Right at the start of this year.. you know, before everything went tits up, I made a top 10 video on the games I was most excited to play in 2020. Sneaking in at number 10 was Final Fantasy VII Remake. That may seem low to most people but as I explained in the video, JRPG’s usually aren’t my thing. However this remake looked absolutely stunning so I had a little interest.

Before I continue, I just want to let you know that this article is available in video form if you prefer in the link below. Right, on with my journey…

Fast forward to March 2nd, aside from everything outside our windows beginning to look a little hairy, we were treated to the demo for Remake in the form of the game’s opening chapter. I was one of the few people not rushing home to download this bad boy, in fact I think it was a good week or so later before I found myself a little bored and looking for something to pass the time. So I thought why not? It looks stunning and everyone keeps going on about it, I’ll give it a go.

I’m not going to lie, there was a part of me that didn’t want to like it. As if my anti-JRPG persona would take an embarrassing dent if I were to admit to enjoying this wonderful experience. Of course I couldn’t deny just how much fun the demo was, as I already knew beforehand, the visuals were breathtaking. “Okay that’s brilliant” I thought, “but the combat will likely lose me because you know, JRPG’s have that turn based nonsense”. Oh what a silly fool I was. The mix of fast paced real time combat and menu based attacks sunk it’s wonderful claws into me from minute one and still haven’t let go to this day. By the time I’d started enjoying my time with the characters, I wasn’t surprised anymore. I’d played the demo and I couldn’t fault it, you win Final Fantasy, you win.

So the pieces were all in place. The game had unexpectedly grabbed my attention from afar, then the demo put in the final touches to make me decide that I may actually play this 40 hour monster despite never playing a Final Fantasy game in full before in my life, but was it enough to make me part with a whopping £60?

Yes, the £59.99 price tag on the PS Store was my only option at this point as pre-orders on physical copies were all sold out and there likely wouldn’t be many other options given the pandemic. What was a boy to do? There were times where I came really close to biting the bullet and making the purchase. I would wrestle daily between one side of my brain which would constantly remind me that I don’t even spend that much money on the games I know I’m going to love, and the other side of me. The side which would see the adverts on TV and get that little flicker of excitement, the side of me which would see how excited fans of the series were getting over it all, and the side of me which very nearly won the internal battle.

Fellow Respawners Javier and Matt will tell you all about this internal struggle, as I would often bother the both of them with the same question – “Is it going to be worth £60!?”. To which they’d answer yes because they were hyped for it like everyone else. It was at this point that Matt, like the brotherly angel that he is, stepped up and offered to lend me the game once he’d finished with it. Not all heroes wear capes. My appreciation only intensified once he managed to complete the game in one weekend like a weird Final Fantasy crazed junkie. All that mattered though was I had my game.

What followed was a journey which (and this is going to sound dramatic but bare with me) completely changed me as a gamer and not only made me a massive fan of Final Fantasy VII, but also has me looking at other similar games to try find my next fix.

If you’re like me and never touched this franchise before, then let me explain why this is the perfect place to start. Firstly I want to bring up something that Javier said in the lightning cave recently (which you can catch every Friday on our YouTube channel in case you were wandering). He brought up just how grounded this story is for a Final Fantasy game and he’s right, this is probably the reason why it connected with me so well and will do so for any newcomer.

I’ll be avoiding major spoilers but beware if you haven’t played yet and want to go in completely blind.

The story focuses on a broody mercenary named Cloud (you’ve probably heard of him), who joins up with a team of echo friendly activists called Avalanche who are looking to deal some serious damage to the big bad global Marco sucking company – Shinra. As the story progresses I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for every character who Cloud meets along the way, even the likes of Jessie and Biggs who never officially join your party are characters who I’ll genuinely remember long after the credits have rolled.

It’s a testament to the strength of the writing that I feel this way, especially given the preconceived notion I had of stereotypical JRPG characteristics which I fully expected to run into. Don’t get me wrong, the stereotypes are still there but are written and voice acted in a way that is so impressive that try as I might, I just can’t help but fall in love with.

It genuinely got to the point in the second half of the game that whenever Tifa, Barret or Aerith would leave my party for a prolonged period of time, I’d miss them. I always felt the urge to crack on with the story just to see them again or find out where they would end up. I can’t believe I’m about to write these words, but Final Fantasy VII Remake now has some of my favourite characters in all of video games, hands down. 

I’m going to throw another small spoiler warning here because I’m strictly talking end game events here.  

I won’t lie to you, as the game reached its conclusion for this section of the overall story, I felt a little overwhelmed by just how fantastical it all got.. no pun intended. I will say that given the character development and story arcs, the game had earned enough of my respect to go along with all this and to not question it too much. Though I couldn’t help but feel a little deflated come the end credits, not because the story was poor but because for the first time in this new journey, I felt out of the loop and that I’d been relegated all the way back to noob. 

I just couldn’t let this be how it ends though, I felt like I needed more, I needed a better end for this incredible experience. So with absolutely no regards to potential spoilers for the sequel and the original game, I dived straight onto YouTube for a dummies guide to what the hell I’d just witnessed. Roughly one hour later, I came out of my rabbit hole with new knowledge of what the meta ending really meant and what changes Square Enix had made to the original, and once again I was back on the Final Fantasy VII hype train!

Diving into the lore and theories just made me appreciate this world tenfold. It gave me a whole new appreciation for why people love this story and these characters so much. If, like me, you are new to the series and want to jump in with this game, I would definitely recommend spoiling the original game for yourself. Re-watching some of the final cut scenes again with my newly found knowledge changed the ending from a confusing mess to one of the most exciting mind fucks I’ve witnessed in a long time.

Rewinding back to the beginning of this year, I can’t believe I put Final Fantasy VII at the bottom of my top 10 most hyped games, because the reality of the situation is that I can’t imagine it’s doesn’t finish in my top 3 with only The Last Of Us Part 2 and either Avengers or Cyberpunk 2077 looking like challengers for the 2020 throne. Nearly halfway into the year I feel like a complete different type of gamer. A gamer who is not only looking for something to scratch this new Final Fantasy itch, but will happily pay £60 or more for the next piece of this story with no questions asked.