I was an N64 gamer, meaning I missed out on Final Fantasy 7 and all the hype the first time around. Over the years I tried many times to play it again but due to the graphics and technical limitations, I usually lost interest after a few hours. There was never anything wrong with the story, just other games came out and stole me away with their flashy graphics. Now finally, in this time of enforced quarantine, the perfect storm of game, graphics and story have led us here.
The first area of FF7 is like Mario 1-1. It has been completed many times and memorised by most gamers no matter how far they actually got with the game. Nothing can prepare you for playing this in FF7 Remake. The combat style is now real-time. You slash away with Cloud’s massive sword and chain hit after hit before switching to an ability or magic. When Barrett joins the party, you combo up with his chaingun and lightning spell. It has been built from the ground up to be as welcoming and user friendly as possible. You won’t get bogged down in tactical combat anymore or get confused as you hack and slash your way through Shinrah’s forces. Some people will miss the old fashioned turn-based combat but personally, the new real-time option just fits the shiny current-gen engine and graphics. You batter away at the enemies to fill an ATB gauge then use this to unleash abilities on the enemies. Depending on your playstyle and if you are doing a certain early quest, you can also assess them to see weaknesses and strengths. The game does a very good job of making you feel in control and on top of all the systems from an early point. Compare this to FF15, which I still don’t understand in combat and the difference is night and day. This is the most accessible and playable FF since 13.
Talking about the graphics, there is a reason the game comes on two discs, with a hefty data disc install before the playing disc takes over. The graphics look like what your mind made up for when you played in the past. Midgar has never looked so dense and populated and the Sector 7 Slums are populated and alive like a favela. In fact here is where you will notice the first main divergence from the old games as you get to know many of the inhabitants and take on quests and side-missions for them. Where the original had you hooking up with Avalanche after 2 hours or so, you still aren’t properly there in this game after 6.
The story changes will no doubt be debated by true fans of the original in more detail over the coming weeks but for me, someone who knew of Cloud, Barrett, Tifa and Sephiroth casually, to finally get to grips with what others have enjoyed for years feels like something ticked off a bucket list. The story follows what I remember but expands and adds much more exposition and backstory as it needs to with this remake finishing at the end of Midgar. Some will be put off by the game being episodic but from a whole weekend playing this, there is more than enough game to get to grips with. 18 Chapters should last you at least 40-50 hours.
But that’s where I will stop for the time being. This is a wonderful experience in difficult times and one which may need to be critically reevaluated when the world is in a more normal place. At the moment it is the perfect game at the perfect time that fixes a major gaming regret of mine while playing the latest game. If you, like me missed out when you were a teen, this is your time to right the wrong.