets that are super out of place.
It's not pushing the Unreal Engine forward and there definitely are other games on the system that look better, but still I found myself stopping at many places to really take in how great the majority of this game looks, while some of the worst-looking parts could even slightly ruin some important and otherwise powerful moments.

The music is also a bit of a mixed bag, though I thoroughly enjoyed a majority of the songs, especially within the context of the game itself. I doubt I'll get back to these songs nearly as much as I do with some other Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts OSTs but while playing, most of it was truly beautiful and worked incredibly well to build the kind of atmosphere Square was looking for.

Now, to wrap this up, I want to talk a little bit about the game's biggest narrative departures and the ending. I'll keep things vague and avoid spoilers as much as possible, but still. Consider this your spoiler warning.

I left this game incredibly conflicted and all I could think during the last 2-ish hours of my playthrough was that this game now has Tetsuya Nomura written all over it. Now I alluded before to Kingdom Hearts being among my favorite franchises, so I like the man's work but by god can he be... a bit much and as things were unfolding I was looking on in disbelief, telling Nomura to get his head out of his own ass a bit.
Though when everything was said and done, and especially now, on the next day, after ample contemplation, I can't really blame him for what he's done and found myself a bit "got" by the metanarrative that was going on.

Basically, Square was trying to make it clear that while our whines, and screams for a Final Fantasy VII Remake weren't falling on deaf ears, this project isn't fully gonna give us what we are asking for. The characters in this game, as well as the devs of it, feel trapped by the rigidity of the established story that many of us hold so dear. And once Square decided to split this game into multiple parts, I immediately wondered how effective that would ultimately be, as, say, two years down the line, when part 2 would come out, and even longer away for the rest, that "new remake smell" will have worn off a bit and all that time, effort and money that went into the other parts would perhaps not be worth it as each part would inevitably lead to diminishing returns as we wouldn't really learn all that much new, with minimal surprised to get excited for.

The way they wrote this game, the way it ends, makes it clear why this won't work and that they simply don't want to do it. They break free of these restrictions by the end and now it's becoming Final Fantasy VII UNLEASHED, unchecked, where ANYTHING can happen. Anything from the original that you could spoil for those who are now diving into this story for the first time might not actually be a spoiler in this version and old and new fans alike are now staring at a blank page where previously you had a synopsis for the rest of the story.

The characters want to be the builders of their own fates, as Square wants to explore these characters and this world without any restrictions as well, turning this into a vast, Alternate Universe, playground for the devs and audience to explore.

Am I bummed out that we might not see some of the quirkiest, most amazing, most epic and iconic scenes in Video Game History in a new light? Of course.
But I can't help but be excited to see where things will go from here, as the step out of Midgar at the end of this game feels not unlike the first time I did so in the original, oh so many years ago, with a vast new world in front of me. They are bringing back a sense of wonder that, honestly, I haven't felt in a while and I can't believe how much of a 180 I my mood made from when I experienced that ending to now, less than 24h later.

I just hope, though, that Nomura will show SOME restraint and keep his Nomura-isms in check a bit and doesn't invalidate everything that happens by switching realities all the time. I hope we are now in one of two realities and don't even jump between those too much.

So, great game. Highly recommended. Not exactly what anyone expected but still great and I wasn't wrong to be hyped. It might not be my favorite in the series, it might not replace the original and it might not even quench the thirst for an actual full-on remake, but it still was very enjoyable and left me cautiously optimistic for the future of this series. And its gameplay lets me hope for an eventual Final Fantasy XVI to not be trash again :^)
«That ending!»
«OST on repeat»
Ísak Agnarsson
Yeah i agree, such a great game yet leaves too many things to be desired like freedom around Midgar - That could've been one of the new changes, instead of Roche and Leslie the japanese anime marketing boy, the stupid whispers in every scene (i feel they could've done without it) and all that filler in the end, just to get a proper end to Pt1 which i felt was highly unessecary.
Ísak Agnarsson
Such a great re-imagination of the original FFVII nontheless but i cant help but wonder how Nomura is gonna screw us over with KH time travel, Zack and the gang revived etc - To me that would be a damage undone, kinda like how he ruined Kingdom Hearts with every single KH game after 2010. The guy just cant get alternate timelines,time travel and stupid shit like that outta his work

Other reviews24

As my first time stepping foot in Midgar Final Fantasy VII Remake not only exceeded my expectations, it became the most enjoyable RPG I've had the privilege of experiencing in years.
although I haven't played the original, this remake feels a great game. however, there were tons of times were the game clearly dragged - be it with slow walking, uneeded routes. finished the game in 21 hours, but feel like it could've been something like 14, if not for those things.
«Sit back and relax»
«OST on repeat»
Amazing experience.

I loved diving deep into this universe. The characters attract you so hard to it. With some time, their future matter to you, and it's pretty natural. The story, eventually, grabs you either. In this case, graphics on PS4 make justice to the acting. So damn beautiful. The OST is on the same level. It just sticks on your head, no matter what.

The gameplay was a little strange to me since I am not used to JRPGs. Even still, since I wanted to advance into the plot so hard, I forced myself to keep going on and eventually understood it.

There are some negative points, like textures in some scenarios, some sections longer than they should be, and more. But since my final experience with it was so good, those points are unimportant. I super recommend it.
Cloud thinks he’s hot shit. A lot of tude in that voice.

First 4 hours are fine but not this amazing game I heard about. The combat seems interesting and the world is cool enough but nothing has wowed me yet and the writing is cheesy. It’s normal for an RPG to take a bit of time to get going so it could easily pick up but as of now I’m not seeing the hype.

It’s pretty slow to start.

6 hours in. It’s fine but I’m not loving it or getting drawn in yet.

Walk here. Listen to slow bad dialogue. Push this button. Fight guys with a simple combat system that doesn’t demand a lot of anything. Walk to a new button to push and repeat. I don’t get why people like this game right now. It’s boring. Story, Gameplay, Progression. None of it is working for me yet.

Why do people love this game! I don’t get it. It’s bad and boring. Have I said this before?

I just fought a house in like a 30 minute fight. It was so long. Holy hell. It was a house.

Now the dance number. This game sucks. I’m baffled why people gave it such good reviews. Baffled.

Don Corneo. Wow what a guy.

This is going for the title “Most Overrated Game of All Time According to Dylan”. It’s an 88 on opencritic. Shadow of The Colossus is the only other game I’d say is more overrate. I really didn’t like it but I can see the appeal at least. But I stand by that SOTC remake is super overrated also.

Okay the combat is growing on me a bit. It’s getting more challenging so I at least have to actually think about what I’m doing.

The story bits about the ancients and the history of the planet was actually pretty cool. The last couple chapters have been better. I think they add too much filler in this game. They are really milking it and there isn’t enough going on in the first 18 or so hours which is a loooong time.

I’ve probably complained a bit too much because I had high expectations for this game and it wasn’t anywhere near them. That being said I think the game takes way too long to get going and they are milking the nostalgia which I don’t have. 

I think I would have enjoyed this game a lot more if they decided to make it into 1 or maybe 2 games not 3 fucking games. The beginning was slow and boring and very much felt like filler. The last few chapters especially when in the Shinra facility have at least been fun and interesting. They throw a talking fire lion thing in there too. 

Boss fights are way too long. I only died once during the final shadow fight because the game still isn’t hard if you mark sure you manage your health but it’s so frustrating to be like 20 mins into a boss fight and then die and have to do the entire thing over again. They need checkpoints mid battle. It’s even set up to have checkpoints since their are always boss transitions at certain points.

Beat it and happy to be done. The final stretch was easily the best part but not good enough to change my opinion by much. Severely overrated game.

Final Score: B
Best game of 2020
«Blew my mind»
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»
I am afraid to admit that I missed FF series when I was a kid. I tried to get into it much later through the ones that are available on PC: FF XII, FF X, but none struck me as hard as this one. The visuals are what mesmerizes you from the start of the game, but the lovable characters and classic plot are what make this game a true Final fantasy.
P.S. Struggle through Intermission to experience true ending of the game.
«Sit back and relax»
Fun, gorgeous, engaging, relevant
Genuinely blew me away with how well they did. Can't wait for future installments.
«Blew my mind»
«Beaten more than once»
I cannot believe this game is actually a real, existing thing. Somehow even better than what I would have made if the job were up to me. Waiting for part 2 is actually causing me physical pain.
«Blew my mind»
I want to be able to play this but I can't for any length of time as it triggers motion sickness in me.
I was able to tweak some settings and calm the player camera down but the over the top camera movement and shaking during cut scenes meant they were unwatchable. What was the director thinking? The long awaited remake and they've made it unplayable for a large number of people. Absolutely gutted.
«Disappointment of the year»
I never played Final Fantasy before and this was absolutely epic. A game of magnificent scope, beautiful graphics, and a compelling narrative, with gameplay that feels good to play. Definitely understand why this franchise is as popular as it is. 
«Just one more turn»
«That ending!»