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Final Fantasy 7 Remake review: thrilling, thoughtful take on a classic

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After a mission early on in Last Fantasy VII Remake, Cloud Strife and his staff determine to return dwelling utilizing an odd type of transportation: they soar off some scaffolding and parachute to the slums beneath.

It’s extra harmful than the prepare, but it surely supplies one hell of a view. I’ve spent numerous hours within the gritty metropolis of Midgar for the reason that unique Last Fantasy VII launched in 1997, however I had by no means seen something like this. Hovering by means of the smoggy skies, staring on the huge expanse of humanity beneath, it actually drove dwelling simply how a lot has modified over the past 23 years. That is the Midgar I’ve come to know. Nevertheless it’s additionally a lot extra.

Last Fantasy VII was all the time going to be a difficult sport to remake. It’s at instances each probably the most beloved and controversial sport within the long-running collection. When it launched on the unique PlayStation, it modified the collection without end with lavish CG cutscenes and a concentrate on bigger, extra expansive tales. It was bizarre and emotional and absorbing in a approach that few blockbuster video games had been earlier than — or since. Trying to reap that power, which feels innately tied to the late ‘90s and the early days of 3D gaming, appeared like a very tough job.

But, that’s what makes the remake all of the extra spectacular. It interprets the expertise into one thing fashionable, with out dropping a lot of that traditional appeal. It’s not the entire expertise — FFVIIR solely encompasses the opening Midgar part of the story, which quantities to a few third of the entire sport, with no indication of how the remaining will probably be launched — and it’s actually not good. There are some new features that really feel pointless, moments that function filler, and areas the place the sport could be frustratingly dated. It’s messy and delightful, thrilling and complicated — which is to say, the remake is 100 p.c Last Fantasy VII.

As with the unique, FFVIIR facilities on a mercenary and genetically enhanced super-soldier named Cloud Strife. On the outset of the sport, Cloud has been employed by Avalanche, an environmental group making an attempt to explode a reactor it believes is damaging the planet. Initially, the battle is obvious: there’s a stereotypically evil megacorporation referred to as Shinra that’s sucking out power referred to as Mako from the earth to energy the huge metropolis of Midgar, and Avalanche is a ragtag group aiming to place a cease to it. (Shinra is the form of firm the place the president says issues like “progress requires sacrifice.”) However in traditional Japanese RPG trend, it will get way more complicated. There are historic magical races, a lifeforce that holds the planet collectively, and a superpowered being named Sephiroth who needs to deliver concerning the destruction of the world.

The story is infamously convoluted and complicated, however the remake really does an excellent job of explaining a lot of it. A part of that has to do with the tighter focus. For the reason that expertise is centered particularly on Midgar, a gritty metropolis that exists solely due to Shinra’s exploitation of the planet, it’s simple to know the stakes. It’s solely towards the tip that the sport begins to weave within the extra complicated components. However FFVIIR additionally expands on features of the unique to assist additional flesh out the world. As an example, within the first sport, Avalanche was a tiny group primarily based out of the basement of a bar; right here, you be taught it’s really only one cell in a a lot greater group. Extra importantly, characters that have been as soon as little greater than names with barely a lot as a character have now change into totally fleshed-out folks. Avalanche member Jessie, specifically, has gone from somebody I barely remembered to one of the vital iconic characters within the story.

General, the story makes much more sense. Even for longtime followers, the added depth means the large moments have extra impression. I already knew a lot of what was going to occur within the sport — the foremost story beats stay the identical, and in some circumstances, the scenes are virtually similar to the unique — however they’ll tackle new that means and emotion right here. If you lose characters you’ll really feel extra repercussions, and also you’ll even see the implications of your actions after attacking Shinra.

Crucially, FFVIIR does this with out taking itself too critically. Positive, Cloud is as glum as ever, and the world is darkish and oppressive. Nevertheless it additionally will get fairly bizarre. Certainly one of FFVII’s most controversial scenes entails Cloud cross-dressing in an effort to sneak right into a less-than-reputable institution. It’s not a scene that aged significantly effectively, however the remake turns it into one thing campy and enjoyable, full with a rhythm-based dancing sequence that maintains the unique’s penchant for unusual genre-mashing minigames.

One of many features of the sport that advantages probably the most from this modernization is the setting. Midgar was all the time meant to be a sprawling cityscape, but it surely was clear that the developer’s imaginative and prescient was too huge for the unique PlayStation {hardware}. Right here, although, it turns into a dynamic and plausible place. Every district, recognized solely by its numbered title in a approach that evokes different cyberpunk dystopian metropolises, now feels distinct and lived-in. It’s a metropolis with a novel structure: from a central pillar prolong eight totally different plates, every powered by a distinct reactor. Shinra staff and the wealthy reside on the plates, whereas everybody else is caught within the slums beneath.

You’ll be able to sense this stress wherever you’re. Irrespective of the place you look, you may’t get away from the towering plates overhead. It’s a relentless reminder of the category division of the world. In the meantime, you really get an opportunity to enterprise into the Shinra worker housing to get a way of how the opposite half lives. Elsewhere, the seedy Wall Market is a booming, vibrant place, whereas Aerith’s home is the serene getaway it was all the time supposed to be. I significantly liked sneaking across the oppressive-yet-functional Shinra headquarters, with its gleaming glass partitions and definitely-not-evil lighting. Actually, it’s virtually like the unique sport was a sketch of the world; right here, it’s been totally fleshed-out and coloured.

The remake is greater than only a visible and narrative overhaul. The builders at Sq. Enix have additionally modernized a lot of the gameplay as effectively. The obvious instance is fight. The 1997 model of the sport was a traditional, turn-based RPG, the place you and your enemies would take turns attacking, therapeutic, and casting spells. The remake is way more action-oriented. Battles occur in actual time, and at its most elementary degree, FFVIIR is a bit like a brawler. However there’s depth hidden there. You need to use fundamental assaults everytime you need, however each different motion — utilizing objects, casting spells, pulling off particular assaults — is on a timer. In most battles, you may merely slash your approach by means of enemies. However within the more durable fights, determining when to heal or saving a killing blow for simply the fitting second change into essential methods.

General, the fight simply feels good. It’s quick and thrilling and complicated sufficient that normal battles don’t change into tedious. It’s particularly nice throughout among the huge, multipart boss battles, which generally require an additional layer of technique. Even higher, when you can solely management one character at a time, you may swap between occasion members at will. I spent many of the sport utilizing Cloud in battles — his impossibly big sword is a variety of enjoyable — however I’d change to different characters when it got here time to make use of their particular abilities. It’s a reasonably open system, letting you play how you want, and it’s aided by extra sturdy character customization choices. Like within the unique, you may get new spells and particular skills by slotting glowing orbs referred to as materia into your weapons and armor, however now there’s additionally a simplified ability tree as a way to maintain enhancing your skills. It’s not vastly deep or complicated, but it surely undoubtedly makes the RPG component extra engaging.

For probably the most half, the modifications to the sport are for the higher. FFVIIR appears to be like unbelievable, has satisfying motion, and a extra understandable story. However there are some components that really feel dated — and a few of them are new additions. As an example, there are sidequests now. It makes some narrative sense: since Cloud is a mercenary, it appears seemingly he’d tackle jobs within the Midgar slums for further money. Sadly, virtually each one in all these missions is a drag. Some have enjoyable story components, however finally, all of them contain going someplace to gather an object, kill some monsters, or each. This isn’t helped a lot by the truth that FFVIIR is an exceedingly linear sport. Happening a sidequest doesn’t imply exploring an enormous world; as an alternative, it forces you down one more superbly dressed-up hallway. And whereas the remake fleshes out among the bit gamers from the unique, it additionally introduces brand-new characters who go frustratingly undeveloped over the course of the story.

Boss battles can be an annoyance. Whereas many are intelligent and thrilling, there are a number of that evoke the worst side of JRPGs, with enemies boosted by large well being bars that take without end to take down. On two events, I turned to the sport’s “traditional” issue setting — which nearly performs itself with characters attacking robotically — reasonably than take care of dying repeatedly by the hands of a tedious boss. It’s nice that this accessibility choice exists, however it could be higher if these bosses weren’t so annoying.

Maybe probably the most notable factor about FFVIIR is that it makes a sport I’ve performed a number of instances over the past 23 years into one thing fascinating and new. Whereas the core moments stay untouched, there are new additions and tweaks that make it price reexploring even for longtime followers. There’s even a brand new narrative thread about future that opens up much more questions. It’s not clear once we’ll get the subsequent episode — the sport ends with the ominous line “the unknown journey will proceed” — however the remake ends in a approach that’s surprisingly satisfying, contemplating it doesn’t inform a whole story. It principally wraps up the preliminary Shinra story and units up Sephiroth because the true huge unhealthy from there on out.

There’s a second that many gamers skilled early on within the unique sport, myself included. Up till that time, your entire story had been contained in Midgar; then, abruptly, you allow town and notice simply how huge the world actually is. It’s virtually stunning. Thus far, FFVIIR has efficiently captured that preliminary feeling — now, I need to see the remainder of the world.

Last Fantasy VII Remake will launch on April 10th on the PS4.

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