Episode 1 in the Final Fantasy VII Remake saga was quite impressive, restored hopes for the seventh entry in the series to see its modernization in this upcoming generation, and a resolution to the issue of how to do a hybrid real time action and turn based decision making battle system in a Final Fantasy game. This single equation held the key to whether or not fans would be able to accept a modern retelling of one of the iconic, classic JRPG titles from the original PlayStation era.
For now the game is only available on PlayStation 4, but it has already made a huge impact selling 3.5 million units in its first 3 days alone, including 1 million sales in Japan, going on to setting an all-time franchise record, and becoming #1 April 2020 game Worldwide across all devices even though it was only released on PS4.
Surely, once the long term numbers come in the game will have reached perhaps double that or even more if Final Fantasy XV’s slow and steady long-term sales are anything to go by. FF7R has also strengthened the PlayStation 4 platform tremendously.It has become the fastest-selling PS4 exclusive in history, surpassing the launch sales of Marvel’s Spider-Man (3.3 million; 2018) and God of War (3.1 million; 2018).
The tragic tale of corporate espionage, a corrupt superpower, genetic experiments, alien technology, and an underground resistance movement returns. In this first installment, players become familiar with Midgar once again. First time gamers can also start here with the Final Fantasy VII story told through Remake’s eyes. Some slight changes have taken place, and the gameworld itself reacts to those changes, attempting to restore the original timeline. A villain emerges among the abuses of power which led to experimentation on human beings to create super soldiers. These experiments were largely successful, but monsters were also created. Then again, where do we draw the line between monster and super soldier?
Hybrid; action and strategy elements. Using different character combos you can eventually master the game so that you are finishing off battles in seconds with the right loadout and utilizing each party member’s correct strengths, leveraged against any enemy weakness. This is how Square Enix has managed to pull off the unthinkable and keep FF7 feeling like FF7, and still involving turns, strategy, as well as fast action-packed battles as we’ve only seen in Final Fantasy cutscenes before FFXV released.
The battle system of FFVII Remake is a very happy compromise on bringing FF7 into the modern age while still preserving the characters, abilities, weapons, magic, etc. that made the original feel superb gameplay-wise. You are controlling an individual character at any given time, but you are also the director behind a partially automated process of combat.
Materia – the reworked system is still largely inspired by the original. It matches a model that gamers use for many other RPGs by modern standards, but the nostalgia attached to the old materia we love makes it easier for this system to have excitement.
Summons – it hasn’t been introduced in quite some time, but the idea of Espers (FF6) and living beings passing on to provide Magicite (FF6) seemingly evolved into the summons system of FF7 which features Summon Materia like Ifrit, Ramuh, Shiva, etc. but FF7R also brings back the light-hearted classics such as the Chocobo assault summon and the Fat Chocobo (lucky/unlucky gamble combined with brute force), and more. Overall, this could be expanded in the second entry for sure, but was very fun to play with and as present as could possibly be appropriate for the first episode.
Items – the outcome of the gameplay design on the new Remake with regard to item usage is pleasing and importantly does not interfere too much with combat.
Open World – since this title takes place in Midgar only, there is not a true open world. The design to approach in general is that there are separate locations with their own inner workings. I was surprised just how the end result was pulled off. Players are given a proper amount of time to see where the story is going, naturally come across a useful amount of areas with just enough variety. This was obviously a challenging feat to pull off on the PS4 Pro, given its struggle in performance, and Square Enix clearly set out to be player led in their experience of the game. That being said, it will be nice to see how far Episode 2 can go with the power of PS5.
GRAPHICS / PERFORMANCE
FF7R proves itself as one of the highest quality PS4 games ever released. We suspect that it could be among the Top 10 best looking games on the PS4 Pro, and remain in awe at the leaps and bounds of performance accomplished despite the age of the console at the time of this game’s release. It seems that Epic Games and Square Enix may have worked together to ensure this title’s port into the Unreal 4 Engine was successful. There are some strange glitches here and there in which very simple textures are evident. These are signs of the console’s limitations, and unfortunately will remain a blemish making this an imperfect release – at least until the PlayStation 5 version some day.
SOUND / MUSIC
The recreation of special moments in gaming history throughout the symphonic soundtrack and even the detailed, careful enhancement of each sound effect paired with their perfect timing rings truth to this game. Final Fantasy VII is one of the most legendary gaming soundtracks around, and while many are heavily awaiting episode two of the Remake’s episodic rollout, we do already have quite a lot of great tracks to appreciate. Nobuo Uematsu, legendary producer of the 1997 original, is also leading up the Remake’s soundtrack. Masashi Hamauzu, Yoshitaka Suzuki, and Mitsuto Suzuki have also played a large role.
Medium: I must admit a huge amount of the replay value with this title is purely nostalgic. However, the first time around you’ll probably still be getting used to the new hybrid model (if you’re a classic FF fan), since it’s largely action based but is still very demanding on a strategist approach in later stages of the game. There are plenty of very interesting side missions, even though they are all crammed into one or two segments of the game itself, and it’s not a super long game but feels like you could spend a lot of time just running around enjoying the world Square Enix has remade. This paired with a decent offering of challenges, trophies, and easter eggs means that you’ll likely justify 2-3 playthroughs resulting in anywhere between 50 – 100 hours depending on how much you stop to smell the roses.
The magic of Final Fantasy is back!