Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Now for anyone who knows me on a personal level you’ll have some idea of how excited I was for this when it was teased all those years ago back in E3 2005. Despite all the “will they, won’t they’s” for the following 10 years after that before finally being announced that it was happening in 2015 to it’s release a few months ago. We finally come to the moment. Final Fantasy VII: The Remake.

Just before you proceed, thought you ought to know There will Be Spoilers.

As I mentioned all those years ago when I originally did a look back review on the original Final Fantasy VII. The game holds special meaning to me, as it was one of the games that I have replayed and re-bought on several occasions, I can’t recall the number of summer holidays where boredom would set in and I’d fish the game out for another run. So to play through the same experience with a current-gen overhaul could only enhance the experience, it would but that’s not quite what’s happened.

As far as I see it there are 3 types of remakes:

  • Remaster: Where it’s the same as the previous game but with graphical upgrades (e.g. Command & Conquer Remastered)
  • Re-imagining: Where the game significantly overhauls the game-play or story but follows common motifs(e.g. Resident Evil 3)
  • True Remake: Where the game is rebuild using more modern means to resemble the original, possibly with a few minor tweaks or improvements (e.g. Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy)

Using this as our guide I would put FF7R into the Re-imagining category. I understand that this decision was done as a true-remake would alienate new players to the game, but it does mean that to fans of the original game, more of it feels new than nostalgic. For example the bombing run at the beginning gave me chills of nostalgia but later on before the second operation I felt annoyed and disheartened. In this section you have to infiltrate a Shinra warehouse with the help of Wedge, Biggs & Jesse. This section was so disjointed and felt out of place with the rest of the game. Although learning about Jesse’s past and her motivation to join AVALANCHE was refreshing. However Roche annoyed me to no end. He felt like that guy that always tries so hard to be cool in order to be liked that they come off as obnoxious and arrogant, dancing around with all the subtly of a fireworks factory exploding on what might as well have been a motorbike made of flubber given how many time it defied the laws of gravity. The section ends with another terrorist cell appearing and taking Wedge, releasing Wedge, Biggs pulling down Wedges pants and staring at his ass (yes this does happen) and then the group parachuting back into the slums within the space of 10mins.

The combat system is a change that doesn’t offend me. You get to do physical attacks in real time but in order to use magic, abilities and the like you need to fill your ATB gauge before you can use them. This system felt a lot more organic but I must admit that the friendly AI could do with some improvement. A lot of the time they don’t act with any kind of sense of urgency, It might just be me misjudging the situation but I would have thought the fact that they were in a life or death situation would bring about some sort of sense of self-preservation. Apparently not.

The game ends when the gang prepares to leave Midgar and set off into the world. For anyone who hasn’t played the original this point is about a third of the way through the first disk. Given that the original game is 3 disks we are probably about 10% through the game as we know it. The game feels like it’s far too excessively padded for it’s own good, if some of this was thinned down I recon the game could have got us to the boat out of Junion without feeling rushed. Then again I suppose in doing this Square-Enix have created an audience for the next 7-8 instalments of the game that will be coming our way if the amount of faffing about remains the same. I thought the whole point of episodic games were so that shorter games could be released at lower prices and more frequently, Square-Enix has so far missed all 3 of these targets and has missed them hard. So as it stands if the next instalments are just as padded as this one we can see the whole development time being about the length of the Bronze Age, the game would take an average person their entire life to complete and would cost somewhere comparable to the debt of sub-Saharan Africa.

On a final note, I can see glimpses of the game that I loved so dearly though it’s obscured by excessive padding and needless content that adds nothing/very little to the story or depth of the game. It doesn’t improve anything, it doesn’t add anything and that infuriates me. In fact the part that received the most of my ire had to be the dance-off between Cloud and Andrea at The Honey Bee Inn. I mean WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK JUST HAPPENED!? The section was so out of place and so infuriatingly needless I had to quit the game afterwards and fold some washing to take my mind off it. I didn’t play the game for the rest of the day after that. If I’ve learnt anything from playing games as long as I have it’s that if a game does something to make you not want to play it, then it’s doing something wrong. I would love to have been in the committee meeting where that idea was brought to the table so I could shut it down with as much flying furniture as I could muster before it got traction. I’m not against mini-games, like the squats. They make sense, Cloud would have trained hard in the military so would be physically fit enough to do a series of squats without problem, but where outside the realms of Greace and Foot Loose would Cloud learn how to dance so professionally? What will he surprise us with next? My money is on a fishing mini-game being inserted somewhere before the end of the story. Why not? It’s only gotta be copy and pasted from Final Fantasy XV.

Looking back at Final Fantasy VII (PC, PSone, PSN)

This week I’ve return to my childhood again (Shut up! I’m poor ok, I can’t afford new games every week, you could always donating games to me  so I can review them, No? Quit complaining then.) looking at one of the games that lead me down the path of all night gaming sessions and those incredibly nerdy conversations about Materia combinations and other things nerdy and geeky. Here is one of the all time classics, Final Fantasy VII.

I remember the first time I heard of this game. I went around to my friends house back in the 90’s and he was in his room playing this. I think I just sat there for what must have been hours watching him play through the latter part of disc 2. I knew I had to pick up this game. I immediately picked up the first copy I could lay my hands on. At that moment a friendship was born. I’ve bought this game 4 times so far in the 14 years of it’s life. This makes it a game I’ve bought more times than Oblivion and Silent Hill 2, and they are both very good games. That means something.

The story is the same as most RPG’s. Evil threat, you and your cronies are the only people who can save the world. So you put your best walking boots on and travel the world, save the world, then tentacle rape (if the hentai community is to be believed). Although nothing drives someone to do something better than the possible destruction of the plant, with the number of JRPG’s that have followed this rule to the wire, it is stating to get some what tedious . How about we mix things up next time? For example, the main characters girlfriend/wife/pet rock is murdered by the tyrannical king and it’s up to you to track him down, end his reign of terror and provide justice for the murdered party. Ok so that wasn’t a great example, but that was just off the top of my head, Square-Enix will have committees to decide this kind of thing.

Game play much like the story isn’t one to break the mold. Run around alot, vortex appears, enemies appear from the woodwork, battle commences, defeat enemies, celebrate, repeat, but hey, why fix what isn’t broken? It’s a formula that has worked for JRPG’s as a whole and as more recent Final Fantasies have shown in trying to replace the battle system, they really shouldn’t. I applaud them for trying something new but replacing something that works for something that doesn’t is just plain stupid.

So far you must all be thinking “This is a game that’s meant to be more popular than Jesus, Justin Bieber, Sponge Bob Square Pants and Twilight combined and your saying everything about it is formulaic. What gives?” 1) I’ve only brought up 2 points, Story and Game-play, which is hardly everything. b) Story and Game-play are where the similarities end. Final Fantasy VII is more popular than being dipped in chocolate and thrown into the naked lesbian pit because of the way it changed the rules of not just JRPG’s but the face of the whole computer game industry.

FFVII is to games what Star Wars was to films. Nothing was ever going to be the same after it. It was the first step down a whole new world of possibilities, which was made possible by Sony entering the console wars during the 5th generation and introducing the optical disc. This not only meant greater disc space but also faster stream rates, the implications of this were astounding. Stories could go on for days rather than hours, Full orchestras replaced 16bit sound bites, Worlds felt massive and expansive, FMV’s could thrill and entice us between game plays. Although this did mean an increase of development fees (Final Fantasy VII had a budget equivalent to $62million in this day and age). More importantly though it was one of the first steps in lifting computer games from the 2D.

The in-game graphics were horrible, even at release it was graphically sub par. the cubist representation of characters were laughable. Although this is to be expected since it was games such as Final Fantasy VII that were made at the dawn of the 3d era. They were the pioneers adding the 3rd dimension, give the computer game industry a new direction. Like Stephenson’s Rocket, sure it was slow, ugly and impractical, but it was to show that it could be done. An almost Concorde moment in the history of gaming.

Now to round all this off. Final Fantasy VII revolutionised the gaming industry, much like factories and mills revolutionised Britain, starting the Industrial Revolution leading Britain to be the worlds first dominant super-power. It shaped the very face of all computer games to follow it. For example, without The Beatles, there would never have been Queen. Without the Wright Brothers, there would be no Concorde. Without the Ford Model T, there would be no Bugatti Veyron. Without Final Fantasy VII, there would be no Call of Duty, no Mass Effect, no Skyrim and lets face it. A world without Skyrim would be a pretty bleak place to live in. Although at least I wouldn’t have to hear about people taking  an “arrow to the knee”.

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, XBOX 360)

 

This week I take the plunge into the fictional world of Gran Pulse to review Final Fantasy XIII.
I just finished it today and I must say I was a bit disappointed. With the development time that it had I was expecting alot more, which is a shame really. I’ve been a big fan of the series since early on and with Final Fantasy’s track record on new consoles (FFVII on the PSone and FFX on the PS2), I was hoping for something that blew me away like the pre-mentioned. Regrettably I ended up with an experience I would describe as “meh” at best and boring at worst.
Starting with the nitty-gritty stuff, the gameplay. The “free-roaming” section of the games outside battles would have to be my biggest niggle. Previous Final Fantasy’s made you believe that there was a big expansive world out there to explore. FFXIII turned out to be a bit linear (to put it lightly), The objective, some bad guy or chocolate or whatever always ends up being at the end of a long linear pathway. I was hoping this linearity would present us with the open world later on. If it is there I went through the whole game without finding it. “What about the Plains of Pulse?” I hear you cry. All Pulse was was a cross-road where lots of other linear corridors meet, also give that any other pathway except for the one that leads to the end is a dead end, if you think that is open-world then I pity you.
The battle system, in a nut-shell, like the rest of the game, they’ve taken Final Fantasy X as a bench mark and thrown in the good bits of XII. My problem with it is it’s inconsistency between fast pace hacky-slashy-stop-to-refill-HP frantic changing of tactics and simply bashing O until everything dead. Against some of the harder enemies and most of the bosses the game requires you to think ahead and plan for the “what if I get shot in the face with a very big laser” moments, the “dam, I’ve just been shot in the face with a very big laser, best heal” moments and the “I’m good on health, time to lay the smack-down” moments. These require switching between classes at appropriate times and against appropriate enemies, which work well against equally matched and harder opponents, but against most of the enemies and the odd boss fight you can pretty much get by just making everyone warriors or ravagers and mashing O till they die. Although the ability caps at points in the game try and still this it wasn’t quite enough to keep the combat even, and I just complained about my abilities being capped until I beat a certain boss.
The characters didn’t impress me and all felt like copy paste stereotypes without 2 strands of originality to rub together between them. Lightning, being the “cold soldier”, uncaring of the rest of the group until the convenient plot driving epiphany. Snow, being the “hero”, must save the day and must make sure everyone knows about it, while the rest of the characters kind of just hung out in the background to make up the numbers. It seems they referenced the characters from XII when they really should have used X as a guide, maybe someone at Square-Enix ticked the wrong box, or the characters were lost in translation. Can anybody who’s played the Japanese version verify this?
The story is that of any Final Fantasy. A group of people become aware of an evil threat and it’s up to them and them alone to save the world. Although this turned out to be right on the money the actual story is slightly more compelling than that. No real plot twisters like in other Final Fantasies but a the story flows with a natural progression which is easy enough to get to grips with without dumbing it down too much.
Oddly enough one thing I do think is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. It’s really good. Switching seamlessly between the ambiance of a full orchestra to a slow tempo trance and still maintaining the appropriate atmosphere of the game. I’m not usually a fan of trance and other genres of music as such, but the trancy tracks in the game would be something I would be more than happy sitting down and listening to.
Graphically it’s pretty (but then again in the current console generation what isn’t?) some pathetically outstanding scenery later on but apart from the Plains of Pulse there isn’t anything graphically that hasn’t been done better before.
You can tell when playing the game that it has taken a very long time to make, every aspect of it polished to a fine glistening finish. Unlike alot of other recent releases (Fallout 3 & New Vegas to name the biggest offenders) it’s not kicked out onto the shelves still with a good no. of bugs, which is sad in a way that a game is merited for something that should come as standard.
Now for my final thoughts. Final Fantasy has taken another step with XIII away from the traditional turn based RPG’s as demonstrated in IX and all those before it and I for one am for it. Sure FFXIII is a bad example of this but given the change in gamer demographic over the Final Fantasy lifeline, it’s just the natural evolution of the game to keep up with the times. I’ve played all of the main series from I through to XIII and I must say that it’s in the latter half I find some of my favourites (FFX taking top spot).
On a final final note, Why is this game getting a sequel? Hurry up and release Versus XIII already, a game I’m actually some what excited about.