When I think of the video game title Final Fantasy 7 from Square Co. Ltd (Squaresoft, Square Enix) I’m taken back to a time when I can remember its arrival back in January 1997 in a small plastic case, white cover with logo and released for the small, grey yet revolutionary PlayStation console also known as the PS1. I won’t be writing up a review of this version here as it’s in the past and I want to concentrate on new, quality content featuring Final Fantasy 7 Remake details for the reader.
Funny thing is though, I can’t recall myself playing it much but I can remember the endless nights and early hours my brother went through, carried away on it, and getting told off for his long adventures. It was a huge game then and even bigger now with the many new improvements. Back then it was like a scene from a sci-fi movie as a dancing glow of light used to radiate from his bedroom door edges, accompanied by strange sounds into the early hours.
He always safely awoke from midday, so the aliens or monsters hadn’t taken him after all. These are the memories I have of the game at the time and can reflect upon.
Earlier this year, in April 2020 Square Enix released a remake or re-imagining of the game, which I gathered from Final Fantasy 7 Remake details, is the first in a planned series of games, which I thought was interesting as my first thoughts were if we’ll be getting a full game here or not?
Never the less its release went down well with fans and critics stating that the game faithfully stuck close to the story and lore of the original game.
As with a Final Fantasy boss battle, it was a long fight for me to acquire this title as I was determined to only pay the price I wanted in my eBay account activity and lost many bids and offers in the process over weeks and months since release. I scoured the web and looked for the title elsewhere and through my usual retail sites, other online marketplaces, and supermarkets which all seemed to show the game trending more than £30.00 upwards at the time.
I looked into voucher codes, Quidco cashback, and anything else to bring the price down away from the ridiculously high amount I wanted to avoid. It was like waiting for an ATB gauge to fill, but eventually, after a bit of patience and a few months on I got it and it still felt new, below are my thoughts and review.
Publisher – Square Enix
Genre – Action, RPG, Fantasy
Rating – PEGI 16
Players – 1
Blu-ray Discs – 2
Storage Space – 100GB Minimum
The content below in this section is taken from the rear cover of the game and presented here. The world is under the control of Shinra, a corporation controlling the planet’s life force as mako energy. In the city of Midgar, Cloud Strife, a former member of Shinra’s elite soldier unit, now turned mercenary, lends his aid to the Avalanche resistance group, unaware of the epic consequences that await him.
The story of this first, standalone game in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake project covers up to the party’s escape from Midgar and goes deeper into the events occurring in the city than the original Final Fantasy 7.
This game title supports network features, HD video output, HDR visuals, supported remote play, and includes enhanced 4K support for PlayStation 4 (PS4) Pro systems. The included voiceovers are in Japanese, English, French, and German and featuring text and subtitles in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. A reversible cover is also included featuring two designs.
The vision of Square Enix was to split the game into multiple parts, giving players deeper access to areas in the game, such as within and around the city of Midgar, which was inaccessible in the original release. By doing this in this way it meant that large portions of the game would not be cut, which would’ve happened if they tried to cram the game into a single release.
In Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the brilliant and imaginative boss battles now have multiple phases during combat, with the boss behaviour, strategies, and even the setting seamlessly changing throughout the battle. The original concept and idea of this battle system were inspired by four-frame manga, originating in Japan.
These manga comics featured a basic story structure in only four animated panels and included an introduction, a middle part, development, and a conclusion. From a sales point of view since April 2020, Final Fantasy 7 Remake had sold and shipped over 3.5 million physical copies worldwide and within only three days.
This alone, made it one of the biggest PlayStation 4 (PS4) title launches and fastest-selling PlayStation 4 (PS4) exclusive video games. Not surprisingly, this game title went further and topped the launch sales of Marvel’s Spiderman from Insomniac Games, which sold 3.3 million copies and God of War, developed by SIE Santa Monica Studios selling 3.1 million in 2018. Outstanding statistics, don’t you think?
The video game title entered full development by late 2015 and rather than Square Enix going with their game engine, they licensed Epic Games’ Unreal 4 to develop the masterpiece. In 2017 though, the Final Fantasy 7 Remake development and journey changed and focussed on being primarily an internal project, rather than being created with external partners.
Maybe Square Enix knew they were on to a winner as it’s almost like the original PlayStation (PS1) game was just a creative rough sketch and blueprint awaiting the big-budget treatment it deserves.
User Menus and Interface
As with any heavy RPG video game, especially the Final Fantasy titles, there is bound to be some fluctuating menu systems going on, either in battle, gear, Materia orbs, and character upgrades to name a few.
I’ve personally had no issues with them while playing and feel they are slick, laid out, and presented neatly and look great on a 49-inch screen. The first and main menu is a clear, simple affair and has the usual choices you’d expect at the start, including game options, video/audio, new game, continue the game, controls layout, and camera to name a few.
Once your journey starts, the main menu that you have access to starts to fill out with more options to explore. There’s a nice clean layout of each character’s statistics at a glance overlaying a quality rendered image of them which adjusts depending on who is in Cloud’s party moving through the story.
The equipment and Materia orbs are under the same menu, again, very neat, clean and easy to follow and as expected when you first come across new features, the game guides you through, what to press, and where to place, so even the newest of players to the series can get to grips and start honing their skills and upgrading their characters.
Each change you make you can see the effects below in the statistics and skills of the character, like for example defence, luck, and magic attack.
The Materia orbs area shows the level the Materia used is at, as well as the bonuses it provides if equipped. There’s also a visual video showing Materia info. Note that in the items menu you can see everything you’ve collected and brought, which is helpful because as you start to rely on the commands menu in-game as I do, some of the items aren’t available out of combat.
Similarly the same goes for magic, where what you have and can be used can be seen and accessed in the command menu like for example the cure spell, as well as under the main menu magic options.
It was the battle settings menu that I was drawn towards and that interested me as I’m a player that doesn’t like the action too fast or intense, I like to think about my moves and plan a little strategy. The options presented are classic, easy, and normal.
I thought that classic may have been the choice for me as it states, “classic is recommended if you want to focus on using commands in battle.” Using the classic mode option, “the player-controlled character will attack and defend automatically, allowing you to focus on executing commands.
The battle difficulty is the same as easy.” It’s the latter that put me off as I do want a challenge without reverting to an easy mode, hence I’ve gone with normal difficulty.
As it always has been within the franchise, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a linear structured game with set maps and places to explore. There may be areas where some simple bollards, cones, or barrels stop your movement from venturing behind them and it’s strange just walking in the opposite direction with the feeling that you might be missing out on something hidden.
For a gamer like me who concentrates on a slow walk through the areas and finding everything you do feel constricted and your freedom cut short compared to other open-world game titles. This fact doesn’t hinder me and others may ignore it too, I still scout the edges of the map looking for cracks in walls and attempting to move past adjacent parked cars or barriers, there’s no harm in trying.
The rest of the gameplay and work behind the game makes up for this and it does stay true to the original. Would it work as an open-world game? It’s already big enough and spans two discs.
In Final Fantasy fashion, the easy and normal options of the battle settings are real-time and therefore you have to attack, defend, and evade the onscreen action. While in this mode you have to pay attention to your party’s health amongst other things and you will use the battle commands menu I mentioned above which allows the use of items, individual abilities, and spells once the ATB gauge has filled.
The great thing which I appreciate is that the action, lasers, and projectiles are slowed down to a crawl giving some breathing space to initiate a command for either the party leader or other members.
The other worthy detail to note which I’ve not taken advantage of just yet is that a player can assign four favourite commands as shortcuts to the controller and bypass the commands menu entirely while in combat. Some players may find all these commands, party health monitoring, moving, and defending a little overwhelming and that’s where the classic option comes in and can be changed under the difficulty setting.
I suggest you give both options of difficulty a try as they are interchangeable during the game and even if you used classic mode you can still take over the party leader, move, attack and evade and once the character has stopped moving it does go back to automatic combat and defending, so there’s still control over the character even if a little reduced.
Cloud’s movements are fluid and interactive elements are lit up showing what needs to be pressed if anything. I’ve found no frustrating camera issues yet since my humble beginnings and it’s good to know that camera positioning can be adjusted to suit the player in the main menu options. I’ve noticed that if you do get a bad angle and another party member clashing between your character and the camera, they do become transparent rather than taking a trip right through the model itself, eliminating any frustration.
Even movement from and to a ladder is presented well with great fluid animations and the camera adjusts accordingly, there’s no fear of slipping off an upper area or rung here as I’ve done many times with Grand Theft Auto 5 (2013) from Rockstar Games, mentioned in my other article.
The filling of the ATB gauge is key in this game as it is the core of all your actions, commands, and spells. It does fill slowly but can be bumped up by constantly attacking a foe and as the delay in using the ATB gauge is kept to minimal, combat flows nicely.
During combat scenarios a player can switch between members of his/her party and this is encouraged as each character will have their strengths, skills, and weaponry.
Barret, for example, has a Gatling gun affixed to his arm and deals great ranged damage whereas Cloud has his large sword for close combat. When a character is AI controlled it will use basic attacks and defend, staying away from special abilities and using up the ATB gauge which is the player’s prerogative.
It may also be the case that you’ve run out of health potions and Tifa is the only one with a cure spell. If this is the case you can even use the commands menu to get Tifa to use the spell without becoming Tifa. Mixing it up a bit and changing characters during a boss battle, I found helped as once I was targeted by the enemy I’d switch roles, let the game automatically defend for my other characters and I’d hit it from the rear with my current leader.
On occasions, you’re forced to switch as your character can be bound by an enemy and is unusable until released. Each player will find their way and having all these characters, menus, and battle options do give players some choices to utilise.
While playing my own story I’ve come across a variant of a level, different from the norm, and takes place on a bike at high speed. This changes things up a little and gives a break from all the walking, exploring and running around with a heavy sword.
I’m sure to expect other sequences of action as I venture forth, but the majority of this game’s content will be vast exploration, combat, and boss levels.
There are three other ways for Cloud Strife to attack during a battle, one of which is to switch from his default, balanced Operator Mode to a stronger Punisher Mode. His attacks will be more powerful and deal high damage but his movement is slower and there are restrictions on blocking and evading. In the Punisher Mode, there is also a feature where Cloud will seize an opportunity for a counterattack against an enemy’s melee attack.
If a Limit Bar is filled during combat by successfully staggering enemies or taking damage, this can give a player a second option called a Limit Break, a unique and powerful attack for each character to use and is shown in the command menu over a coloured background. A third option for attacking is using a Summon command and which calls upon a great creature or huge support of sorts that can unleash hell for a limited time.
Firstly though you have to find red Summon Materia orbs and the summon command isn’t available too freely either and more so near boss battles and guardians.
This was the section I was looking forward to the most for writing about and reviewing as the graphics, presentation, and visual representation on screen is simply amazing, not just compared to the original game but just from a technical perspective and pushing the PlayStation 4 (PS4) to its edge. Before I run through some Final Fantasy 7 Remake details I’ll state one word that sums it all up for me and the word I used when I got into the game was, “scale.”
Midgar has been brought to life as a living, breathing, smoking, and Mako sucking city. The amount of towering steel, huge detailed riveted pipes, fans, thin pipes, vents, wet-looking steam pipes, and lighting are enough to blow you away. Did I mention the number of pipes?
When a player reaches the slums area, there is a complete change of visuals and colour compared to what a player will have experienced up to this point. You can look upwards to a sky darkened by the underside of Midgar’s huge sector plates and lights high up above, lights that pose as sunlight and that are giving life to the slums below.
These enormous lights are featured up close and personal in a level later down the line from an opposite angle where you’re looking down to the slums, its visible lights twinkling and illuminating the pathways below. Hopefully, your vertigo is in check as it’s a realistic-looking long way down!
The cut-scene introduction is enough to set the scene and show off the scale of the playfield as you journey in and out of the different sectors but the amount of detail put into the game levels and environment brings it to life. Other cut-scenes in-game that feature the characters are brilliant and are lit and rendered well, my favourite being Barret’s visual details featuring light bouncing off his head, chest hairs, teeth, eyes behind his sunglasses, clothing details and his huge, exaggerated character build.
Other characters have realistic, gleaming eyes, skin tone, hair, and texture and have that familiar young, fresh anime style that’s been included in all Final Fantasy games.
The sequences in this remake do bring the original stiff vector, polygon-shaped characters to life and into a more realistic world, competing against other top-rated graphical titles. I found myself more engaged in the story and the characters as they all look a lot more alive and realistic now.
Every Final Fantasy game title will include its fair share of visual effects, some small like a surrounding green mist when taking a potion or a manga style Summon command. It’s amazing to see various coloured flashes, swirls and lines during battles and although a lot can be going on at once on-screen, it doesn’t put you off in any way and is visually appealing for a next-generation Final Fantasy title.
Another fine example to illustrate the amount of detail in this game is regarding the use of Materia in weapons and gear, which is visible not only on the character moving around but in the sequences between play no matter what colour you’ve picked up.
I think the best thing I’ve paid attention to since I started my adventure if you can utilize the option, are all aspects of HDR lighting in the levels I’ve seen. I’ve seen such amazing effects of light through vapour and smoke and within the explored environment. Some lighting is bold and bright like floodlights through a haze and other lights may just be some glowing floor lights in a steam-filled corridor or bulbs on a ladder or information sign.
It’s everything from light bounce details off floors and walls, dimly lit streets at night, glowing lights and environment lights, too much to mention but enough detail in this category that my eyes were drawn to and can appreciate.
The same sort of detailed attention has been lavished on the music too. Final Fantasy 7 Remake goes beyond just simply giving the nostalgic score from 1997 an orchestral revamp. The original MIDI versions did the trick but now the tracks sound so much more full and rich with better quality audio and now in their full orchestral glory.
The music in this game is so vast and engaging Square Enix has released a seven discs original soundtrack and if you’re lucky to find it, a first-print limited edition, eight discs special edit version.
These CDs feature songs from the game, as well as a title called Hollow, the theme song composed by Nobuo Uematsu.
The music in the game is a mix of powerful, aggressive tracks which dynamically accompany action-oriented sequences which amp up and become more intense and energetic as a battle unfolds. On the other side of the scale, are the soothing, fantasy, character-driven tracks that are delicately filled with soft emotional touches.
Fans of the nostalgic 1997 version of the game will recognise familiar tracks brought up to date with new technologies and tools and which have been rearranged and remastered by composers, Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Tadayoshi Makino, Shotaro Shima, Yoshinori Nakamura and Mitsuto Suzuki and others.
The soundtrack is vast and spans a variety of musical genres, from metal to jazz, electronica, bossa nova and even venturing into 1950s rock. The music of Final Fantasy 7 Remake has set a high bar in video game soundtracks.
Each character has their specific voice, tone and musical track theming similar to the way characters in the Star Wars movies each have their score. Cloud always sounds moody and not one for talking, keeping himself to himself and not letting on to others what’s going on in his head.
Barret is always cracking a joke between battles and singing a familiar ditty after battles from the original game under his sweaty, aggressive demeanour. The girls in the game all have that young, cute, anime quality in both their voices, giggles and playful pleasant tones which complement their visual look.
As you progress through the story you will come across music tracks in the guise of music discs that can be brought or collected, these will be heard faintly on approach to them and can be in the form of an old gramophone record player with merchants, dispensed from a vending machine, got from other characters or a dancing minigame when you find them.
There are 31 music disc locations and each track acquired can then be played on the jukebox in Tifa’s bar, Seventh Heaven. Finding all of them unlocks a trophy.
The only minor frustration I’ve come across is the background tracks seem short and therefore repetitive, which is all fine and all but as I slowly move around, exploring and appreciating the details of the game it gets a little bothersome. All I’ve done to accommodate this personal issue is to drop the music volume a little lower so it’s more background and ambience than a bold forefront track going over and over in endless circles.
This won’t be the case with the majority of you I’m sure, but I did want to point it out as for me, it’s finding that balance of having music on while playing as I do want to hear it as it’s part of what the game is presenting, but not too much constantly to frustrate or annoy. What do you think? Comment below.
As I’ve mentioned above briefly I cannot recall my experiences with the original Final Fantasy 7 video game and can only put it down to that it was a novelty and fad choice of the purchase at the time. Maybe I brought it because I knew my brother was into the Japanese styled RPG games more than me and wanted to see his excitement and enjoyment more. I remember it being a heavy, menu-based action game with a fantasy story and I think I just wasn’t ready for it and didn’t appreciate video games back then as much as I do now.
I don’t recall getting far or progressing much and just maybe this is one of the main reasons why I’ve brought the remake, to re-appreciate it and progress through a hazy storyline I can’t remember or never finished. This was a chance for me to see this game again, looking better than ever, away from polygon characters as shown below with their blank facial expressions and get into a story that I feel I can now appreciate more.
I won’t admit to being a die-hard fan of the Final Fantasy series of games and whichever titles I’ve touched on or owned in the past, I never saw out the ending to completion, nothing new there. It’s the change of style I like compared to other games I own and I do like choices to suit the mood, mentioned here and hence my large game collection.
I’ve been in bewildered awe at this game so far and have found it rather engaging despite all the above, it fits in nicely with next-gen games and quality and I look forward to finding out what’s in store in further chapters. This is a visual masterpiece and highly recommended.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about this title, the written content or even your own experiences with this genre of game.