LifeisXbox’s Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade review | Square Enix recently celebrated the 25th birthday of Final Fantasy 7 and did so with a live stream showcasing some upcoming games like a remaster for Crisis Core, but they also finally dropped FF7R on Steam.
I’ve had the honour of reviewing FF7R back in 2020 when it dropped on PlayStation 4 and have fond memories of it being one of the best moments of the year. I took a week off from work and my wife took care of the kids all week so they wouldn’t bother me. A new Final Fantasy that releases is kind of a big deal in this household and while I admit that bias and rose-coloured nostalgia glasses had a big impact on my perfect score, I still stand by the quality and applaud the bold choices they made with the new direction.
Now, 2 years later, I revisit Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade on Steam to verify if I’m still as fond of this classic’s reimagining as the first time.
Most Memorable Moment
Playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake with an Xbox controller. Not because that makes it a better experience in any way (I’d even argue that the PS5 DualSense wins in that department) but solely because it allowed me to snap this picture. Meanwhile, we’re all holding out hope at LifeIsXbox that one day we’ll be able to earn some Xbox achievements on this game…
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC (Steam) | Review code provided by Day One MPM, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Amazing graphics | The first thing anyone will notice is just how visually stunning FF7R is. From cutscenes to combat, the game never fails to impress with detailed character models, VFX that light up the screen and tiny details that I notice even more now that I’m not sitting so far from the TV screen but instead have a monitor about 30 cm from my eyes. This is eye candy in its purest form. And yes, before your ask, THAT door is now wonderfully textured.
- An amazing cast of characters | The second thing you’ll notice is how wonderfully cast the entire party is. All important characters are fully voiced and their English voice actors deliver a PERFECT job, with special mention going out to Aerith’s performance. I was always a bigger fan of Tifa, but Briana White delivers every line with such finesse and added charisma that the famous flower girl has conquered a place in my heart.
- Their time to shine | It’s not just the main cast that gets a lot of attention, characters like Biggs & Wedge but especially Jessie really get their time to shine and feel much deeper than in the original. There is even a chapter dedicated to a side-mission you undertake with them and you see them all have a nice family dinner at Jessie’s parent’s place, with her sick father highlighting just how bad Mako, the life energy the evil company Shinra has been extracting from the planet, can be for the health of the everyone that handles it. There is a lot of added detail here that answers lore questions people may have after playing the original and its spin-offs and I’m here for it!
- The combat is perfect | It may be hard to believe this statement but Square Enix really did nail the combat in FF7R. Ever since FFXIII they’ve moved towards a more action-oriented type of gameplay for the mainline Final Fantasy titles with FFXV already making great strides but the way the characters interact with each other here is simply amazing. Tifa will launch herself off of Cloud’s sword or she’ll duck below a swing of his Buster Sword seconds before landing a killer uppercut herself. Each character plays differently and brings their own strengths to the table. And if that wasn’t enough: turn-based purists can even play a mode where the game pauses for your every decision, so you can really make tactical decisions every second of the fight. This is JRPG perfection, and I’ll hear no one claim any different! (I’m kidding, I’d actually love to discuss this at length, so don’t be afraid to hit me up on Twitter DMs to chat)
- Lots to do | There are a ton of sidequests in FF7R that will keep you busy and make you explore the areas in more detail. You can really tell that Midgar has been expanded upon and it never felt as vast in the original. The main side activities mostly feel like filler, but there are also plenty of mini-games that will challenge you in a different manner, like hitting boxes in a timed run, squatting or playing a game of darts at the bar. My favourite moment was the dancing minigame at the Honeybee Inn, with cloud in a girly dress and truly owning that magical moment!
- The writing is actually funny | Rarely will a game’s writing genuinely make me laugh out loud. A chuckle or a powerful exhale through the nose at a witty remark, sure. But there were times in FF7R that I was glad I wasn’t drinking, as I’d have sprayed my screen in laughter. “Local Florist!”
- New Game + | You can replay the game or jump to a specific chapter to replay any content you might like. This is a feature I’d love to see in any long game, as it show respect for player time and makes it frictionless to relive your favourite moments.
- Boss Battles | Boss battles, in particular, will require a well-planned approach, with the fight against Airbuster even letting you take away augmentations from him in advance (you get to use keycards that can make him slower, stop him from using his Big Bomber attack or get items that will help you in battle). Each boss fight is a treat and I was surprised to discover that Hard Mode even gives them new abilities and modified attack patterns.
- The Soundtrack | This shouldn’t shock anyone, but the music is Freaking Fantastic. It builds upon the strong base of the original and reworks timeless classics into tracks that are more dynamic. While in boss battles, you may notice the soundtrack picking up in pace as the fight gets more intense or slowing down when you enter Tactical Mode and that must have been quite a work of labour to achieve.
- The way you move | I want to talk about the fluid way you can move through the levels: obstacles you can overcome will be visible through an indication that you can hop over or crawl under debris, and even in crowded areas, Cloud will weave through the commoners not entirely unlike Ezio pioneered in the Assassin’s Creed titles. It makes getting around fun.
- Summons | Anyone who has played Final Fantasy 7 before knows that one of the most exciting things in the game was unlocking a new Summon. These deities cost a lot of MP to call forth but they have a devastating effect on the battlefield. The only issue with them was that they had long animations you had to sit through every time and that they kind of made regular magic irrelevant. (I know I had at least 2-3 summons equipped per party member near the end of my last playthrough) In FF7R, you can only assign one Summon per character and you’ll be happy to hear that they don’t take up a regular materia slot. You also don’t have to use MP. Instead, you’ll only be able to use them during harder battles. They join the fight and diss out some big elemental damage and you can use your ATB bars to activate their bigger attacks. When their time runs out, they’ll use their signature move like Shiva’s Diamond Dust or Ifrit’s Hellfire.
- Photomode | Intergrade added a photo mode to FF7R and while it’s a bit limited in option (no free camera control, but panning around your character and tied to their physical location in the environment) it does work well and can even be activated during cutscenes. This inclusion alone adds about 10 hours of game-time for me.
- Steam Deck Compatible | While I don’t own a Steam Deck myself (so I didn’t have the good fortune of testing it out) I do applaud Square Enix’s efforts for making it compatible with Valve’s handheld PC. It’s one of the more demanding titles on the device, so don’t expect to play it for over 2 hours without the battery dying on you, but playing FF7R on the go is definitely in my near-future for when I decide to pick one up.
- The DLC is included | Good news for Yuffie fans: you get to play her DLC episode as well in this version, but sadly she’ll never join the main cast. This does offer a nice tease at what’s to come in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and even has one of the best minigames available in Fort Condor: a tile-based tactics game that fans of the original might remember and that has been wonderfully reimagined here. CLICK HERE if you want to see that content in more detail.
- NPCs | The non-important NPCs that populate the world are bland and their models are copy/pasted all over the game. I wouldn’t mind it as much, but I’ve had instances where I saw the exact same person 3 times in one screen and that really pulled me out of the immersion. I do like the new system of how you see their voice lines on the side of the screen, no need to directly talk to any of them and you’ll always know which ones are important to progress a side quest or the main story.
- THAT moment | Without spoiling anything, there is a moment near the end of Final Fantasy 7 Remake when you realize they’re going off-script for what the original canon laid out. It’s at the same time a refreshing take that makes me super excited for what’s to come in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, but it also means we’re in uncharted territory and moments that would provide huge amounts of nostalgia have no guarantee of showing up in the next parts.
- No control of your party | FF7R is pretty linear and will always force you to use a specific party. While you have four different party members in the main game: Cloud, Aerith, Tifa & Barret. The game will decide who’s in your party for you. The only exception being the “VR” mode that lets you fight against tough bosses. Would have also been nice to try out Yuffie from the DLC in the main party, even it if would only be in those machine battles.
What we Disliked
- No Hard Mode from the start | As someone who has played Final Fantasy 7 Remake on Normal on PS4, I really wanted to play the game in Hard mode from the start but you first have to beat the game. I love the game and would gladly play through it multiple times, but was disappointed this option was locked behind a full playthrough.
- Linear experience | While I didn’t mind this in my first two runs through the game, the third time I’ve seen the detailed streets of midgar began to become pretty repetitive.
- Some UX choices | Having played through the game twice before, I liked the fact that you can press start and skip most cutscenes. Except for when you can’t and “skip cutscene” is replaced by “go to title screen”. When muscle memory kicks in and you find yourself losing progress because of that: not fun.
- The long wait | This is actually more of a selling point for the game than a strike against it, but I can’t wait for Crisis Core and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth to get here, so I can continue the story!
How long to beat the story | ~40 hours for the main game + Intermission DLC
How long to complete the game| ~80-90 hours for all achievements (At least 2 playthroughs)
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.