The Midgar Blues

This is a review of Final Fantasy VII: Remake, but I’ll be writing a non-spoiler { NON-SPOILER } take followed by the spoiler review. So when you see { SPOILER } and you haven’t finished the game that’ll be your chance to leave this post.

I’d look worse if I ran up 59 flights.

{ NON-SPOILER }

In the summer of 1998 one of my brothers got Final Fantasy VII for PC. Yes, you read that right, PC. Ironically it was released on my birthday in 1998, but it was Jimmy who got it later that summer. Despite this injustice, a game we had…and then it ruined our family computer…a number of times…because this was 1998 and that little Dell computer tried its hardest to give us what we wanted: MOTHER FUCKIN’ FINAL GODDAMN FANTASY VII! *eventually we got the PlayStation version which we played the hell out of*

Yes, I was serious about the PC port.

Sitting in the basement with Jimmy playing this game, and in a more real sense, watching him play it, has always been a fond memory. Back then we played all sorts of what I consider to be the Golden Age of JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) like Legend of Legaia, Wild ARMs, Tales of Destiny, Chrono Cross, you get the point. We played these all day every day filling multiple memory cards on that old PlayStation, not least among them was Final Fantasy VII, but I digress.

After many years of waiting, an E3 presentation showing off the PlayStation 3’s graphics featuring the opening sequence which at the time they should have known would have started an uproar of a remake, more waiting, a 2015 trailer with the official announcement, and 5 more years of waiting…*phew*…we fuckin’ got it. We finally got the goddamn game…and it is glorious. This isn’t just the ramblings of a giddy man-child, this is a love letter.

A love letter to the slums of Midgar

Final Fantasy VII: Remake plays like a dream in all the right ways while giving us the essence of the beloved original. There are a few hiccups throughout, sure, things that can easily be overlooked, like there’s some poorly rendered pieces here and there. What this game gets right it fucking gets right. The combat is so fluid even when time slows when selecting an action with the new ATB system. I truly believe this will forever change the way modern RPGs will play, this new system is truly a work of art and the learning curve is within the first chapter of the game.

However beautiful and fully realized the game is, as I said before, there are some issues within. The weapon leveling system is a little bit of a headache. Sure, it’s straightforward and does allow for auto-spending your SP (weapon points) on the various skills, but it just becomes tedious over time and halts everything for you to go through each character because everyone gains SP for each weapon at the same time. So before you know it you’ve got a stack of SP for each weapon for each character each requiring a new menu filled with a submenu to unlock things like higher Attack, or Speed, or linked Materia.

Speaking of, Materia is such a fantastic system. It was in the original and is also present in the remake. Materia are special orbs made by the planet imbued with magical powers like lightening, healing, or summon a Fat Chocobo to bounce and roll around dealing devastating damage to any foe unlucky enough to go against a giant fat yellow bird-thing.

It really is a giant fat yellow bird-thing.

Materia levels up on its own when attached to equipment, but this means any Materia sitting in your inventory won’t see any of those tasty AP points, but the trade off is Materia levels itself up and automatically gives you the newly acquired skills. Fire becomes Fira which then becomes Firaga, each more powerful than the other, same goes for HP Up Materia increasing your Hit Points in percentages so the higher leveled the Materia the stronger it becomes. Now, there are *some* issues with Materia. First, it’s difficult to acquire. You find them naturally throughout the game, and the more interesting and powerful are that much more difficult to find in the world. This leads to the second issue with Materia, it is expensive as fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Any shop in the game that sells this stuff want thousands of Gil (game-world currency) for something as simple as Fire, I think about 2000 Gil for a simple non-leveled Fire Materia. It feels like a lot considering money isn’t just thrown at you in this game, so you have to consider what you spend your cash on, and Materia ain’t one of them. Thankfully when taking part of the Intel Reports Chadley will sell you the specific Materia for 100-200 Gil, but for only one of the specific Materia tied to the Intel Report. So for the love of everything, keep your Materia. Don’t sell it. Don’t buy it.

My final issue is the pacing of the game. At times it’s super fast-paced and exhilarating, but it will halt just as quick. Stopping for cinematics never bothered me, I expect that in a game like this, but when the gameplay also just grinds to a halt? When these moments happen it really removes you from the game, because now you’re just aimlessly walking around completing mostly arbitrary side-quests. Some are really fun, especially towards the end, but about 60% of those earlier ones were just boring filler. The side quests could have been so much more, things that expanded on lore, or involved the plot a lot more, but there was one where you have to walk around and find a little kid’s cat. It’s *meh*, not bad per se, but it does take you out of the sense of the game. This is most apparent when the story says “we must do this now because it’s urgent and time sensitive” but in reality it isn’t any of those things when there’s 8 side quests that tack on another three hours of gameplay. The side quests overall are great though, so don’t let that detract from the experience too much.

Sweet glorious distractions

I put about 42 hours into it thus far, and you also have the option to replay the entire game or just individual chapters for those of you who missed out on some items or trophies. I will be revisiting Midgar soon, that’s for certain.

All in all I highly recommend Final Fantasy VII: Remake, it was well worth the waiting for this experience.

{ SPOILER }

Final Fantasy VII: Remake is a gorgeous masterpiece. Truly it is. From the new story additions, and yes even the changes, this game hits on so many levels.

The story doesn’t deviate too much from the original, but that’s where this game really sets itself apart from its source. To remind us all of these deviations we’re introduced to entities called Whispers. These Whispers pop up every so often to ensure that the plot of the original game stays the same, but there are times when Cloud and co. are able to drive them off and alter things. This is more apparent when we get to the Sector 7 plate support beam’s destruction. In the OG this is where AVALANCHE’s Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie die trying to stop Shinra from destroying the support beam and dropping the upper plate on top of the Sector 7 slums, home of Barrett’s AVALANCHE, but in Remake Wedge survives the fall from the beam, Biggs survives…well…that whole thing dropping on his fucking head, but Jessie, as far as we can tell, is dead as should be.

Inside Shinra HQ

The fun additions to the three’s stories and lives brought a freshness to the lore of VII, and it’s nice seeing fleshed out characters residing in Midgar. The rest of the game plays out fairly the same, the reactors are blown up but with the twist that Shinra was allowing them to do it and even helped them. The Whispers pop up here and there to ensure characters like Hojo aren’t on the other end of Cloud’s gigantic sword, that isn’t a euphemism.

Getting those Midgard Blues thinking about killing Hojo

The real change, the biggest change, comes from the final couple of hours of the game when you finally reach the top of Shinra’s tower. You’re met with President Shinra who is about to fall off like in the OG, but then when Barrett escorts the man in he’s suddenly met face to face with Sephiroth. The man takes one look at Barrett and runs his massive sword, Masamune, through Barrett. No, it’s not a euphemism.

FF VII loves massive swords. From the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Barrett slumps over and is seemingly dead as the Whispers surround his body, and Sephiroth transforms into Jenova (It’d take too long to even explain what she is and why this is weird) and now Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith supported by Red XIII who isn’t a playable character in this game have to fight the tentacled monstrosity which deviates from the OG. After you defeat it it turns into one of the numbered experiments you met earlier in the game and who appear in the OG trying to do “reunion” and Sephiroth appears and carries him off. Barrett is resurrected by the Whispers and Cloud runs off to see where Sephiroth is going and is met with some SOLDIERs and Rufus Shinra, the VP of Shinra and son of the now dead president making Rufus the de-facto world leader.

About to fight Rufus Shinra

This fight is only between Cloud and Rufus and did happen in the OG. Rufus escapes via helicopter as the rest of the team attempt to escape via elevator. The team are greeted by a still living Wedge who communicates with them via FaceTime or whatever it is about escaping Shinra HQ, but then the elevator carrying the team is attacked and begins to plummet to the ground. They’re saved by the Whispers from sudden death, but Wedge is carried off as the screen goes black and the sound of glass shattering is heard as Wedge thinks if he made a difference. His fate is still unknown, but I’m assuming he’s dead just as the Whispers tried doing back when the plate fell and to keep in the timeline of the OG.

The elevator group are met by the elevator boss from the OG only this time it’s in a large room, and plays out a lot like the scorpion mech fight from the first bombing mission. After this it’s on to the motorcycle chase on the highway that plays out like the OG, only this time the boss is fought only on the highway and not at the end of it.

It’s the same truck from the OG

Once you’ve reached the end you’re face to face with Sephiroth who talks about destiny and wanting it changed and opens a portal. Cloud and co. go in and you have to fight several mini-bosses all tied to the Whisper arbiter which apparently means Remake can now safely deviate completely from the OG.

A fight with Sephiroth happens and slowly each team member shows up to help Cloud out, and after the fight Cloud and Sephiroth are standing in some weird dimension as Sephiroth explains that they can now change their destiny as another scene of Zack carrying Cloud plays, only instead of collapsing and dying like in the OG he survives.

The game’s story makes it abundantly clear that they want to deviate from the OG plot, but maybe the Whispers represent the lore’s gatekeepers who refuse to accept the changes, and undoubtedly have been screeching on the internet about how this game “ruins” the OG game since launch. When you play this game you need to go into it with the thought of this being its own thing, we can’t hold this game up to the past with all its horrific polygons that makes it look like the entire planet has some sort Popeye arm deformity, and chip tunes that would give anyone a migraine today. Final Fantasy VII: Remake is its own game that pays homage to the source material, but we need to remember that it is a different game, which it needs to remain otherwise we’ll continue to be disappointed by a brand new game that’s being unfairly compared to something from 1997.

Yup, this is the superior game.
This is the Switch “remastered” edition.

What this means for the future of the VII franchise who knows, but I’m excited to see what further changes they make, and reconnect with a familiar world and characters.

The gang is all here, or at least the gang so far.

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