By Julia Capelli (Reviewed on PS4 Pro)
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Upon starting the game, you're greeted by a beautiful (though slightly changed) recreation of the original's introductory section.
For anyone who has played FVII (and liked it), this will naturally make you feel incredibly warm and fuzzy inside. In some ways, it is nostalgia at its finest.
This sensation persists, depending on how you feel about the gameplay (I'll get to it) throughout the first hour or so, where things stick fairly close to the original.
While some of the intermediate 'maps' are different, all of the important stuff is there and if anything, improves upon them.
Once you get to Seventh Heaven, however, things start to differ and the story begins to deviate from the first game. There are good things and bad things to this.
Even though I probably would have preferred a more faithful remake, personally, it was still nice that there were story elements and characters that were unexpected and new.
I was never sure exactly what was going to happen, even though I am very familiar with the main plot. At the same time, there most certainly is a lot of padding.
Remember, the original Midgar section of the game (which the remake follows) is only about five hours long (I have however, heard some people say that they took closer to ten).
Some of the extra sections are good. The greater focus on Jessie, Biggs and Wedge, for example, was particularly well done and made me care for them more than I ever have before.
The additional main-cast interactions are fantastic and really help you feel attached to the characters.
At the same time, there are large sections (hours at a time) that really add nothing of substance.
I mean, they're not terrible, by any means - I wouldn't even say that they're necessarily boring, but there was really no need for them to be present.
They added nothing to the overall story, characters, or world. I wasn't left with anything afterwards.
Then, you have the side quests... They were, on the whole, terrible. In my opinion, side quests really only work if they're handled in one of two ways.
Either, they actually add to the story, characters, or world, OR they're so... trivial that you can complete them without really trying.
Things that you can complete during the course of your main story missions.
Side quests should be an avenue for helping us learn and understand more about the world, or explore areas that we may not have otherwise.
For us to become more immersed, not to merely waste time.
Unfortunately, this game's side material don't fall into either of these categories and instead provide you with pretty boring tasks that can break up the flow of the main story.
Of course, these are optional and there aren't too many of them, but it is disappointing that they went with this direction.
Using an early side quest as an example, whilst in the Sector 7 slums, I was tasked with fetching three... cats, for a little girl.
Fun? Admittedly, this stuff is rarely (if ever) very hard, nor is any one quest too time consuming on its own, but clearly they, once again, don't serve any purpose beyond filling up time.
Speaking of time, this is not a particularly long game, at least as far as JRPGs go. If you skip all of the side content, you can probably finish in around 25-30 hours.
To complete all of the side content it will likely take a bit over 40 hours (I took about 38 hours for my playthrough and completed almost everything).
Certainly, it's still a respectable length, and close to the size of the (full) original FFVII. But it falls into an odd position in my mind.
Ignoring most of the side stuff, the game falls on the slightly shorter side of things, but it still feels rather padded.
And, it begs the question, why bother splitting this game up?
I personally would have preferred the exclusion of the pointless additions and waiting, even another year or so, for a more complete package,
without the game needing to be segmented as it has been. Other RPGs like the Witcher 3 and Persona 5 are significantly longer games and they managed to release as single products.
Of course, we all know the real reason why Square Enix is splitting things up,
but I think it's safe to say that the argument that "the full story couldn't feasibly be released as a single game" holds little water.
At the same time, the game is kind of long, or at least long-winded when you think about it... This is a "remake" of a part of a game that originally only took five hours to complete.
So, the length has, as the very least, been quintupled. This would be more permissible if the game was perhaps, more open-world.
Of course, the original only became more open once you left Midgar! The Remake is, unfortunately, incredibly linear. And linear is fine.
Linear can be good!
But, like Final Fantasy XIII before it, I think it is perhaps a little too linear for its own good (though, to be fair, it is worlds above XIII, both in how it tackles linearity and story).
There are some more open sections, however none of these are particularly big and there's a fairly limited amount of things to see or do.
Levels tend to feel like long corridors with little in the way of exploration or choice.
Again, it is better than how XIII handled things - we don't just have never-ending floating straight paths here!
The levels do have the slight illusion of openness, and the places do feel more fully realised.
But, once you've gone through a few chapters, you start to discover that all you ever have to do (other than in the small, open-area diversions) is move forward.
Even more disappointing, there are the occasional side paths that you can go down, but ultimately they lead nowhere.
There's rarely even chests, destructible Shinra crates, or other collectibles! Just pointless emptiness (much like our existence).
I'm sure die-hard fans will still gawp and marvel at the graphics and the fact that they're actually navigating a fully-3D Midgar, but I think many may start to grow weary.
It must be said that despite all of these shortcomings, during my time, the game never once felt dull or too monotonous.
Even though it is very linear, even though there are sections which seem to add little to the overall story, I still enjoyed almost every minute.
This is one of those magical experiences that has many flaws, yet still manages to provide an exhilarating experience!
While I wouldn't go so far as to say that it surpasses the original, it certainly does capture at least some of that je ne sais quoi that reverberated throughout that first game.
The music is, of course perfect. If you love the original soundtrack, you'll love this one. Honestly no complaints or criticisms there.
The story is, for the most part the same as the original Midgar section. Or I should say, it contains most of the same story beats.
However, as mentioned earlier, there are many new tales interwoven, to help flesh things out.
Some things work, others come across purely as a way to increase length, but overall,
there's still enough quality new stuff there that even a fan who knows Final Fantasy VII inside and out will find something to enjoy.
There is one massive elephant in the room though, and that is the ending.
I did not like the ending at all! Without giving any spoilers, I felt it was poorly written, convoluted the plot and generally just changes way too much.
Of course, I wasn't expecting exactly the same ending as the original Midgar section, I mean,
we want the game to still stand on its own without the need for a big 'To be Continued' plastered across the screen (though they basically did that anyway), but here,
too much is left unanswered. Too many elements from the original classic are suddenly, inextricably altered and not for the better.
Again, I really want to avoid spoilers, so I can't talk about specifics, but I honestly doubt that many fans of the original will be particularly pleased with how the last 20 minutes pan out.
The ending feels like something straight out of Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy XIII-2.
I will say that due to some of the changes it makes, or at least suggests,
I have a strong feeling that future instalments could stray even further from the source material and eventually what made the original so great.
At times, it feels more closely connected to Advent Children than it necessarily does the first title.
I just hope that we don't end up with a Kingdom Hearts deal, where ten years from now, we'll finally get "Remake 3" and even then it doesn't really finish things off.
Final Fantasy VII-2 ReDirge 0.877: A momentary Re;Birth Advent /3 Core Days, here we come! Was all of this enough to turn me off the game or ongoing series entirely? No way! But it did leave an e
ver so slightly aspartic taste in my mouth. By the end of it all, the game certainly feels more like a 'reboot', or rather a 'reimagining' than a straight up remake. I guess there's nothing funda
mentally wrong with that, but it'll be interesting to see what other changes they make in the future.
Continued in PART 3!