On January 31, 1997, Squaresoft (now Square Enix) released Final Fantasy VII (FF7) for the PlayStation. And on April 10, 2020, the remake, appropriately called Final Fantasy VII Remake (FF7R), was released.
I bought the Deluxe Edition, which includes a digital art book and digital mini-soundtrack, and have been playing it off and on since the launch date. So far I've played it for 16 hours. In other words, I'm about halfway through the game. Although I haven't reached the end yet, I think I've seen enough to write a review that focuses on my initial reactions.
Needless to say, there will be spoilers. I'm sure those of you who don't like spoilers will be leaving us at this point, but please at least just read the following points before you go.
Gamers familiar with FF7
- FF7R tells the story up to the point where you leave Midgar.
- Getting to that point in the original FF7 would take about 7 or 8 hours, but in FF7R there's enough content for it to take more than three times as long.
- The main story hasn't changed. But it has become more detailed.
- Seeing Tifa, Aerith and Jessie is worth the "price of admission" alone.
- Some things have changed, for example the fight scenes, but this is still unmistakably like FF7
Gamers new to FF7
- NHK's Big Final Fantasy Poll ranked FF7 the second most popular Final Fantasy, after Final Fantasy 10.
- Cloud in FF7 won first place in the Character Poll.
- With Aerith getting third place, Tifa placing 9th, and Zack in 10th, the FF7 characters are clearly still popular, and this is where you can experience their story.
- A truly legendary RPG, and definitely one worth experiencing.
▲ The picture taken at "FINAL FANTASY 30th ANNIVERSARY EXHIBITION"
Before we get into the review, let me tell you a little about myself. I've played almost all of the single-player Final Fantasy titles, with my favorite title being Final Fantasy 6, and my favorite character being Edgar (FF6), with Vivi (FF9) a close second. I definitely prefer the Final Fantasy series over the Dragon Quest series. I guess you could call me a Final Fanatic.
I was in junior high when I first played Final Fantasy. I bought it from a convenience store via a service called DigiCube, which guaranteed delivery on the date of release if you preordered. I played it so much I even stayed away from the school's extracurricular activities. I got so obsessed with the snowboarding mini game that I couldn't bring myself to leave the gold saucer, and the look of the Turks in their sharp suits led to me listening to the band THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT. Good times.
Awesomely Beautiful Graphics
When I started playing FF7R, the first thing that struck me was the graphics. The environments and characters look truly incredible. I'll touch a little more on the characters later, but focusing now just on the environments, the scenery and cityscapes were just so beautiful they made me wish I could take photos to remember them and show other people. It really felt like I was on vacation in some awesome locations. There were so many moments when I found myself thinking "Midgar is so amazing, just look at that!"
This may just be me, since I'm an avid walker in real life too, but I couldn't help but explore every last nook and cranny of the cityscapes in FF7R. It was such a delight to read what's written on signs and finding other details that would have been a blur in the original game.
And when I got to my favorite scenes from the original game and saw them play out with these glorious new graphics, the feeling was indescribable. That alone made me feel justified in buying this remake.
From Subtitles to Voiced Lines and Expressions
The original FF7 didn't have spoken lines — it simply told its story through text boxes. FF7R is fully voiced, and the wonderful graphical fidelity lets us read the characters' facial expressions. This, along with the fact that the amount of content included up to the point where you leave Midgar has been expanded, means that you get to know the characters so much better than you could in the original, and the sub-characters like Wedge, Biggs and Jessie have more chance to shine.
Even back in junior high I felt like Cloud's lines sounded cool, but in FF7R you can see and hear that he's just trying to be cool, which is surprisingly refreshing.
And it is so much easier to identify with Wedge, Biggs and Jessie than before. To truly understand this, you definitely have to play for yourself.
Another feature that I loved is going up to the townspeople (in other words the mob characters) and hearing them chat together. For example, getting close to two women and hearing them complain about how the nice scent of Chocobo cleaner is cancelled out by the slum's filthy water. I really love the way that there's a level of emotion in this idle chatter that can't be expressed in text alone, and how it all adds to the reality of the daily lives of the characters and Midgar residents.
Tifa, Aerith or Jessie? Or Maybe...
Tifa or Aerith, a true question for the ages. Not unlike choosing between Bianca and Nera from Dragon Quest 5. In the remake, Tifa and Aerith are just as cute as they ever were. It's been a long time since I last fell in love with a character like this. Knowing how the story develops gives the cuteness of these characters a slightly bitter-sweet edge, but that just adds to their charm.
▲You can change Tifa's outfit by picking a new one during a conversation at Cloud's house. This is her "exotic" outfit.
▲This is her "mature" outfit. It gives her a completely different feel. Small changes like these work so well because Tifa's base design is already so perfect.
The sheer cuteness of Tifa, Aerith and Jessie in FF7R was a very welcome surprise. (I know some of you out there will be shouting "Hey! What about Yuffie!?" Well, she doesn't actually appear in this game, so I can't comment on her right now).
I think this 10-second clip perfectly highlights what makes Jessie so interesting.
"Just let go already."
"Only if you promise to come back tomorrow night. Deal?"
She's definitely making an offer that I couldn't refuse. She's no ordinary girl.
Let me take a moment here to update the long-standing debate on the FF7 heroines. And that is, "Do you choose Tifa, Aerith, Jessie, or the girl on the train?"
At the start of the story, just after you destroy the Mako Reactor 1, there's that girl on the train.
Let's enhance that a little. What do you think? Isn't she cute? I'll admit she made me do a double take. And when I came back later to take this picture, she said "Get a life." I felt like she knew I'd been eyeing her, so I left immediately. But that interaction is now burned into my memory.
Cloud is of course as cool as ever, but Barrett is also really intriguing.
Reno and Rude's mesmerizing coolness has been turned up to 11, which I can't say I'm mad about.
Combat is a Fusion of Action and Commands
Last but not least, let's talk about the combat and the soundtrack. The combat has moved from random encounters with a command-based combat system to battles that start seamlessly from the field with much more action-oriented combat. There's much more realism, compared to the original. Still, there's something of a re-interpretation of the original's ATB (active time battle) and the series' familiar number gauges are still there, so as action-oriented as the combat has become it still has plenty of the elements that make it an FF experience.
The free-to-play demo is a great way to experience this for yourself, so if you're interested be sure to give that a try.
Personally I'm most interested in the mini games. FF7 had plenty of mini games, and with darts and other mini games this remake does not disappoint. One such mini game is an event where you ride a motorbike and fight against other bikers. I don't know if it's fun or not, but it's certainly high quality. I wanted to mention this because if this is what they've been able to do with motorcycles, then I can't wait to see what they can do with snowboards in the next sequel. I'll bet all you snowboarding fans out there will be just as excited as I am.
I know I haven't finished FF7R yet, but this has been my review of my experience with it so far. I stated my main point in the introduction, but I'll reiterate it here: this game will be fun for both longtime fans of the original and for newcomers alike. Actually, I bought the older FF7 version again to relive my sadly fading memories. As I play through this new version I'll keep looking for things that have changed, and also for things that have stayed the same.
FF7 is available to purchase for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch with additional functionality, such as:
- 3x speed mode
- The ability to turn battle encounters off
- Battle enhancement mode
So if you're playing through FF7R and want to get deep into the story, it might be worth giving the FF7 version a try too.
Anyway, I'm going to get back to my FF7R and continue on to the end. Perhaps I'll see that girl on the train again...
That'd be the day.