Final Fantasy VII is without a doubt, one of the most widely known RPG’s of all time and had many of us (including myself) eagerly awaiting its release since it’s original PS4 announcement back at E3 in 2015. With the entire gaming community’s eyes firmly set upon the remake, the question is “Does it live up to its predecessor so far?” and the answer is YES…..yes it does.
What The Final Fantasy VII Remake Means To Me
The original holds a very special place in my heart and always will. It is the very first RPG I played and ignited a passion within me for the genre that still burns strong to this day. The game had me hooked from the very first cinematic right up until I dropped that final Omnislash on to you know who. It was a game that helped pave the path for JRPG’s and cement a foothold with a western audience. If any entry in the series was worthy of a remake, it was this. Before I played this remake I had my expectations set high, this game had over 20 years of pent up nostalgia to contend with and had to go above and beyond to show me the wait was worth it, I was not disappointed.
The Story Begins..
The game starts exactly as you’d expect and follows the original fairly closely. You’re introduced to Avalanche and their mission to thwart the plans of the evil Shinra Corporation from bleeding the planet of Mako energy. You play as Cloud Strife a hired mercenary/ex SOLDIER and childhood friend of Avalanche member Tifa. You’ve been hired to help them take down one of the Mako reactors in Midgar, the city the game is set in. Once this initial mission is completed is when the game truly starts to reveal it’s full potential. It’s from here that players get the chance to explore Midgar and life within like never before. Although not a true open-world game, the developers have created large areas for players to roam around and carry out various side missions, these areas are scattered throughout the game at various points. The side missions themselves are straight forward affairs ranging from “Go here fetch this” to “Go here kill this” but it’s the world in which they are set that shines. The once underpopulated towns are now teeming with life and going about their daily business, they can be overheard talking about the effects your actions are having in Midgar. So often I found myself just stopping to listen to the NPC’s which helps bring the world to life even more.
The Combat System
Anybody that feared the combat differed far too much from the original need not fear any longer. The combat is fluid and keeps enough of the ability selection method to keep diehard fans satisfied. What at first seems like a simplistic set of abilities and combat mechanics, soon broadens out and offers a far richer and deeper experience. The remake takes elements from previous series entries and gels them together to give players a unique experience that offers a great deal more than any of its previous iterations. Players are given the ability to level up weapons, increase stats and materia slots through a node selection system. This means for those of you that want Cloud to retain his infamous Buster Sword throughout their playthrough, they can. The demo only gave us a small peek at what is arguably one of the series’ strongest combat experiences to date.
The game’s story has been expanded upon considerably and while most of it adds to the overall quality of the title, some of it is just filler. Without spoiling too much, Square has taken certain liberties with the original story and changed elements some fans may not be happy with, but this is a new century and changes needed to be made to breathe new life into this fan favourite. Those changes do nothing but add to what was an already strong storyline. The development of the story is now portrayed in a far more emotional way thanks to the characters now having the ability to speak. The dialogue the characters are now blessed with, continuously brings moments of joy, sadness laughter and so many other emotions that the original lacked, apart from a few fleeting scenes of course. It’s the constant interactions with the characters that help keep you engaged and feel like you’re on the journey with them. Any doubts I once had about this remake and the story have now been vanquished, writers I salute you.
Visually there is a lot on offer here. Character models are superb and attention to detail is second to none, even down to materia being visually present on your weapons (nice touch square). Gone are the constant dark vibes of Midgar from years gone by, players are now treated to wander the city slums in broad daylight and gaze upon the true scale of their surroundings, from the desert-like city slums to the vibrant neon-filled spectacle that is wall market all encompassed within the behemoth that is Midgar. From beginning to end this is a visual feast for your eyes. I did experience minor issues while playing like textures and the map not loading in correctly, these did not impact the game at all though and will more than likely be corrected with a day one patch when the game is officially released.
Overall this is a game that is going to please all but the purists out there. Square has taken a game over two decades old and remade it into something truly special and just like its predecessor will stand the test of time. A story that keeps you wanting more and bolstered by strong gameplay mechanics this is a must-buy for 2020. Returning players and new players have plenty to be excited about as the Final Fantasy VII Remake series is off to a strong start.
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