To be honest I haven’t been looking forward to writing this review, never has the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” been more true. Ever since 2005 when Square Enix released a tech demo of Final Fantasy 7 I have been praying for a remake, and never have I been more disappointed to get what I asked for. All they had to do was remake Final Fantasy 7 in gorgeous modern graphics, hell, I would have been happy if there was no voice acting, but no, sorry Gerard, no soup for you!(“It’s a suppository, so you can shove it up your ass!”)
And hey, if it had just been a disappointing game I could’ve lived with that, I would still be pissed off, but I wouldn’t be as fucked off. But to add insult to injury I’m forced to listen to wankers on the internet telling me to “go play the original” or “this game isn’t for you”. To which I extend a hearty FUCK YOU! This game’s whole marketing campaign was built on nostalgia, hell; most of the trailers showed iconic moments that make no sense if you haven’t played the original. To then change the game so drastically without warning is a kick in the bollocks to the people who have been begging for a remake for decades!
No, this wasn’t just some disappointing remake (well, it was), it was a bait and switch. But enough foreplay, let’s get this shit show started and be warned this review will have spoilers because I feel it is my nerdly duty to warn as many people as possible about Final Fantasy 7 Remake (which from here on I will dub FF7 RE… I’m not typing it each time).(“It’s just so stupid.”)
Everything starts out well enough; the plot (uuuuuggggghhhh) seems to be following the same beats as the original. Cloud & co break in to a Shinra facility to plant a bomb so they can stick it to those planet destroying dicks, so far so good. Barret may be a bit more of a stereotype but the combat is tight and the action is awesome. Alarm bells didn’t start ringing until we encounter the first (noticeable) change, Shinra is setting up Avalanche. For me this was a huge misstep, in the original they were activists but they were also extremists, they had an ideology, however flawed it might have been. They were a group that was prepared to resort to violent means to ensure the planets safety. This version paints them as bumbling fools stumbling from one ill-conceived plan to another, any threat they may have posed is nothing more than the machinations of Shinra. Robbing them of their revolutionary beliefs is like ret-conning it so that Han Solo shoots 2nd, going from a renegade to reactionary.(“Nobody told me bombs exploded?!?!”)
But then FF7 RE threw an awesome boss battle at me and we were back on track and I was 15 again in my room with the biggest grin on my face. But that grin would be short lived as it wasn’t long before it was wiped from my face, because after I made my daring escape (again just like the original) Sephiroth made an appearance (another thing I called) and suddenly all my fears were confirmed. I knew that all subtle and nuance would be out the fucking door.
Do you know why Sephiroth is one of the greatest video game villains of all time? Because he was mysterious and enigmatic, in the original FF7 we don’t get to see him until well into the game. But despite his lack of appearance he is never the less a strong presence through the first portion and to strip him of that undoes what makes him a great villain. Now he’s just a flouncing pretty boy with a big sword.(Yeeah he’s not meant to know that he killed Sepirtoh at this point…)
But it’s not just the introduction of Sephiroth within the first 10 mins that screws up the pacing, FF7 Re has shit awful pacing across the board. It is alarming how poorly it was executed and it is felt constantly throughout the game. I mentioned previously the action packed opening mission, well just after that wraps up and Cloud & co part ways. You are forced to endure a languid escape through a city, fighting your way through a sea of npcs while the game constantly wrestles control of the camera from you to point it to something it thinks you should be looking at.(Yes the ground is fascinating but there’s a monster about to make me his wife!)
And it happens the same way every time. You will be having a blast exploring an area, going in and out of combat, listening to the ridiculously awesome music when all of a sudden the fun will come to a screeching fucking halt and you will be force to follow a character at a snail’s pace or navigate claustrophobic spaces. This isn’t limited to exploration either; if you want to open a door or interact with an object you will have to hold down the action button, WHY? Why force the player to spend three seconds every single time to open a fucking door? And I know this may seem like a petty complaint but those seconds add up and every one of those seconds is a moment of my life I will never get back!(Every…fucking…time!)
But the pointlessness doesn’t end there, oh no, there are also side quests, in the same way that a delivery driver’s B.O is a side dish to your pizza. Bar the (rather fun) “battle intel” missions the rest of the side quests are nothing but pointless busy work, artificial padding for a game that has already been carved up. They aren’t bad; they’re just dull and repetitive, it honestly felt like the fun was being held to ransom until I had endured the shite filler. But the stick of the mediocre side quests is compensated for with the carrot of the “battle intel” missions. The “battle intel” missions tasked you with; you guessed it, compiling intel on monsters by battling them. Each new mission differed from the previous, increasing in difficulty each time, adding an extra element of challenge to the already challenging combat.
The combat is some of the most enjoyable I have experienced in a video game, it’s frenetic, fast paced and full of spectacle. The marriage of turn-based and action is something that is all too often bungled, frequently resulting in a horrible combat system that is the worst of both concepts. Okay, the partner A.I is a little inbred but it can be compensated for and once you master it any issues melt away. I just wish a third of the combat wasn’t in cut scenes that the player is forced to watch wishing they could be the one having fun. And there is no reason these fights couldn’t be playable, it just seems stupid that a game about battles isn’t letting you battle.(There is 10 mins of this interaction that could’ve been playable!)
But combat is only half of what makes Final Fantasy games so great, the 2nd half is its characters and the original Final Fantasy 7 had some of the most beloved video game characters of all time. But this time around, I don’t know, they just don’t feel the same, I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were imposters, but they’re definitely off. Take Cloud for example, in the original he is a lone wolf, a merc for hire with a stoic nature. This time around he is an eager to please yes man, bereft of any of the attitude he previously had.(“I named them ALL Cloud!”)
There is a moment, early in the game when you first meet Tifa, were she drags you around by the hand and loudly introduces you to everyone in the town. Setting aside the fact that he is a wanted terrorist at this point, it robs the player of any agency. And this happens quite regularly too, for the vast majority of the game Cloud was at the behest of someone else. Tifa dragged him to meet the townsfolk, Jessie forced him to go to her parent’s house, Aerith hauled him off to an orphanage and so on and so on. Cloud felt like little more than a hanger on, someone who just happened to be their while everyone else’s stories unfolded. This feels like less of an issue in the late portion of the game, but by that point I was no longer invested.(“Guys..please..I can pull a lever by myself!”)
And it’s not just Cloud’s character that feels short-changed; Tifa also got fucked over by the remake machine. In the original game she was this strong willed badass, who kicked ass and kept everyone together, she was arguably the core of avalanche and later Cloud’s group. Remake Tifa? “Oh woe is me; I’m just a dainty wittle flower who doesn’t know what’s right or wrong”. These are issues she has already overcome in her youth, ones that made her the hardened activist she is, to force her to overcome them a 2nd time feels exactly that, “forced”!(More of this please!)
There have been a lot of complaints about the low quality environmental textures in FF7: Remake and let me just say this…they’re all true. This game has some ugly environmental textures, I mean wow, how did they manage to balls this up? I mean if it was an open world I could understand it but this is a linear game. Having said that however the game looks gorgeous, the character designs are beautiful and the Neo-industrial look of Midgar is something truly special.
But in the visual department nothing beats the monster redesigns; the artists managed to stay true to the monster’s classic style but at the same time completely reinvented them. They are colourful, stylistic and just utterly gorgeous. I particularly like the way they turned some of the classic enemies from the original FF7 into bosses for this version, Eligor, Swordipede and Hell House. These were some of the most fun combat encounters I had with this game. They gave the game a sense of familiarity and at the same time made the in game world feel much grander, using classic enemies as boss battles was a stroke of genius and I wish there were more of them.
And now we have come to my last piece of criticism, I left this bit to last because it’s the biggest SPOILER and I wanted to give people fair warning, so there’s your warning.
If it wasn’t already clear I am a massive Final Fantasy 7 fan, in fact if you scroll to the bottom of anything I’ve written on this site you’ll see it in my BIO. It’s my favourite Final Fantasy game and arguably my favourite game ever, so obviously I was wary when I discovered that the story had been altered. I was expecting more characters (which happened), I was prepared for more cringey dialogue (which happened), what I wasn’t expecting was fucking time travel! Oh yes, time travel, the laziest way to shoe horn in new elements to a previously existing story, that way if something doesn’t make sense (like say, all of this guff) you can hide behind time travel!(“Where we’re going we don’t need decent writing!”)
Remember when Square Enix said that they were releasing it in 3 parts so that they wouldn’t have cut out any of the story? Doesn’t that seem a little suspicious now that we know they are planning to alter the story to fit their new narrative? I am calling it right now that they will now try and sell us story DLC for the “New” story, just you fucking wait.
I tried; honestly, I tried to like this game. Hell, it’s a reboot (yes it is) of my favourite game ever, I was praying I would love it, but I just couldn’t. Every now and then I would come agonisingly close to liking it but every time I did FF7 RE would rip away the fun combat and classic story elements and replace it with boring side quests, pointless busy work and cringey character interactions. Buried somewhere in this mess is the remake I could love, I just wish it had of made its way to the surface.