(Ed. Note: I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum)
About four years ago, I began on the journey through Final Fantasy XV, the game that’d been in development hell longer than most games I’ve played. After all that tooling and retooling, I was, in a word, disappointed. I didn’t think it was complete asscheeks, but we’re closing in on 2021 (thank God) and I still haven’t finished the game. I left it alone a few months after starting, started Persona 5 on Christmas 2017, left that (and pretty much console gaming altogether) alone for a year-plus, then finally became a Persona convert between 2018 and 2019. Persona 5 and Another Eden revived my JRPG fascination, whereas FFXV damn near killed it.
When Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced, I was a bit hesitant. I cracked jokes about the Chocobo Chick summon having Goku-meets-Cloud hair, partly to troll people; it was also partly to show my wariness in trusting Square Enix yet again. To me, they dropped the ball with XV and I’ve yet to put a big chunk of time into Kingdom Hearts III because of XV. However, I ultimately dove into the game when it was first released. It seemed to correct many of the sins XV committed, though Persona 5 Royal still swopped in and took me to Phantom Thief Land once again.
In a sentence, the fetch these cats, find these kids sidequests in Remake soured me on the game proper. I’m the type of JRPG fan who goes out of his way to try and complete a game 100% if I like it enough. With that in mind, you can probably imagine my burnout with Remake after seeing many of the sidequests were just “collect X amount of Y, then fight a mini-boss” quests. Don’t get me wrong: I thought Remake was a beautiful game. You can obviously tell that Square Enix put their heart and soul into the game. That said, seeing life-like Cloud and Tifa didn’t speak to me as much as P5R did. Plus, Royal is an entire 100-120 hour story, versus just a 30-40% chunk. I like complete games and don’t really like paywalls of any sort. That’s probably why I walked away from Genshin Impact about 15-20% of the way through. That’s even with Erika Harlacher (who’s become one of my favorite VAs over the five years) voicing one of the main characters.
After finishing P5R (and beginning what amounts to my fourth playthrough of Persona 5), I started Persona 4 Golden. I was amazed by the Persona franchise yet again and saw why White Jay considered Golden one of the greatest JRPGs ever. However, due to its Steam-exclusive re-release, I admittedly struggle to find time to play it. Quarantine or no, I only have a family computer that’s also part of one of my home’s makeshift offices. This brought me back to Remake. After sitting down and putting a huge chunk of time into the game–even stomaching the collection sidequests–I came to a conclusion.
Even if Remake‘s first installment is about 30-40% of the entire story, it makes a far more captivating story than Final Fantasy XV ever could. This sucks because, without XV, you wouldn’t have some of the Action RPG elements in Remake. But it always felt like XV was a placeholder until Cloud and friends came through to save the day…yet again. Maybe one day, I’ll finish XV. Probably not, though.
Now I’m not a huge fan of the potential MCU elements in the Remake series (I’ll leave those unspoiled for you). However, the game does a damn good job fleshing out the Midgar sections of the original game. We get to learn more about the side characters. Jessie, for instance, gets an entire backstory. We get to learn more about a character who wasn’t as important in the original game. Plus, Erica Lindbeck’s voice acting here helps bring the character to life (even though Jessie seems to be hornier for Cloud than I remember).
On top of this, we get set pieces that are equal parts beautiful as they are fun to play through.
One piece I’d like to bring up is fighting Reno in the Sector 5 Church.
In the original game, we don’t get the option to fight the Turks in our plight to get back to Sector 7. In Remake, Cloud and Reno get into an anime-esque battle that is as much about overpowering your enemy as it is about quick thinking and not getting overpowered yourself. In short, this battle is a beauty to watch and play (between Aerith’s flowers, the lighting and the effects, we’re given one hell of a scene, such as the above screenshot). The second time you square off against Reno (and, by extension, Rude), we’re given a shitshow of an event. This may be the first time I’ve used “shitshow” in a good way, as everything about the spectacle of the second fight is amazing. It’s like every shonen anime rolled into a “let’s save the planet by bombing stuff and fighting people who bomb us back” fight to the finish.
Overall, though, Remake is indeed a helluva game. Is it my RPG of the year? No. Persona 5 Royal exists. But it’s definitely up there. Even if it’s not my favorite, FFVII Remake is a great game that deserves its flowers, from its resident flower girl and otherwise. Check it out if you haven’t already. Hopefully there isn’t a long wait between the first and second parts.