In the realm of Role-Playing Games, there are few titles as world-renowned as Final Fantasy VII. Upon its original release on the PlayStation, this seventh entry made the series a household name for even the most casual of gamers. Preceding 2020, Final Fantasy VII never received either a proper sequel or remake. Interestingly, Final Fantasy VII Remake may actually serve to check both boxes.
As with the recently released Resident Evil remakes, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a reimagining of the PSOne course material. With a reworked story and action-oriented gameplay, Final Fantasy VII Remake may be the most ambitious remake to date.
As with the original incarnation, Final Fantasy VII Remake begins with Cloud Strife’s very first bombing mission. As a self-proclaimed “ex-SOLDIER,” Cloud finds himself performing mercenary work for the local eco-terrorist group: Avalanche. What starts out as the relatively simple destruction of Shina’s property escalates into a city-wide explosion. Whilst the mission is initially a one-time deal for Cloud, his childhood friend (and potential love interest) Tifa Lockhart convinces him otherwise. Not wanting to abandon Tifa again, Cloud agrees to the ill-fated mission. Things take an unexpected turn for the player and player characters alike when dark ghost-like figures emerge and attack Avalanche at their base.
After barely making out of his second bombing mission alive, Cloud finds himself recovering in the ruins of an old church. Within the church meets another companion and possible love interest: Aerith Gainsborough. It is also here that the ghost-like entities appear yet again. While they appear to be protecting Aerith this time around, these new additions are ultimately more than they seem.
Referred to by Aerith as “Whispers,” these entities serve as arbiters of fate. Initially, their appearances are far and few between. As Final Fantasy VII Remake increasingly begins to deviate from the source material, the Whispers grow in numbers. By the end of the game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is not only about fighting Shinra but fate itself. Without going too far into spoiler territory, the remake’s eighteenth chapter, in particular, plays out unlike anything in the original game.
While Final Fantasy VII Remake is not the complete story, it is a complete story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. For those who played the original game, this Final Fantasy VII Remake only adapts the game’s first disc. In terms of story, it is exclusively Midgar. With that said, Square Enix has expanded this originally eight-hour segment into something lasting closer to forty. As preposterous as this sounds on paper, it’s all done surprisingly well. While the game often flashes out existing events, it also mixes in new story elements. Just about every character has been expanded, regardless of their role in the original game. Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge finally feel like part of the team. The new narrative makes Final Fantasy VII Remake much more than what its name implies.
As with Final Fantasy XV before it, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an Action RPG. Initially, this is the most drastic change when compared to the original. As before, Cloud can freely move throughout Midgar during times of peace. Once an enemy approaches, the game seamlessly transitions into a battle. Because of the changes in the battle system, the player can only directly control one character at a time. This is normally Cloud by default. Tifa, Aerith, and Barret Wallace will accompany Cloud throughout specific segments of the game. In battle, the player can freely switch between characters to control. This adds a nice spice to any heated battle. While Cloud and Tifa are arguably the most suited for the average battle, Aerith and Barret are priceless additions when dealing with aerial combatants.
In terms of battle, Final Fantasy VII Remake plays out more like Kingdom Hearts II or Birth by Sleep than even the aforementioned Final Fantasy XV. Cloud and friends can freely run, attack, block, and dodge enemy attacks. The new implementation of the ATB gauge is what most separates Final Fantasy VII Remake from its fellow Role-Playing Games. Inspired by the original Final Fantasy VII, the remake’s Actions, Spells, and Items are utilized by filling the ATB gauge. Pressing the X buttle will allow the player to choose what special command they’d like any party member to perform. While scrolling throughout the Command Menu, the in-game action all slows almost to a halt. This allows players to take full advantage of their equipped Materia without available options becoming overwhelming.
As with Final Fantasy VII and Crisis Core, Materia make up the bread and butter of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s gameplay. Materia are available in a total of five flavors including Summoning, Magic, Command, Support, and Complete. Unlike other skills, Materia can be shared between characters. Their various powers are placed into equipment, not set in stone. As the name suggests, Summoning Materia bring out iconic beings such as Ifreet and Shiva. It should be noted that each character may only summon once per battle and that Summoning can only take place when certain requirements are met. Long gone are the days of Summon spamming Knights of the Round to an easy win.
Unlike Summoning Materia, Magic and Command Materia can be activated anytime in battle, assuming the necessary ATB meter is available. Magic includes offensive spells like Fire and Ice as well as support spells such as Barrier or Healing. With the action-oriented battle system, projectile spells are more imperative than ever before. These can be just what Cloud or Tifa may need to take down a pesky flier. Command Materia make up just about everything else in terms of manual actions. These include the likes of Enemy Skill, Asses, and Steal. While these generally don’t inflict damage themselves, they can be very useful for gathering resources in battle. Support Materia can link up with another Materia for added effects while Complete Materia give characters buffs for battle.
By now players should be well aware that the Final Fantasy VII Remake project is episodic. In addition, the current game itself is also separated into chapters. These eighteen chapters can be freely selected upon completing the game. While this seems odd for a game like Final Fantasy, it’s executed surprisingly well. These are a plethora of hidden items to collect. It is entirely possible to miss a rare Materia during an initial run. Separating the game into chapters allows the player to freely access segments of the game. Alternatively, they can also replay the game in its entirety. While the second part of the remake project is still in very early development, this initially Final Fantasy VII Remake has plenty of replayability. Hopefully, the next game will allow a data transfer to make all the extra grinding and fining all worth it in the end.
Advent Children Complete
Ever since the 2005 release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, fans have begged for Final Fantasy VII remake of that caliber. In 2020, we all received something even better. While Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is still a beautiful movie, especially in its Complete release, it honestly can’t even hold a candle to Final Fantasy VII Remake. Honestly, most games on PlayStation 4 cannot. With recent tech demos of the upcoming PlayStation 5 put on display, it is actually pretty crazy to see how perfectly PlayStation 4 recreates Midgar and its people.
As the initial bombing mission begins, Final Fantasy VII Remake looks like an HD remaster of the Crisis Core ending cutscene. Then the realization sinks in that this assumed cut scene is actually playable. Cloud and his fairweather friends look like they walked straight after their theatrical sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. At a closer inspection, modern computer science has allowed Square Enix to up the ante yet again. Whereas the Advent Children cast displayed some uncanny doll-like features, 2020’s Cloud is a real boy. Final Fantasy VII Remake trumps Advent Children in its graphics, but also in its animation.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children featured beautifully choreographed battles. In fact, it can be argued that the movie both inspired scripted scenes and gameplay elements of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Many of the game’s scripted fights, especially during the endgame, feel like they could easily be part of yet another movie. Where Final Fantasy VII Remake truly surpasses Advent Children in terms of animations is in its emotions.
Cloud has never been the most emotional guy. Except for when he is. In Advent Children, Cloud looks to be in a deep daze throughout the movie’s entirety. While he’s still not the most expressive party member, his facial animations are on another level. During one of the more suspenseful scenes in the game, the look of shock and suppressed emotion makes Cloud more human than the entirety of even Advent Children Complete.
With Final Fantasy VII Remake only covering the first disc of the original game, everything happens within the city limits of Midgar. While much of Midgar was honestly quite forgettable in the original, it has been completely reimagined within the remake. Each area has been fleshed out and feels like a part of the greater world. The beautiful “Next-Gen” graphics blow even Final Fantasy XV out of the water. Between the incredible detail and expertly placed level design, the City of Midgar will be remembered for years to come.
The Train Graveyard area in particular was a pleasant surprise upon entry. Despite being an Action RPG, the audiovisuals found within this location felt straight out of a Survival Horror title. It’s not every day that another non-Horror title can give The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Bottom of the Well a run for its money.
“A Broken World”
Between “Bombing Mission” and “One-Winged Angel,” Final Fantasy VII likely features the most iconic soundtrack of any RPG. Final Fantasy VII Remake recreates these timeless tracks as epic orchestral pieces. The legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu returns to expand upon his classic works. In addition, Uematsu also co-composed original compositions to complement the new characters and set pieces. The rearranged Original Soundtrack never fails to fit perfectly with the story and gameplay. For the completionists, CD singles can even be found in-game. While a few are connected to a side-quest, they mostly exist simply for the player’s listening pleasure.
Back when Final Fantasy VII released on the PlayStation One, the voice acting really wasn’t commonplace in Role-Playing Games. As such, the lack of voiced dialogue was really nothing out of the ordinary. Twenty years later, Final Fantasy VII Remake features both Japanese and English audio. Series veterans all reprise their roles in the Japanese sub. The same cannot be said about the English dub. From Cloud and Aerith to Zack and Sephiroth, the English cast has been completely recast. Arguably, most of the new talent do just as good if not better than their Advent Children predecessors.
Cody Christian’s Cloud brings out a suppressed emotion throughout his dialog. Briana White and Britt Baron bring youthful confidence to Aerith and Tifa respectively. Aerith especially is spunkier than ever and easily one of the Remake’s best character traits. While Tyler Hoechlin’s Sephiroth doesn’t get much screen time, his always casually threatening voice fits the one-winged angel that we’ve learned to love and fear. With the possible exception of Caleb Pierce as Zack Fair which will admittedly require some getting used to, each actor sounds like they were born for their respective role.
Matt Jones, the voice of Wedge, is perhaps best known for his role as Badger in Breaking Bad. Badger is best friends with Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman whereas Wedge is mostly seen with his fellow Avalanche member, Jessie Rasberry. This can create an odd sense of nostalgia when hearing Wedge talk to or about Jessie throughout the course of the game.
Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake is the RPG reimagining that the world didn’t know it needed. While fans have been patiently waiting for a remake in the last ten or fifteen years, the end result is truly something expected. While the game does take many inspirations from the source material, it is by no means a 1:1 remake. For the absolute purists afraid of change, Final Fantasy VII Remake might not actually be for you. Final Fantasy VII Remake celebrates the original, without ever trying to replace it. Considering the differences in story and gameplay, both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake will remain a “must play” for any Role-Playing gamer.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives Final Fantasy VII Remake 10 Materia out of 10.