Critical this game gets a 9/10 for me, personally it is one if the best games I have ever played and definitley one of the best Final Fantasy titles, personally the best since X (and I rate X very highly).
90% of this game are a beautiful recreation of the original Midgar part. Every aspect here is build with so much love and respect that it felt like they build this world directly out of my memories. Start of chapter 2, entering the slums, looking at the upper plates skybox and seeing all this people talk made me tear up, because it was exactly “my” Midgar.
The other 10%, the ending, is where things show you that this is not just a Remake, but almost a Sequel. The ending itself is genius and the next game will show if this is a good or a bad thing.
Characterization in this game is the strongest part of the game. Every character feels perfect and they have so much more character traits then in the original, best FF character design in ages. All additional characters feel like a great addition, especially Roche to show how crazy SOLDIERs actually are.
The world itself looks stunning, Midgar looks perfect, Wall Market is exactly what it should be. The size of the Shinra HQ is impressive as it really shows the power of this company. Overall the world feels so alive due to the many NPCs with unique voice acting.
The voice acting itself is also great, I loved every one of them, especially if you consider that some of these VAs had no experience before (e.g. Aerith). Barret and Red VAs are perfect and just capture the characters personality very well. The only one I was not sure about was Sephiroths VA – but after almost 100 hours I also really enjoy his voice. It is the same tone, all the time, with no emotions, which makes the character itself even scarier.
The gameplay is the best gameplay a Final Fantasy ever had. It perfectly combines action based combat with tactical components. Its like they took the best parts of every FF and put them into this. Stagger mechanics feel nice and rewarding, the character movement delivers much more tension, the weapon system gives great choices of how you build your characters and especially the fact that every weapon is viable and they do not replace each other. If you want to play the game only with the Buster Sword, you could do that. And at the same time every character can fullfill every role because of the different weapons. Overall this fighting system feels awesome and so rewarding. Bossfights are 100% action from start to finish, just feels great.
The soundtrack is on the one hand very faithful to the original and in these cases perfect. There are also new tracks and remixes which are great. Only song that does not fit at all and did miss the situation was the song at the Honey Bee Inn when Andrea starts his show. Otherwise the soundtrack is easily a 10/10.
But there are also some negative points regarding the game:
First there is a issue with textures not loading. In many places the textures just show the basic ones, sometimes the real ones are loading after some seconds, some are not loading at all, which leads to some janky looking areas.
The level design itself is average, almost bad. Many spaces are linear – which is ok because the original Midgar part is very linear aswell – but those parts also dont look too good. For example: Leaving the Reactor in Chapter 7 leads to through the reactor, but its just the same hallway, 4-5 times with a control room in between. Same for other areas like the sewers. So: Midgar itself and the world is great, level design very average.
There are some CG rendered scenes in the game and the characters do look very strange there, almost too smooth and not really appealing. The in game models look way better here.
Regarding the story: The “plot ghosts” itself are way too obvious. Would be great to just have Cloud these visions as a story telling option, but the ghosts are too much into your face to show you what they are supposed to be. Otherwise I loved the thing they were leading to.
Overall I enjoyed every second of my playthrough, I love the ending and cannot wait what they will do from here on now. The next part will definitly the one to be judged regarding story. The fundation was set here – lets see what they will do with it, but I am with a positive mindset for the next title.