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"Final Fantasy VII Remake" Full Breakdown and Review

Matt is a lifelong gamer who has invested hundreds of hours playing various role-playing video games.

"Final Fantasy VII Remake" featured Cloud Strife, a genetically enhanced mercenary fighting against the villainous Shinra Power Electric Company.

"Final Fantasy VII Remake" featured Cloud Strife, a genetically enhanced mercenary fighting against the villainous Shinra Power Electric Company.

My first experience with role-playing games was Final Fantasy VII’s pre-release demo that I played on my aunt’s PlayStation in 1997. I wasn’t able to finish the demo back then, but I revisited the original Final Fantasy VII a couple of years afterward to fall in love with its story and characters.

A lot of people thought Square Enix would never release a remake of Final Fantasy VII, even after it was announced at E3 in 2015. The game was delayed multiple times, and at one point scrapped most of its production to start over development. When I finally got to play Final Fantasy VII Remake on the morning of its release in April 2020, I admittedly teared up when the title flashed across the screen during its opening cutscene.

Having finished almost all of the content in Final Fantasy VII Remake, I can say confidently that it is one of my favorite RPGs of all time—alongside modern classics like Persona 4 and Dragon Quest VIII. This breakdown and review includes a summary of how the remake differs from the original game, a breakdown of its unique gameplay mechanics, and speculation on the content of its upcoming sequel.

The story of "Final Fantasy VII Remake" takes place entirely within the original game’s first setting, the mako-powered city of Midgar.

The story of "Final Fantasy VII Remake" takes place entirely within the original game’s first setting, the mako-powered city of Midgar.

Is Final Fantasy VII Remake the Full Game?

Final Fantasy VII Remake was a complete game that expanded the first portion of the original game’s huge story. The main story of Remake could be completed in about 35 hours in a first playthrough, which was close to the original game’s length in full.

How Many Parts Will There Be for Final Fantasy VII Remake?

Square Enix has not revealed how many more sequels are planned or the release date for the next installment. According to series producers, development during a global pandemic has admittedly taken its toll on the production of Remake’s sequels. Considering that many of the character assets were already completed during the first part's development, the most optimistic outlook has the next installment releasing sometime in 2022.

The revamped Active Time Battle system in "Final Fantasy VII Remake" adapted the original’s mechanics to modern action-RPG gameplay.

The revamped Active Time Battle system in "Final Fantasy VII Remake" adapted the original’s mechanics to modern action-RPG gameplay.

Gameplay Overview

Final Fantasy VII Remake looked and played very differently compared to its source material. While some players were understandably hesitant about drastic changes being made to their favorite game, the finished product proved to be a welcomed enhancement of the original game that remained true to the spirit of Final Fantasy VII.

Battle System

Final Fantasy VII Remake adapted the original's Active Time Battle (ATB) system to an action-RPG gameplay style. Players freely maneuvered the field in battle and could control different characters directly, or pause the action to use items and assign actions across the team. Remake's "Classic" difficulty setting simplified combat to better match the original, and its “Hard” difficulty setting buffed enemies while removing the option to use items entirely.

New Items and Abilities

The game included abilities, items, and powerful summon attacks that did not appear until much later in the original game, if at all. Summoned monsters like Ifrit and Bahamut were available as part of the remake's story and side missions, but summoning spells were not available at all so early in the original game. Final Fantasy VII’s “Materia” system, equippable orbs that players used to cast spells, was faithfully recreated in Remake.

Many spells and abilities were changed for the new game for a complete and balanced experience. Some of the game’s most powerful spells like “Elemental” and “Magnify” (previously “All” in the original game) were limited in quantity. The skill “Access” was made more useful in Remake by revealing descriptions and useful battle strategies for the game’s numerous and complicated enemies. Players could exploit an enemy’s weaknesses with accessed information to fill its “Stagger” meter, which stunned enemies and multiplied damage dealt by the party.

Character Progression

Playable characters in Final Fantasy VII Remake leveled up similarly to the original game: by fighting monsters to earn experience points and by learning new skills. Every character could also find up to six weapons to use in battle, each of which had a dedicated progression tree and a special ability tied to it. Characters permanently learned each weapon's special ability by meeting certain criteria. Players couldn’t grow past level 50, but additional ability points for weapons and other upgrades were earned by completing challenges in the Colosseum or by progressing through the game on hard difficulty.

Chapter 4 began with an additional motorcycle driving minigame alongside Avalanche members Jesse, Biggs, and Wedge.

Chapter 4 began with an additional motorcycle driving minigame alongside Avalanche members Jesse, Biggs, and Wedge.

New Additions

Chapter 4 contained a new side-quest featuring Avalanche members Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge that expanded on their characterizations and backstories. A new rival was also introduced in the antagonist Roche, a fellow SOLDIER who prefers to battle while riding his motorcycle.

Playable sections for supporting characters Barret, Tifa, and Aerith were added throughout the story, mixing and matching the game’s limited roster. An expansive Colosseum and VR Battle Simulator were added to free-roaming sections of the game, which featured several unique enemies and challenges to earn summoning spells. Players could earn experience points and special items by defeating monsters in single, double, or full team matches.

Characters from other supplementary materials, apart from the original Final Fantasy VII, also made an appearance in Remake. Midgar residents Leslie Kyle and Kyrie Canaan from the novel The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story played key roles in the plot. Most of the world-building elements added to Final Fantasy VII Remake were drawn from the various novels and games from the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.

Sephiroth appeared throughout "Final Fantasy VII Remake" to torment Cloud with troubling visions and ominous warnings.

Sephiroth appeared throughout "Final Fantasy VII Remake" to torment Cloud with troubling visions and ominous warnings.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Ending Explained

If you felt lost after leaving Midgar at the end of Remake, you’re not alone. Fans of the original and series newcomers alike had a lot of questions after finishing the game.

How Is Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Ending Different?

After escaping to the border of the city of Midgar, Cloud and the party determined that they needed to follow after Sephiroth to stop him and his evil scheme to destroy the planet. While Remake remained true to the original in that regard, its finale added a new final boss fight and a duel with Sephiroth himself.

Sephiroth and Arbiters of Fate

In the original Final Fantasy VII, its main villain Sephiroth did not appear at all to players in the city of Midgar. However, Sephiroth appeared throughout the remake to torment Cloud with troubling visions and ominous warnings. “Seven seconds till the end. Time enough for you, perhaps. But what will you do with it? Let’s see” -- Sephiroth's cryptic final words to Cloud may be in reference to the moments before the meteor destroyed Midgar in the original game.

Among the most controversial of additions to Final Fantasy VII Remake were the Whispers; ghostly “arbiters of fate” deployed by the planet to ensure that its destiny could not be altered, and to see that the plot of Remake never strayed too far from the original. Sephiroth ultimately tricked Cloud and his friends into fighting and defeating the Whispers at the end of the game, freeing themselves from the bindings of fate to create a permanent diversion from the storyline of the original Final Fantasy VII.

Is Zack Fair Alive?

The flashback of Zack Fair’s battle with the Shinra soldiers shown to players during Remake’s final fight was a recreation of the penultimate cutscene of the prequel game, Crisis Core. However, Zack is portrayed as surviving the fight during Remake where he was brutally defeated in the original story. Zack’s apparent survival was the result of the player characters defeating the whispers and changing the fate of the planet across the timeline.

The final cutscene in Final Fantasy VII Remake showed Cloud and his friends leaving the city of Midgar, where they crossed paths with an apparition of Zack Fair and Cloud Strife limping toward the city. Unfortunately, this was not confirmation that Zack is back from the dead, but rather a hint that he also defied destiny and survived his final battle to live on in an alternate timeline. The paradox surrounding Zack’s fate suggests an intriguing “what if?” scenario where Zack is the main character of Final Fantasy VII instead of Cloud, a story that Square Enix could potentially capitalize on with a future game, DLC, or other media.

Barret Wallace was the leader of the environmentalist group Avalanche, who hired Cloud at the beginning of "Final Fantasy VII" and its remake.

Barret Wallace was the leader of the environmentalist group Avalanche, who hired Cloud at the beginning of "Final Fantasy VII" and its remake.

Was Final Fantasy VII Remake Worth the Hype?

The original Final Fantasy VII earned its reputation as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, but its visuals left a lot to be desired following modern advancements in gaming technology. Fans had been clamoring for a remake for decades, which Square Enix arguably over-delivered in almost every way.

Merely representing less than a quarter of the content of the original game, fans had good reasons for any reservations about the quality of the first installment. However, Remake took a magnifying glass to the original’s starting city of Midgar and showcased a level of depth to the classic game’s initial setting that would have been unimaginable in 1997.

Final Fantasy VII Remake allowed players to look up in the city of Midgar for the first time and fully appreciate its expansive and foreboding atmosphere. Unfortunately, gameplay set during the daytime revealed some backgrounds to be less-than acceptable for a modern video game. Certain areas also suffered from low-quality textures, which revealed the game’s struggle to perform on the nearly-defunct PlayStation 4 console.

Overall, Final Fantasy VII Remake was a nearly flawless game that improved on the original game immensely and lived up to many long-time fans’ expectations. Final Fantasy VII Remake's battle system was one of the best from Square Enix since the original game. Its narrative extended beyond being a simple retelling by remaining faithful to the original game while building upon its story with new plot threads and characters.

What to Expect in Part 2

The original plot of Final Fantasy VII presented a massive overworld beyond the city of Midgar, with several villages and cities to visit. After leaving Midgar in the original game, players were set on a path around the first of its world’s three major continents. The sequel will likely send players to locations like the village of Kalm, the Chocobo Farm, Junon city, and perhaps the amusement park Gold Saucer.

As Square Enix has not confirmed how many more sequels there will be to Final Fantasy VII Remake, it is difficult to guess exactly how much the sequel could cover. The original game was split across three PlayStation discs, and many fans assume the game will be released in three installments to reflect that aesthetic. Despite its ambiguous ending, the game and its sequel’s producers have confirmed that the following games will more-or-less follow the plot of the original game.

Fan theories suppose that Aerith’s demise might be preventable in the sequels to Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Fan theories suppose that Aerith’s demise might be preventable in the sequels to Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Does Aerith Die?

It’s one of the most well-known spoilers in gaming history. In the original game, Aerith Gainsborough, a mage of the group, was killed by Sephiroth, the game’s villain, before she could cast a spell to save the planet from destruction. Thankfully, her spirit survived and saved the heroes just before the end, but not before an epic battle with Sephiroth and his malevolent alien “mother” Jenova.

Possibly reviving Aerith or preventing her death entirely has been a heated topic of debate in the Final Fantasy VII community since the game first released. Apart from being the only powerful mage in the party, players grew fond of Aerith through the original game’s story and deeply mourned her passing, falling into a storytelling trap expertly set by the game’s writers. Having experienced visions of her death throughout Remake, Cloud Strife and his friends might further defy fate by preventing Aerith’s demise in its sequel. Alternatively, the game could use such an expectation to deliver a new heartbreaking twist that puts the original game to shame.

Will Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2 be on PlayStation 4?

Remake was released just before the launch of a new console generation, but Square Enix had previously confirmed that the next game will still release on PlayStation 4. However, this information could change before the follow-up to Final Fantasy VII Remake is officially revealed.

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