Many fans have been eagerly awaiting this release. While the response has been mainly positive, there have been some negative comments, mainly from the gamers themselves. So, does this remake live up to expectation or does it just ruin a classic *cough* Warcraft 3 Reforged? Well, having completed the game and experienced the ending, which a lot of the complaints seem to be about, you can read my spoiler free comments below.

Prior to release, there were some complaints about the decision of Square Enix to release the Final Fantasy 7 remake in several parts with some calling it a cash grab decision. Having played the game, I don’t feel this is the case. A lot of hard work and love has clearly gone into reimagining this title for the current console generation. Does that mean it’s perfect? No. This title comprises just of the section based in Midgar, which was about a third of the original title. In order to make it stretch to a decent RPG length on its own, additions have been made. It took me about 40 hours to complete the remake along with all the side quests. Some of these additions do add to the narrative of the original, like the fleshing out of the characters of the other Avalanche members, Jessie, Wedge and Biggs. It was great to learn a bit more about their pasts and their hobbies. However, this is also balanced out by a lot of unnecessary fluff.

Having played both the original and the remake, I, personally, found that the storyline of the first half of the remake felt a little bloated. Some of the additions, including this new character that was mentioned in Square Enix’s request for spoilers not to be revealed, felt unnecessary and didn’t seem to enhance the original storyline in any way. There is also the addition of dark, hooded, ghost like creatures called Whispers which has raised many complaints. While I can see where Square Enix are going with these, they too don’t feel particularly relevant. They feature quite prominently in the end climax of the remake, which is probably the reason many players are unhappy with the way this part of the remake ends. I, personally, found the remake picked up pace in the second half and definitely felt more streamlined towards the end.

For fans of the original, I can confirm that all the original’s wellknown scenes and battles are still in there, along with all the iconic locations. The Hell House battle was one of the most bizarre battles in the original and I loved the way it played in the remake. You can still dress cloud up as a woman to get in Don Corneo’s mansion and you can still influence the way he dresses to get him chosen as the bride. The climax at the Shinra headquarters still runs very similar to the original. You still have the choice to drag your party up the staircase instead of using the lift and the result is quite humorous.

The largest difference with the remake is the changing of the combat to a more action RPG style of combat involving blocking and dodging. This may prove a disappointment for those wanting the authentic Final fantasy 7 experience with current generation graphics. As mentioned in my article on the demo, released a few weeks ago, the classic mode, which was included to bring it more inline with the turn-based gameplay of the original, doesn’t achieve that. As with the demo, it is only available for easy difficulty. All it does is automate your characters, so you don’t have to focus on attacking and defending. This leaves you free to concentrate instead on micromanaging your team using abilities and casting spells. It doesn’t achieve an effective emulation of the old turn-based system and, in my opinion, makes the remake’s combat trivial, removing the fun and challenge of the new system and not really giving anything in return.

Combat difficulty seems to be a major challenge for this title. With only two real difficulty modes available in the first play through, Easy and Normal, there is a wide gulf between the two. While I found Normal to be a good balance of challenge, overall, there are some battles which do become a little too demanding and tedious for a “Normal” difficulty mode. However, in balance, the easy mode is completely lacking in challenge. The hard mode is only unlocked after completion of the main game and is aimed at endgame play, as the player’s level and items are carried over to a “chapter select” new game plus style option. In my personal opinion, the game would benefit from having an extra difficulty option for a first playthrough, somewhere between the Easy and Normal that it currently has. Easy is a little too casual whereas Normal can feel a little too hardcore at times. Players who sit somewhere in the middle, wanting a little challenge but without the frustration the current “Normal” mode leads to, doesn’t seem to have been considered.

Graphics wise the remake is stunning. It takes all the classic settings and brings them right up to date while still retaining the character of the original. The character models now look much closer to those from the Advent Children movie than their pixelated PSOne versions or even those in the original’s FMV cutscenes. There have been some complaints about pre rendered backdrops being used in the remake. This was only apparent, to me, in one section of the game. This was near the end when the group is climbing up to the plate to get to the Shinra headquarters for the final show down. In a console generation where we expect only to see skyboxes and geometry, it does stick out. However, while there were pre rendered backdrops forming the skylines throughout the game, they were generally not too noticeable. The above image is taken from the climb to Shinra’s headquarters and the backdrop does stick out like a sore thumb. However, the below image is taken from the Sector 5 slums. Both areas have the prerendered backdrops but they seem far less noticeable in the Sector 5 Slums image, as was the case for most of the game.

So, in conclusion, the Final Fantasy Remake retains most of what made the original a classic. While many of the new additions do turn it into a slightly bloated and sometimes meandering classic, the sparkle of the original is still there. The new action-based combat system is, in my opinion, an improvement on the original’s turn based system and is enjoyable throughout. Weapons are now upgradeable, meaning you can keep your favourite weapon from the moment you find it to the time the credits role and beyond. The graphics are stunning. I found it a joy, rediscovering all my favourite areas from the original, bathed in all the wonder of current generation visuals. The game may not be perfect, and the ending is divisive. However, it didn’t ruin the Final Fantasy 7 experience for me or taint the nostalgia that most of the game excited. What is does do, at least for me, is raise questions of just how many changes Square Enix has planned for the following installments.