For those of you who have played the original 1997 release of Final Fantasy VII, there is a lot to love about the remake. However, at the same time, the game serves as the best way to experience the classic story of Cloud Strife as he battles his inner demons, fights the megacorporation Shinra, and adventures through the sectors of Midgar alongside the well-known group known as AVALANCHE. If anything, Final Fantasy VII Remake brings the classic tale to life in a new magical way thanks to its fantastic visuals, voice work and deep character progression of which was hard to portray in the 1997 release.

This Final Fantasy VII Remake review is spoiler-free. 

Watch our full Final Fantasy VII Remake video review down below;

There were great moments of comedy, heartwrenching moments of sadness, and those high-octane action scenes have been brought to life like never before. Square Enix has successfully taken a masterpiece and reinvented it in so many ways and at the same time, it is as authentic to the original as possible. It is not only one of the most ambitious remakes in the history of gaming, but also one of the best RPGs you can play this generation.

Like its predecessor, Final Fantasy VII takes place in the city of Midgar. An evil corporation called Shinra runs the city and uses the planet’s life source called Mako to power this giant pizza-shaped metropolis. The city has two layers to it. The top layer is for the rich and features clean streets and fancy house while the bottom layer is where the poor live. Rubble fills the makeshift streets, monsters threaten the daily lives of the innocent and shanty towns are scattered across the districts.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

These cast members have been given new life considering the original game was simply text coming from a few low-poly character models

An organization called AVALANCHE takes it upon themselves to rid the city of Shinra and stop the damage to the planet by blowing up these Mako reactors. This is where ex-SOLDIER-now-merc Cloud Strife comes in. He starts off as a hired hand to take down a reactor but gets tied up in AVALANCHE’s world, its fight for freedom and the rebels that are fighting to ease Shinra’s grasp on the city.

Final Fantasy VII, for the most part, follows directly in the path of the original game with a few new story elements and characters to meet along the way. However, it is an authentic copy of the 1997 release. So much so that I often Googled a specific name of a character I met or a place I found just to see how well Square Enix adapted it from the original game.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

If you think you experienced it all in the 1997 release then you have no idea what is coming your way. The remake has expanded on almost everything while dialling back on a few things which I hope will be expanded on in the upcoming chapters. As you have probably gathered by now, this remake is just a small portion of the massive story that is Final Fantasy VII. The first release in the remake saga is set in Midgar and without spoiling it, just know it is a massive game to take in.

Thankfully, every chapter welcomes a new and exciting story segment to witness, characters to meet and of course, monsters to fight. The game would also be nothing without its leading cast of party members that just ooze personality throughout the game. There was never a dull moment while Barret was humming the classic victory tune after a fight, Tifa was kicking ass or Aerith was being her gentle self. These cast members have been given new life considering the original game was simply text coming from a few low-poly character models.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

And then we have Cloud Strife which, for the most part, is an asshole. His rebel attitude and dark past drive his arrogant personality throughout the game. However, it grows on you as the more he opens up to the player, the more you can’t wait to see what the future has in store for him. The same goes for the rest of the cast. The game does a great job evolving these characters throughout the 30-something hour campaign and by the end, they are completely different people which you can relate to on certain levels.

The characters then also help bring the story to life and Final Fantasy VII has been known for its fantastic storytelling. I could not help but get caught up in the happenings, characters and deadly threat that the game follows. It was hard to keep the tears back as we know Final Fantasy VII is one hell of a rollercoaster when it comes to who lives and who dies. We have seen lacklustre RPGs fail to deliver deep and interesting characters and stories and the Final Fantasy VII Remake has set a new bar for the genre.

When you are not gazing into the adorable eyes of Marlene Wallace, you are fighting monsters, completing side quests and managing your party. Final Fantasy VII Remake brings all the RPG elements you could ever ask for and they work… most of the time.

Instead of turn-based random encounters, combat is now all about assessing your threat, dodging, staggering and attacking it. You can control all party members during a fight and issue commands to them at the same time. The game also gives you enough freedom to build any character in any class you wish. If you want Cloud to be a magic guy then you can. This is thanks to the deep inventory system the game pushes on you. Unlike the original where you equipped materia (magic orbs that hold abilities and magic) and once you earned enough AP it would earn you the said ability. The remake sees you improve that materia and being able to unequip it and move it to another character. You can also link specific materia to others to enhance attacks.

the AI of the party members not being controlled can be terrible at times

Materia comes in all shapes and sizes from the traditional fire, ice, thunder and air to HP-up, MP-up and even some that increase the speed in which your ATB charges. As you play the game and fight enemies, materia will level up and increase its potency. Fire becomes Fira, then Firaga. Cure becomes, Cura, Regen then Curaga. By the end of the game, you will have a large arsenal of magic and abilities while managing who uses what dependant on the build you are going for.

The same goes for weapons which now hold a unique ability which is mastered the more you use it. Unlike materia, these abilities stay with you even if you change the weapon which means Cloud’s ability roster grows substantially throughout the game. Weapons can also be upgraded by spending SP points to unlock attack boosts, MP increases and even enhancing specific elemental damage.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

Square Enix has brought Midgar to life in a way I never thought possible.

All these systems combine together to deliver an exciting and simple combat approach. If I could not beat a boss, I would spend a few minutes rearranging my materia across my party and approach the battle from a completely different direction. It was these moments that made the fights so exciting.

As the game progresses, combat gets rather intense and it can go from great to frustrating. Using abilities and magic depends on an ATB bar being full. You fill these up by attacking with your standard attack which means the more you attack the more spells and abilities you can use. However, the AI of the party members not being controlled can be terrible at times. They often just stand there not attacking and by the time you have two full ATB bars, they only have half of one filled. This just goes to show how useless they are in combat. Sure, you can switch to them and battle but they could do with a little more oomph in battle.

With that being said, combat is enjoyable as it blends some traditional RPG mechanics with a fast-paced stagger system that sees you concentrate on your opponent’s weaknesses in order to take advantage of them and bring them down faster. Cloud, Tifa, Barret and Aerith all bring a unique combat style to the mix too which adds to this. Tifa’s close combat is exciting to perform; Barret’s arm gun lets him shoot flying enemies out of the air; Aerith’s magic is a load of fun to pull off, and of course, Cloud’s swordplay is fast-paced and deadly.

Throughout Final Fantasy VII Remake, you will adventure to some stunning locations. Square Enix has brought Midgar to life in a way I never thought possible. The sheer amount of attention to detail in every single location is a true design achievement. Every location has its own feeling to it as the people talk amongst themselves as you walk through the derelict streets, assets are immaculately detailed and the music is true to the original’s score. It all results in an experience that is both authentic and new both at the same time.

Midgar is also more expansive than ever before as the remake now introduces new things to do. Some chapters have side quests that will keep you busy for a few hours. Tracking down the Angel of the Slums or simply going to slay a monster for a concerned citizen. These added side story help bring the world to life even more as it gives you a feeling that Midgar and each Sector is a living and breathing society. Not to mention, the characters are all well fleshed out giving you a reason to pick up the next chapter of their side quest later down the line.

Verdict

After almost 50 hours, I had completed Final Fantasy VII Remake and I just wanted more. It is a shining beacon of hope that we will one day get to experience the whole story of Gaia, Cloud and his party in a new and stunning way. So many memories of playing the original game flooded back to me while I was exploring the sectors of Midgar and watching the story unfold.

Final Fantasy VII Remake could have gone south very quickly but instead, Square Enix has crafted an authentic experience that brings the world of Midgar and its cast to life in new ways. The story has never been told in a better format, the combat is fun and addictive and the promise of more to come makes this first chapter so much more worthwhile. If this is the start of things, I can’t wait to see where it goes from there.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review (1)

This Final Fantasy VII Remake review as based on a code provided to us by Square Enix. 

Available On: PS4 | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 10 April 2020 | Price: R1,069

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