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I’m a big time Final Fantasy 7 fan. I’ve played the original game on PlayStation multiple times over the years. If you haven’t played the original yet I highly recommend it. Please be warned there are a ton of spoilers ahead. I will be giving my analysis on Final Fantasy 7 Remake and also comparing it to the original game on PlayStation 1. In some places along the way I’ll be sharing some commentary about where I think the plot is going in the Remake and what the devs can do to spice things up a little more. If you haven’t at least completed Final Fantasy 7 Remake I highly recommend you finish playing that first before continuing on.

What’s interesting about this remake is that although it follows (for the most part) the path of the old game. You eventually discover that this game is as much as a sequel to the first game as it is a remake. Square Enix did a great job of playing to the nostalgia and good vibes of the old games while at the same time finding a clever way of changing things up and adding a bit of mystery and uncertainty for returning players. By the end of the game I think its safe to say that nobody, not old fans or new fans experiencing the game for the first time has a clue as to what is going to happen next. And I think that’s a really good move by Square. Of course a number of old time fans will complain but that’s totally unavoidable. From what I’ve seen, the game has been extremely well received. And I suspect that no matter how many different parts they create before finishing the story, it will continue to sell extremely well.

This new game was extremely polished all around. The first sign that I knew that I was in for a treat was the voice acting. I absolutely loved the English voice acting. I’ve been a big consumer of Japanese manga and anime over the years and one of the things that I’ve grown to prefer when it comes to anime is sub over dub. I love hearing the original audio track in Japanese and just reading the English subtitles. I feel like often times we get top notch Japanese voice actors and only adequate English voice acting. Plus I also feel that sometimes the emotion of what is being said is not accurately conveyed for the moment. That being said, the voice acting is very well done in FF7 Remake. I found myself switching between English and Japanese voice acting throughout the entire game. I couldn't make up my mind! I can’t think of a single time that I’ve ever done that before. I legitimately loved both. After hearing it in Japanese for a while I would think to myself, “hmm I bet that would sound great in the English!” and I would go back and switch it to English. I think this is a testament to just how much care went into making the game. I feel they really nailed it with the voice acting. I can’t emphasize how picky I am when it comes to this. So I hope this continues on into part 2.

I loved exploring this reimagined version of Midgar. The Unreal Engine 4 did a great job of bringing it to life. During my the first hour of my game, it felt like I was playing Final Fantasy Advent Children the movie. I feel like that’s exactly what Square was going for. Taking that movie’s look and vibe and turning that into a game. The world feels dark and gloomy. There are streets and street lights but it never feels overly modern but at the same time, it feels very realistic. The world feels grounded and believable. Square did a good job of somehow making it feel like its totally acceptable for Cloud to be running around with a gigantic sword attached to his back while at the same time making me feel like he’s more lethal than Barrett who has a machine gun grafted onto his arm.  And I think that’s a major accomplishment. Dealing with a bunch of blocky character models in the original PlayStation game, kind of makes it easier to accept the setting as your mind just kinda filled in the details.

The combat was great! I couldn’t be more pleased with how Square decided to do the combat in this game. First let me say, I was a big fan of the old school turn based style of combat . It was simple but effective. Everybody has a meter that fills up fast or slow based on stats and Materia equipped. There wasn’t a bunch of running around, dodging, blocking or anything else. When combat started you and your party were on one side of the screen and the enemy or enemies were on the other. For the most part everyone was standing in place. This combat would have worked for me. Final Fantasy has always been about the story. About the characters, their backstories, the cool cutscenes and the memorable mini games. Combat to me while fun wasn’t the main draw of the game. In fact if we’re being honest the progression system/RPG mechanics were a much bigger draw. I guess we can say that combat is just a part of that overall system, which is true. But for me personally the actual act of combat was secondary to everything else that was going on in the game.

However, that has changed in the remake. Combat is now front and center. Boss battles are now epic! Most of them are now waaaaaayyyy longer then before. The first boss fight with the scorpion sentinel is awesome! I was not expecting that in the least. Now some players have since posted videos where they are beating it pretty quick in less than 5 minutes. But when you first play the game and you are not used to the new combat system its going to take awhile. I will say it took me about 15-20 minutes. I think this is all to the good. Making boss battles  harder and longer is a great way to make the game feel more epic.  After playing games like Jedi Fallen Order, I have to admit that there is nothing like an epic boss battle from an action game with AAA production value. I hope this trend continues.

For those that find the new combat system too hard or too much effort for a story based RPG, I get it. In the old days if you came upon a hard boss and you kept losing again and again, it was mostly because your characters were just far too weak. Which is code for, you didn’t level up enough before getting to this point go back and level up a bit. It was just a matter of preparation! So you would go out, find a nice little area where the enemies that you defeated would give you nice item drops and experience and then just run in circles for a little while. After you fought 50- 100 random encounters you were good to go. But this new action-based battle system, actually requires a lot more skill from the player or at least a lot more engagement during combat. And I think because of this obvious design philosophy where there is an emphasis on player combat there are some tradeoffs.

For one, it feels like certain aspects of the classic experience are minimized and in some cases the normal RPG progression system is suppressed a bit. Not a lot but enough to be noticeable. One noticeable change is that certain materia cannot be purchased. Like the magnify and elemental materia. In classic Final Fantasy 7 I loved having the “All” Materia linked with fire, lightning, or ice. It was a very useful combination to take out hordes of enemies at once. You could also use it to cure multiple allies. So in this way I could always have two members of my party that could heal the whole party and more than one person could damage multiple enemies at time it all depended on how I decided to arrange my party for certain portions of the game but the secondary benefit was that over time all of these materia would be gaining experience every battle. Eventually they would divide and split once its growth had been maximized. It felt odd to have this aspect taken away. I suspect that Square wanted to make combat for each character more unique and have the players rely more on each characters’ unique abilities, rather than just focusing on leveling up materia and overwhelming the enemy with good materia combinations to achieve victory.

In much the same way, in the original game, you create some really good defensive combinations with the elemental materia. Admittedly I didn’t do this much in the first game but it is very noticeable that you can’t buy elemental materia either and since the materia doesn’t divide when you level it up your’re stuck. While I understand the design philosophy, it kinda makes you wonder if the game wouldn’t have been better served to just let the player decide how they want to build up their party and prepare them for combat. Do they want to create a party that is heavily reliant on crazy, materia combinations to win battles? Or do players want to rely more on their characters’ unique skills and limit breaks? Another point, is that summons just don’t feel that important anymore. I remember in the old game it was a big deal whenever I got a new summon materia. I couldn’t wait to use it, so I could see what it would look like and what it could do. Now they weren’t absolutely essential to beat the game or even essential to the plot. But I think its fair to say that not only were they extremely cool but players liked them because they hit hard, were unique and often times were a reward for going off the beaten path.

In the old game there were some summons that you could only get by engaging in mini games or just by exploring the map. Nobody told you to explore but you just wanted to see what was around the next corner. Everyone remembers knights of the round table as the ultimate summons materia. In my opinion summons in FF7 left such a strong imprint on the game that Square centered their entire battle and RPG progression system around them in the next game, FF8. Not everyone was a fan of the system. I loved the new system and the game but some felt like it was too complicated. The point being though, summons were extremely cool and mysterious. Now you could argue that summons where central to the story in Final Fantasy games before 7 but in my opinion if you compare and contrast 7 and 8 the similarities in the look and feel of their worlds is pretty obvious I definitely feel like they were trying to expand on the best parts of 7 in Final Fantasy 8 but I digress. Long story short it would be nice if summons were more essential to the gameplay and the story. Keep them cool, make them mysterious and don’t just spoon feed them through Chadley! That takes away their mystery!

Not giving players a little bit more choice about how their party will focus on combat feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to me but it may ultimately be irrelevant. I have a strong feeling that the emphasis on action may ultimately attract new players and keep them hooked on the Final Fantasy brand. Players these days seem to prefer action based games with dodging, parrying, quick thinking instead of the more methodical old school RPG feel. But they still have tons of story left to tell in Final Fantasy 7 Remake so they will have plenty of opportunity to introduce new materia, weapons, limit breaks and perhaps other battle related techniques. Rather or not the RPG mechanics and progression system remains the same is a very interesting question though. Traditionally it changes with every new final fantasy release. However, since they are staying in the same universe they are going to have to stick with the current materia system for the most part. They will undoubtedly fine tune the battle system as time goes on as they release part 2 and part 3 and maybe more. But in the same way the Remake has changed the story it would be nice if there were more surprises in store for us as well as far as combat and RPG mechanics go. So I’m hoping to see some evolution as time goes on!

Now this is where the rubber hits the road! I’ll be first to admit I wasn’t in love with the change in the plot. At least not initially. Being a fan of the original I basically knew how everything was supposed to go. Join up with Barret and the gang to fight the evil corporation known as Shinra that is slowly killing the planet by draining it of its lifeforce. Along the way we discover that there is someone even worse known as Sephiroth that wants to severely wound the planet with a powerful materia and become one with it. So we then kind of pivot and gather a rag tag group of allies from around the planet that have been abused and mistreated by Shinra to ultimately band together to stop him. At the start of the game its pretty straightforward. Cloud joins up with a group of very concerned citizens 😊 named Avalanche and is helping them on a mission to shut down a mako reactor. All the familiar beats are there. However very early on, you begin to notice something is very different than before. The whispers for one.

After some careful observation it becomes apparent that Aeris is definitely, holding some things back from us. In fact, after careful observation it seems like Aeris may already know everything that is supposed to happen! At least in the original timeline…. And by the way if that’s true that makes her story even sadder! As time goes by and we get more scenes with Aeris, she is always dropping these odd little lines. To new fans that are trying out Final Fantasy 7 for the first time this is all just part of the story but for people that played the original it’s a bit of a puzzle. And questions start to form in our mind. Why is Aeris talking like that? Were some of those lines in the original game? It seriously had me questioning my memory, I felt like you know who...😄 I kept thinking I’m a huge fan of the original, there is no way I've forgotten this, right?

But slowly over time the game really won me over with the plot. As we’re playing the remake its like we are actually creating our very own timeline which completely diverges from the original. It felt a lot like Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azakban at the end. With Harry and Hermione going back and altering events. In a nutshell, based on our actions in the remake, it now seems like there is an alternate secondary timeline that is running concurrently with our own and in that timeline Zack and Cloud appear alive! From my limited understanding it seems that this happens due to us choosing to fight the whispers which oddly enough hinted that we were actually fighting the vestiges(shout out to My Hero Academia) of our alternate timeline selves. So with the whispers defeated, they are no longer around to make sure that events go exactly as they had gone before. This effectively makes this new Final Fantasy 7 game both a remake and a sequel. By the end of the game(or at least part 1) we end up fighting the whispers.

Now of course, I knew immediately, that the whispers were not a part of the original game. They were constantly popping up out of nowhere and interfering. It took me awhile to try to piece together what they were really doing. And as I said earlier while I initially didn’t like their inclusion, once I started to piece together their purpose, I started liking them more and more. So all told the whispers are okay in my book. That final battle with them in the end was kind of weird though especially that super tall one. It all became very meta, which is a bit early for it only being part one. Usually when a game goes that far and the player really has to read between the lines to understand what’s going on, you are at the very end of the storyline not the beginning. Either way though the whispers serve as an excellent sort of vehicle to create a new experience for old players while keeping the feel and the reimagining of the classic game in place.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake has a ton of characters so I’m not gonna cover all of them here, just the main ones. I’ve watched a number of youtube videos and read some articles analyzing Aerith’s character. What seems clear to everyone is that she know’s too much! Even in the opening cutscene where we see Aerith kneeling with her eyes closed next to a pipe that seems to be glowing green. It seems the popular opinion is that Aerith is praying or somehow communing with the life stream. To me this theory totally checks out. If the whispers are so called arbiters of fate created by the planet and are attempting to ensure that the events of Final Fantasy 7 classic to happen the same way again it would make sense for Aerith to know if she is actually talking/listening to the planet. That means she’s in on it. And in a way it means that she’s an agent of the planet. She may not be against Cloud and the gang but its also possible she is not totally on their side as well, which is an interesting thought to consider.

Now we have a lot of story left to cover and even though Aerith indicated more or less at the end of the game that if they fight the arbiters of fate, there is no going back. She could very well, still be planning to take the same actions that she did in the original game. Especially since she knows how important it could be for the planet. I would love to see Square really focus on her internal struggle, perhaps even turn it into a sort of mini game where we the player can take certain actions to change her mind ultimately alter her decision. The devs have already said in so many words that things aren’t necessarily going to play out the same way. It seems like Sephiroth and Aerith are the only two that are aware of the other timeline but in a nice little twist it would be interesting to see if Cloud recovers some of his memory earlier than before and remembers the old timeline as well. Either way though square did a great job with Aerith. I feel like they captured the character perfectly, she’s just as exotic and mysterious as before. She kind of feels out of place, which is perfect.

I have mixed feelings on Sephiroth’s character so far. On one hand I get it. Square has already stated that they wanted to introduce Sephiroth much earlier in the Remake. The director’s reasoning was something along the lines of everyone knows Sephiroth by now. My thing though, is that by revealing Sephiroth early, it takes away a lot of his mystique. In the classic final fantasy 7 game, at first we only hear about references to Sephiroth from multiple characters, so it kind of builds up his mystique. In our minds eye we are making our own mental image of him. And then near the end of Disc 1 in the first game we wake up and see our jail cell open with this huge trailer of blood. Up until that point the game had been pretty fun and for the most part full of laughs and positive energy. But in an instant it got pretty dark. There had been no trail of blood previously. Or corpses on the ground. We follow the trail of blood and discover that president Shinra has a huge sword through his body and we’re like what the heck is going on. All of a sudden this super soldier Sephiroth is real and he just wiped out the president Shinra and the guards that took us captive.  

So now as a player to us Sephiroth is this ridiculously powerful dude. He’s mad, he’s dark, he’s sinister he’s coming for revenge and we haven’t even seen him in the present time yet! But in the remake all that is taken away. Which I felt was a mistake. The villain needs to have a mystique about him. And he does, presentation wise Square did a really nice job of still giving him that mysterious mystique. But the problem is they didn’t properly build him up first. We don’t know why he has that rage. He hasn’t done anything sinister yet. We just start having random flashbacks and weird visions. It’s all very good, it’s all very well done. I understand what they were going for, especially with Cloud’s history and what they’re doing in terms actually making this game a sequel to the first. But I just feel like in doing so they have actually taken away some of the mystique of Sephiroth. I wished they would have planted the seeds, watered them a little and let them grow before just exposing Sephiroth to us all at once. But I digress. Sephiroth looks great and he obviously knows everything that Aerith knows and possibly even more.

Cloud seems pretty much the same as in the original game. He still doesn’t have a clue about what’s really going on. So the amnesia storyline will be present. I think that’s for the good as this revalation near the end of the game was a very satisfying turning point. It has yet to be addressed in any substantial way by any other characters in the party but it looks like it will be eventually. Cloud’s battle with Sephiroth near the end was epic and had a very Final Fantasy advent children vibe to it as well. It makes me wonder if the devs plan on adding the events of the movie to the game as well. A part of me doubts it since its very possible that things could end totally different than before. But so far so good for Cloud. I like what I’m seeing but I would personally like to see him evolve into more of a reliable leader, maybe have some more colorful moments. For me characters like Barrett and Yuffie brought a lot of energy in the old game. So it would be cool for Cloud to get a lot more chances to shine since the voice acting is really really good.

Tifa seems to be in the same boat as Cloud. She’s basically the same character as before no real branching storyline for her, at least not yet. I highly suspect that Square will put more of an emphasis on the love triangle between Tifa, Aerith and Cloud. Now that they are doing multiple 40 hour plus games they have a lot of room to really expand on that dynamic. I loved the scene where square made us choose, do we check on Tifa or Aerith first? I hope that we have a lot more scenes like that throughout the story. And I hope it affects what scenes we see just like in part 1.One thing I wanted to note about Tifa is that I find her way more fun to play as then in the original game. In the remake Tifa is fast and spunky she feels powerful and useful. In the old game I didn’t always feel like Tifa was my best option. The way that they did limit breaks and skills in this game really took her to another level in terms of combat ability.

Barrett! Square did an amazing job with Barrett. I feel like the voice actor both in Japanese and English really captures the character perfectly. His personality is wayyyyyyyyy over the top and somehow when you listen to his tirades in the game he doesn’t sound too silly. He sounds like a guy that’s extremely passionate and cares about what he’s doing. While at the same time he still sounds rough and rugged and funny, all at the same time. I enjoyed what they did with Barrett story wise, he’s basically the same guy. He doesn’t have any special knowledge (that we know of). But his story did come with a twist that the arbiters of fate quickly undid. I wonder if them saving him will have any sort of repercussions. Like if you’re touched by an arbiter of fate you’re changed in some way. That would be an interesting to explore if the game decided to go that way but right now I doubt it. Just something to think about. Barrett’s relationship with Marlene is as cute as ever. I expect that Square will add a little more focus on his background and Marlene. That’s an easy win there, Square would be smart to take advantage.

For me Biggs, Jessie and Wedge was one of the most enjoyable parts of the remake. I felt like Square really brought these three to life. Jessie especially. They really upped the not so subtle hints that Jessie has a thing for Cloud. They didn’t over do it or anything but it was cool that they didn’t leave it out. Also I loved the fact that we went and visited Jessie’s parents house! And we discovered that Jessie’s dad works for Shinra! Just by allowing us to go on a mini mission to Jessie’s house Square really kind of opened up Midgar for us, which was pretty cool. And of course it gives Jessie jus ta little more depth which helps us to appreciate Jessie more.

Red XIII made a somewhat brief appearance in the game albeit much later, similar to the original game(later on disc 1). I think he looks extremely cool. I enjoyed having him in Hojo’s lab. I wasn’t expecting Hojo’s lab to be so big. It gave us an extended time to have him fight alongside us in our party, which was great. However, one thing I didn’t care for was that we never actually get to control Red XIII. In the original game he was by far one of my favorite characters. He was cool, he was unique and he had an interesting backstory that was somewhat important to provide insight to what was going on with the planet. In the remake, it seems like Square may have decided to emphasize that role even more. Red XIII explains to the party what the purpose of the whispers actually are which is basically to direct destiny for a certain beneficial outcome. So my question now is if Red XIII knows about the Whispers purpose, just how much does he know?

I think it’s likely that Red XIII knows about the possibility of an alternate timeline but that he’s unaware of the original timeline (the original game) where Sephiroth is defeated. I think him and his grandad and possibly the other inhabitants of cosmos canyon are going to have a lot more to say about the planet, what its’ goals are and perhaps even some of the abilities that it has to achieve its goals. Since Square has already revealed that the Whispers(arbiters of fate) are sent by the planet its likely the Square may decide or has decided to really expand on what the planet is capable of doing. Which brings me to my final thoughts.

It’s already been referenced multiple times that the planet is alive, it has a lifestream, which is basically like blood, it seems to have some kind of quasi consciousness based on the ending of original game, it can create planetary weapons and inject them with a sort of low level prime directive and finally we know now that it seems likely that the planet can create other types of beings as well, the whispers. It’s likely that the planet itself is going to play a much bigger part in the story then last time. And I think that would be pretty cool. I’ve been thinking for a long while about how Square will do the remake differently what changes will they make? And how drastic will those changes be. Will the ending be changed? Will the final boss be changed? My current thought is what if Square decides to not make Sephiroth the final boss. What if, after all of Sephiroth’ shenanigans, Shinra’s power hungry actions and everyday people just sitting around letting all this happen, the planet just decides, enough is enough, lets get rid of all the humans on the planet. That…..would be a very interesting departure from the previous story.

I have no idea at this point how it’s going to end and I think Square is still working on that themselves. However, I think there is going to be a twist, Square is going to surprise fans. They have several ways to go with this. They can swing for the fences and make Sephiroth the boss up until a point, after we stop him. Planet get’s mad and we have to find a way to appease the planet or bring nature back into balance, something like that. Another way things could go is kinda combine the new with the old have some convoluted story with our heroes coordinating in two continuities. Cloud and Zack in one continuity and Cloud and the whole party in another, this could be fun and would ultimately bring about a very similar end to the original albeit with in one perhaps Zack ends up with Aerith and Cloud ends up with Tifa. I know that would please fans. Or they could even switch it up! A lot of interesting decisions to make. Either way, I’m sure I’ll enjoy them all!

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