Before I go on with this review, I just wanted to say that I have never been a fan of Final Fantasy 7. I know that this game brought role playing games to the forefront and when most gamers think of the Playstation console Final Fantasy 7 enters the conversation. This game single handedly made the Playstation console a serious contender against Nintendo and Sega. I feel that for me I just always had a hard time getting into this game. It just felt like it offered nothing new that previous games had not had already. I found it to be boring with many unlikeable characters in the party, like Tifa, to the point where I stopped playing right before finishing disk one and I never looked back. I honestly feel that I enjoyed Final Fantasy 6 so much that the direction turn was just too weird for me or that the story didn’t really mesh well. I don’t really know, but it’s just a game I never cared for until I played the remake.
The story is pretty much the same as I remember though it does strongly go on a different path. The game starts you off during the first mission to blow up a Mako reactor with Barrett and the rest of Avalanche. You start off the game playing only as Cloud, which is a great tutorial to test out the battle system, staggering enemies, locating chests, and using items. It was a great way to get used to how the game mechanics work early on before getting Barret to join the party. The game picks up after the events of the explosion. We are treated to seeing the aftermath by exploring the ruined city until we meet our lovely flower seller and that’s when the story changes for the better. It just felt that I was experiencing a familiar friend who went overseas to college and comes back the same yet different. It just felt so right with all the changes that it made me want to see where the game would take me. The story changes really added more insight that had me engaged and kept me engaged. I really enjoyed seeing the game in a new light and not just as a remastered version of the original game. I’m not sure if the story direction of this game was what the fans had in mind, but I feel it made me more curious to give the original a second look. And, I really do plan on checking out the original.
The combat was a real mixed bag at the beginning for me. It took me some time to fully get comfortable with the battles and how to use each character to the best of their abilities. I feel a most of my issue is that it took some time getting used to the battle mechanics, mainly switching between characters in the midst of the battle. It just felt a little weird, at first, trying to fight the first boss and switching between Cloud and Barrett. It felt like a chaotic mess until I got used to the mechanics, but that was once I got into the first sector. I was able to fully explore with Tifa and Cloud to get used to everything and slowly found my knack by doing random missions. The game offers the same tutorial that is in the demo, but truth be told, I am unbelievably bad at wanting to read or follow any tutorial. I just want to play, and I know that was my downfall. The battle mechanics are very similar to the “Tales of” series where you control the main character and give commands to the rest of your party. You can also change who you want to play as the main character in battle in the system screen and during any part of the battle. There’s also a timer or bar before you can use magic and abilities. It’s similar to using Cyan’s swordtech ability in Final Fantasy 6. Once I got the hang of everything, I found this to be a lot of fun and allowed me to see how the four main characters fare. This was extremely helpful when testing out the new weapons, summons and materia. It really made the battles feel like I was in more control than using turn-based combat and made combat feel more like a fighting game than a role-playing game.
There are two new elements to this game that I felt added a lot of value to the game. They are the missions and the VR missions. The missions are a combination of regular missions that the NPCs will give Cloud as he earns his rep as a Merc for Hire and missions that Chadley will give to create materia. The missions are a great way to learn the combat, abilities and how the characters work. I also liked how the missions give more story to certain NPCs. It also was nice to revisit other sectors and see how the mission story ends. The VR missions are really a combat simulation for summons. This reminded me of Final Fantasy X where you could enter a simulation and fight fiends like Lord Ochu. The VR missions earn you materia like Shiva, for example, and you’ll be able to earn more as the story processes. The VR missions are also good for testing out new weapons, abilities, materia and summons. You can only use one summon at a time, but each character can equip a summon. The summons, like with abilities, have a timed bar, and once completely filled they can be unleashed for a short period of time. I found the VR missions to be fun and a neat concept for this game.
My biggest headache was the materia setup in the original game. I just could not get used to it or know what materia was ideal for each character even with the guide. I just felt that I was more used to the mechanics in part 6 with the espers that the whole materia concept was frustrating. It just felt that I was wasting time on trying to unlock all the abilities with each materia only to find out that it wasn’t needed. It might have been, but honestly, I didn’t give the original enough time to really see what worked and what didn’t. With the remake, I found the materia system to be easy to figure out. I didn’t need to focus on what materia I gave the party. I just focused on the materia I wanted to level such as elemental and healing. I did this early on and I found that I had time to focus on leveling up the other types of materia. I did find that it was easy to get the materia if I devoted time to questing and even if I chose not to I still had more than enough to go around toward the end of the game. I actually was excited learning new spells and making sure that my team had what I felt was the right materia. And, I really made a huge attempt to try to gain all the materia I could that was available in this game.
The weapon system was one of the highlights of the game and such a fun touch to this game. Each character receives a certain number of weapons that are acquired by the story, quests, missions, etc. I found that I really didn’t have to buy weapons at the store since it was easy to earn weapons. It was a lot of fun trying to max out all the abilities for each weapon. It made using all the weapons something I wanted to do, instead of just quickly exchange for the newest, most powerful weapon. I did enjoy trying to max out all the weapons just to see how they would change the way I game. This is very similar to “Tales of Xillia” where after each level gained you can max out the character’s abilities. I really enjoyed this aspect in this game and it is something I that I feel would be ideal for RPGS, in general, or a new feature with ongoing Final Fantasy games. I felt the same way with the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X.
I really loved that this game took me to the same places, but provided different experiences. It made me go back, after every major event, just to see what the NPCS are up to or if new questions and missions are available. I felt that there was always something to do that I actually took my time to fully experience everything I could. I felt that I was truly immersed with Midgar and I had a lot of fun just exploring everything I could and returning to the same sectors in hopes that there be something new going in with them. My favorite section in this game is the Honey Pot Inn quest chain. I loved trying to do the best I can to get Aerith the best dress I could. I also was completely in stiches trying to master Cloud’s dancing skills to win him the best dress. I felt this section was such a nice tension breaker from the story and one that had tears running down my face from laughing so much. Sadly, my dance skills are not the best, but just getting to that point was so worth it.
The cast of characters really impressed me. I actually gave a damn about every single character including Tifa. She’s always been my least favorite in the game, but she slowly became a favorite of mine. I teared up when I thought that a certain character might have been killed to full blown sobbing when one of them did. I just felt so deeply for them all that all I wanted for each of them was happiness. I haven’t fully experienced in such a long time this type of feeling. Each character, from the main assemble cast to the NPCS, leave such a mark on the story. I cried, laughed, cheered, jeered and just really truly enjoyed all my interactions with the characters. I love that the main cast all had their secrets or pain hidden behind their eyes that I caught glimpses of it throughout. Some of their scars really resonated with me. There is a section where Aerith is crying as a little girl due to being isolated by her peers. A process that I went through as well. I really felt that I was experiencing my own pain during that scene.
The least favorite aspect is the motorcycle battles. There are two in the game and both were equally frustrating and annoying. At first, it was fun ramming into things and goofing off. It turned to be a pain trying to fight off enemies and then the bosses. I first encountered this event during Jesse’s mission rescue that Biggs and Wedge decided to come along for the ride. They did provide support taking down enemies. The bulk of everything was left to my inexperienced hands and I had to learn the balance between fighting and dodging attacks while making sure that the other team’s health was kept up. It was frustrating to try to do in the midst of the battle especially because if they die it’s game over. The second is toward the end of the game where I was really ready to just give up on this game. Cloud is facing off waves of enemies all by himself. The gang was encouraging and healing him after each section, which truly helped as each section got a bit harder as I moved on. The boss battle was such a pain. While, Barrett did help it was just me trying my hardest to not get killed. This section took around four tries to successfully pass it. Once, I did I felt a wave of accomplishment that I did it. It also brought up memories of the first Uncharted jet ski section. Not happy memories – just never want to do it again memories.
All in all, I really had a blast with this game. I am looking forward to the future installments. I don’t know where this story is going or how it will end, but I’m excited to follow along. The end of this chapter truly left the door open to so many different possibilities that I have no idea what’s going on anymore and I’m fine with that. I really hope that part two will finally introduce Cid, he’s my favorite from the original, and just get to see more of the world of Final Fantasy 7. I just can’t wait to dive back in this game to see where this crazy train will take me. All in all, I can safely say that I am now a fan of this game. Is it my favorite in the series? No, but it has replaced my disdain and that’s something right there. I’m looking forward to the next installment with the same excitement I felt as a kid during Christmas.