GUG PLAYS: FFVII Remake

While our very own David Koury wrote our official review for Final Fantasy VII Remake, our staff still had a lot to say about this highly-anticipated game. Enjoy!

Courtney Dowling

I prefer to understand a story and its characters without having to stab, strategize, sneak, stress, or scare myself.  But my husband is a gamer, and through him I learned the wonder of watching someone play. I could immerse myself in the story and read manga while he grinded for levels for the next three hours.

One game he mentioned constantly was Final Fantasy VII. Because of my husband’s excitement, he told me lots of spoilers before we ever started playing. I thought I knew the story, the characters, the plot twists. Nothing would confuse me or catch me off guard.

I was so wrong. The original FFVII has no voice-overs, and the characters look like pieces of a LEGO Friends set. There are times the main character, Cloud, has these voices in his head, but all you see are words on the screen. Apparently, he’s having some sort of panic attack or traumatic flashback. My husband had explained the basis of what was going on, but because the entire story is so complex, everything got muddled in my head by the time we actually played. The characters themselves are full of life, but some of them only have a couple of lines of dialogue before the plot ensures you will never see or hear from them again. Then a horrifying plot twist happens, and I needed a break to heal my aching feels. A few months later, Final Fantasy VII Remake came out.

I was hooked from the moment Cloud steps off that train. His hair blows in the wind; his clothes have actual screws in the sleeves. Aerith has a kind, gentle voice and real braids in her hair. The slums look like real slums with dirty people, falling houses, and stray cats. Now, I’ve watched quite a few games with gorgeous graphics like Detroit: Become Human. However, none of them pulled me in like this one did. Since I already knew the story pieces FFVIIR would cover, I was constantly on the lookout for recognizable events and quests. What ended up happening was me turning to my husband and declaring, “This wasn’t in the original, right?” The more I said it, the more I realized how much I loved the remake.

In the original, AVALANCHE is just a means to form the classic RPG party. The little LEGO people I wanted to love were gone before I could learn their names. FFVIIR, though, shows their humanity. Cloud wanders the city with Jessie, an AVALANCHE member, for a majority of the game. The gang follows her topside, where I learn that she wanted to be an actress. Her father is on a ventilator from mako poisoning, and her mother serves everyone pizza. She flirts to the point of being annoying, but all this is a significant revision  from only two boxes of text all game.

FFVIIR fleshes out characters in ways I didn’t know I needed. It shows Cloud confronting his humanity when kids beg him to kill a monster terrorizing town. The original Cloud was too emo for that, but this one is forced to remind himself he is still human. He helps Wedge collect cats and listens to Biggs talk about an orphanage he founded. I spent so much time in this beautiful world of Midgar that I didn’t want to leave. I want these people to have wonderful, happy lives.

FFVIIR also foreshadows future events in a more understandable way for someone who has not played many RPGs. The voices Cloud hears are accompanied by a vision of the person talking to him. Plus, flashbacks from vanilla FFVII provide glimpses of what to expect in later versions of the remake.

When FFVIIR ends, there remains so much I still need to know! Fortunately, I was able to get the closure I needed through my little LEGO buddies. At the same time, I found myself constantly saying things like, “I can’t wait for this to be in the remake” and “Man, I wonder what their voice will sound like?” The story of Final Fantasy VII is beautiful, tragic, and complicated, but the old 90’s graphics lack the heart that FFVIIR can give it. I cannot wait for the rest of this story to be modernized—until then, I will be waiting, controller finally in my hand.

Derek Thompson

There’s a lot to like in Final Fantasy VII Remake. It’s possibly the most gorgeous game I’ve ever played, and the soundtrack is an impeccable mix of nostalgia and modern takes. The action RPG approach to combat takes some adjustment, but eventually, the payoff is worth the effort. The voice actors are very strong throughout, particularly Tifa. She has gone from an annoying distraction to a character with real depth who earns her screen time. Aerith is also a great character that has changed subtly for the better.

In fact, my favorite moments in Final Fantasy VII Remake are about these two characters. The rooftop walk with Aerith; Tifa confiding in Cloud at the bar about how she feels trapped—the quiet moments amidst a vast struggle are what make RPG stories great. Even Barret gets his moment when his angry-yet-quiet words toward President Shinra prove far more menacing than any of his shouting. But FF7R is mostly LOUD. 

Tetsuya Nomura is the J.J. Abrams of RPGs. His solution to everything is to make it bigger, crazier, louder, stupider. The motorcycle fights, the giant boss battles in the middle of spatial debris, the constant foul language, the storytelling gymnastics required to get an undeserved “One-Winged Angel” this early, Barrett’s entire character—it’s all completely over the top. NPCs are literally reduced to noise. The 11/10 graphics and music make the scant few quiet moments even more beautiful, but they also amplify the noise. That’s the word I’d use if I could sum the whole thing up: noise. When I think back on FFVIIR, I want to focus on those beautiful, quiet moments, but I can’t concentrate with all the racket.

 

Maurice Pogue

Aerith is as impressed as I am.

Ironically, while Dereck yearns for the “quiet moments in Final Fantasy VII Remake, I played through the game with the volume so high, the dog would retreat into the basement. Like everyone else, I expected big things from this remake of a childhood staple, as I indicated in the preface to our previous GUG Plays on the entire Final Fantasy Franchise. Concurrently, this would be my kids’ first Final Fantasy experience, for they only recognized the battle music because Cloud is a guest character in Smash Bros. Because I rarely play on consoles (the last game being Red Dead Redemption 2), I thought it appropriate for my household to treat FFVIIR like we would a family movie night, pumping up the sound system to simulate a theater.

I feel your pain.

Unfortunately, my wife would join Optimus Prime in the basement, but not because of the high volume. She thinks FFVIIR is boring, and sought more entertaining things to stream while I played; I agree with her assessment. With a wink to Derick when he reads this to acknowledge the one-upmanship that plagues academia (unlike him, I escaped from the Ivory Tower some years ago), I would not describe merely FFVIIR as “loud”; it is bombastic.

Tifa, too, has prepared herself for some negative criticism.

From a design standpoint, after playing through the casually-paced “broad” trip that is FFXV before diving into FFVIIR, I learned to appreciate the direct, get-to-the-point nature of linear games. But good linear games do not bore players with uninspiring corridors, like the FFVIIR‘s sewer romp for a “key” that ain’t, or a science lab that turns out to be an entire whole dungeon. And as if the level design team at SquareEnix wondered what could make two construction site dungeons even MORE boring, they have added an excruciatingly slow “squeeze through narrow space” mechanic that appears in too many places. Look, I remember opening doors in the OG Resident Evil games; Squeenix cannot hide a loading screen from me! And that detour into the train graveyard so that Aerith can frolic with the ghost kids as Sector 7 burns gets a big double-U-tee-eff from me.

Yep. Just out here hanging out in a train graveyard while doom knocks.

Dereck’s “quiet moments” come, but only after lots of narrow paths, lots of fighting, and uninspired side-quests that players will be compelled to do not for the sake of completionism, but to be in search of some depth. I was not even in search of “quiet moments” during my playthrough, but cutscenes and plot development. When everyone wondered how Squeenix would expand four hours of the original Midgar into a full-sized AAA game with 2020 standards, filler became the answer.

Barret’s design is cool, but his characterization is hot garbage.

Ideally, with time comes maturity and wisdom, and since the roughly twenty years since I have consumed anything Final Fantasy VII-related, and I have  discovered that I might have outgrown these characters. I am much more radical-minded now than in my past, so I can better-appreciate AVALANCHE’s anti-corporation, pro-green terrorism, but many other plot points and characterizations are challenging to forgive. I am pleased that Tim Roger’s “Let’s Mosey” had recently re-emerged when gamers like myself began to wonder why Squeenix double-downed on Barrett’s Mr. T impersonation. If localization of the original FFVII is to blame, then maybe a better translation from Japanese would redeem the character. Then again, while he cussed in grawlix in the ’90s, everyone cusses in FFVIIR—even Aerith! There is no justification for this, and while my kids are in middle school and hear worse there, playing through the copious profanity in FFVIIR while my kids watched made me feel like a lousy parent rather than a good one sharing my childhood with them.

Aerith and Tifa making short work of the would-be rapists is an odd way to convey a girl power scene.

I am old enough, in fact, to remember when every tournament poll for the best video game character on GameFaqs would come down to Cloud and Link (Link always won because of Nintendo fans and OOT). Thus, I remember Cloud as a cool character, when in reality, his “character” is vapid—a figurative cloud. FFVIIR accurately portrays him as an el lame-o, but that does not make for a compelling protagonist, but a boring one. Tifa, who knew Cloud through childhood, knows that he is different, but never calls him out on it; she is as passive as a church mouse. Aerith is still a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but there is hope! I drew Tifa during my “flower scene,” but after watching Aerith’s on YT (By the way, developers hiding content and/or achievements behind forcing players to try multiple paths, such as the flower scene or the Wall Market dresses? Annoying!), she gets serious, straight-up telling Cloud not to fall in love with her.”Don’t you—don’t you [the player] dare do it!” I need more of that Aerith in my life, not the tee-hee-hee one.

Is Aerith a homynym for airhead?

For the record, I have neither experienced Crisis Core nor Advent Children, and I strongly suspect that those “primers” cloud the judgment of those who fangirl/boy over FFVIIR. As the game stands on itself, I knew going in that it is “unfinished,” but it feels even less than a “Part 1” but a prologue. For every positive trait the game features, I could think of two negatives from a sheer design standpoint, let alone how FFVIIR cheats those who are unfamiliar with the story out of anything that resembles a resolution. By the time everything is all said and done in FFVIIR, the party achieves…a big fat nothing, because Rufus Shinra will conduct business as usual despite any of AVELANCE’s efforts. I did not need to sit through thirty hours for a mere tease

I never got to use “Lab Rat Dog” in my playthrough, and I am BIG MAD!

Speaking of teases, being unable to play as my favorite character, Red XIII, is an unforgivable sin. UNFORGIVABLE!!!

 

Andrea Racoti

When I was able to begin Final Fantasy VII: Remake for the first time, I was excited by the chance to revisit a beloved tale that I had adored in years’ past. I expected that it would be retold through beautiful high definition graphics, have a full voice cast, and a new way to see the world of Midgar while playing. What I was not expecting, though, is how fleshed out the world is actually made to be. This ultimately feels like a double-edged sword. On one hand, I like how the world seems more alive to me now than it did in the original, and how vast the developers had made the locations; on the other hand, it feels like some areas are much longer than they need to be, which makes the story rather slow in its first ten hours or so. 

I feel that character development stands out the most to me; I got to see these characters at their best and their worst in this first installment alone. I was immensely pleased that I got to share more time with Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie—seeing them at their best and worst—and could build actual relationships with them this time around. The dialogue throughout the game also feels strong to me, which isn’t too much of a stretch, as the original dialogue from its translation could be terrible at times. 

After completing FFVIIR, I had so many thoughts rush through my mind, as I’m sure other players did as they finished it. What I do know is that future installments will not be remade scene-by-scene, as I was expecting FFVIIR to be. Instead, they will be what we’ve seen here, remade into something more organic. Whether or not they will ultimately pay off remains to be seen when the other parts of the game are released. I do know now, though, that the remake has successfully grabbed my attention, and I’m in for the ride ahead, whether they turn out to be excellent or substandard.

 

LJ Lowery

Since I never had a PlayStation and was spending time with Nintendo staples like Mario and Zelda on the N64, I missed the boat in terms of Final Fantasy VII’s original release. When I played it not too many years later, I never saw what others did in the game since graphics technology was moving along fast. I made numerous attempts, but the game put me to sleep more than once. So now, here I am playing the remake; thus far, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is not the game that hardcore fans wanted. It’s geared towards an audience like myself, who considers characters standing in a line and taking turns to hit one another an outdated style of gameplay. FFVIIR is an action-packed combat experience that is linear and right up my alley. Some of my favorite moments in the game are the boss encounters, with the first fight against Reno being my personal favorite.

With the story of the original being divided into parts, SquareEnix gives extra attention to detail and goes big on the graphics spectrum—a huge jump from those ugly polygonal character models. I was able to get myself a 4k TV, and though I do not have a PS4 Pro, the HDR features built into the launch console made this game look even better. It seems as though the style of the game was heavily influenced by the Advent Children movie, making it especially appealing for me since that movie is where most of my knowledge of this particular franchise came from.

When I heard FFVIIR was in development, I assumed it was just going to be the original game but with a massive graphical upgrade. What I got instead is something more. At 30-40 hours, the pace and action of the game feel as though it was built for people who have never touched a Final Fantasy game, encouraging them to jump in for the first time. This may not have been the remake that most fans wanted, but I think this is a win for all of us filthy casuals out there.

 

Adam Mueller

There are two people when it comes to FFVIIR’s ending: those who absolutely enjoy it because of the fanservice and hype it creates for  future installments of the series, and those who dislike it because developer Tetsuya Nomura creates enormous plot holes and continuity errors by doing so. Hype is currenty overflowing on the internet, as people theorize a myriad of explanations, including time travel and/or parallel dimensions. I sincerely hope that the story doesn’t come to that, but after Kingdom Hearts III, to say that I trust Nomura with my beloved FFVII story would be a lie. 

He acts tough, but he’s really a big softy.

Looking forward, I’ve read articles that Square Enix is open to releasing future installments in shorter forms to get them out quicker. To me, that’s a joke. Give it some time, and make the game great rather than streamline garbage to us. Because it was “absolutely necessary” to make Midgar’s section a game all by itself, I fully expect the FFVIIR experience to be three full-length discs—roughly 120 hours worth, if each was to be as long as part 1. They had better be relatively open world too, as the original was. Midgar is constricted and constraining because that’s what it always was. But, if the rest of the story is given the extreme linearity of part 1, Square Enix will have taken SquareSoft’s success out back and shot it. After all, Final Fantasy XV starts in an open world and turns linear only later on. I believe it is more than possible for FFVIIR Part 2 and Part 3 to be the same. If not, my level of disappointment cannot be adequately stated.

All in all, I love FFVIIR, and find the positives to outweigh the cons. However, I’m very worried about the future of the series, and hope to goodness that Square continues to get it right.

Here are the things I loved about the game:

  • The characters. I read in a review that revisiting this cast feels like seeing old friends again, and I couldn’t agree more.
  • The weapon system. Unlocking abilities and upgrading weapons is a novel idea to modernize the weapon system for today’s RPG standards.
  • The story+fanservice. I’ve loved the Final Fantasy 7 extended world for years, and Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core is one of the best stories in the series. I love to see reminders of these things.
  • The soundtrack. It’s fantastic, as I expected it to be.
  • The coliseum. I enjoy having battle trials, so long as they’re worth it.

    The things I’m “meh” on:

  • The Wall Market. It’s not bad as it could be, but it’s not good.
  • Summons. The summons feel kind of cheap in this game. They don’t even have cutscenes before their iconic attacks.
  • The Battle System. I have had a lot of problems with the battle system that I had to get over. With time I got better and picked up new tricks, but the system is still inherently flawed at times.
  • The UI. It’s techy and “modernd,” but I also miss the old fashioned menus.
  • Post-Game Content. Hard mode is okay, but nothing to write home about, and the extra challenges range from difficult to ridiculous. I think the absurd difficulty is more cheap than it is well done. (All four summons and a mystery opponent in a row without items. Seriously?)

The things I do not like:

  • The “Waifu” attitude on the three women. It can be charming at times, but it’s not realistic and is overblown. Let these women be more human, please.
  • Scripted boss fights. In almost every boss fight, the boss has a scripted change of attacks after taking so much damage. This change makes them invincible to your attacks until they’re done. So, If I’m about to win by using a Limit Break, but the boss suddenly goes through one of these changes, I’m robbed of my win for stupid reasons.
  • Materia not reproducing. In the original game, when materia become max level, they form another of the same type. That doesn’t happen in ff7R, so I’m permanently stuck with a limited amount of actually useful materia, such as elemental. I only get two elementals!
  • Stunning and Flinching. Every other enemy in the game is able to stun your party members it seems like, and it feels like a really cheap gimmick. Especially when there’s no quick cure for it. Similarly, if a party member is hit hard enough while trying to cast a spell, they lose their MP but no spell is cast. This wastes MP, and ATB, and my time. It’s very frustrating. If the characters were given the ability to move freely only to need this to balance gameplay, I’d prefer not moving freely.
  • Some Level Designs. As previously mentioned, some level designs in this game are atrocious and tedious. No thank you.
  • The “Whispers of Fate.” The only reasons for the Whispers of Fate to exist is to fluff out ff7R’s run time, and allow an early reunion with Sephiroth. They’re bad writing, and I’m tired of pretending they’re not. But, some scenes give me fanservice, so I guess they’re not 100% despicable. 
  •  
Johnathan Floyd

World of Final Fantasy came in pieces before I got my hands on the digital game on my PSP. At first, it was Kingdom Hearts, then Advent Children appeared, followed quickly by Kingdom Hearts 2. On the DVD extras of the sequel/epilogue/ movie, there was a lengthy featurette called Reminiscence of FFVII. I thought I was confident in the story, but watching that, I became confused. Soon after, Crisis Core was a thing, and that led me to be fully enamored with the fictional universe. 

I did everything I could—all the summon materia, the golden chocobo, and most importantly understanding the complex story, and appreciating the development of each character. Everything that had to do with Final Fantasy VII, I wanted to know, own, play, read, or see. I’ve played that game through several times, and during each run I found something new. 

This special order of approaching the universe of FFVIIR, leaves me not so much thrilled for the story, but totally in love with the world.  

With Final Fantasy VII Remake now here, I’ve got to say I’m anxiously sitting between excited and nervous for the unknown future. Even though I’m not a fan of Tetsuya Nomura’s way of telling stories, I’m still a fan of whatever creature Nanaki is, the battle of machine versus nature, those weird pointy Nibelheim mountains, the Turks, and the enigma that is Cait Sith. 

I’ve always imagined that the stories of Final Fantasy are compromised for the sake of good gameplay. Solid coherent plot points and characters are left vague, undefined, or the broadest strokes of fantasy are deployed to cover up for a good time. But at the end of the day, perhaps my idea of fantasy isn’t open-minded. Don’t get me wrong—the idea of Zack and Cloud taking on Sephiroth together in some out-of-time realm would have my neighbors leaving noise complaints about me. 

The immersion does it for me. FF7R is the world Square wanted in 1997; I believe that with all my heart. And because worlds are one of my favorite parts to look at in a game, all of the added time in Midgar is good for me. I don’t even mind the side quests or the added moments with AVALANCHE. It gives me more of Gaia.  

Recently, the end of the OG story has weighed on my mind. It was so abrupt. Everyone who played for 30-80 hours saw the Lifestream come to stop Meteor, Aerith, and then—credits. There was no mention of the party, or Midgar, or the world surviving, or clarity concerning Meteor being stopped. That type of cliffhanger grips me to the core. I’m at ease after the credits roll, and Red XIII and two little fur babies follow him to overlook 500 years of a discarded Midgar. Yay! The world is okay, but…

….and that “but” players sat on for years until Advent Children. Trying to imagine that is unthinkable, but then I remember that was another opportunity to jump into the world again, and expand it. And a return to Midgar is why I like the FFVIIR, for all of its ups and downs.

All of the grunting can stop though. 

Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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