This review is odd for me to write. First I have to say, I have NOT finished the game yet. I am on chapter 14 and have put about 33 hours into it. I have been taking my time, doing all the side quest and just taking it all in. I have been for years for this game, I am not rushing it. I will follow this up with another review after I finish it and attempt to scoop up the platinum.
The second reason this is odd for me to write is I have to say I have been wrong about many things in the past about this game ( for example see Why A 2019 Final Fantasy 7 Remake Would Be Too Little Too Late For Me ) and right at the same time. I will have a lot of unpopular opinions here, some that will probably get me some hate mail, and some that I am sure will be almost universally agreed with.
Third, while this game isn’t perfect, it is great. Right off the bat, any RPG fan should pick this one up. It is a strong buy with a great story and despite a few issues I will soon get into, the gameplay is damn near as flawless as it comes at release these days.
First the good. Graphically the game is beautiful. The slums of Midgar have never looked better, and yes I am including the movies. You can see and feel the desperation from the citizens, the children playing as if they don’t truly understand how they live in poverty but knowing the adults aren’t quite sure of what they will do next. The Seventh Heaven bar looks like a place you could truly visit and spend some time, but maybe only if you don’t mind the possibility of a bar fight.
The music in the game is beautiful, much of the original soundtrack has been remastered and remixed but it hasn’t been changed to the point it has lost what made it special in the first place. The fight against Airbuster for example still holds the same iconic music and will have you wanting to rock along to it all the same. There is musical disk to collect that you can toss into any jukebox, and you will probably have a few songs like to unwind and listen to.
The combat system is also pretty nice, the real-time ATB system works nicely and makes you think, should you use all those ATB bars or save one in case you need to heal? I find the best strategy is to switch often since the bars fill slower for characters you are not controlling. 30 plus hours in tho and I am still having fun fighting and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Each enemy has different strengths and weaknesses to exploit or avoid, and some change throughout the battle as you would expect.
The story itself has become more of a reboot than a remake. There are entire sections that have been reworked are rebuilt from the ground up, or just tweaked. Others play out quite similar to the original, for example the legendary scene in Don Corneo’s bedroom when they threaten his favorite region does still exist pretty much as it always did but the entire relationship between Cloud and the minor members of Avalanche as changed.
With all that said I do have some complaints. For example, after being announced in 2015 we got a game that ends in Midgar and can be beaten probably in less than 30 hours if you rushed it. I make this assumption based on numerous people’s claims to have beaten everything in about 35-40. To me, that is insanely short for an RPG with a 5 year development time that they decided to make episodic instead of giving us the entire game they released years ago. It now feels like the game was locked in development hell and was released as a cash grab.
Another issue I have is double-sided. The materia-system from FF7 is technically still there, but I would rather it wasn’t. It is extremely limited and has been completely destroyed compared to what it was. There are far less types and combinations and many people are simply chalking it up to “Well you can’t leave Midgar” Don’t get me wrong, I have already praised the battle system and I stand by that, but if you are going to compare this materia-system to the original it is vastly inferior.
Another issue I have had is with lighting and characters occasionally just suddenly popping in and out. I don’t really mind as it will probably be patched out, but to not mention it would be wrong and there seems to be this weird idea that to say anything negative about this game is somehow just hating it. The game does a lot of things right. I love that Barret occasionally sings the victory music from the original or that Cloud actually moves his sword when he sits down. The world feels alive and beautiful.
The game is also about half filler. There are missions that will have you finding cats or rounding up kids. That is it, you will simply go find a little girl’s cats then later in the game go find some kids for a teacher. Another mission will see Tifa doing pull-ups. There isn’t any real reason for it, a guy from the story just challenges her to a pull-up contest. A large chunk of the side quest serves no real purpose at all, and the rewards many times are things you can just walk over to the Item or weapons shop and buy. This isn’t limited to the side quest either, there are entire sections of the main story that are basically added than simply disappear like they knew someday they would use it, so they added it now and hope people remember it down the road.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this game. But we deserved better for a game that spent this long being made and is being separated into multiple games we will have to wait years to see the ending to. Best wishes and may the gaming gods bring you glory.