In 1997, a 1st Class SOLDIER left the military for reasons he cannot remember. This man promptly ventured forth to the Midgar underground. Today, still watched by Shinra, he survives as a mercenary. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can afford him…maybe you can hire Cloud Strife.
This one has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? For years people have been clamouring for the next glimpse at FFVII, the next evolution of a game beloved by folks the world over. I mean, I never even played the original and I was excited by Remake, am excited by Remake. Which goes to show the impact this instalment in the ever ironically named series had on the world. So ingrained is the story of this game, that I doubt there is any player of games who doesn’t know at least a little something about the tale of Cloud and his friends in AVALANCHE (as tumultuous as said friendship began). Still, I will refrain from detailing any major story beats; because, if you somehow have managed to avoid details for this long, I entreat you to play Remake and enjoy the story for yourself.
Now, I will do my best to keep my opinions a tad more succinct than usual (given that I prattled on at length via Coming Attractions)…but I make no promises. Remake is an exciting game, and one that makes me want to talk about every detail. Like, how when you change the Materia in a character’s weapon, you can see the Materia in a character’s weapon. The weapons with linked Materia slots are also visibly connected on some weapons, which is a nice touch. Oh, linked slots let you augment Materia with other Materia placed in said slots…I said Materia a lot, but it’s pretty simple. Materia that is blue in colour (such as Elemental) only gains use when linked to a green Materia (such as Fire); place the two in tandem and voila, you’ve got a new effect (such as Elemental and Fire allowing the character’s melee strikes to deal fire damage). Another blue Materia allows spells to split between multiple enemies, albeit at the cost of divided damage. None of these are required alterations, allowing you to build characters to best suit your fighting style. Personally, I just swap out the element on Cloud’s sword and beat things into submission. Think of it like Occam’s razor…only the razor is a giant sword.
Speaking of weaponry, those present in Remake are rather snazzy. Though the Buster Sword is one of the most iconic weapons in the franchise, it is very possible you will stop using it pretty quickly. Each character is presented with a few options for armament, made available as the story progresses, and each provides different boons and banes. The Buster Sword, for example, provides a hefty boost to melee damage, whilst granting little increase to spell power. The Iron Blade on the other hand possesses a much higher cap for magic. So, pick which weapon suits you best and go fro broke. And, by the by, you totally can choose what you want, when you want it. Weapon experience is gained on level up and an equal amount is given to each weapon, whether it is equipped or not; heck, whether it’s owned or not. Which means as soon as you buy a weapon, it has a backlog of points to spend. It’s awesome. It also makes it completely viable to swap to a new weapon, acquire it’s unique ability, and swap back to an older weapon. Oh, unique abilities are moves initially locked to a specific weapon, which become a permanent part of your move list after certain requirements are met (usually using the move in battle). This allows you to increase your combat abilities, whilst also rotating through the various weapons…which look cool. Not the most complex reasoning, but…they look cool.
This same mentality of comfortable gameplay is even extended to the Battle Intel side quests, which are a series of challenges to be completed throughout regular play. New quest to stagger fifty enemies? You’ve already staggered thirty, so just grab the final twenty now that you know about the goal. Plenty of Battle Intel was already completed before I even spoke to Chadley (the quest giver). Again, awesome. Sure it’s not related to the longevity of the franchise, or the impact of the story, but it’s these quality of life improvements that really let you focus on the things that matter. Like when the game tells you during the mechanical arm section (it makes sense in context) that proceeding may lock you out of acquiring items hidden in the area, allowing you to wait until you’ve explored every nook and/or cranny. It’s a nice aspect for those of use who have to pursue every dead end before heading the right way; you know, the completionists…also known as those plagued by OCD and a hyperfixation on minutia. Regardless, this understanding of players is further carried into side quests proper, which provide you the option to immediately warp back to the quest giver upon completion. Like, straight back. It’s just so nice to be able to skip the backtracking and move on with the game, especially when a citizen makes you walk halfway across the map to see their task completed…jerks. I mean, sure, their business is being beset by Lesser Drakes…but I don’t want to walk all the way there an back. The Buster Sword is heavy.
And…I think that’s about it. Sure, there’s plenty more to be said about this game, but I’m not sure if I’m the one to say it. That is to say: I think you should experience this game for yourself. I can explain to you the panic that sets in when your characters drop to low health, or the excitement that you feel when you intuit the correct weakness for a boss without using Assess, but none of that really matters without a baseline of comparison. People talk about how they felt when they played Final Fantasy VII back in 1997, not how their friend felt. Yes that’s true of every game, but this is an experience people have been excited about for years now, the resurgence of a game that made many people into gamers. Look, even stripped of all of the hype and legacy, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a fun game, but with it…it’s just something else entirely.