The dust has settled, the reviews are in. People are loving the FF7 Remake. However, the game is far from perfect.
Full disclosure, I loved so much about this game and I am a die-hard fan of the original Final Fantasy 7. After the lustre wears off though, some glaring issues start to rear their head. This all worries me and makes me a bit skeptical that Square Enix can’t deliver on future iterations without gutting the games core ideas.
DISCLAIMER: Both visual and written spoilers to follow! DO NOT SCROLL DOWN if you do not want to be spoiled!
Linear Level Design
Aesthetically the FF7 Remake is gorgeous, and I think most people would agree.
Unfortunately that can’t change the failure of the level design in this game. We’re right back into the corridor issue of Final Fantasy 13. Along with the severe lack of freedom to explore. Credit where its due though, because Square Enix disguises it better this time around. Not everywhere though, the use of corridors is very apparent in areas like the sewers. You run from one room to the next down a stretch of hallways. They added in some things to mix it up with lowering and raising water levels, but it’s not much.
The railway areas do it too! Leading up to the second bombing run you need to run down needlessly long stretches of railways to make your way to the second reactor. You will occasionally deviate into a side room and then back to more straight railways. The sewers and the railways are the low hanging fruit honestly.
What about the expressway between sector 5 and wall market? It is quite literally one straight long tunnel and you occasionally mess with tediously slow robot arms to open the next path. The trend continues with almost every environment and I just couldn’t overlook the lazy design.
Boring Side Quests
The whole point of a side quest is to enhance the experience of the world you are exploring.
The side quests in the FF7 remake are just not good. Essentially, they amount to extra chores to pad the game length. Searching for cats or rounding up kids, I couldn’t care less about doing any of those. I wanted something that was going to add to the world. That was the whole point of making Midgar a full game. There wasn’t a single side quest that if it wasn’t in the game, I would’ve felt like I missed out on something good.
So Much Extra Padding
Speaking of padding the experience, FF7: Remake has all the extra fluff. This game could’ve been condensed down to about a 20-hour experience, give or take, rather than a 30-40 hour one. My gripe with the level design comes back around here, not only are they linear corridors but they can drag on forever too! They even make you revisit areas a few times without any meaningful changes.
I’m still waiting for someone to tell me why we had to go back to the sewers in chapter 14 and then fight the same boss again. How about the extra event where you go back to sector 7 after the plate drops to look for Wedge? The whole underground lab was needlessly tacked on, but I would say that would’ve worked better as a side quest… The Behemoth fight was cool though.
The Shinra HQ was another bad offender of game padding. The side segment where Hojo makes you run from room to room down a set of corridors dragged on too far. This segment in particular ruins the pacing as you are ramping up for a climactic conclusion to the game. Instead you get pulled away from those moments to run through some hallways and hit a few switches for Hojo’s “data collection”.
It’s So Meta…
The ending to FF7: Remake will cause a rift in the core fan base for sure. Forewarning again for spoilers beyond this point.
You still with us? Okay… After you escape the Shinra building you are met with the revelation that the whispers that have been floating around and interfering all game long are arbiters of fate, or destiny. They’re trying to keep things from changing and happening a certain way. I get that they are trying to go for this larger meta-narrative and commentary on the core fan base not wanting FF7 to change, but it feels out of place.
The whispers are like the fans of the original and they are trying to keep all of the core events the same, but now you as a player are fighting back against your figurative self to open your mind to a blank slate for what FF7 can become. At least that is how I interpreted it, but I would love to discuss down in the comments.
Changing the Core Experience
After the revelation, Aerith opens a portal to a metaverse where you fight a giant representation of fate. At this point I was livid. It wasn’t Final Fantasy 7 at all anymore. I was in a final Kingdom Hearts level. Everything about it to the dark misshapen world with bizarre gravity. It screamed Kingdom Hearts.
Now I am not trying to say “oh it’s different so it’s bad”, but this was a massive departure from what FF7 was and why so many people loved the game. FF7 was always more grounded with a very different core theme. This ending threw all of that away. I am fine with Square Enix making changes, but just make the changes rather than try to present it to us in this bizarre way. It didn’t fit and it felt so disjointed. I went from a high speed motorcycle chase trying to escape back to the slums, to a battle for the fate of the FF7 universe. It just didn’t fit.
Square Enix also tosses in a fight with Sephiroth at the end. It felt forced.
It was like they felt they had to have a Sephiroth battle in the game rather than build up to him over the course of the experience. The original did a much better job with the less is more approach and built up to your confrontation with Sephiroth over time. This time around they throw everything at you and basically tell you “everything you knew is going to be different”.
They do this through flashes of scenes representing the original experience. This leaves us with some jarring questions, is Zack alive? Will Aerith die? Does Sephiroth summon a Meteor? Hopefully they made their point and Square Enix can get back to the grounded and gritty world of FF7 with a new twist.
Final Thoughts for the FF7 Remake.
I still enjoyed a lot of the experience. However, we need to call out some of the issues or we are just going to get more of the same with each subsequent entry. I was really bummed when I realized I was basically playing a hybrid of Final Fantasy 13 and Kingdom Hearts. With the linear corridor experience, and the action gameplay. Two games I don’t love, but they delivered on a lot of other great things I mentioned in my review, so I let a lot slide.