I finally finished the Final Fantasy VII remake toward the end of last week. It was a moment I had been dreading, because I have being really enjoying coming back to this total reimagining of the well-loved Playstation game from the late 90s, despite not really having that strong a nostalgic tie to it. But having read a lot of hot takes on Twitter; maybe that’s for the best.
Just getting this out of the way, I did play Final Fantasy VII back in the early 2000s, I got to the final boss, rage quit and it never really left much of an impact on me beyond that. Final Fantasy was never the JRPG that left the biggest mark on me growing up. And of the ones I did play; FFX was the one that actually got its hook into me.
But it’s not like I don’t know the story and the characters of FFVII, it’s almost impossible not to exist in the nerdy internet circles I lurk in and not soak some of that shit up just through cultural osmosis. Especially considering how big that game was for the franchise, the genre and the platform.
So when I say that playing this remake was a delight, and in no way nostalgically driven, you’re going to have to believe me. Because everything I got out of this game is 90% based on its own merit. And then the rest was from the music.
Which came as something of a surprise to me. As a rule, I don’t tend to enjoying Square Enix’s games all that much, I feel like they swing more misses than they do hits. That being said though, if there’s one thing all of their game’s excel at; it’s their presentation.
If you pick up any game from Square Enix, especially one with the Final Fantasy marquee above it, you know you’re going to be playing a game that’s been polished and polished, and then polished again to a pearlescent sheen. And yet, it when it comes to the visuals and the music for the remake, it feels like the developers went one step beyond even that.
For my entire time with the game I was in a state of awe at just how good this game looked. What was once a collection of crude, blocky shapes and fuzzy pre-rendered backgrounds is now an incredible audio and visual masterpiece that makes me wonder why it is exactly we need new consoles at the end of the year.
Literally everything about this game has taken what was presented in the original, built it up and expanded it out at an exponential rate. Which is what many of the critics of the game have slammed the game for, which I find bizarre. I get the impression that many of the players are thinking about the story of the game beyond Midgar, which is where the remake leaves things off.
Based on the amount of fine detail and exploration the remake went into, it might be upwards of four instalments of this story before it reaches its conclusion. But between you guys and me; I don’t really care. In fact, I kind of don’t believe we’ll see another part of this remake series. At least, if we do then it’ll be nowhere near the scale this game was.
Because yes, this game is excessive in almost every single, imaginable regard, and that’s why I love it so much. It stretches out what was about 4 hours of gameplay and fills it in to reach closer to 40 in the remake. I know this because after finishing the remake I went and bought the original and played it up until the point where the characters leave Midgar.
In those extra hours we get to explore the world, the characters and stories being told within the futuristic city that was previously only left to the player’s imagination. I didn’t care about Wedge, Biggs and Jesse in the original game, here they’re transformed into a collection of very human characters, with their own wants, dreams and histories. We get to see those extra corners of the slums and really feel like we’re wandering around a real living, breathing world.
Helped, in no small part thanks to the amazing job the localisation team when making the english language version of this game. I’m more than used to playing this type of game with terrible lip syncing and very uneven voice acting, so much so that I am often tempted to play the game in Japanese. It’s just another testament to how much lavish effort was put into this game, making me connect to these characters far more than I could of had they been speaking a language I didn’t understand.
I have no issue consuming subtitled media, I review enough anime on here to prove that. But there is something a little extra that comes from the subtle little moments that you can’t pick up when something is not being acted in your native language. And the fact that this game feels like it could have come out of an American studio in how good the character acting is added so much more to it for me.
Honestly, it just felt like I was watching a really great anime adaptation of the original story, with a bunch of 80s action movie thrown in there. Interspersed with some really fun, engaging and diverse combat systems in terms of the four playable characters and how they each work. I never minded sitting through a ton of gameplay free story content, nor was upset when it came time to actually run through the gauntlet and spend some time battling enemies.
And the cinematic transitions between the two was oftentimes jaw dropping. It’s not just that though, it’s everything that happens in between; the mini-games, the rhythm based dancing sequence. Well, pretty much anything that happens to Wall Garden to be honest. A big dose of silliness goes a long way to just keeping me guessing whatever the ting is going to throw at me next.
These past couple of years, there has been pressure coming down on the single player, AAA, premium video game experience. Coming from all different directions, between the attractiveness of making a game as a service akin to Fornite and Apex Legends, the scandals surrounding crunch and workplace pressures for developers and the eve growing pool of successful and exciting indie developers making interesting stuff.
Some would say that investing so much time, manpower and money into a single game is excessive, and that we don’t need it anymore, but if the Final Fantasy VII Remake is a true example true excess in game development, it goes to show that we still can be left in awe of what these kinds of experiences can do. The level of attention to detail in this game really shows and acts as an incredible foundation for all of the other things I ended up loving about this game by the time I was done.
I feel like I might come back to talking about this game once again to discuss the ending in more detail. Because it’s something I am still digesting, after having it explained to me by people much smarter than I online. But for now I’ll say that anyone who criticises this game for being excessive, for dragging things out or wasting the player’s time really fails to see what the point behind this entire project was.
It’s a love letter, and one that wants you wallow in it. If you want the quick experience, then that re-release on modern consoles will let you speed through it at 3x speed with encounters turned off. That should be more what you’re looking for.