Review – Final Fantasy VII Remake
The word ‘remake’ in the title doesn’t really convey exactly what Square Enix has delivered this week with Final Fantasy VII Remake, a full-on reinvention of the classic PS1 Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) from 1997 – or at least of a part of it.
As a word of caution to those thinking of getting the game, this is not the full Final Fantasy VII experience you might remember – the remake covers basically the opening of the original game, up to leaving Midgar. You aren’t going to ‘finish the fight’ here, to borrow a catchphrase from another game, only start it out and leave you wanting more and wondering when you’ll get it.
It’s hard to say how much of the story is ok to talk about – on one hand this is familiar ground to those who played (often multiple times) that 1997 original, but on the other there’s a whole lot different here, including an ending that hints there may be even larger diversions from the original going forward. I’ll say that this is a lot more fleshed out than the original was, and that spending 35-40 hours roaming Midgar winds up being a lot more entertaining than I’d expected going into it due in large part to that fleshing out of themes and characters, but the game really should have had ‘Part One’ or ‘Midgar’ appended to the title to make it clear to customers what they were buying.
The game’s visuals are more of a mixed bag than I’d expected, given the amount of time it spent in development. It’s a very strong package overall that’s lifted by excellent cutscenes but held back by absurdly out of place low-resolution textures that litter multiple environments. At one point I restarted and even did a database rebuild on the PS4 Pro I was playing on to see if there was an issue with asset streaming from the hard drive, but – while it might still be a software bug of some kind, it doesn’t appear to be on the hardware side of things.
The combat system is a half-step between a full-on action game and being fully turn-based, and feels in many ways like the child of Final Fantasy XIII. Positioning is important in battle, which offer some nice strategic depth, but the camera works against you often enough, particularly in the plethora of linear environments you’ll be traversing, that it’s annoying. One tip is to go into the menus and extend the camera distance out as far as you can, which isn’t much, but it does help a bit.
Combat uses the series staple Active Time Battle (ATB) meter, and players will need to jump from character to character in battle in order to make the most of it. There’s no ability to set parameters for the AI (artificial intelligence) partners to take actions on their own, so they’re unable to effectively generate ATB meter without direct player intervention. It’s a bit of forced micromanaging, especially as AI controlled party members won’t move out of damaging status effects like fire on their own, but it becomes second nature quickly. As an unintentional benefit, the enemy AI tunnel visions in on whoever the player is controlling which makes their AI easily exploitable.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is a strong overall package, but not a perfect one by any means, with far more linear levels and out-of-place low-resolution textures than I expected from a late-generation showpiece title. I’m curious to see where it goes next, given the ending…
What I liked:
- Stellar cutscenes – better than Blizzard’s? Maybe, at times.
- Almost unbelievable how much they fleshed out Midgar
- Great trip down memory lane…with some detours
- What comes next? And when?
What I didn’t like:
- Low-res textures popping up far too often, especially noticeable next to high-res ones
- Party AI – or lack of it – requires constant micromanaging
- Far too many ‘walk this straight line’ maps
- The sinking feeling we’re going to have to wait years for part two