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At a time when classics are being resurrected as remasters, one name has been talked about a lot. Cloud Strife. First introduced in 1997 on the original Playstation to roaring success. Next teased to make a comeback on the PS3 in 2005, (which never materialized). And then, at E3 2015 Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced for the PS4. And now here we are 5 years later, in the last year of the console, after a slew of delays, and in times unlike any other, Cloud Strife is here again. Does he still have it though, or have the years been kind on the pixels but unkind on the game. Should Final Fantasy VII never have been remade, let alone in parts? Or was it time to introduce the new generation to Cloud Strife? Let’s find out.

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What’s Changed?

Let’s start with the most obvious question, how long is Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 1? By now we all know that the first part would be focusing on Midgar, essentially the first theatre of the original game. Back in 1997, Cloud and his ragtag bunch of adventures spent around 10 hours in the city, but in the Remake that game-time can easily extend up to 40 hours. Even the main story beats alone take around 30 hours to finish, something I found out the hard way after I spent 3 nights in a row playing up to 5 AM thinking I am close to finishing the game.

The story does remain true to the original as well, especially in important beats as it follows Cloud as a disgruntled SOLDIER helping his childhood friend/crush Tifa (and by extension Avalanche, an eco-terrorist group) in a fight against Midgar’s corporate overlord Shinra. There are some new characters introduced too, but unlike the older ones, they don’t have any lasting impact on the story, at least nothing that is visible in the first chapter. Having said that, there are multiple departures from the original, the biggest one comes towards the end, but I am assuming this is more because they wanted to give a proper climactic ending to the first part, instead of it feeling like a transition into the next one. For the most part, however, Final Fantasy VII Remake walks the line between inspired and spin-off well and adds a lot of room to the original story.

Square Enix uses this newfound room to flesh out Midgar, and the people living in it. It gives a backstory to characters like Wedge and Biggs, turning them into comrades with personalities instead of just 2 pop-ups paper-thin names to models. It also accentuates the differences between Corporate and Environmentalists, between the city and the slums, between the middle class and the lower class. I had never appreciated the full extent of Midgar before. 2 settlements, one built on a huge disc rising above the ground like a huge man-made steel mushroom, and the other on the ground under the disc’s shadow illuminated by giant bulbs living quite literally below their well off counterparts. The city above is realized as a city somewhere from the European ’80s, while the slums are represented as immigrant scrap yards. And connecting them a train which runs in spirals around the pillars of Midgar. Just the conception of the city is fascinating. The increase in visual fidelity helps in making all of these changes stand out. As kids, these parallels were probably lost on me as I moved from fight to fight, but the remake puts a giant 4K spotlight on it and makes it difficult to ignore.

It also mixes up the traditional turn-based combat from Final Fantasy VII and adds a Final Fantasy XV coat of paint on it. Most combat happens in real-time, letting you switch between characters on the fly, with each one filling up their ATB meters during it which allows them to execute skills, cast spells and use items. What stops this combat from devolving into button mashing is Materia and party management.

Materia is like runes which you can slot into your weapons, and they dictate the different spells and abilities that you can execute during combat. This Materia can be leveled up as they are used more often, and you would often find yourself moving materials from one character to another as they move in and out of your team, and you try to achieve balance with different party combinations. Another aspect is the intrinsic abilities of each character’s weapons as well, which would cause the bulk of the damage in later battles, but just like Materia, they use up an ATB slot too when used. Considering that even using a potion consumes an ATB slot, the entire combat becomes a tactical exercise on how to use your ATB skills the best.

As the game moves on it also adds Limit Breaks, and Summonings to combat, both of which have their meters to be monitored and executed at the right time. Don’t fret though, instead of complicating battles, all these options extend your arsenal and you will rarely find yourself retrying battles more than 3 times before you hit that sweet spot between skill and load-outs.

Leveling up is automated, but you do earn SP points for your equipped weapons which can be used to improve them as the game progresses. The armor customization is limited and you are never given granular control of your character’s stats. But that’s alright, simplifying the equipment process lets Final Fantasy VII Remake focus on the important things, exploration, and combat. You would never find yourself fiddling away at the inventory screen for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, which means you would be spending more game time exploring Midgar, fighting enemies, and progressing the story.

What Hasn’t Changed?

All of it is mixed with a standard run of the mill classic 90s Final Fantasy JRPG sprinkling of magic, and ridiculousness. It’s all realism and District 9 until you look at the costumes of Cloud, Tifa and every other main character in the game. Just like how as a kid I couldn’t pick up the underline narrative in Final Fantasy VII, the whacky costume didn’t stand out as jarringly back in ’97. Here all grown up I couldn’t but roll my eyes over every time I looked at Cloud’s and Tifa’s costume, and how these guys could travel on the train, while Barrett walked with a chain gun rolled on his arm. The remake will never let you forget that you are part of a Final Fantasy game, and more importantly, a JRPG.

Which means there are a lot of cringy dialogues. The Final Fantasy VII Remke has taken a lot of inspiration from the original, and it seems that character lines seem to be a complete copy-paste. Your teammates are either too chirpy or too stiff, and it betrays the situation that your character is in. They are either shouting out their lungs or encouraging you with thumbs up and peace out signs.

Then there are the side-quests. Another standard staple of Final Fantasy franchise. Pretty standard stuff. A lot of fetch quests, a lot of go there, kill X monsters. It does add a neat little twist on arena challenges, by making them VR battles and offering enemies as prizes. For all the upgrades that the remake has gone through, it funnily seems to be frozen in 1997 when it comes to side-missions.


I don’t have a lot of complaints with Final Fantasy VII Remake. The biggest one, it doesn’t offer a photo-mode. I don’t mind the traditional mission structure so much instead I relish it. I like the switch to real-time combat, as I always thought turn-based battles are too time-consuming and can stretch on far too long. It has just the right amount of customization, that I don’t feel overwhelmed and yet feel like every battle lost can be won with a little tweak in my equipment and load-out. Final Fantasy VII Remake does a good job of walking that line between tactical and casual in my opinion, and while I was initially skeptical of how translating one game into multiple ones would turn out. Having played through the game in the past week assures me that fans of the original would not be entirely disappointed, while new ones would be happy to join the club.

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