Final Fantasy 7 Remake: First Impressions

I think it’s only fair to make 2 confessions here right away.

First I’m not the biggest Final Fantasy Fanboy, I have played a few and enjoyed them though. The original 7 is among them but I finished it much more recently on the Switch so I don’t have any nostalgia connected to this game.

The second is that I am playing the remake on a standard PlayStation 4, and after speaking with Zack about it, this may or may not be the cause of some issues. We just thought it better to point this out from the start.

Now that I’ve had my confession I feel better already!

Let’s start off with some information on the original Final Fantasy 7, it was released in 1997 on the PlayStation 1 and is widely regarded, by most, as not only one of the best Final Fantasy games, but one of the greatest games of all time. I am honestly not one of these people. It is basically a narrative driven, turn based, Japanese role playing game. 

I’m wondering if very many people haven’t already played the original and whether it’s worth summarising the story?

Anyway, just quickly, you follow the protagonist Cloud Strife. He’s an ex-member of an elite military unit, SOLDIER, who starts the game flipping off of a train because he’s helping some eco-terrorists blow up a power plant. 2 things you should know about Cloud, he has some strong hair game and his sword is as big as his body. That’s the important stuff.

The story then follows Cloud and his ragtag band of friends trying to stop the evil corporation, whilst also trying to stop this tall guy, who has longer hair and an even longer sword, from destroying the world. That’s the idea anyway.

As I said above, I recently finished the original FF7 on Switch, one of my biggest takeaways was that a lot of that game did not age well. Things like no waypoints, quest log, or dialogue skips really dragged the game on a bit. Now I can obviously appreciate that the original game wasn’t too difficult, plenty of kids at it’s release were able to finish it,

however comparing it to more modern games leaves it wanting. 

What I will say are definitely the originals strongest points however would be things like the varied offering of companions to take along with you, I really quite liked the materia system with its many combinations, it’s offering of ultimate weapons for each character and their ultimate abilities, and finally the super bosses that you can choose to take on. 

Ok so there’s some information about the original, now let’s talk about the remake a bit. I have played about 10 hours of the remake so far, so I have seen a fair bit of the game. I think that I’ll go with comparisons so far, then positives so far and the negatives so far, and then finish off with my opinion. That seems like a reasonable structure to me!

Comparisons

The opening cut scene… well let’s just say that they sure put in a lot of effort into the remake for this. The visuals are striking. Sweeping through and over the parts of the city with such detail is amazing and a great way to start the game. Then we see a train and a blonde, spikey head jumps off the train, honestly other than the visual improvements and the fact that more than one thing can be moving at a time this seems like a 1 for 1 with the original.

You do the same first fight, simple and over quickly, level up to level 7. Still the same just looks nicer. The main difference so far is that the combat system has changed, in the original it was turn based with a timer that would tell you when you could attack next. In the remake it’s more action oriented, letting you do basic attacks constantly, with a timer that lets you know when you can use an ability, such as magic or a sword skill for example.

The following sequence to the reactor and the boss fight track pretty similarly, the remake is just longer and more grand. You team up with Barrett, he is a very large man with a gatling gun for an arm, he is also the one that hired you. Barrett’s design in the remake is incredible, he finally looks like the man he always deserved to be.

The boss fight itself is actually much longer and harder than in the original. It sets the standard for most of the boss fights that I have done so far, I think I like it? But I’m not entirely sure yet.

While trying to escape on your way back to the slums, this is probably the first place the 2 games seem to diverge quite a bit. In the remake you walk the streets seeing a pretty devastating scene, with houses destroyed, bridges collapsing and dozens of men, women and children all scared and injured. This is not a nice scene. It’s an amazing scene. It’s not very nice.

Maybe I just didn’t read Barrett’s dialogue properly in the original, but the way that the remake portrays him, with his dialogue and actions actually don’t make me like him. Maybe that’s the point this for in but he really does just seem like an uncaring, brutish, extremist. 

You go through all of this and then you come to something that I do very much prefer in the remake, the sidequests in the slums. You start off by helping Tifa, she is your childhood friend and the one who put you in tough with Barrett in the first place, this is a really good way to give you a tour of the area and to introduce a bunch of stores. This also leads you to another thing that I quite like in the remake, side quests. 

It seems that in each area that you visit you will be asked by a number of the inhabitants to help out around the area, so far there have been monster killing and searching quests. They aren’t the most interesting but they are a welcome addition, I also like that as you complete these quests the idle chat of the citizens turns to stories of you, or they start recognising you as someone that helps people. It’s a small but nice touch.

I don’t think this particular part is in the original but it can still be directly compared to something that happens in the original, this is a motorbike section. In the original there is a section where you are on a motorbike racing along a long road, trying to protect a car, using your sword whilst riding, and taking out other bikes with soldiers on them. This mini game is dreadful. Not only is it just not fun, it barely works. To be more specific attacking only worked if you pressed the attack button at the exact right time, in the exact right position. You couldn’t be a millisecond or a millimetre out or the attack wouldn’t connect, this was even if you could see your sword swipe through the enemy or their vehicle, this is not good. 

Thankfully they have given this first bike section a major overhaul, it’s actually a really epic section and is genuinely enjoyable. Now the scale is increased, the controls are tightened up, and the attacks connect. This culminated in probably my favourite boss fight so far in the game, I won’t spoil it properly but it’s fantastic and Cloud is made to look like a bad ass.

That’ll do it for the comparisons at the point I am in the game.

Positives

Now to talk about the positives that I have found in the remake, these aren’t direct comparisons and I won’t mention anything that is talked about above.

This comes up from the very first fight but the tutorial popups are pretty good in this game. They look clean, the information is clear and even gives small videos as well. They can be closed easily and most importantly, the game effectively pauses when one comes up.

This game looks phenomenal the majority of the time. In some areas it may be one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. I would say some highlights are the character models and Clouds hair. Some of the scenery is breathtaking.

The sound track in this game is amazing, all of it seems to be derived from the original but have been updated. I particularly like that you can buy records and that when you’re near them being played, if you’ve bought them you can see the name at the top of the screen as well, again just another nice touch.

On top of full blown side quests there are also some discovery objectives that will pop up sometimes. These have mostly been like, opening a gate or taking a long way around to pick up an item. They don’t add a lot but they are nice additions that show up automatically.

I didn’t mention it above but out of the ones I have played, Final Fantasy 9 is my favourite. Something that I liked in 9 that has been brought over to the 7 remake, is the addition of skills attached to weapons, then having the ability to learn them permanently. It means that it is more worthwhile to change weapons when you get new ones.

On top of this for the weapons, you can actually upgrade them now. This can be to add more attack, more magic power, defences, and even more Materia slots. This is a nice addition and will be interesting to see where this leads to.

This might be one of the best additions, Chadley. Chadley is a researcher who asks you to complete combat related challenges, then when you return to him after doing so he can sell you new Materia. After a while he also provides you with a PSVR headset and lets you fight simulated battles against summons to unlock them. So far I have seen Shiva, she minted me.

Negatives

Now to talk about some of the negatives that I have experienced. Some of these will be related to the positives above, I just wanted to keep both sections separate so didn’t mention them above.

The Migar section only takes up a few hours of the original game, this time after 10 hours I haven’t left Midgar (I am aware that you don’t leave Midgar in this game). That means that, just with how far I have got, they have added at least 7 hours to the very beginning of the original game. This wouldn’t be such an issue but because there is no, literal, open world to explore everything seems very linear, and there isn’t really any deviation from the main path.

I have experienced this quite a few times now, the audio skips quite often. This is pretty much only in actual conversations or the cutscenes, it’s not game breaking but it is annoying. This is also connected to this but sometimes you press the action button to interact with a person, the conversation starts but they say nothing and just creepily stare at you for a few seconds, saying and doing nothing.

I admitted this above but I am playing on a standard PS4, so whether this explains it or not, I don’t know. That being said it is a real shame that with all of the gorgeous visuals that you are treated to, there is still an issue where some textures just never load. The primary example that I have seen is the door to your apartment. It just never actually loads, so it just looks like a fuzzy block of brown.

This might just be something that only I noticed, but a lot of characters either sigh or breath strangely during conversations. I think Cloud might be the worst for it, it seems odd to me and doesn’t really act like an actual, you know, conversation that humans would have.

For a remake of a game that is very much built on the fact that you have this big party and all these choices, you sure seem to spend a lot of your time on your own, with an empty party. It’s not exactly an issue but it’s obviously better to have more party members, for more varied attacks and just support.

Maybe I’m just remembering the original wrong, maybe it’s just because you spend a lot more time in each chapter, I don’t know what it is but there hasn’t seemed to be very much weapon variation. As of the 10 hours played, I have found 1 extra weapon for each character. In Cloud’s case, there’s a weapon store that just gives you a new sword, this sword is worse in physical attack and has worse Materia slots and that’s all you get. I don’t if I’ve ever played an RPG, that has different weapons in it, where you find new weapons so rarely. Perhaps this is in direct response to adding the weapon upgrade system? I honestly don’t know.

Again, maybe this is just something personal. I don’t like that there isn’t a jump button. I don’t really like this in any game really, I find that removing jumping from a game is a strange choice, especially in this game as you see Cloud do these incredible, superhuman jumps in cutscenes, so you know he can do it but he will still be stopped by a small box on the ground because he can’t jump…

This will be the last negative that I bring up at this point, but some of the actions you can take like pulling some levers and pushing some boxes is weird and slow. These ones involve you holding down the action button, why they added this on top of just pressing the action button like everywhere else I don’t know. Anyway you hold down the action button, Cloud grabs the lever instantly,  he just stands there without moving for the so many seconds it takes to fill the button hold, then he starts to pull the lever. It’s strange and unnecessary.

Summary

So I think that will do for this first impression, I gave some direct comparisons, some positives that I have found so far, and some negatives too. 

This is clearly an overall impressive and well put together remake. A lot of care and attention to detail, and very obviously love has been put into this project. It really does show. Based on my limited time with the game so far, it seems like a good game, I don’t think this is going to be in my Top Ten or anything but it’s definitely good.

This game will definitely scratch an itch for big fans of the original Final Fantasy 7, and I think that really this was the key demographic for this game anyway.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake first impressions.
Written by Kyle Munn

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