Review: Final Fantasy VII Remake

About this Game

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Publisher

Square Enix

Developer

Square Enix

Release Date

April 10, 2020

Console

PlayStation 4

Time to Plat

60-70h

Platinum Difficulty

Hard

Online Trophies?

No

Difficulty Trophies?

Yes

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A Faithful (Partial) Recreation of the Best Final Fantasy Ever.

I almost didn’t get this game at launch. When Playstation emailed me to say my The Last of Us part II pre-order was being refunded due to the recent indefinite delay, I put that money to good use elsewhere and pre-ordered Final Fantasy VII instead. 

And boy am I glad I did. If ever there’s a silver lining for TLOU2 being delayed again, it’s the fact that I put the time into platting this fantastic game. As hard as it got towards the end I still love this game through and through. So let’s talk about that, shall we?

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

A breath of new life

Final Fantasy VII Remake is not actually a full remake of Final Fantasy VII. But it is a full game. Taking the short 4-5 hour Midgar section from the original RPG, Square Enix’s reassembled FFVII team has created a beautiful and epic story-telling adventure, going in-depth into life below the plate, the personal lives and motivations of each of the characters, and honed in on making it a true story-telling experience worth reliving for years to come.

Midgar has never looked so good!

The characters have been reimagined into terrifically high-def models full of personality and charm. Focusing on taking a more realistic look and injecting the characters with their iconic stylisations, they did a fantastic job of making the characters not only instantly-recognisable but also intricately detailed, right down to the freckles on Aerith’s face.

Despite the very 90s aesthetic of the original character designs, somehow the team was able to bring a modern style to all of these elements and make the characters shine even amongst the highly detailed protagonists prominent in today’s gaming landscape. Though, some things could have done with being changed more… Like Cloud’s goofy trousers…

What is he keeping in those pant legs? Chestnuts?

Throughout the game, nostalgic fans of the original game will be treated to camera angles and scenic shots which they will remember fondly, and will be happy to see recreated in such detail with so much care and effort.

A visual revamp isn’t the only thing the game was treated to, the ever-famous music of the original game has been recreated to take full advantage of modern technology while still being unmistakably recognisable, to the point where you’ll find yourself humming along to a recreation you’re just hearing for the first time!

One other fascinating thing the developers chose to do was to play multiple variations on the same soundtrack simultaneously, with all but one muted. This way they could gradually and smoothly transition from one variation to another, depending on the area you’re entering, or the tone of the scene. It’s a very subtle yet truly effective technique which players will subconsciously appreciate as they explore the wildly varying locations within Midgar.

Of course, like all games, it can’t be perfect, and it does have some flaws.

Due to the fact that the character models have so much fidelity, such as the way Aerith’s dress freely flows or the astounding number of visible fibres in all the leading characters’ hair, various other things are dulled. There are a number of scenes where we’ll get a close-up on a door with a muddy and low-quality texture, or we’ll see a close-up of Aerith’s low-poly poorly-textured flower-bed and suddenly we’re brought spiralling back to the reality that we’re simply looking at a videogame.

The first time I played, I waited a while for the door’s texture to pop in before I realised it wasn’t going to.

I can’t fault them for this, though. They gave every area in the game hundreds of small objects. Bits of scrap or twisted girders, plant-life and vines, rocks and rubble, every corner of Midgar is filled with clutter to make it come to life, much of which is physics-enabled. 

On top of all that, in many areas a fight could break out at any minute filling the screen with multiple high-definition characters and enemy models without any part of the environment changing to accommodate this. As you fight at high speeds, particles and lighting effects flare up everywhere, every battle is a stunning orchestra of bright, colourful flashes all of which can be slowed to a near-stop at a moments notice to allow you to issue commands to your party. 

It’s like very sword-hit sets off fireworks!

It’s solely impressive that all of that could break out at once and I’d fall right back into leisurely strolling through a tunnel with Aerith at my side. So, with all of this considered, I can forgive them for reducing the quality of a few textures here and there. After all, their focus is on the characters…

Character-centric Storytelling

Unlike other Final Fantasies, this is not a very open-world game. Sure, there are some sections of the game which will offer you the opportunity to complete a few side-quests (which will even affect minor things in the game ahead) one of which is so large you even need to fast travel, but nothing on the scale of Final Fantasy XV, for example.

So why is this? Why make such a linear game after all of the evolving the series has done until today?

I believe it is because the developers wanted to really hone in on the individual characters. The ones we all know and love from our childhoods, the ones that Final Fantasy VII fans clambered across the franchise to learn more about. Watching movies like Advent Children, playing spin-off titles like “Crisis Core” on PSP, all for a taste of that world we had to leave behind.

This game’s emotional journey will take you to the core of each character’s personality.

The developers understood this connection the players had with the characters they’ve been desperate to see more of for over 13 years and decided that Midgar was the perfect setting for the first game in a series dedicated to this.

We’re offered much more intricate detail into the lives of our party, from Aerith’s beautiful home to Barret’s adorable daughter, to even Jessie’s personal life. We see how Wedge is desperate to make you feel welcomed, how Tifa is a caring and supportive member of her community, how Aerith, too, offers never-ending affection and support for those around her. 

We’re made to truly fall in love with every character, to feel like we know them as we would our own friends and to care for them as we would our family. This is more than evident in the first chapter surrounding Cloud’s meeting with Aerith, as we spend time with her listening to her heartfelt stories and cheeky jabs at Cloud’s stoic nature, it’s both touching and entertaining all at once.

Even this simple high-five has a long build-up and back-story.

Perhaps the biggest change in terms of characters is how Cloud has gone from a silent Link-esque character to having his own well-written dialogue and decently-performed dialogue. His personality may fall flat on multiple occasions as he simply replies “Yep” to an emotional remark made by another character, but we can see how his character develops over time, as he opens up to his surroundings and begins to let others in and to let himself begin to care.

There are some chapters, such as Chapter 9, which are such whole-hearted fun that you can’t help but smile or chuckle along with the characters in their various scenes. The amount of investment the developers managed to pull from me and place into the many colourful and exciting characters dotted throughout the story is a surprise even to myself and I’m sad to be finished with the game. At least until we see a sequel.

World building was also a huge part of this process. With small side-characters hidden all throughout the world, and plenty of passive conversations going on, which will trigger as you walk by and can be tracked on the left-hand side of the screen.

In-fact, I listened to a lot of this optional dialogue, not just to hear more about the world I was exploring, but I was trying to find Arin Hanson – of who I am a big fan – as I heard he had some voice roles in the game.

Modern Combat With an Old Face.

While you can choose to play the game in “Classic” mode, which has a turn-based combat system much like the original game, there’s no trophy for this, so I never tried it out…

The new combat system in Final Fantasy VII, though, feels a lot like the one in Final Fantasy XV, but the space is usually narrower and not quite as open as it was in FFXV. As I mentioned before, it is still a beautiful spectacle of visual effects as swords clash, abilities are triggered and spells explode around your enemies.

However, to try and keep things true to the original, there is a command menu which you can bring up at any moment. Allowing you the time to select your commands and control your team, the game slows down while you tell Aerith to heal the team or ask Tifa to let loose a “Starshower” attack. 

Seeing everything move in super slow-mo is quite an experience in itself.

What’s more,  you can actually use or to cycle between the characters in your party, taking finer control of Barret or Tifa and ensuring their strengths are being used to their absolute fullest. 

The AI is one of the best I’ve seen in such a game, too. Your team members will not waste MP or ATB using abilities or spells when you haven’t instructed them to. Sure, it would be nice if Aerith could just throw a cheeky heal your way, but that’s not how the original FFVII worked, you controlled everyone’s moves in a turn-based fashion, so you’re expected to do the same here but on the fly. And it works out a lot better too.

Fights are very involved and require you to be managing a few characters’ abilities at once but as party sizes are limited to just 3 it isn’t that difficult to do at all and once you have a feel for it, it becomes something of an orchestral conduction, as though you’re simply waving a wand over the team and watching them dance for you.

They’re also very good at keeping themselves alive. They will dodge at a moment’s notice and won’t let a move hit them without them blocking if they can. You don’t have to worry about constantly monitoring what they are doing, just what you want them to do.

My Final Fantasy VII Remake Trophy Experience

Easy Mode Playthrough

In the interest of getting this review in place before you all lose interest in the game, I did start my journey on Easy difficulty. In a way, I actually regret it. I was hugely under-prepared for how difficult Hard would be and I’m sure Normal would have got me more accustomed to fighting smarter and managing my items and upgrades better. 

However, on the other hand, without getting held up at any difficult points in the campaign I was able to sit back and fully appreciate the story, something I’m wholly grateful I had the opportunity to do.

The gang’s all together.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t difficult at all. I put a lot of time and effort into ensuring I was getting as many trophies as possible, trying to complete all of the battle intel reports, for example, not knowing how difficult it would be to do all of that in a single run.

Nevertheless, I reached the end of the game with a good healthy chunk of the trophies completed. I was starry-eyed and hyped up from playing through what proved to be such an incredibly touching and exciting journey and I couldn’t wait to get back into it.

Though part of me knew I’d need a little break before heading into Hard difficulty, so I decided to get a good majority of clean-up out of the way.

Chapter Select Cleanup

There is so much I wish I had done better during this phase. I could have easily shaved 10 hours off my run if I had just been smarter here. 

There were so many times that I would play through an entire 3-hour chapter and then realise “Oh, shit, I need to go back in and do that entire chapter again because I missed one tiny thing”. 

One huge recommendation I’d give to anyone for this stage is to plan better. Write down all the trophies you need, pick out the things you will need to do for them, and then plan a way to do them in as many chapter replays as possible. 

Because, while it is great that no trophies are missable thanks to chapter select, chapters like Chapter 9 or Chapter 14 can take 2-3 hours to get through and it is just gruelling after a certain point to be constantly working your way through scenes you know so well you could do them with your eyes closed. 

I am so sick of doing this puzzle.

I then decided to take my first crack at hard difficulty at level 42. It was insanely difficult the first boss wiped the floor with me like it was funny and crippled my confidence in the same move. So, I took to the combat simulator, trained my characters to level 50, learned all of the weapon abilities, maxed out all of my best materia and took a good long while to get my head in the game when it comes to the combat system. 

What are each characters real strengths? What materia am I going to need the most? Which loadout would improve my chances of survival the best? Those were the questions running through my head as I formulated the best loadouts for my playstyle and geared up to take on Hard Mode.

“I need a test,” I thought to myself. Seeing that there was a trophy for learning all 4 enemy skills, one of which comes from Malboro, I figured my test should be that. With all 3 other enemy skills learned, and my new loadouts equipped on my fully upgraded characters, I took on the Malboro and won.. but obviously screwed that up too!

I forgot to equip a Materia which would have allowed me to learn one of Malboro’s skills for one of the trophies…

I’m telling you… Plan better than I did if you go for this game’s platinum!

Either way,  after beating Malboro two times in a row, I knew one thing… I was ready!

Hard Mode Chapters 1-16

This was an absolute drag, every new challenge the game threw at me felt like the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, with some bosses in particular feeling impossible. Hell House and Eligor are just a few names which haunt my nightmares as I dread the thought of ever having to put myself through those trials again.

The more I progressed, the better I got, but the tougher the game got. It was a perfect gradual learning curve which constantly kept me challenged. While I was constantly satisfied and proud of myself for overcoming each new difficulty, I was in a near-constant state of dread thinking about what was to come.

Having eventually reached chapter 17, I felt ready to take on one of the game’s toughest challenges. And just in time too, because it’s found in Chapter 17.

Pride and Joy

There is a secret hidden boss in the game, who you can only access through the combat simulator once you have finished the game and much like Malboro it can only be faced on hard difficulty.

In order to face this secret boss, you need to beat 4 other bosses in a row (the fourth of which summons another boss as his support!) This took me up to 5 hours easily of just playing the same battles over and over until I finally overcame this hurdle and unlocked an item which would make the rest of my platinum journey much easier.

Hard Mode Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17 is the hardest chapter in the game, with a daunting 5 bosses back-to-back, the latter of which is the single hardest boss in the game. I found myself stuck on that boss for around 2 hours, replaying it over and over, wondering if it was actually even possible to beat before, against all odds, actually managing it.

Compared to that particular boss, the two remaining bosses in chapter 18 felt like a joke, I breezed through (albeit, somewhat nervously) and reached the end of the game for the second and final time.

At this point, it was time to break off to another game. I was sat at 148 platinum trophies but I wanted FFVII to be my 150th platinum. So I jumped off for about 40 minutes to follow MrZhangetsu’s popular Snakeybus Trophy Guide with which I was at 149 in no time, and ready to nab that last trophy.

The Last 3 Bridal Gowns

There are 9 dresses to find in Final Fantasy VII Remake, and they require at least 3 partial playthroughs. Since I already had to do 2 full playthroughs, I left it until last so that I could just polish off my run with a final partial playthrough.

To get the last 3 dresses I needed to play Chapters 3, 8 and 9 again. Oh boy, three of the longest ones!

After about 2 hours into what would prove to be a 3 and a half hour partial playthrough, I threw in the towel and called it a night, before picking it back up again the next day to finish up the last few bits, finally netting myself that platinum trophy, after which I simply sat back on the couch and grinned a bit. 

… Before coming over to my laptop and spending 12 straight hours writing guides and reviews and all the rest!

My play-through stats at the end of the game.

Time Breakdown

First Playthrough

Hard Mode Playthrough

Chapter Select Cleanup

Combat Simulator

Final Fantasy VII Remake Trophy Guides

The good majority of this game’s trophy list is simple enough, beat every chapter, do certain combat feats for the first time, and complete Chadley’s Battle Intel Reports. 

However, there are a few tougher trophies, such as beating a Malboro or completing the game on Hard Difficulty, which take up just as much time as the first playthrough did. For that reason, rather than offering some mildly helpful tips, I have written extensive guides which can help you with the trickier trophies, which you can find below:

That concludes my Final Fantasy VII Remake platinum trophy review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!

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Verdict

Plat

This is one of the best games I have ever played, with a true focus on heartfelt story telling and plenty of challenges along the way, it is a must-play PlayStation 4 title and I recommend you definitely check it out. However, the Platinum trophy proves to be a very intensive and difficult chore which takes a huge chunk of time to acquire, so maybe don’t attempt to Plat it unless you’re up to a real (but satisfying) challenge!

Pros

  • Incredible attention to character development
  • Fantastic cinematic cutscenes
  • Beautiful and faithful music recreation

Cons

  • High definition visuals are inconsistent
  • Some side-quests are just plain boring

Platinum Trophy

This is one game which definitely deserves a Platinum rating. I loved it from start to gruelling finish and… Well, I don’t know what I’m going to play next, I kinda miss it already.

About the Author

More fond of single-player experiences and story-driven games than anything else, TheDblTap has a keen eye for secrets and collectables, a skill which serves him well as a Trophy Hunter. However, with little patience and poor timing, he can struggle where MrZhangetsu would succeed.

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