Garbage Collector

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Final Fantasy VII Remake (Intergrade)

Final Fantasy VII Remake (Intergrade)
© Square-Enix

Final Fantasy VII Remake is the long time fans-awaited remake/remaster of the 1997 Playstation game, Final Fantasy VII. Released in 2020 by Square Enix exclusively for Playstation 4, the publisher produced in 2021 the Intergrade enhanced version for Playstation 5 and Microsoft Windows. Final Fantasy VII Remake has been one of the fastest selling game of the Playstation 4 with 3.5 millions copies sold in three days. Remake has been announced as a multiple parts episodic game, covering the first section of the original game in Midgard. The next part, entitled Rebirth, is expected for late 2023, early 2024, on Playstation 5.

Cloud Strife is a former member of SOLDIER, an elite warriors group of the Shinra Electric Power Company, a powerful conglomerate ruling over the never sleeping city of Midgard. Shinra uses the Mako energy to power its Mako Reactor and fulfill the energy needs of the metropolis. But, since the Mako is the planet’s spiritual energy, Shinra is the target of the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE led by Barret Wallace. Now a mercenary only motivated by the paycheck, Cloud is hired by his childhood friend Tifa Lockhart, also a member of AVALANCHE, to help them destroy the Mako reactors and stop harming the planet. The story begins with Cloud helping the AVALANCHE team to infiltrate and destroy a Mako reactor.

As a remake, FF VII Remake is an entirely brand new game that brought back to our days a classic 90’s RPG. The first noticeable difference is the gameplay with a real time battle system with the ennemies available on the map and fighting them directly. The battle system shares some similarities with Final Fantasy XV’s since we have the same idea of attack / defend action key. However, this one is a little more strategic because you can control each character at any time and give them orders to execute their special skills. You can also take the wheel of any character at will. Since I’m lazy in video games, I’ve set the automated gameplay that automatically makes the player character fighting / dodging / blocking, so the player can concentrate on the character’s ATB and execute the skills. Yep, the ATB system of the first game is still here but in a different manner. Instead of saying “it’s your turn”, the ATB fills a two charges gauge which allows the character to executes the special skills : character’s specific skills, spells, items, limit break, summon, etc. Depending of the skill, one or the two charges may be consumed. A special limit break allows to activate up to three charges. Aside from some frustrating fights, the combat system is excellent and far more enjoyable than Final Fantasy XV’s in my opinion. Oh, and of course, the Materias system is still here. They also added a weapon enhancement mechanic with points to spend in various enhancement paths.

On the exploration’s side, you will find the usual codes. FFVII Remake is not an open-world game like XV, but, as the story unlocks locations, you can freely explore them and accomplish some side quests. The side quests are one of the weak point of the game : they’re repetitive and basically asking you to walk kilometers to find an item somewhere or kill some foes. A good point is when you obtained the objective, you’re prompted to teleport to the requester. Also, the exploration is a fun way to notice one of the most common RPG mechanics, the “take the longest path to go somewhere” system. Since your team is tracked by Shinra’s military division, you will always have to take the side way which is a long corridor exploration instead of the straight line. But that’s what RPG are, isn’t it ?

However, although being a long series of corridors to explore, you can enjoy the best quality of this game. Final Fantasy VII Remake is absolutely beautiful from any sides and view. Each place is incredibly detailed, even the basic sleeping room, you are in a very credible and realistic world. The slums of the sectors are lively and populated by dozen of citizens (you can’t speak to each of them however, but they all have a voiced speech) with a wide variety of characters models (but some repeated too). Unlike the first game that rendered Midgard in a permanent night because of the technical limitations of the time, in Remake you can explore the metropolis in various parts of the day. There is no day / night system, these conditions are written in the story, but you can explore a place by night and by day at some moment and see the difference. One of the most beautiful view in my memories is the ascension to the Shinra building at the top of Midgard during the end of a day. The sunset illuminating the city on the ground and the characters is just awesome with the backgrounds that are incredibly detailed.

And let’s talk about the characters. Still designed by Tetsuya Nomura, they are rendered in a more realistic look than the “manga” style of the first game. The animations and outfits are also pretty well rendered. I should have a special mention to Aerith since its a very iconic character of the game and her design is perfect. Despite being a “damsel in distress” for most of the game’s part (you need to free her from Shinra, etc), she’s introduced as a very strong willed character just like the first game, but also very funny and joyful, and her model is perfectly rendering this idea. Barret was annoying in the first game to me, and now he can speak it’s more annoying to me. On the other side, Tifa is also an awesome character and you quickly notice she’s been equally integrated in the story as Aerith because in the original game there was a kind of competition between the two characters and Tifa was considered as shadowed by Aerith. But a detail bothered me in this version… I know Tifa has a crush on Cloud, but the model’s behavior is sometimes too much suggesting it, almost wanting to rape him right now at each cut scene. Honestly, that’s not how I remembered Tifa. Finally, about Cloud, his design is not very new since some other collaborations already included a realistic version of the character. However they changed his personality, going from a jackass to a more unsympathetic and indifferent behavior. Sephiroth also appears in the game, aside some story moments, he’s more a gloomy presence and a cameo than an actual role.

One good point about this game too is that it have been able to develop minors characters, typically the three accomplices Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. In the first game, they were very minor and just had a figurative role. In Remake, their back story is more well developed and Cloud has the opportunity to share some bonds with them.

On the story’s side, the game is following the Midgard part of the original one, nothing really new. However, they took the freedom to change some details (so the story would feel less old) and develop more some minor characters. I don’t really remember all the details of FFVII since I’m not a big fan of this one (my madeleine de Proust for this series is Final Fantasy VIII), but the story is well directed and the narration nicely unrolled. Some creepy moments of the original game, such as the Don Cornéo part, are even creepier than before. However, I’ve had some regrets about some conveniences in the story that are too obvious or too much .. convenient. Also, the antagonist board of Shinra is still too much caricatural which is a kind of disturbing while the whole game is pretty realistic. Another thing that annoyed me during the run is the moments when the game thinks the player is stupid. During the various exploration parts and dungeons, you have to activate mechanics, use sideways, etc. They’re usually obvious, and the camera even pointing them.. But the character accompanying you must do some comments to point out what to do. That was annoying.

Regarding the story itself, well, Square had to extend a lot the Midgard arc since it’s only the beginning of the first game and, if my memories are good, it was just a few 4 or 5 hours story. Thanks to a lot of cut scenes and character’s story expansion, Remake is more than 30 hours life span with the whole side quests done. But sometimes, the duration is just an over extended version of the dungeon exploration. I think about the Shinra HQ exploration… It was long, very long, and also kind of boring with empty big floors and too many obvious easiness in the walkthrough. I mean, the building is almost empty… Ok it was by night, but most of the exploration was empty. Then we explore Hojo’s little museum of horror and this part was also very long, with two teams switching to each other to unlock the path for the next one. I think that’s one of the weakness of the game. Because it is based on a short part of the original one, most of the exploration has been forced to over-extend itself with long running dungeons and over deviated paths just to ensure some gameplay hours.

Aside these issues, the game is really enjoyable. A nice modern version of the 1997 original story and design that has not fallen into a too nostalgic wave and has its own identity. I’m eager to see the next part, but it seems we will have to wait a long time, especially for the desktop version.

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