Final Fantasy VII Remake review roundup: Square Enix's reimagining of a classic manages to get it right
More than just the same thing with a thick coat of shiny new paintBy Cal Jeffrey 19 comments
Highly anticipated: Final Fantasy VII Remake launched today, and many have had their doubts about whether it would be any good. The pre-orders alone should have ensured its success, but as we all know, pre-orders do not determine the quality of a game. While the sales numbers are not yet in, the reviews are, and it is looking pretty good for the reboot of the beloved JRPG.
Some are saying it is "the most ambitious Final Fantasy yet," a "thoughtful take on a classic" that was "a gamble that paid off." But as with any title, the game is not without its flaws. Let's take a look at what critics are saying.
Mat Smith, with Engadget, was awestruck at the beauty of the sometimes less-then-prefect visuals.
Remake has all the technical power needed to realize Midgar in incredible detail. Even on my base PS4, the game is nearly always gorgeous. Square Enix's clever use of high-resolution backdrops and skylines keep the steampunk city consistently in view. Later in the game, when you roam higher parts of the city, the effect is reversed, and you get a view of all the slums and all the havoc wrought by the Shinra Corporation.
That said, there was some corner-cutting when it comes to some textures and items, some that were hard to ignore. Aerith's flowers, beautifully rendered in the opening beats of the game, drop down to PlayStation 2 levels of detail later in the game --- and I'm not sure why. These missteps often scream out because the game is one of the prettiest titles ever for the increasingly mature PlayStation 4.
The Verge's Andrew Webster says one thing Square Enix improved on was the story.
The story is infamously convoluted and confusing, but the remake actually does a great job of explaining much of it. Part of that has to do with the tighter focus. Since the experience is centered specifically on Midgar, a gritty metropolis that exists only because of Shinra's exploitation of the planet, it's easy to grasp the stakes. It's only toward the end that the game starts to weave in the more complex elements. But FFVIIRalso expands on aspects of the original to help further flesh out the world. For instance, in the first game, Avalanche was a tiny group based out of the basement of a bar; here, you learn it's actually just one cell in a much bigger organization. More importantly, characters that were once little more than names with barely so much as a personality have now become fully fleshed-out people. Avalanche member Jessie, in particular, has gone from someone I barely remembered to one of the most iconic characters in the story.
Danial Van Boom said in his CNET review that the developers took many "huge" gambles with the game, but they all paid off.
Most ambitious, the Remake that hits store shelves on April 10 is not the entire Final Fantasy 7. It's part one of the saga, taking the 1997 original's first act and making a full game of it. This might sound like risky business if you're one of the 11 million people that played the PlayStation 1 classic. But the highest praise I can heap on this remake is that it'll please those of you who have waited almost 15 years to play it.
If you're in that group, this review is of little consequence. You're going to buy the game no matter what. But what if you've never played the original? That's OK, this is a judgment-free zone. All you need to know is Final Fantasy 7 Remake looks stunning and feels satisfying. Either way, you need to play this game.
For those worried that new content would mar their memories of the 1997 original FFVII, never fear. Game Informer's Joe Juba says the additions are welcome, especially the environments, albeit with some exceptions.
If you're comparing versions of this world, the remake offers a dramatic expansion of many areas. A whole settlement replaces the few static screens that once represented the sector 7 slums. Wall Market is now a lawless den of sin rather than a few sketchy tents. These areas feel like natural extensions of the world, building the lore and adding context to characters' interactions. However, a few new zones feel like overcomplicated padding, such as a prolonged and uneventful journey under the sector 4 plate. But even if the experience doesn't maximize every minute, my thorough 50-hour playthrough (plus some post-game content) provided plenty of memorable moments.
The battle system is significantly changed, but for the most part, it still delivers a fun experience, says US Gamer's Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey.
[The intro] culminates in an exciting multi-part battle with a giant robot scorpion in which you have to put the individual skills of both Cloud and Barret to good use---the perfect tutorial fight. It was at this point that I was thinking to myself, "Okay, yes. Final Fantasy 7 Remake gets it. It's on point. This is exactly what I wanted." I was especially surprised to find myself enjoying the battle system, which is messy but never too messy, and seems keen to avoid the dull repetition typical of hack-and-slash combat. Attacking enemies builds up an Active Time Battle (ATB) gauge, which can be spent on powerful character-specific skills. Cloud and Barret, and later Tifa and Aerith, all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's easy to smoothly switch between them as necessary.
Like any game, FFVIIIR has its flaws, but none are game-breaking, according to Aoife Wilson with Eurogamer.
[The game is] not all perfectly smooth, though. There's an inconsistency in quality when it comes to some hub areas, and technically it can be a bit of a mess. Some textures load slowly, if they load at all, making some assets look like they were lifted from the PlayStation 2 era. In later sections, I encountered some frustrating data streaming issues, where you'd trigger dialogue with an NPC and it'd take several seconds for the game to load it in. They're minor issues in the grand scheme of things, and they're the kind of problem that can likely be fixed at a later date with some optimisation. But still, they're worth mentioning.
Destructoid's Chris Carter gave Final Fantasy VIII Remake a solid nine out of ten and thoroughly enjoyed the leveling system.
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.
Trying to figure out the best possible builds for each party member was a lot of fun. I decided early on that Cloud was responsible for "fire and ice," while Barret focused on tanking with damage-drawing support materia and a penchant for lightning to boot. Tifa was my thief with her steal materia always equipped and held up the rest of the elemental bargain with air and ice magic. Every player is likely going to try something different that works for them: that's how effective the materia system is even decades later.
Overall, reviews for FFVIIR are overwhelmingly positive, so if you were on the fence about it the game, it looks like a solid buy. It is definitely a departure from the original, but it seems like Square Enix did an excellent job of modernizing one of its most iconic titles.