|Dev: Square Enix|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: April 10, 2020|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 1080p-4K||Violence, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Suggestive Themes|
by Lucas White
A Final Fantasy VII remake was never supposed to happen. It has been something of a holy grail, a thing that has been murmured and mumbled about for literal decades, but never even close to plausible. That was the case from the PlayStation 2 until about 2015, until Final Fantasy VII Remake appeared out of nowhere. A few years later, and here we are, with a Final Fantasy VII remake that has materialized in one of the strangest ways possible. This is not the outcome many of the fans expected, but it’s much more fascinating than I ever would have. Final Fantasy VII Remake is a massive undertaking, an attempt to take the 1997 JRPG classic, a transformative experience for so many people, and smash it into modern video game conventions. It’s Final Fantasy VII masquerading as a triple-a JRPG, much like Cloud Strife, well, that’s technically a spoiler. The problem here is that replicating the original game’s scale does not translate well at all to this form.
So, Square Enix opted to release the story in parts. As far as the original game goes, Final Fantasy VII Remake covers the first “act,” or the Midgar section. This sounds weird on paper, because Midgar was a comparatively small chunk of Final Fantasy VII compared to the rest. But by establishing the framework, Final Fantasy VII Remake goes to great lengths to justify its adaptation. Moments that took minutes in the PSOne original can talk a half hour or longer in Remake, and nearly all of that extra real estate is used to add as much life and character as possible to both the ensemble cast and world. With Final Fantasy VII Remake, we get much more intimate with characters who barely existed in the original, such as Biggs, Wedge, and especially Jessie, the Avalanche eco-terrorist team Cloud works with in the story’s opening hours. But while some characters are given life, and others are introduced to expand the lore, the actual main characters get just as much love.
Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith especially are much more fleshed out. They’re given time to breathe, to emote, to make fun of each other, banter, and more. As much as these characters have already been expanded upon over the years in various transmedia projects, Final Fantasy VII Remake takes the original text, captures its spirit, and just adds to it wherever makes sense. But is that all that’s happening here? It would be a spoiler to answer that question, and that’s why folks who know the original inside and out should still play this. And speaking of playing, the other big can of worms is how Final Fantasy VII Remake literally functions. This is no longer a turn-based JRPG in an old school sense, but what it actually is is a new interpretation of the ATB (Active Time Battle) system. It takes the old school form, and Square Enix’s more contemporary interest in character action-like systems, and puts a little of both in a blender.
What we end up with is a fun, albeit deeply flawed, attempt to make an active, flashy real-time system that pays some affectionate lip service to history. Cloud and friends can attack, block, dodge, and more in real time. The combat here is shallow, largely just mashing square for small, simple combos. But doing and taking damage builds various meters, the primary being the ATB. Similarly to Final Fantasy XIII, ATB can be spent in chunks to use special abilities. But going into that menu, and ordering AI partners around, actually slows time down to a crawl and gives you time to tinker and think. Unlike other Square Enix action titles, Final Fantasy VII Remake still has an interest in giving you time for strategy. Obviously, Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t meant to replace the original. In a lot of ways, it acts as a supplement, with many of the main characters being effectively the same people, but with more of them on display to make them feel more like people.
From Cloud’s journey of self re-discovery and vulnerability to Fred Tatasciore hamming it up as Don Corneo, expansion of as much minutia as possible feels like the primary goal here. And that goal is met in glorious fashion. Final Fantasy VII Remake reveres its source material, but isn’t afraid to get sillier, weirder, and even more earnest and emotional. It’s a classic, old school JRPG from the 90s, reimagined as a bloated, contemporary triple-a video game. It’s also, in a way, a significant meta text, but you’ll have to dive into that aspect on your own. Final Fantasy VII Remake is going to be weird in so many different ways for so many different people, and for that reason alone I have to give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
Writing Team Lead