It’s been a couple of weeks now since I finished Final Fantasy VII Remake and in that time I’ve been trying to form my opinions on it, it’s a difficult game to write about, particularly from the position I find myself in as a fan of the series though I don’t hold Final Fantasy VII in as high-regard as others, which you can read about in my “Ranking Final Fantasy” post.
I’m not going to go into the finer details of the plot and the goings-on. Some of the changes are a bit eh, some are quite good and I recognise that to make a “full” game out of the Midgar section of Final Fantasy VII they would have to provide more detail, more padding and for the most part, they really make Midgar into a big, living, breathing city. The attention to the characters is really appreciated too, with Cloud, Tifa, Aerith and Barret all getting some fleshing out whilst the likes of Jesse, Biggs and Wedge are now fully formed people themselves. The one big change in this area I’m on the fence about is the amount of screentime devoted to Sephiroth. I totally understand why they’ve done this, he and Cloud are the two iconic characters that even people who haven’t played FFVII will know and people coming to this game fresh will be wanting to know more about them, but one of the things I did love about VII was his almost sudden introduction and how it was THAT scene where things began to unravel for Cloud.
Anyway, moving on, because like I said, I didn’t want to dwell on the plot and events within this game too much, I want people to experience it for themselves and make their own minds up because there’s so much more to this game to talk about.
My biggest problem is its linearity, and its something that I don’t feel is being discussed enough. Other games in the franchise, X and XIII particularly, have been criticised in the past for their linearity, and I’ve said before that the PS1 era games weren’t as free roam as people remember them being, there was a lot of smoke and mirrors type tricks going on and area’s locked off because you didn’t have the right kind of transport, but VIIR is as guilty of being as linear as both X and XIII as those older games are of being clever. The thing is, it doesn’t even try to be clever with this and there are far too many points where you will try to take a detour only for the game to block you and automatically turn Cloud around followed by one of the supporting cast lambasting you from trying to leave the path that the directors have set.
Sure, there are three occasions where you can do side quests, but they’re generally in a small area of the slums, or in the case of the last one, spread throughout the slums but mostly along the same beaten path you’re pushed along for the two-thirds of the game that proceeds that point, and in all, it just feels like a huge waste of the resources and environment they’ve crafted.
It does have one BIG strength though. It’s battle system. In initially I put it off as a combination of the systems used in Nomura’s Kingdom Hearts games (I’ve only played the first but have watched my other half play 1, 2 and 3) and the system we had in FFXV, though even from the off it never felt as clumsy and clunky as those games, almost like Nomura had finally gotten a system he’s been working on for twenty years right. But that’s discrediting it. The battle system is the games finest achievement. It both somehow feels like an old-school Final Fantasy but also plays like a modern action game. For the record, I went with the “Normal” setting, so the difficulty was where it’s supposed to be at and I steered clear of the “Classic” mode.
There’s also a bit of FFXIII in there for, with the Stagger system, which is hugely satisfying when you’re combining your three party members and taking advantage of the well-translated Materia system, particularly if you have Tifa in your party and learn to be quick enough to combine her normal attacks with her abilities through the menu’s (there is button mapping too so you don’t have to learn to be quick with the menu’s but I always forgot what I’d set up for that) and abusing enemies weaknesses here is nearly as satisfying as it is in any Persona game (though not quite and certainly not with anywhere the same amount of style as Atlus’ series).
Reading this back, my feelings sound very disjointed, and not so well thought out but that’s a fair example of where I still am a few weeks after finishing the game. I definitely enjoyed it, but it’s not the Game of the Year (in my opinion) that it is proclaimed to be by many, it’s flawed, though that’s fine, I like a game that’s flawed, the polish is in maybe the wrong areas and fans have, again, in my opinion, given is an easier ride because its Final Fantasy VII, but it’s still a pretty good game and my hope with the follow-up is that there’s more focus on that battle system as that was definitely the highlight (as was Jesse).