A Handful of Hours with Final Fantasy VII Remake

As a hotly anticipated title, the Final Fantasy VII Remake fully released this month, so of course I have more to say about it. I wrote about the demo in a post a little over a month ago, and having played said demo I knew I would enjoy the moment to moment gameplay of the remake. Combat and how it would be handled was a big concern of mine, because despite purists wanting a turn-based ATB copy of the original’s system, most people don’t have the patience for that anymore. I also like the idea of “random” battles being replaced by respawns in particular parts of combat areas. Another plus is the sprinkling of cut scenes and commentary throughout combat pieces, keeping the story flowing alongside the fighting mechanics. Modern conveniences and what have you.

Combat is, after all, the crux of this game. JRPGs always had a way of pulling you into them with a deep storyline but still relied on combat shenanigans to make things interesting. A story rich game can benefit from a strong combat system due to the fact that you’ll feel satisfied growing your character/party and the ability to take on bigger challenges. Both ends pull the middle together so to speak. So while early on the combat is a little narrow, eventually more characters join your fight and bring their own sets of abilities and stances to the fight. Combat animations are fluid and satisfying and come with some flashy effects at times. As everything is done in real time, you end up with a lot of options but still must make decisions quickly. The only piece of the combat system that really is a throwback to the original is the action meter, which must fill up before you can cast spells or use abilities or items. Otherwise, you’re mashing the attack button while pausing to block or dodge from time to time.

I’ve read elsewhere that some of the adult undertones (and some of the more blatant weirdness) of the original has still made its way into this title, and the above shows that it’s made it through. I don’t remember being called a punk-ass bitch in the original, but I also enjoy a lack of censorship in the titles I consume. Otherwise, much of the story remains the same, with iconic tunes being reimagined and scenes I had all but forgotten reminding me of playing this game as a child. This is definitely not the Final Fantasy VII I played as a teenager, but it’s definitely made for the fans of that game. For many of us it was our first JRPG love-affair. For those who have never picked up a Final Fantasy game, it’s a great place to start (though if you’ve played Final Fantasy XV already, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the combat).

As with any Final Fantasy game, there are side quests and other activities to partake in. The original Materia system seems to be intact or at least close to what I remember. It allows you to slot gems into your items in order to gain new spells, abilities and passives. You can also modify your weapon with points, which is something new that allows you to literally pick whatever sword you want to have appearance wise, while still being able to take abilities from that sword and use them regardless. You’ll have to master a sword before this happens, but could theoretically play the whole game with the Buster Sword and only swap out to level up other sword abilities. It’s a creative way to add new depth. You can also spend time collecting various music that is largely remixed original FF7 music, or collect information on various creatures to get new materia made for you. I’m sure there’s more to come but this is what I’ve seen so far.

As far as story goes, I believe it has covered the major plot points well enough for now, however there is a lot more to explore in Midgard, along with plenty more detail for characters that didn’t get much of the spotlight during the original. The first chapter is still the raid on the Shinra reactor which was also covered during the demo. I still had to replay through that again, and that helped to refamiliarize the controls and whatnot. From there during your escape you meet Aeris who touches you and gives you the ability to see these wraith creatures I don’t quite remember from the original, but again we’re talking over twenty years since I played the game. Later, you’ll band up with Tifa in the slums to do a bunch of side quests and that’s basically where I left off after a few hour play session. I know there was still more to this area of the game in the original but it’s been said that this first part of the remake only takes place in Midgar, so I assume there’s a lot more to it than there used to be. Going forward I probably won’t report back on this too often because I don’t want to spoil too much but I see myself being able to power through it while we’re still on quarantine. If you enjoyed the original I can’t see how you couldn’t enjoy this one, but those who are adverse to action combat might want to avoid it, because you’ll be doing a lot of it.