Final Fantasy 7 Remake – Review

How do you review a remake of something? Is it possible to judge it on its own merits, without giving weight to the pros and cons of the original? Especially something as beloved as the original Final Fantasy 7? (Sidenote – I had a coworker back around 2008 who was utterly convinced FF7 was the best game ever, and he got so angry with me whenever I pointed out flaws in it).

For that matter – how do you handle spoilers? The original game came out a quarter-century ago, so the statute of limitations on spoilers for it has surely passed. And a remake might have spoilers of its own – given how insufferable, like, every fandom is, I can only imagine how up in arms some got about any changes made to their favorite game apart from updated graphics.

Fuck it, let’s do a way-too-long post reviewing the game. I’ll try breaking it up in sections, and keep anything super spoilerific near the end. Sound good? Cool.

Music

So, the music in the original game was done by Nobuo Uematsu, and is pretty iconic. One Winged Angel is now guaranteed to show up every goddamn time Sephiroth makes an appearance in, like, anything. The songs in this are either the same, or slightly remixed. The Turks theme isn’t really similar, which kinda sucks, but overall it’s pretty good.

Graphics

The game looks gorgeous. Only real issue is the slums have a bit of the “reality is brown” issue that makes me think of Fallout. I get that it’s supposed to make us think of poverty and people struggling, but it’s kinda overdone and makes things blend together too much.

Setting

So, this is a part 1 of the remake, and it’s entirely in Midgar. Square Enix has done a fantastic job of making the Sectors larger and more teeming with people, and having a glimpse of the residential area on top of the plate is just top fucking notch. Loved it.

Gameplay

This is kinda mixed. It’s more of an action-rpg than your traditional pseudo-turnbased old Final Fantasy style. So – most importantly – it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. Most of my issues are nitpicks. You can change party members in combat, and you’ll need to, because all they’ll do without your input is occasional basic attacks and guarding in the corner.

My only real complaint is the shallowness of it. There are only four elements (Leviathan being non-elemental just seems wrong), only four enemy skills (two auras, bad breath, and self destruct)…one of which you can’t get till you’re playing a second run. Of the six summons in the base game, four are gotten by fighting them in a simulation. In general, the materia system is less…..exploitable than the original. Kind of a bummer.

Like the original, there are many minigames. Motorcycling comes back, with a bit more depth and a couple bosses. Smashing boxes is kinda dumb, and there’s also a dart-throwing one. I’m too proud of my perfect score in darts.

One last thing – in the original FF7 if you beat Ruby and Emerald WEAPON you get a golden chocobo (which you probably already have at that point) and a set of master materia (which you might have, and definitely don’t need at that point). Beating the hidden boss in this gives you the Götterdämmerung, which starts every fight with a full limit break. It trivializes and non-boss fight, and makes those ridiculously simple too. Nice to have a reward that’s actually badass.

Hormones

I’ve seen a bunch of things about how this is the thirstiest game in the series. That is so very true. I’m just going to keep this short to keep from being creepy, but damn. The dresses for Aerith and Tifa range from cute to jaw dropping, Madam M gives Cloud a handjob, Scarlet goes full rated-pg dominatrix, Kyrie too. Jessie is super horny, and is desperate to crank that soulja boy (I’m not ever sorry for that one). Not going to comment on quality or anything here, just saying it’s there.

Feels

This game does a great job of giving a feeling of loneliness. It’s something everyone can relate to (I hope), and it does so much to make Cloud feel like a person. Being told to leave Seventh Heaven so that all the friends you’ve made so far can have a party without you, Aerith telling him that he can’t fall in love with her, Elmyra kicking Cloud out and telling him to never speak to Aerith again. God, it’s fucking heartbreaking.

Aerith has a similar thing where she remembers playing hide and seek and noone bothered trying to find her. Like, if that doesn’t kick you right in the soul, you’re a harder person than me.

Little Things That Bugged Me

  • Instead of the wanton bloodshed around Shinra HQ from Sephiroth(‘s clone) killing all the people on his way to the president, you get a trail of otherworldy ooze from Jenova up to his office. I understand why they wouldn’t want that much gore, but it lacks a punch.
  • It’s Aerith instead of Aeris. Yeah, I know all the reasons it should be, but it still bugs me. Reminds me of the guys who say Son-Goku when talking about Dragonball.
  • For like 98% of the cutscenes, the characters will be holding whatever weapons they have equipped. For whatever reason, one or two scenes show the starter weapon instead. Kinda jarring.
  • Early in the game you’re stuck at the bar with nothing to indicate what you’re supposed to do to progress. You can’t leave, you can’t go to the undergrown layer, there’s nothing on the map. As it turns out you have to play darts. Go fig.
  • There’s no way to see what Enemy Skills you’ve learned short of entering combat and checking. I actually wouldn’t be shocked if this issue got patched out.
  • That it’s pronounced mah-ko and not may-ko.
  • The last two chapters are just a fucking boss marathon. It’s exhausting by the end.
  • You don’t get to actually do anything with Red XIII. I understand, since he’s only there for a bit of the game, but it’s still….meh.

Little Things I Loved

  • When you put elemental materia on a weapon, the weapon takes on some characteristics of the materia – like little hunks of ice on it or whatever.
  • When you fight Abzu in the beginning you can destroy one of his horns. When you fight him a few chapters later, whichever horn you destroyed is missing.
  • If you do one sidequest in Wall Market you can get a Honeybee Inn VIP Card, and you’re supposed to take it to its owner. If you instead go to the Honeybee Inn there’s actually a scene where they tell you the pass is only valid for the person who issues it. Great little foresight from the developer.
  • The original games had some regular-yet-striking-looking monsters, and this one made them bosses. Eligor in particular is freaky – and as a bonus you can still steal a staff (alliteration for the win) from him.
  • The Miss Cloud segment is still there, and I’m so happy Square Enix didn’t wuss out on it.

New Characters

This section is more spoiler-laden I guess? Kinda sorta? Still not very, but hey, play it safe rather than sorry, right? Anyway, there’s a handful of meaningful new characters. New to FF7 proper at least – a couple of these come from novelas or other shit in the universe. Let’s take a look:

  • Kyrie – Professional shithead as near as I can tell. She cons dudes out of money, tries to instigate riots and then passes her hat around to get collections for it, looks like jail-bait. I was half expecting her to be revealed as Yuffie by the end.
  • Guardian Angel of the Slums – Name withheld to prevent spoilers (and not because I can’t remember how to spell it). Big thing about her is she keeps mentioning the Guardian Angel, and I just get reminded of Arrested Development’s “Maybe your father *is* here” bit. That’s an awful sentence, but I’m sticking with it.
  • Ms. Folia – A caretaker for an orphanage who moonlights as a Honeybee Girl.
  • Jessie’s Mom and Dad – Mostly exist so you feel even worse when Jessie dies. Especially the line “Mom always leaves the light on for the girl who’s almost never home.” Now she’s never coming home. Enjoy that heartache.
  • Leslie – Henchman of Corneo who hates Corneo and helps him get laid.
  • Madam M – Hand masseuse/dominatrix who hates Corneo and helps him get laid.
  • Chocobo Sam – Cowboy/taxi driver with a legion of workers who look pretty much just like him, who hates Corneo and helps him get laid.
  • Andrea Rhodea – Male-showgirl who is beauty-positive, potentially bi, and hates Corneo and helps him get laid.

Note, when I say they help Corneo get laid, I mean they’re part of sex-trafficking where 2/3rds of the offerings get gangraped by Corneo’s thugs, and 100% of them get fed to a literal sewer monster. I guarantee every one of them either has or will have a massive fandom by the end of the year. Apart from Sam, none of them are really presented as assholes. If the events of the game didn’t happen, Ms. Folia would not last much longer.

Plot

So, I’m only going to talk about notable differences in plot. Two things really – Shinra and the Arbiters of Fate.

In the original game, Avalanche blew up two mako reactors, Shinra gets pissed off at them cutting into the bottom-line, and drops a city on them, while also blaming them for the plate attack. Cutthroat, but it makes sense.

In the remake, Avalanche try to disable a mako reactor, Shinra intentionally makes it blow up even more as a false flag operation, does it again for the second reactor, and then drops the plate as yet another false flag operation. The first one would have worked, because Avalanche thought that they made a mistake when they blew it up. It would have been enough to restart the war with Wutai which Shinra wants, especially since the main branch of Avalanche actually is in league with Wutai.

I realize why Square Enix would be hesitant to have the protagonists by actual terrorists in a post-9/11 world, but it makes Shinra seem really Stupid Evil instead of Cutthroat-Profit-Obsessed Evil.

The other new thing are the Arbiters of Fate. Also Whispers. And Harbingers. Same guys, different names. So, when I looking something up, I came across people bitching about the ending. I didn’t look into it, but I remember the ending of the original game being awful, so I didn’t really think anything of it.

If I only knew.

So, every now and then a bunch of Dementor-looking things show up and shepherd characters around. When Cloud gets kicked off the second mission, the Whispers have a huge battle to sprain Jessie’s ankle so that Cloud has to sub in for her. During the Plate Tower attack they make sure to kill her off (probably, more later). Wedge survives the attack, but near the end of the game the Whispers fucking push him out of a skyscraper because he’s fated to die.

The best part though, is Sephiroth kills Barret. I was actually shocked when it happened. I thought there was no way – it sends an “anything can happen now” message. Apparently back when the original game was being thought up, Barret was the first pick for who would die. It was changed because (rightly), they thought it wouldn’t have the same impact as Aeris, but a quarter century later? Yeah, it hits hard.

But Barret isn’t fated to die yet. So a Whisper thing brings him back to life. Sucked a bit, but that’s life sometimes. Anyway, Cloud and Co start getting flashbacks of the future (flashforwards?) of things from the original game taken out of context – like Meteor hitting the planet, Aeri(s)th dying, the shitty ending of the original game, and realize this is what’s going to happen if they don’t kill fate.

So they do kill Fate, and have free will. All according to Sephiroth’s plan – the implication is that this is the same Sephiroth from the original game, who somehow skipped dimensions to get a second try. It’s a little mind-fucky, and I’ll be interested in seeing where it goes.

Here’s the thing though. This is the best fuck you to a fandom since Hideo Kojima. The Whispers are the fans who insist that it only be a 1-to-1 detailed remake, and the makers killed them off. I have no clue where the story is going to go, apart from them (still) hunting down Sephiroth. It’s fantastic, and I love it.

Overall Grade: A-

So what’s next? I’ve platinumed it, but I’m kinda burned out on action rpgs now. Stellaris is free for a bit, so I may give that a try. Or maybe Tropico 6 or something. Something more….passive.