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Final Fantasy VII Remake REVIEW

Final Fantasy VII Remake is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix, released for PlayStation 4 on April 10, 2020.  Frankly speaking, FFVII Remake is a game to cherish for fans and first-timers.


BACKGROUND AND INTENTION


In Final Fantasy VII Remake, having carried out the mission, you're asked to walk the streets in the aftermath and witness the harrowing consequences of your actions. The sector lies in ruin, fires rage, buildings are crumbling, and the heartbreaking human cost is laid bare.


As far as statements of intent go, Final Fantasy VII Remake's opening Bombing Mission is a clear and powerful one. This game may be just the first chapter in the reimagining of a much bigger story, but it seeks to uncover depth that was hitherto left to the imagination. It is rich in details that were previously unexplored, realizes new storytelling ambitions with confidence, and presents fresh perspectives that feel both meaningful and essential. It achieves these goals so successfully that it's hard to think that this story existed in any other way.


SIGHTS AND SOUNDS


FFVII Remake upgrades the aesthetics of the original by several orders of magnitude. The main character designs are intricately detailed, their faces redolent with emotion and expression. 


Many of the game's dungeons and explorable environments look-alike, using variations on the same terrain, color palettes, and design features. Much of this is because all of FFVII Remake takes place in one city: Midgar. The original game starts in Midgar and then opens up a whole world map for you to explore.


An outstanding and wide-ranging soundtrack does a lot to change up the atmosphere, offering irreverent, fully orchestrated remixes of some of FFVII's most iconic tunes. The soundtrack spans a staggering variety of genres – from jazz to metal, bossa nova to electronica, and sultry torch songs to 1950s-era rock. 


CHARACTERS AND STORY



The mercenary Cloud Strife teams up with Barrett, Wedge, Biggs, and Jessie—members of the eco-terrorist group Avalanche—to destroy a reactor in the floating cyberpunk city of Midgar. The corporate overlords of Midgar, Shinra, have created an energy source using the lifestream, the magical life force of the planet, and Avalanche's goal is to stop them any way they can. The first hour of both games is, thus, a lightning raid on one of Shinra's reactors with an explosive finish. In both games it's nearly the same, beat for beat: thrilling, violent.


Then, the two diverge. This is where Final Fantasy VII Remake slows down considerably, immediately hyper-focusing on details. Every moment in Remake feels dedicated to showing process—how the heroes get in, how they escape, what the flight from the Shinra authorities looks like. Every moment is expanded to show in the most literal detail how it happened. While a lot of games, especially games from the original PlayStation era, accepted breaks from reality—cities logically much smaller than they really would be, conflicts that are implied as much as they are shown—Remake resists that for a more literalist approach to its storytelling. As such, a game that could play like a cyberpunk thriller often feels like a slice-of-life story, a trip through the most complex and detailed world Square Enix could muster.


COMBAT AND GAMEPLAY


Combat is like a mix of an action game and a traditional JRPG. You can move around, dodge and defend at will, then queue up a menu of commands (like magic, items, or abilities) that essentially stops (drastically slows) time. It's not the most tactical or difficult RPG combat system to master, but there's a lot to like. Forcing players to expend ATB bars (which is built up over time by attacking or taking damage) to use abilities, spells or items is a smart move. It prevents you from spamming potions or cure spells, putting the pressure on you to act wisely and make every choice count in some of the more complex battles.


Most "trash" (fodder enemy) fights aren't super interesting, but fun to play and watch. Bosses, on the other hand, put all of the systems to the test, as you need to actually try to follow the weakness and stagger parameters or you're going to be guzzling potions and dipping into your savings to replace them. That said, even with all that in mind, it wasn't until Chapter 12 that I hit a game over screen. Late-game simulators that disallow items (or force you into a higher difficulty) provide more of a challenge, but that isn't available from the start.


In Remake, you spend SP (earned through battles) to upgrade your weapons and AP (also from battles) to level-up materia. The former foundation is predicated on "buying" new stat increases or passive powers through a skill tree (more of a skill solar system, really) and the latter allows you to get creative in assigning roles to characters by slotting in different pieces of materia.


Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement. The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers--the wait was worth it. For first-time players, it's an opportunity to understand why Final Fantasy VII is held in such high regard. It's the chance to experience a multifaceted story that grapples with complex subject matter, be in the company of memorable characters, and be moved by their plight. For returning fans, this isn't the Final Fantasy VII your mind remembers, it's the one your heart always knew it to be.

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