Content of the article: "Final Fantasy VII Remake does too little for new fans and too much padding"
I've played nearly every mainline FF game and while 7 was never my favorite (that goes to 6) I was still excited to see the game remade for the next gen. But while the real time combat can be fun, its over complicated materia system, lack of better combat features from other FF games, and excessive padding made the game enjoyable, but heavily dragging in certain chapters.
For those unfamiliar, this remake takes the first section of FF7, taking place in the city of Midgar, and makes a full game out of it. This section was maybe 5-7 hours at length in the original, but now it has been stretched out to 40. Initially the length increase seemed welcome, as it took the time to heavily stretch story beats and flesh out characters in a meaningful way. However what ends up suffering is the excessively long, liner dungeons that are hours longer than the original game. Entire sections that maybe were a couple of screens long are extended to 1-3 hour marathons of fight after fight; with puzzles regularly added in to extend the dungeon even further. On top of this you go through some of these multiple times. They're not exactly scenic locations either since I wasn't raring to go through a sewer system twice, or an underpass yet again. This ends up heavily impacting the story as well, which was tightly paced and hit story beat after beat. I have to also question the appearance of a future party memberCait Sith, a talking cat that appears for 5 whole seconds about 25 hours in, gets 0 explanation, and you never see him again. If you were a fan of the original you might think its a cool moment, but anyone who might be experiencing this for the first time will be completely bewildered. Sephiroth, the main villain or the original game, also appears heavily the remake, which originally he only appeared briefly at the end of Midgar, catapulting the rest of the plot, but this change felt very welcome to me.
Which actually brings me to the ending, the remake did something interesting which is introducing an entirely new entity called 'Whispers' throughout the entire story that were not present in the original. These characters essentially look like Harry Potter's Dementors but seem to try to influence events to keep the original timeline of Final Fantasy VII in tact, going so far as to prevent character deaths that nearly happen that didn't occur in the original. This comes to a head in the final 2 bosses and ending of the game >! kill essentially the 'king of whispers' and enable the future to be changed, which so far has brought back several characters to life that are supposed to be dead, as well as change a dog mascot's design, and Aerith says some funky dialogue afterwards. This brings about an interesting possibility where we genuinely don't know where the game will go from here with its sequels.!< That being said, the game again features some things in its ending where, if you didn't already know FF7s plot, you'd be completely confused as to why it was important.
The gameplay goes back to the real time combat that we've seen in other games from Square Enix such as FFXV and Kingdom Hearts, however the biggest drawback in my opinion is two things, the Materia system and your teammates AI. The idea behind the materia system seems fun at first. A Materia can give you the ability to cast a particular spell or other abilities. When you equip it gains 'ap' (think exp) which allows you to access more powerful versions of the spell as it levels up. This isn't just limited to spells however as you also get stat boosting ones, misc abilities, and the ability to augment spells to hit multiple targets or apply the spell to your weapon. The issue is having to constantly go back into your materia loadout to make it as effective as possible, as it always left me feeling that my kit was never good enough for the situation. You also don't get that many 'magnify' materia, which makes the spell apply to multiple targets. Which means you often times have to choose between healing the entire party or dealing fire damage to the 10 soldiers you are facing.
This would all be less of a pain if your teammates could function well without you directly controlling them. You teammates don't use any abilities unless you actively tell them to. No one can use their abilities or spells until their action bars get full which happen over time, and you if you control them the bar fills up quicker, When your AIs bar fills up you either pause combat and tell them what to do or you jump to them and take over. Which is a shame because the character that you are using was always going to be most effective. I always ended up using Cloud because he has a secondary attack mode that deals more damage, and can parry attacks when he blocks, which he won't do if I'm not using him. Or Barrett, who would never prioritize flying enemies or distant targets most of the time unless I was using him as well. What this game desperately needed was something akin to Final Fantasy XII's Gambit system. Where you essentially program your teammates to do certain actions if conditions are met, such as healing under 30% health, or casting fire if the enemy is weak to it. Instead I felt like I had to constantly pause the combat, which was a shame because it was at its most fun at full speed. To picture this game giving Barret the gambit of 'prioritize distant or flying enemies' would make a world of difference considering the fact that if you want to make use of a party members secondary abilities, you had to be using them yourself. Its a major oversight and it left my party members feeling useless unless I was constantly bouncing back and forth between all of them, which drastically slowed the pace of battle.
Theres definitely fun to be had here, and man is it great seeing a game that looks just as good if not better than the Advent Children movie but in real time. However I'm not sure if I recommend it yet to people who didn't play the original. The padding could be tolerated because I knew what was ahead, I just head to get through 3 hours of dungeon to get to it. On the plus side Honey Bee Inn was a good romp when I finally got there, but first I have to crawl through a broken underpass for too long. It gets close to greatness, but I hope they don't needlessly pad everything that comes after this.
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