Nostalgia is a form of sentiment we all crave through our everyday lives as a way of escape; a return in thought to some of our most illustrious times; a journey back to our happiest memories. The Final Fantasy VII Remake has done just that.
On the 31st of January 1997, millions of young gamers’ lives changed, mine included. Final Fantasy VII was a 3D adventure, smothered in lore, intrigue, loveable characters, imaginative monsters, in-depth storytelling, and endless emotional rollercoasters. It changed not only the gaming industry but the youths of many in its wake.
“Ruining this game could have destroyed the entire company.”
The world was taken by storm. Everyone spent the summer holidays inside, and children left the streets to enjoy sleepovers with their friends, replaying this classic repeatedly. Game developers began to rethink their methods and what to produce. The term ‘role-playing game’ had been completely turned on its head.
How would anybody be able to replicate and honour possibly the most popular game ever made? Ruining this game could have destroyed the entire company. At first, I was sceptical. I couldn’t fathom how anybody could change something considered a masterpiece. Oh, how I have been proved wrong.
Final Fantasy VII Remake begins with a calm yet explorative, cut scene of Midgar, the town in which this whole game resides. Combining a mixture of the rich leaving work, kids playing in the streets, and glimpses of the town’s underbelly, we are immediately hit with the information that Midgar has a significant divide within its classes. The rich live in vast townhouses on the top level, while the poor fight amongst themselves in the slums beneath.
“Characters are fizzing with new life and personality.”
After a dramatic pan out, away from the introduction of a flower girl, we are given a sight of how Midgar is run entirely by a company rather than a government. This company is known as Shinra.
With an impressive leap off a recently stopped train, we are introduced to our protagonist Cloud Strife, accompanied by the renegade mercenary group ‘Avalanche’. Cloud is a mercenary. A paid soldier invested in by Avalanche to help storm the reactors created by Shinra, ultimately destroying the divide between classes and bringing eternal peace to Midgar.
Characters you know and love are fizzing with new life and personality, wholly reimagined with unique movements, expressions, and iconic dialogue. The voice acting is incredible and accompanied by possibly the best graphics in a video game to date. Final Fantasy VII focuses on the endless battle between this vigilante group and Shinra, mixed with the inner conflicts of each character’s circumstances and the obstacles they all have to overcome, together, for the sake of their beloved city and their own lives.
“Final Fantasy VII is more in-depth than a button basher.”
One of the most significant changes made by Tetsuya Nomura is the approach to combat. In the original version, Final Fantasy VII used a predominantly active time battle system (ATB), which could be described merely as turn-based, but with the monster/enemy not having to wait to take their turn. The FFVII remake has chosen a new style of approach. It draws similarities to a real-time hack and slash version of Dark Souls, but with more tactics and abilities to utilise.
Each enemy within this title has a weakness to find and expose, making each encounter something to adapt to, resulting in the player needing to research and change their methods from time to time. The best way to expose these weaknesses is to use magic. Magic can be equipped in the form of materia onto your weapon and armour, thus resulting in an effective way to counteract whatever trial or tribulation has been unleashed upon you.
Monsters all contain a unique stagger bar to fill, ultimately reaching full stagger. When this occurs, enemies’ defences weaken, and you are gifted with the opportunity to provide the highest levels of damage possible. Numerous characters abilities also increase the stagger gauge/chain, so the player will need to utilise how and when these are used to guarantee effective results, especially during boss fights. Keep an eye out!
Finding your style has never been made easier as you’re able to switch playable characters during each battle. Whether it’s Cloud’s unrealistically large sword fighting, Barret’s long-distance machine gun, Tifa’s up close and personal fists, or Aeriths magic staff, you have a variety of fighting styles in your arsenal. This game is a lot more in-depth than the button basher it may appear in its videos.
“You will be doing much more than just fighting.”
Other new additions include weapons upgrades and weapon skills, whereby you can improve a weapon throughout the game by spending SP earned by beating monsters/bosses and altering its stats. You can then equip each weapon and learn its attached ability, which can be permanently added to your arsenal once you have levelled it up enough.
The weapon system may not be as deep or as useful as it first appears. Whereas the weapon ability mechanic is much more impactful, helping each character blossom into their specific role as time goes on. The levelling system for each character ultimately remains the same, maxing out at level 50.
However, throughout the game, you will be doing much more than just fighting. There are collectibles to find and great minigames to enjoy, from darts to dancing. Mini-games in the original FFVII have been expanded here, with the motorbike chase being included twice during the story!
Side quests become available during various chapters, offering different tasks, puzzles, and boss fights. I recommend you complete each one of these, as they can reward you with priceless materia, helpful weapons, or invaluable accessories.
One of my favourite inclusions in this remake is the battle colosseum and simulator. You are provided with a numerous selection of monsters and challenges to overcome singularly or as a team, producing marvellous rewards. A pre-warning, though, this is also where the most challenging secret bosses in the game reside, so be careful.
“Unfortunately, Final Fantasy VII can be very linear.”
Every area and environment has been upgraded to its fullest with the utmost quality and attention to detail. I lost count as to how many times a location was flawlessly remastered from the original or when the music sent tingles down my spine. “Oh wow, I remember that!” was a common phrase in my household.
Unfortunately, this title can be very linear throughout, leaving very little to run off and explore. However, this doesn’t take anything away from the fact that every single step has been reimagined in a way that could make any adorer of the original weep. Midgar was only the first 4-5 hours of the original, so you can imagine how much detail has been included to add an extra 75+ hours of gameplay to just one town!
With the help of an orchestra, the classic sounds of the original have been restored and reproduced to an incredibly high standard to add even more effect, impact, emotion, and nostalgia.