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Review Roundup: Final Fantasy VII Remake – both familiar and new at the same time

Ok, I’m sold on this now.

final fantasy vii remake cover art
Image: Square Enix

If you’ve seen anything about gaming in the past year, you are surely aware of the existence of Final Fantasy VII Remake, the episodic remake of the iconic Square Enix title first released in 1997. After some gamers managed to get their hands on the game early, official reviews are now starting to roll out for the game.

Overall, it looks like people are loving the revamped RPG, but let’s dive into the reviews to see what there is to like – and dislike – about the game. Also, it should be noted that this title currently only contains the Midgar section of the game, with no word yet on how the rest of the story will be delivered.

How similar is it to the original Final Fantasy VII?

final fantasy vii with cloud and aerith

Image: Square Enix

When dealing with a remake, developers need to walk a line between staying true to the original while still offering new experiences for gamers who are familiar with the original title. It seems Square Enix has done a good job with that, offering some great nostalgia while adding bits and pieces throughout the world and story.

The Verge notes that the title adds “some new aspects that feel unnecessary, moments that serve as filler, and areas where the game can be frustratingly dated. It’s messy and beautiful, thrilling and confusing — which is to say, the remake is 100 percent Final Fantasy VII.”

Even so,  the review goes on to say that “[t]he story is infamously convoluted and confusing, but the remake actually does a great job of explaining much of it.” This is credited to its tighter focus on Midgar and that the bigger story in the game only really starts to unravel near the end of the game.

Jason Schreier of Kotaku adds to this, saying “It’s as if Final Fantasy VII were the outline of a school paper and Final Fantasy VII Remake is a grad school thesis.”

Switching it up from turn-based to real-time fighting

While the graphical updates are obviously one of the most jarring changes to Final Fantasy VII Remake, the new title also changes up how combat works. The original was very much a “traditional” RPG, with turn-based fighting, but Remake brings with it real-time action combat.

It seems reviews are 100 percent here for the new combat system, with IGN calling it a “guiding star” of the title. They go on to say that the way the “iconic system has been transformed into real-time brawling is exceptional.”

The Sixth Axis echoes these sentiments, saying “Battles start with real time attacks that build up your ATB bar which is split into two portions. When one of these is filled, you can shift to bullet time, allowing you time to flip through a couple of menus and select a special attack, magic, or use an item such as a potion or Phoenix Down.”

All in all, it sounds like a great system and one that I’m personally excited to try out for myself.

Is it worth buying?

If you are familiar with the original title, you know that the Midgar section of Final Fantasy VII only makes up about 5-hours of the full 40+ hour story. That is not the case with Final Fantasy VII Remake, with many reviews stating there are at least 30 hours of gameplay in this episode alone.

For fans of the original, there will be plenty to like here, with the main story staying the same (until the end apparently, trying not to spoil it for you or me), but adds plenty of additional plot and really brings home the futuristic dystopian landscape that the original had, but was limited to show, due to the limited technology available at its release. Ars Technica agrees, saying that “opinions are obviously going to be mixed when it comes to Square Enix shuffling the series’s events and characters of old, but I’d rank the shuffling’s execution as one of the game’s successes.”

The main question for me – and many of the reviews – is what happens now? Square Enix has not given us any information for when the next part will release, or how many parts there will be in total.

Final Fantasy VII Remake officially releases on April 10 for PlayStation 4.

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