- Most of what FFVII Remake brings to the table is unnecessary or unnecessarily stretched out
- Going from Point A to Point B in Remake vs. FFVII feels like it takes five times longer
- Battle system is like Kingdom Hearts x Lightning Returns
- Switching characters is cool and lots of options for character progression
At what point does “fleshing out the game world” become “filling up the place with pointless new areas and empty side quests”?
That’s the question I’m currently wrestling with as I struggle through my 13th hour of the Final Fantasy VII remake.
Let’s start with the good:
You, the masses, spoke and said you wanted an FFVII remake. After several long, hard years Square Enix gave it to you. That’s all the good news.
So what’s the bad news?
Well, right now in the remake I’m currently in Sector 5, having arrived at Aerith’s house after: crash-landing onto a bed of flowers in a church, fighting a Turk, playing monkey bars on the church ceiling while getting shot at (and mysteriously taking only 5 damage per bullet), walking around a bunch of empty rooftops, and taking a long-ass scenic side-trip through a junkyard. Also, deus ex machina dust
After getting here, I thought – this can’t be right, I remember this whole section being a lot shorter. And there was flower-picking in the original? Of course, my memory is what you’d call, in Italian – garbagio these days and so I did what had to be done: I went back and replayed FFVII on PS1 (via epsxe) to a little bit past my current spot in Remake.
Here’s what was different. In vanilla FFVII, you crash-land onto a bed of flowers in a church. You then escape after attempting to drop some barrels onto Shinra soldiers. You don’t fight a Turk. You then end up on the roof, get off the roof, and walk about two screens to Aerith’s house. Then you leave for Sector 7 after sneaking out of the house. The whole thing takes maybe five minutes.
Meanwhile, in Remake Land time seems to slow down to the point where the fight with Reno and his flunkies takes like ten minutes on its own. Walking around the rooftops takes like…fifteen minutes? And the junkyard side-trip takes…thirty minutes?
If Squawk Enix’s goal was to stretch the game out as long as possible then they’ve done an absolutely fine job. Any place where they could possibly drop a detour filled with either forced walking sections or monsters – yep, they’ve done it!
Which brings me back to my original question. Does adding all of this new content – quests, areas, and encounters – actually make Final Fantasy VII better in any way?
My answer’s no. These changes aren’t meaningful, and games should never feel like a chore. Or in this case, a long drawn-out crawlfest.
For what it’s worth, I’d argue the original FFVII at times swings too far in the opposite direction, not doing enough to tell you what you need to do or making it difficult to see where you can even walk due to the hand-drawn backgrounds. (thank God for that feature that highlights the exits or I’d still be stuck in the reactor).
Okay, how’s the actual FFVII Remake?
It’s slow, mostly. Even if you ignore the side-quests and just concentrate on the mainline game, there’s a lot of stuff that you’re forced to slog through that certainly wasn’t there before. Things like meeting up with Jessie/breaking into the weapons depot, or trying to get to the train station and having to go through a gazillion detours and a really pointless meeting with a certain antagonist. It’s just…filler.
The battle system has changed in a way that’s more reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts (sorry, only played the first one…blasphemy, I know~), Lightning Returns and FFXV. You run around the playing field and spam the square button to unleash your basic combo, or dodge roll with circle. You have an option to block, which is actually pretty important now since it’s reduces a lot of incoming damage AND charges your ATB and limit meters.
It’s important to note here that your ATB meter charges extremely slowly if you’re not doing anything, and way quicker when attacking or blocking. I’m not sure if this is a good change or not. There are too many times when no one in your party has enough meter to perform an action and you desperately need to heal.
Most of the monsters in Remake are bullet sponges, and so it feels like your attacks just chip away at guys, like throwing fireballs at blocking opponents in Street Fighter. Having played through all three FFXIII games (highly not recommended), I get it, the whole point is to work on staggering your enemies so you get the fun payoff of doing 90% of their life bar over ten seconds. The problem is the work part.
I haven’t liked the Stagger mechanic since FFXIII-1, but Squire Enix seems married to it at this point. It’s supposed to force you to think strategically rather than just spamming attacks but in practice all you do is end up spamming the spells that raise stagger if you have the right materia equipped, and if not then it’s back to regular attacks and attack skills.
Rounding out the battle system is the ability to switch characters at any point during a battle, which actually is a pretty big feature but it sure seems like every time I either need or want to switch to another guy, they’ve already used up their meter and I’m stuck jabbing the attack button again.
Outside of battling, there’s one aspect of FFVII Remake that I liked – the character progression/customization. Each member in your party can learn new active skills by equipping different weapons – each weapon has a skill attached to it, and using that skill enough times grants it to you permanently. Gaining levels also now gives you AP that you can use to level up stats on each of your weapons. It’s not terribly complex but it does let you create rough build paths for each of your weapons.
Not much else to say about the other parts of Remake. The Japanese voice-acting is good, the new music remixes are good, graphics are good if not a bit same-y.
I’m hoping to finish this by the end of this week, but man – I don’t really look forward to it.
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