This is the second part of a 2 part Review. You can read the first part HERE
It was a beautiful moment when FFVII Remake ceased to be a remake for me and became a game of its own. It hit me during my first visit to Sector 7. I looked around thinking that this was one of the most lively and truthful representations of community in games that I had ever seen. I looked at the people gossiping, waiting in line for coffee, humming wordlessly to themselves while painting. And then I looked up. I looked at the massive metal and concrete plate in the sky that supports the upper city and the people who live on it – a physical representation of segregation between wealthy and poor. I’d always wondered what that looked like as a kid but I could only really imagine. Seeing it for the first time was awe-inspiring, but it also filled me with dread. The view somehow vindicated my hopes for what I’d wanted this game to be. It was huge and vast and frightening but it promised a full, fleshed out world that was waiting for me to play in and discover. I felt like that view was the developers saying: “Yes, we know what you want. Because we’ve wanted it too.” By the time I saw that view I had experienced a taste of the gameplay and the story and felt confident that I was in for a good game. But with that first look skyward, I knew I was in for something great.
FFVII Remake is an exploration, deep dive and evolution of everything in the original: combat, story, world, characters, materia (magic).
On the off chance anyone who’s gone out of their way to read this doesn’t already know, FFVII Remake is an action-RPG, rather than a Japanese RPG like the original. So action is fast paced yet tactical requiring focus and deliberate decisions in almost all battles, including the scrubs you’ll face. I won’t talk about combat too much because I delved into it on my original write-up – which you can also read on Pawn & Pixel! But I will say that it only becomes more important to mess around with the weapon upgrade and materia systems as your options for both increase and the battles become ever more demanding. The most important thing I will say about the combat is this: It was a lot of fun! The whole time, start to finish, I had tons of fun getting into fights. And I don’t just mean the boss battles, the soldiers and drones and beasts you fight along the way were also entertaining. Most felt like a real threat, and could indeed be if you just keep mashing away on the attack button. Each group you come across was a different compilation of enemies so you always had to think of the mix of tactics you’d need to take them down.
Aside from the challenge of the fight’s themselves I began to see that each fight was an opportunity to level up a materia, earn a new weapon skill, or just try out a new idea I’d had. Just because I had become “proficient” in a skill (weapons each have a unique skill and proficiency in it means you can use it with any weapon) didn’t mean I really knew the best instances to use each. That being said, I was able to get through the game – until later parts – without thinking too hard about which ability to use when. There was definitely focus required in combat but rarely was I ever wiped. That being said, I have now completed the game and unlocked a Hard difficulty. Enemies are all beefed up and I can no longer use items. I’m excited to see how this pushes me to further master the combat mechanics.
Aside from the weapon abilities, each weapon had it’s upgrade mechanic. The upgrades will increase attack, defence, magic, etc and also unlock perks like “Raises attack power when HP is low” or “Siphons health from staggered opponent when you use unique abilities” or some just give you a new materia slot. It’s hard to say which weapon is best, they’re just different. Some are certainly better for certain scenarios or in different party compositions, but you may find yourself changing your equipment frequently.
Weapons are only one part of the equation though. Materia is the other major part of combat. The magic in FFVII Remake covers all the bases you’d expect: attacks, healing, protection, status effects. But some materia is supportive like the “Elemental” materia which, if placed in a linked slot next to some elementally-based materia (ie the ice materia) your standard physical will also deal ice damage. There are materias that increase a stat like “Luck up” or “HP up”, some that magnify the abilities of your magic attack and one that sets up your ally to do a certain attack after you’ve done yours. There’s even a type of materia that gives you new attacking or healing “Abilities”- as opposed to a “Magic” – which means you don’t have to use your precious MP to make certain moves. Aerith’s “Prayer” materia ability was a lifesaver….
All in all, the weapons, their abilities, their upgrade system and the huge selection of materia all provide you the tools to build around a huge variety of play styles. I had a lot of fun messing around with the systems and I think I’ll have even more fun in the post-game.
The world of FFVII Remake is so gorgeous and detailed and full. Graphicall and artistically it is absolutely beautiful. It definitely looks great right off the get go but it wasn’t until a few locations later on where I think the art team really showed what they could do. There were a few spots where I just wanted to stay a while. I had nothing to do there, no objective. I just wanted to look and hang out and take in the beautiful scenery, the way you do when you’re visiting somewhere truly breathtaking in real life. Aerith’s house, Wall Market and the shinra building are all standouts. Though the Shinra building is awe-inspiring in an oppressive, evil fortress kind of way.
And speaking of Wall Market, hoooooo boy! I’ve talked a lot about the locations being vibrant and full of bustling communities but Wall Market definitely takes the cake. It’s where one can experience the wild, flashy, seedy nightlife of lower Midgar. But for all it’s bright, flashy pomp on the exterior, it hides a dark criminal underworld below the surface, which you’ll have to navigate to reach your goals.
The other two town-type locations in FVII Remake, Sectors 7 the 5 respectively, are certainly unique, full of good characters and stories and some interesting locales nearby. But Wall Market (Sector 6) is something else. I challenged someone to a squats competition, I had a little fun with gender, and I danced my little heart out.
If anyone has played the original, they know that Wall Market could have been a potential minefield in the context of a modern day re-imaginings. There was cross-dressing, sex, hints at queerness, and the suggestion of sexual assault. It was all done in such a goofy, cartoony manner that looking back on it, I’d say it did a disservice to the themes it was trying to approach. But on the other hand, I’d heard rumbling that Sector 6 was one of the best parts.
So With those ideas in my head, I went into Wall Market apprehensive but excited. What I encountered there was better than I could have hoped for. The cross-dressing sequence was fun and lighthearted, yet it didn’t feel like there was a mean spirited undercurrent or that it was poking fun at anyone. There is a queer character that I will absolutely not talk about here because he is brilliant and I want you to experience him for yourself. Although, his existence in Wall Market points to the troubling heteronormativity of the rest of the game. It’s the only location in the game where a character like this can exist apparently, and it happens to be the most fabulous, garish location of all. Still waiting for the game where the queer characters just ARE. I don’t mean to diminish the character though. I truly thought he was fantastic and fun. I very much hope there’s a way to see him again in later games because my time with him was too short.
With Wall Market they were smart enough to pull back on or evolve the parts that they should – like queer characters – and smart enough to double down on others, like the Don and his crimes. When I broke out of captivity at the Don’s, I was controlling Aerith and Tifa, the two female party members. We blasted through the Don’s goons like they were nothing, some of the easiest enemies I’d faced the whole game. The music was pumping victoriously and savagely. It all came together in an incredible moment of strength and power over my captors. It was amazing, and one part of the game I won’t soon forget.
Tifa, Aerith, Barret and Cloud all receive some modern fleshing out that was much appreciated. I even liked surly old Cloud by the end of it. He finally starts being a little less macho and a little more of a real person, a step that took most of the original game if I remember correctly (keeping in mind that the end of Remake brings us to maybe the 20% mark of the OG). I do hope to see more significant growth in these characters down the road though. Especially Barret. He was the only one I didn’t like all that much. I wrote in a previous article that he comes across as a bad blaxploitation stereotype and unfortunately I still feel much the same. Don’t get me wrong he has development and his relationships change and I even like him sometimes when he’s not bellaring about whatever. But the voice and demeanor and aggression did not feel like a very good representation of a black character, especially in a game which does not otherwise have a lot of representation.
To avoid spoilers I won’t go too deep into the story, but suffice it to say that it goes some places you won’t expect. The main story beats are what you would expect if you are coming from the experience with the original – for the most part… – but there are some crucial points that were altered that change the narrative. It digs deeper into the class struggle in Midgar and the effects of the bombings on the citizens. Overall, It’s a much more mature look at this city and the tragedies it’s people have had to endure – by your hand sometimes, at least in part. Even playing through the orignal a couple times, I still found the story to have evolved enough that much of it felt fresh.
If you’re going to play this game, do yourself a favour and play till the end. Shit gets absolutely WILD. There’s a crazy escalation of anime bullshit towards the end and it was absolutely glorious. For a game with some dark themes, FFVII Remake can sure have a lot of fun with itself.
As far as gripes with the game go, mine are few and very far between. My only real ARGH moment was towards the end. Someone offers you information for 10,000 gil which is a lot of money, so I say no. Only later do I realise he actually gives you someone’s final weapon, and he only offers once! Hence: ARGH! It was frustrating because it gave no hint that it was something other than info and that I only had that once chance. Maybe I should have guessed 10,000 gil would get me more than information but…… COME ON!
Otherwise, I had little to complain about. One game breaking bug unfortunately while crawling through vents late game, but other than some mild texture popping occasionally I didn’t notice any technical goofs.
Final Fantasy VII REMAKE
The few negatives I mention here don’t hold a candle to the blazing inferno of goodness that is FFVII Remake. They have managed so perfectly to tap into nostalgia while still creating a beautiful, modern, complex beast of their own. It felt like they took forever to make this game but I’m sure glad they did. Square-Enix - somehow - managed to make a remake the original deserved. FFVII Remake is my favourite final fantasy game, and one of my favourite RPG's, that’s come out in years. I can’t wait for more.