“A Game of the Year Worthy Contender”
For the video game awards this year, I’d figured to write a review for a game that has been nominated for game of the year. FF7 Remake came out a few weeks after the worldwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic so it was perfect timing for millions to experience an epic tale. I never played the original FF7 on the PS1, but its story always intrigued me. There wasn’t any point to play it now that a remake was on its way. And boy was it worth the wait.
FF7 Remake is one of the best RPG games ever and easily one of the best remakes/remasters to ever set foot in video gaming. During a time where a pandemic shut down most of the planet. FF7 Remake was the perfect escape from a world gone awry. The characters are interesting, the graphics are glorious to witness, the soundtrack is mind-blowing, and the gameplay is hectic, fun, and rewarding. Suffice to say, the game delivered the hype ever since it was announced in E3 2015.
I will steer away from spoilers because FF7 Remake does something interesting by the time the credits roll. I’ve compared both the original and remake in terms of its story and for the most part, it is the same. The premise is precisely what you would expect from the original PS1 game. Cloud is a mercenary hired by the revolutionary group known as Avalanche which aims to save the world from an oppressive corporation known as Shinra. Shinra uses Mako, the energy source of the planet, to power cities like Midgar to advance their technology to satisfy their greed and profits. Without Mako, the planet is slowly dying so Avalanche takes it upon themselves to save the world. A story about a revolution then turns into an epic struggle of saving the world from Sephiroth, the main antagonist.
What strikes me about the story is how relevant it is to this day. Shinra is the definition of peak capitalism and fascism while Avalanche is labeled as terrorists for trying to save the planet and potentially millions of lives. Who says video games shouldn’t make political statements? Story-driven video games generally have a message to tell us, political or not. FF7 Remake is no exception and it fires on all cylinders. The developers took a wild risk at the game’s finale which I applaud. Now, the game’s story will leave you wanting more in part 2 which is set to release in the coming years. The game has yet to hit its high point and that is quite exciting, to say the least.
FF7 Remake has a wide array of interesting characters. Cloud is our protagonist and his backstory is still filled with mystery. He may typically seem like he’s in a bad mood and act selfishly and arrogant, but in reality, he’s a very nice guy who appears to lose control of his feelings at times because of his past. Cloud is the most iconic character in the Final Fantasy franchise and the voice acting solidifies him as a likable, yet complex character that grows a stronger bond with those around him.
Aerith might be one of my most favorite female characters in any video game. She’s sweet, kindhearted, and innocent to the core. She’s the polar opposite of Cloud in terms of personality which makes for a fascinating dynamic between the two. Aerith is a one of a kind character with perhaps the most interesting backstory. Like Cloud, she’s an iconic character in the franchise, but I can’t help to think that what happens next with her will keep us guessing.
Although some may see Tifa as overly sexualized, at least in the original, she’s no doubt a strong young woman with a lot of personality and charm. She’s a hardened warrior who you can believe is just as powerful of a fighter as Cloud. Despite her stingy mentality at times, Tifa has shown to have a sense of humor, often flirting with Cloud. It makes sense since they grew up together long ago, but now they have the same goals. Both of them grew up to fight against a common enemy that threatens their livelihood.
It’s essential for the main characters to have chemistry with one another. Tifa and Aerith are great partners for Cloud, but Barret’s banters with Cloud make for some of the most entertaining dialogue. He’s a pushover with Cloud, often irked by his actions, but that’s what makes their dynamic fun.
The gameplay in FF7 Remake deserves all the credit in the world. I had some concerns that it might be too easy, but it is far more challenging than you think. Initially, I thought the game was a little too difficult. I struggled to block attacks or expose weaknesses in the enemy which meant I was often low on health in battles. But alas, I got better over time. The game’s balance is perfect. Never too easy, never too hard. It truly is only hard when you don’t have the proper materia, weapons, or equipment. The cherry on top is the boss battles. Each one is unique and equally as epic. Every boss fight feels like the final boss. It is truly a spectacle engaging in such rewarding gameplay while beating a boss. The game’s hard difficulty bars you from using items for an even stiffer challenge. After completing the game twice, once in normal, once in hard, it is safe to say that FF7 Remake has the best gameplay mechanics in an RPG since Chrono Trigger. Never a dull moment when immersing yourself in such pristine and delightful combat.
If there is one glaring criticism of the game, no question it’s the unnecessary sidequests. Sure, they give you some juicy rewards, but the sidequests themselves aren’t interesting. They feel forced in order to expand the Midgar portion of the game. Basically, they don’t add much to the lore in Midgar. Also, if you want to acquire every trophy, the game requires you to do a lot of backtracking which was annoying to repeat certain chapters that weren’t exactly short in length.
In the end, the gameplay is a blast to enjoy. Each character has their specific playstyles: Cloud is the brawler, Tifa is the agile fighter, Aerith is the caster/wizard, and Barrett is the ranged tank. I wanted to play with everyone at the same time because of their different advantages. Rarely was I ever bored with the combat because you feel like a part of the action. On top of such a phenomenal soundtrack, the gameplay never disappointed me and it always seemed to top itself with each preceding battle.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
FF7 Remake is a gorgeous game to sit through. Although it doesn't have the best graphics in 2020, the game’s landscapes and visuals are nothing to sneeze at. Seeing Midgar in full 4K resolution is a dream come true. It must have taken years to devise such stunning scenery. It isn’t fair to judge the graphics to the original since they look painfully outdated, but FF7 Remake does the game’s world justice. The audio design is also excellent. The sound of sword slashing and spells being cast is truly an epiphany. Activating summoning materia and limit specials was an experience like no other.
Graphics and Sound: 9.0/10
I had a difficult time choosing either FF7 Remake or The Last of Us Part II for the best soundtrack of the year. I went with FF7 Remake because of how thrilled I was to hear those classic tunes remastered. When the epic FF7 battle theme kicks in, there was no way you can dislike the moment. You have to not be human to hate the game’s soundtrack. The Collapsed Expressway theme also got me grooving while fighting bandits. The Sector 7 theme? Makes me feel nostalgic even though I haven’t played the original. Aerith’s theme? A beautiful melody of a sweet, innocent character. And let’s not forget about the iconic boss theme, especially the Airbuster version. An utter masterpiece. Just listen to this and after hearing it, you can’t tell me this isn’t the greatest music in the history of video games?
FF7 Remakes is a strong contender for game of the year because of its compelling narrative and intriguing cast of characters that drive one another to overthrow a cruel corporation that prioritizes money over human lives. FF7 is considered to be one of the best in the Final Fantasy franchise and for good reason. Now that it has been released, refurnished, and remastered in modern gaming, I better understand why this is one of the best games ever made. It touched the lives of countless people who played it in the 1990s. At the soul and heart of the series, FF7 Remake and its characters are what truly make it a compelling story that touches on every emotional beat possible. Other than the unnecessary sidequests that were used as an excuse to stretch the game’s runtime, FF7 Remake delivers on all levels. Keep in mind that the game isn’t over just yet as part 2 and possibly part 3 are to be released. I can’t wait to see what Square Enix has in store as they will likely try to redefine FF7 once again in 2020 and beyond.
OVERALL SCORE: 9.5/10