Square Enix - Tested on the PlayStation 4 in 2020 by link
The new remake of the original intro was published way before the game was released, but the extension before that legendary introduction was withheld by Square Enix until the game was released. I love how the new intro makes the transistion to the old one. When you hear the first three notes you know that's where you want to be and where you are at home.
That moment, when when the camera zooms out of the city, the chorus starts singing and with the beat of a timpani, that's where I got goosebumps and my eyes water with nostalgia. For these moments, I love being a gamer.
The visuals are a two-sided coin. There are heavy fluctuations in quality.
First, what's good. The backgrounds are incredibly well done! Only in this remake, Midgar really looks as vast and impressive as it should. You really get the difference between upper city and slums and you can feel how threatening this huge platform is. Interiors are very detailed, even though one cannot enter that many buildings. The environment looks also pretty detailed and authentic, it does not look as if many of the assets were just copied and pasted. Especially in the later chapters and in the ShinRa Tower, the game shows what it's capable to display. The museum, the laboratory - there are great visual effects everywhere.
Character models are incredibly well done - just as I imagined the characters to look like back then. Square Enix really gave the character design their all. Everything looks a lot like Advent Children, though. Every weapon looks different, and even the materia placed there can be seen. There's still a small noticeable gap between cutscenes and ingame visuals, but it's minimal.
Everything that's in the original is also included in the remake, and every place and area is immediately recognizeable. Areas that have been added in the remake still look as if they were planned in the original altogether. Many of the areas you traverse are just quite narrow corridors, though.
This aready leads to things that are not so good in the visual department. Textures are weak, even with all the detailed models. Especially outside and big areas, this is heavily noticeable. Just approach a wall or look at a flower meadow from nearby. It almost looks a bit like impressionism, everything looks so great from far away but loses quality as you approach it.
And as good the characters look, the NPCs look as if they are designed for consoles two generations behind. Especially when player characters and non player characters are facing each other, the gap is noticeable. And as good as looking up to the great plateau is, it just looks so flat, with no lights flickering or other details showing.
The compositions are known by so many RPG fans, almost everyone can sing them along. The most important titles of the original have ben rearranged pretty well, the intro and Aerith's theme, for instance. Some of the battle themes are a bit too much and they sometimes sound cluttered. Most of the juke box titles are very jazzy.
Sound effects are strong and brute, which fits the whole scenery just perfectly. Voice cast is done pretty well, only some of the NPC are not authentic and sound a bit emotionless, but it's only a few where this applies.
Oh my, how I love my ATB. If I just could experience it again just like in the original. The so called "classic mode" is a eyewash. The ATB bar fills automatically very slow, and to increase it, players have to hit enemies often. If the enemies are weak, special attacks are quite useless. The whole battle system feels a lot like Kingdom Hearts - which was some kind of disappointment for me.
Yet, the whole battle system is fun overall, it feels very much thought out and the transition from scripted sequences to boss fights is just masterfully done and allows for some additional emotions at some moments that just weren't present in the original. Bossfights are a highlight in the remake and just pump up your adrenaline by their sheer visual brutality.
I noticed that when I tightened the grip around the controller in those fights. I don't like the esper system a lot, since their appearance seems to be too random and often they only appeared after the fight was almost over.
Instead of rating the story itself, I only focus on the changes made in comparison to the original Final Fantasy. I love the original story and I think it's one of the best the RPG genre has to offer. This is why I was a bit sceptical about the changes in the story. I try to be as spoiler free as possible.
The additions are not very interesting to me. It was good to spend more time with Jesse, Biggs and Wedge, but the mission attached to them was more like a filler and wasn't so fun for me. The boss was completely overkill and felt more as if it was designed for a game such as Devil May Cry and not Final Fantasy. The flashbacks and teasers come up way too often. Sepiroth already appears after the first hour - that's way too early. Even the shorter original allowed players more time to get acqainted with the world before showing that character. New players might find Final Fantasy VII confusing since they can't get the whole story at that moment.
In the previews, I wasn't sure if they will make games about everything that will be covered in the future Final Fantasy VII Remake episodes. I'm not sure if any of the episodes will play in Nibelheim, for example.
Sidequests are often boring and some even had some redundancy in their design since you have to visit already known areas three or four times. I think about five hours in this game is useless time wasting which disrupts the pacing of the general game. I feld like I was thwarted by the game.
And especially towards the end, the game does some things terribly wrong in the storytelling...