Final Fantasy VII Remake took a bit to get here, but thankfully once it finally did it did not disappoint. The game does what a remake is supposed to do, which is to reignite your nostalgic feelings for the original while also making improvements and changes that bring it up to speed with modern-day mechanics and stories. Square Enix managed to pull that off and more with Final Fantasy VII Remake, and even early on its easy to see that some of those changes the studio made are for the better. Sure the original is a classic, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon, and truthfully there are already several things we love in the Remake far more than we did in the original. That might be heresy to some, but if you let me explain, I think you'll see where I'm coming from.
Some of these changes owe a lot to modern tech and what systems these days are capable of. I mean, the power of the PS1 was impressive at the time, but it's nothing compared to what the PS4 can do, and that extra horsepower can be seen in several different aspects of the game. Other changes have to do with the way the game is laid out, as this first chapter takes one portion of the game and expands it to fit the 40 plus hour runtime. That means attention can be paid to certain characters or storylines that were touched on in the original but weren't allowed to flourish.
Other changes are regarding mechanics and design, though again, these owe a lot to the power available now as well as what Square Enix has learned while making other entries in the Final Fantasy series.
Alright, let's get started, but before we do make sure to find all of our Final Fantasy VII Remake guides right here. You can find the full description below.
"FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is a reimagining of the iconic original game that re-defined the RPG genre, diving deeper into the world and its characters than ever before. The first game in the project will be set in the eclectic city of Midgar and presents a fully standalone gaming experience that provides a great starting point to the series.
Along with unforgettable characters and a powerful story, FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE features a hybrid battle system that merges real-time action with strategic, command-based combat. For players who wish to focus purely on battle strategy, a menu-focused ‘Classic Mode’ provides a gameplay style more similar to the original game. More information regarding the newly revealed Classic Mode can be found on the Square Enix Blog."
Final Fantasy VII Remake is available on the Playstation 4 now.
What do you think of Final Fantasy VII Remake? Let us know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things Final Fantasy and gaming!
Without even having to play more than the demo you'll notice a big change to one of the original game's early characters, and that's Jessie. The Avalanche member had her fans from the original, don't get me wrong, but she is a shell compared to what Remake does with the character. Erica Lindbeck brings a delightful energy and charm to the character, and it is the perfect contrast to Cloud's brooding and curmudgeonly attitude, especially early on when Tifa or Aerith are not around.
Story-wise she's also given much more to do, and we even get some background on her history before Avalanche, her family life, and her friendship with Wedge and Biggs, all adding up to a more fully fleshed-out character. She's an instant shot of charisma anytime she's on screen, and frankly, we would've loved to have her as a playable character, something we never said after playing the original.
Jessie is a delight throughout this game, and the game is all the better for it.
Biggs and Wedge
Speaking of Avalanche, Jessie isn't the only one that benefited from the Remake. Biggs and Wedge have been fan favorites for quite some time, but the Remake takes their best aspects expands them into fully fleshed characters in ways the original just didn't have the time or wherewithal to do. Biggs is especially worth noting, as Gideon Emery gives the character an effortless charm and confidence that provides the perfect contrast to Barrett's over the top demeanor. Biggs makes every scene he's in better, even in the small moments, and he feels as important to the Avalanche cause as Barrett does. The game plants little seeds about his character in surprising places too, like the fact that he's a former teacher, and this just adds more layers to an already interesting character.
As for Wedge, if you loved him before, you're going to love him even more now. The character was funny and quirky in the original, but that really gets to shine in this version, voiced by Matt Jones. Jones gives Wedge a sweet and rather innocent demeanor, but it never ventures into naivety. Wedge is very trusting but still protective of his friends. Likewise, he doesn't like war or death but will do what needs to be done. It was nice to get such an even balance, and that moment with his cats is, well, adorable, as are his constant tries to be a friend to Cloud to no avail.
Cost of Warfare
One of the earlier things you'll notice is how the game focuses on the smaller in-between moments of bigger events you remember from the first game. When you destroy Mako Reactors, you'll notice that the game will walk you through the devastating results your actions had on the populace. Now, we know the damage is being exacerbated by Shinra of course, but an explosion is still an explosion, and having Cloud, Tifa, Barrett and the crew walk through the fires, rubble, and scared civilians reacting to your actions brings another perspective to what you're actually doing. It also allows natural moments of questioning from the Avalanche crew and makes this a much more nuanced story as a result.
One of the other biggest improvements in the game is how it handles combat, which is truly a result of modern tech and what Square has done before in some of their other Final Fantasy games. The original game had a turn based ATB (Active Time Battle) system, which was inspired for its time coming from straight-up turn-based RPGs, but since then there have been plenty of franchises that injected that system with new elements and style. The Remake takes those foundations and combines them with a little Final Fantasy XV, a little Kingdom Hearts, and even a bit of Final Fantasy XIII, creating a system that's easy to pick up and play that also contains several layers of depth depending on what Materia you equip and your particular play style.
Many systems have toyed with slowing down time when you take a turn, but Remake has found the sweet spot, as it's slow enough to let you get your bearings but not so slow that you can sit there all day and go grab a sandwich before having to resume again. Being able to control each character in real-time also carries with it a need for skill and quick decision making, and you'll constantly be switching between your characters to take advantage of their specific skills.
That said, you don't have to actually leave control of your character when you deliver commands, as a hit of the triggers will put you in your allies' menu and let you give commands without losing control of your current character, meaning you can resume right where you left off once you exit the menu.
Playing Aerith is a little difficult at the beginning, but once you get the hang of playing as her you'll absolutely love it, as she has so many little abilities that allow her to become a beast in combat. Same goes for Barrett and Tifa, who all take some getting used to but once you do you'll appreciate the additional strategies they bring to the hack and slash of Cloud. It makes for a much more dynamic fighting experience than the original offered, and that's not even getting to the more advanced Materia setups or summons, but we'll get to them in a bit.
We mentioned Aerith earlier, but she deserves her own section. This is coming from a Tifa fan through and through, so when I saw that I came out of this experience adoring Aerith, it's a big deal. I liked Aerith in the original, don't get me wrong, I really did, and her relationship with Cloud is one of the linchpins of the game, as she in many ways softens his heart. That said, there wasn't as much to the original character other than being compassionate and kind.
That's all changed in the Remake, and a lot of credit goes to Briana White. White's take on Aerith is immediately disarming to both the player and Cloud, and when you see them play off each other, you come away with a real understanding of how she can bring some of those walls down in him. Her unacceptance of his dourness and lone-wolf attitude is incredibly welcome and makes him more tolerable, especially early on in the game, and when the situation calls for a poignant exchange, White's Aerith delivers in spades.
Aerith's energy is infectious, and it's hilarious to see Cloud try and adapt to her personality and approach to things. She also pushes back quite a bit on Cloud's assumptions, even during combat, and this all continues throughout the entire game. I was shocked and sad when "that moment" happened in the first game, but after what's been done with the character in the Remake, I'm going to be heartbroken this time around.
Side Quests have been a staple of any RPG for, well, pretty much since they first existed. Still, many end up being fetch quests or glorified grinding scenarios, and while Final Fantasy VIII Remake has a few of those, the majority of its side quests are actually fun and add something to the game's story or your own combat prowess.
Many of the monster-hunting focused quests help you get better at a particular ability, and are perfect for leveling up some Materia. Even in those instances though, there is often a story aspect to the quest that lifts it above the generic bring me a ring or kill a dozen rats type set up. Yes, you do have to kill a few rats, but you'll also meet some interesting characters during these trials, and they'll continue to show up during the story.
In other cases, it's just the way the mission is executed that is improved, getting you invested into what you're doing and who you are protecting. One of the best examples of this is in the Sector 5 Slums, where you are helping save two kids from the school. Walking back after taking down several monsters earns Cloud a number of endearing questions from the duo, and Aerith can't help but laugh. You then meet the rest of the crew in another mission, building on the group you already know and introducing a few more to the mix, and then are invited to their hideout in another mission to partake in a fun mini-game.
You even find the Moogle Shop in their hideout, and again, most of these things are side quest related, but it's the fact that they are all organically connected from one to the next that you start to feel attached to the group, therefore investing you into any missions that involve them.
That's just one example of course, and it doesn't hurt that you can net some really sweet weapons, Materia, and gear in side quests this time around, so you're not wasting all that time and effort on just a few potions.
Last but not least is one of Final Fantasy VII's most well-known elements, and that's Summons. It would be difficult to improve upon the iconic Summons of the original, with creatures like Odin, Leviathan, Bahamut, and Shiva sporting gorgeous and devasting Summon sequences when called upon. That said, Square improved on this formula in a big way with the Remake, and it comes down to allowing you some control over what they do.
A version of this was in Final Fantasy XV, allowing you to call Shiva into battle but giving you control of which ability they use. Summons build up their ATB gauge like you do, and have two abilities that you can execute when you fill the gauge to the required level. Also, they don't replace your team, something not really doable in the original since they were one-and-done attacks that took over the screen, partly because it looked cool but also partly because the system couldn't handle Odin walking around in the background while your characters stayed on the screen.
You'll have a certain amount of time to fight with them as the meter runs down, and if you use their abilities right you can execute a lot of damage, but even if you don't you'll still get at least one big attack from them when they are ready to depart. That ultimate attack is what the old versions used to do in total, so not only are they way more useful but they also have more options, and even if you die before they get off their final attack they will then launch into it.
In short, they are way more useful this time around, and we can't wait to see the rest of the Summons from the original get their Remake makeover in future games.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.