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April 6, 2020 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Final Fantasy VII Remake: a flawed, but fascinating, reimagining of a classic [Polygon] “Playing the original release of Final Fantasy 7 in 2020 reveals a game with the energy of someone trying to create a blockbuster with the resources of a high school play. The vision, and the scope, of an epic was always there. The technology was still being developed. It’s that tension that still makes the original game one of the most interesting experiences of its era. The hardware was powerful for its time, but the team already wanted — and probably needed — more. So what happens when those technical limitations are gone, replaced with 23 years of progress? Final Fantasy 7 Remake happens, but how you feel about Square Enix’s effort to remake Final Fantasy 7 today — greatly expanded and unhindered by the technology of yesteryear — may say more about your feelings on technology and nostalgia than the game itself.” [YouTube][Trailer]

• Final Fantasy VII Remake is a glorious retelling of Final Fantasy VII’s story. [Kotaku]
“In Final Fantasy VII, the Midgar portion took four or maybe five hours to finish. News that Final Fantasy VII Remake wouldn’t leave the city was disconcerting, raising all sorts of questions. What were they doing? How could this feel like a complete game? The answer is simple: Everything’s new. In what will surely be unwelcome news to Final Fantasy VII purists, this remake extends many old scenes and even brings in some brand new ones. The skeleton of the plot remains the same—Avalanche still blows up a couple of reactors; Cloud still meets the flower girl Aerith by falling into her church; your crew still invades Shinra’s headquarters—but the details are all different. It’s as if Final Fantasy VII were the outline of a school paper and Final Fantasy VII Remake is a grad school thesis. In 1997, the streets and alleys of Midgar were portrayed through cluttered 2D backgrounds and stiff pre-rendered cutscenes; now they are part of a gorgeously realized city. In the original game, you had to let your imagination fill in many of Midgar’s blanks—the squalor of the Sector 7 Slums; the sleek, shiny suburbs on the plate above it; the way each map linked to one another. Now, you can see it all. What was once relegated to a fan’s imagination is now a city that seems to live and breathe.”
• Final Fantasy VII Remake: Old Friend and New Life [Game Informer]
“The story follows Cloud and a small band of mercenaries as they fight back against Shinra, a huge company with its hands in everything from experimental weapons to space travel. If you played the original, you will recognize many locations, people, and plot points. But Square Enix has also liberally reimagined and reinterpreted many elements – but not so much that anything is unrecognizable. This is Final Fantasy Remake’s biggest asset, because it lets old fans relive their memories while welcoming new players with its iconic characters and unique setting. Cloud and his companions are still the heroes, but the city of Midgar is the real star now. This game is entirely focused on the portion of Final Fantasy VII’s story that unfolds in this industrial, corporate-controlled metropolis. Midgar’s political conspiracies, everyday desperation, and quiet hope shine through as you explore the different neighborhoods and see the consequences of Shinra’s greed. People live in grimy shacks, huge reactors drain the planet’s life force, and ruins stand as reminders of past tragedies. The maps aren’t as freeform or dynamic as an open-world RPG, but I still appreciate the opportunity to linger in an area and get to know its citizens – if only through a selection of basic side quests involving item retrieval and monster killing.”
• Final Fantasy 7 Remake: a faithful retread, with a few missteps along the way [Eurogamer]
“It feels weird, after loving a game like Final Fantasy 7 for pretty much my entire life, to finally be able to say I've played the Remake. After all the wondering how such and such would look, or how this bit will play, I finally have the answers to the millions of questions I had. It's been a long road, and I'm sure like many Final Fantasy 7 fans, part of me never thought we'd get here. But, after many, many hours, I've scoured the entire length and breadth of an expanded Midgar, I've caught up with some very dear old friends, and, I'll be honest, it's been emotional - even if the remake makes a few missteps along the way. It's no easy task to rewrite one of the most beloved stories in videogame history, and given the series' recent shaky past even Final Fantasy 7's most optimistic fans were nervous as to how their favourite characters, moments and story arcs would weather the transition. But I'm happy to say that, for the most part at least, the spirit and tone of the original Final Fantasy 7 is perfectly preserved. Dare I say it, the remake even manages to frequently improve upon the original's telling of the story.”
• Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Count On Cloud [Gamespot]
“There's so much to marvel at; standing on a plate suspended above Midgar and staring out across the city; hearing each piano note of Tifa's theme played so softly that you can almost picture the fingers gently moving across the keys; walking across the church rooftops with Aerith as an odd calm falls over the city--it's all brought to life with such respect and attention to detail that it's hard not to be overwhelmed and give in to the nostalgia. Then there's the whole Don Corneo plan being hatched and paying off in a way that doesn't feel exclusionary or mocking, but inclusive, fun, and wholly unexpected. The remake doesn't shy away from embracing the goofier elements of the original, instead using it to bring levity to what is otherwise heavy subject matter. Even as the game reaches its conclusion and embraces the more outlandish and fantastical parts of the narrative, it does so in a way that feels earned. Again, this might be just a small chunk of the original release, but as a standalone game Final Fantasy VII Remake is complete. Although a greater villain lingers in the periphery of the story, and cryptic references to something more in Cloud's past--as well as other unexplained elements--are introduced in the concluding chapters, this doesn't diminish the story that is told. Final Fantasy VII Remake can be enjoyed on the merits of what it presents, and for those in the know, it also lays the foundation for future revelations in an intriguing way. Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement. The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers--the wait was worth it. For first-time players, it's an opportunity to understand why Final Fantasy VII is held in such high regard.”
• Final Fantasy VII Remake is a thrilling, thoughtful take on a classic [The Verge]
“Final Fantasy VII was always going to be a tricky game to remake. It’s at times both the most beloved and controversial game in the long-running series. When it launched on the original PlayStation, it changed the series forever with lavish CG cutscenes and a focus on larger, more expansive stories. It was weird and emotional and absorbing in a way that few blockbuster games had been before — or since. Attempting to harvest that energy, which feels innately tied to the late ‘90s and the early days of 3D gaming, seemed like a particularly difficult task. Yet, that’s what makes the remake all the more impressive. It translates the experience into something modern, without losing much of that classic charm. It’s not the whole experience — FFVIIR only encompasses the opening Midgar section of the story, which amounts to the opening of the game, with no indication of how the rest will be released — and it’s certainly not perfect. There are 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.”
posted by Fizz (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am excited for this. I hope it performs extremely well. I really hope Square brings the Monolith gang back to redo Xenogears.
posted by bfranklin at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm _super_ torn about it. I love FF7, it's one of the few games I've finished more than once. But the combat in the FF7R demo felt extremely drawn out and still pretty boring. I'm not sure if it's just not clicking and I was busy wailing away against enemies the wrong way, or if the demo is intended to be a little bit Hard Mode so people didn't just blow through it in 15 minutes.

I mean, I even (mostly) liked the battle system in FF15, so it's not a turn based versus realtime difference.

Eh, it's all moot, I spent my videogame money on a digital copy of BotW yesterday now that it's on sale for $40 so I can send my physical copy to my grandson. Maybe by time I finish my current backlog, FF7R won't be a $60 premium game any more.
posted by Kyol at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I never played the original so it's been hard to find reviews that aren't weighed down by the expectations of people who have played and re-played FF7 multiple times since its release. Does the remake tell a complete story even if it's supposed to be episodic? Is it enjoyable for someone who didn't play the original or is it 100% fanservice for older fans?
posted by simmering octagon at 9:37 AM on April 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

But the combat in the FF7R demo felt extremely drawn out and still pretty boring. I'm not sure if it's just not clicking and I was busy wailing away against enemies the wrong way, or if the demo is intended to be a little bit Hard Mode so people didn't just blow through it in 15 minutes.

It seems like enemy weakpoints are only exposed when they're "pressured", but the demo does this weird thing where it tells you about enemy weakpoints way earlier than you can use the information, so if you try and cast Fire on a particular mini-boss in the demo when it says 'they're weak to Fire' then it doesn't work. Even then, though, combat does seem very drawn out.

On the other hand, I'm curious about a version of FF7 where materia doesn't erase the differences between party members, and the way people keep talking about the ending of this part is extremely enticing - I've heard rumours that one of the game's iconic moments has been radically overhauled, but the way people are talking about the ending sounds like they might be doing something even wilder.
posted by Merus at 9:40 AM on April 6, 2020

I'm with you, simmering octagon. It seems like every year, "games journalism" and critique about video games becomes more and more nostalgia-based and self-referential. For instance, I had no idea what the hell a "metroidvania" was or is, and when Dark Souls came on the scene, that term was suddenly everywhere. It's still everywhere. But it took me quite a while to understand what was meant by it, and the reviews and articles I read certainly didn't help clarify.

So yeah, I hold no nostalgic feeling about this one, but it looks pretty cool. Like a game I'd enjoy. Still, it rankles me when every game that's released is described almost entirely by comparisons to other games.
posted by SoberHighland at 9:42 AM on April 6, 2020

It seems like enemy weakpoints are only exposed when they're "pressured", but the demo does this weird thing where it tells you about enemy weakpoints way earlier than you can use the information, so if you try and cast Fire on a particular mini-boss in the demo when it says 'they're weak to Fire' then it doesn't work. Even then, though, combat does seem very drawn out.

Yeah, that was one of the few things I really liked about the FF13 battle system, but at least FF13 had specialists in pressuring enemies, so it was easier to put them into that state. Glad to hear I'm not the only person who found the battle system kind of slow.
posted by Kyol at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2020

“Still, it rankles me when every game that's released is described almost entirely by comparisons to other games.”

I think this is partially down to the fact that video games are still a relatively young medium and whole new genres are being birthed every few years. MOBAs were referred to as “DOTA clones” for years before there were enough of them that a clear pattern could be articulated. “Morrowind” was shorthand for first-person open-world RPGs almost until Oblivion came out. Some terms don’t seem to be dying out; “Rouge-like” comes to mind. But maybe that’s not so bad in limited amounts—even people who have never read Kafka will (usually) understand what you mean if you describe something as “Kafkaesque”.
posted by WCWedin at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I never played this game growing up so nostalgia isn't a factor for me. I can appreciate why this is such a significant gaming event for a lot of people, it really touches a part of their childhood in a big way.

All that being said, the demo left me unimpressed. It felt very cold and boring. The ATB system isn't a deal-breaker for me but it just felt very drab and uninteresting. I might pick it up on a sale some point down the road but it's not going anywhere. After all, this is only the first "episode". It also doesn't help that the first boss is a real bullet/damage sponge.

I'm also not a fan of the way they've depicted Barett, his voice in particular. I'm not alone in my concerns. Gita Jackson writes for Kotaku:
“In the trailer for the Final Fantasy VII, the voice acting for Barret really leans into that Mr. T characterization. It’s something that some fans had hoped would change in the process of remaking the game, and they’re frustrated that it didn’t. [...] In the reactions that I’ve seen, fans don’t want to censor or remove Barret from the game; they were just hoping to see a better portrayal of his character this time around. Many are frustrated, annoyed, are laughing at the character rather than with him or saying they just wish the creative team had made a different call. There are very few viral tweets about this topic, but the sentiment is there, quietly. One fan tweeted the trailer with the comment, “I wish they would Dead the Mr. T voice.” Another said that the trailer looked great, but the voice made them uncomfortable.

The most aggressive criticism I saw came from Brandon Dixon, the creator of the upcoming tabletop RPG Swordsfall, which is set in an afrofuturist nation. “Can a game, for fucking once, just make the black guy NORMAL. Why is he a walking MTV cliche of what people THINK black men are like?” he wrote on Twitter. “Do [they] ever talk to PoC? At all?””

Anyways, not in a rush but it's nice to see that the game is there for those who are wanting to take a stroll back in time.
posted by Fizz at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2020 [9 favorites]

In the trailer for the Final Fantasy VII, the voice acting for Barret really leans into that Mr. T characterization. It’s something that some fans had hoped would change in the process of remaking the game, and they’re frustrated that it didn’t.

I will never not recommend Tim Rogers' video series where he compares the Japanese & English scripts of the original FF7. The general takeaway is that, due to time pressure on the translator, several of the characters are much more nuanced in Japanese, and Barrett especially is a guy with some healthy masculinity qualities who emphatically does not do the Mr. T Thing or the Occasional Casual Misogyny Thing or the Referring To Cloud's "Spiky White Ass" Thing.

They absolutely could have done better by his character in the remake & I'm disappointed they didn't.
posted by taquito sunrise at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

Regarding the combat being slow: is it also as frequent and grindy as it was in the original? I don't mind slow combat if it's mostly set pieces rather than something you have to spend hours doing to level up characters or materia, although it may not really matter if they don't expand it beyond Midgar.
posted by jedicus at 12:05 PM on April 6, 2020

The boss in the demo is really not a damage sponge, once you figure out how it works:

Scorpion speed kill in 2:19
FF7R demo in 12:57 - 2:18 scorpion

It is sad to watch people having trouble with the battle system and writing it off, because it is the best battle system I've ever played by far — it has so much depth (and I've only played the demo, and haven't even got to play as Tifa yet, who looks amazing in trailers and is said by many reviewers to be a joy to play). Admittedly the instructions given by the demo are not clear (though it's so very frustrating to watch people skip them in playthroughs, then complain that it's too hard), and are offered only once without any reminders, so are easy to forget (the player is not told that the information is also available in the manual). But here are a few tips that may help:
  • The ATB gauges are absolutely key. I've watched so many people constantly open the menu to check whether the commands are available, without understanding that it's the ATB gauges that determine this.
  • It is not a hack-and-slash: the basic attacks that you get by pressing square do relatively little damage — their main purpose is to build up the ATB gauges.
  • The AI for the other characters in your party is very basic: they do very little other than basic attacks and blocks. This is because the player is expected to be constantly switching between characters — it's not a game where you roleplay one single character in the party.
  • Make use of any full ATB gauges for any character in your party as soon as possible (unless you're intentionally saving them for something, e.g. an emergency heal or an attack that requires two full gauges), by switching to that character and issuing a command — otherwise ATB charges are going to waste.
  • The pressuring and staggering mechanics are key — you can find more information on them in the manual (available within the demo). For each enemy, there are certain attacks that are particularly good for pressuring or staggering them. Determine what these attacks are, and the fights become much easier.
  • It takes observation and experimentation to learn how each enemy works; for example, the "defence system" in phase 2 of the boss is very annoying — until you figure out how to take it down, then it becomes very, very easy.
  • You don't need to wait for the animation of an attack to finish before you enter the next command. So you can chain one attack after another; or attack with one character, switch to another character while that attack is in motion, and get the other character to attack at the same time. Teaming up like this is ridiculous fun when you get it right — one time I got Cloud and Barret to use their limit breaks at the same time on the Guard Scorpion, and it was glorious. I can't wait to find out what we can do with Tifa and Aerith in the mix; or three characters teaming up; or multiple characters juggling an enemy in mid-air...
There's a lot more, like Cloud's Punisher Mode and its blocking counter and berserk effect, or the best time to press triangle to recharge for Barret's Overcharge, that are apparently left for us to discover ourselves. If you read the reviews, most reviewers love the battle system — it really is imo innovative and fun.
posted by catchingsignals at 1:11 PM on April 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I didn't play the Demo. I saw some clips and thought: I'll just play the game.

I was brand new to FF when FFXV came out. I absolutely loved that game, until about 2/3rds in they changed it to a completely different game!

I was just getting really good at the battle system, which took me a long time to figure out. But yes, I was getting good! Having fun taking down squads of weird monsters and creatures. The suddenly, they pulled the rug out from under me, and I was playing some solo button masher, where Noctis was flying around some titanic creature and I was wildly mashing buttons and seeing crazy numbers fly around.

Man did that piss me off. I got almost to the end, but got tired of the "new" game that was foisted on me... once the fun, interesting, exciting but oddly chill-axing road trip part just got dropped. So I quit, watched a Let's Play and saw the end, shrugged and went on my way.

The "story" got nuttier and nuttier, everything was happening a continent away. All my bros left and it became a bad game. Went from being one kind of a very cool, unique feeling game to... a completely different, uninteresting game.

I really hope they don't do that with this one.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2020

They absolutely could have done better by his character in the remake & I'm disappointed they didn't.

FWIW, here is Barret's voice actor John Eric Bentley, discussing how he approached the role, Mr. T, and not wanting Barret to be a caricature or a negative black image. (The Kotaku article incorrectly identifies Barret's voice actor as Beau Billingslea, who was Barret's voice actor in Advent Children — I don't know why Kotaku hasn't corrected this.)

I have not yet played the remake beyond the demo, but in the original game, Barret was, aside from the bits of shitty translation taquito sunrise mentioned, a fully human, loveable and beloved character. Marlene; Dyne; his acceptance that he was not a leader; his obvious respect for Tifa — if anything, he was one of the softer characters in the story. Gita Jackson, the author of the Kotaku article, had never played the game, and I wonder if she would have a different opinion of Barret's character if she had.

There were some really good character moments for Barret in the demo. Barret teasing Cloud after Cloud confused his own age and rank — you can hear a kindly amusement in Barret's voice, but he doesn't push or embarrass Cloud too hard, despite them having been going at each other up to that point. Barret calling Cloud to look after Jessie. And especially the moment near the end, where Barret and Cloud are in the elevator, and Barret is visibly anxious; he sees Cloud seemingly unaffected, and attempts to calm himself down. It may be that knowing the original game well, those moments stand out more to me; but I hope that there are many more moments like these in the rest of the remake (and from what I've heard, I think there are). It doesn't excuse the stereotype in his appearance and speech; and I'm not sure about the voice acting. I agree that they absolutely could have done better by his character in the remake (at least based on the demo), and I wish they had — I have seen a few people been put off by it. His character is so much more than his appearance and voice, and I wish Square Enix had understood and fixed it in the 23 years since the original.
posted by catchingsignals at 3:45 PM on April 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

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