So long after putting out a piece of work, you’ll likely want to revisit it. This is typically how game remakes and remasters begin. Wanting to improve upon the original experience that many people hold dear, but Square doesn’t hold that philosophy. Final Fantasy VII Remake is a complete reimagining of the original universe you’re all familiar with. As part one of an epic tale, FFVIIR takes the first five-hour prologue of the original and stretches it into a thirty-hour experience.

The evil Shinra organization has built the mega-metropolis, Midgar, on the promise of makko energy straight from the planet. Avalanche, an extreme vigilante group, is determined to stop Shinra from sucking the planet’s energy right from it. You, Cloud Strife, have been hired by them to assist in a bombing mission, but things will quickly slip out of hand as an old enemy of yours intervenes. Are you doomed to repeat every mistake made before? Can the timeline be altered? Does that mean Sephiroth can win? Not if you have anything to say about it.

The original was the most ambitious JRPG of its era, but FFVIIR reimagines itself as a real-time action RPG. Similar to Kingdom Hearts, you’ll be running around and quickly cutting down enemies and bosses in your path. You can have two party members with you, who you can switch between. When you wish to use an item, cast a spell, or perform an ability, time will slow to a crawl and give you plenty of time.

The classic materia system returns in full force. The makko energy orbs can be attached to your parties’ items and armor to give them access to certain spells and buffs. Building a kit of materia that work in tandem is a necessity for big encounters. Summon materia will now spawn a gigantic temporary party member that you can slightly influence. It’s more like giving your enemies a boss to fight than using an ultra-powerful magic attack.

Much like other ARPGS, when you’ve leveled up, the smaller battles can become trivial. Especially so, if you know how to maximize your materia loadouts. FFVIIR is constantly throwing gigantic boss encounters at you. They all feel well put-together, and I never felt cheated. This game’s combat is my favorite in any Square RPG to date.

Midgar is exactly as you’d imagine from the taste of the original. You’ll visit new beautiful renditions of every location you know. They feel picked right out of the original and repainted. To make Midgar feel more diverse and alive, tons of new areas have been added or fleshed out. There are all sorts of quests to take on and secrets to find.

Areas that you would never think about the people around you, such as Wall Market or Shinra HQ, suddenly become places you can get lost in conversation and simple lore. You can feel how your actions in the story have impacted the people of Midgar. As with most games of the era, characters in the original felt like stereotypes. There are no cringe half-conversations like Kingdom Hearts or static dull characters like President Shinra of the original, everyone grows and feels human.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is absolutely beautiful. Released on PlayStation 4, it truly feels like a next-generation experienced when played through a PS4 Pro or PS5. Ending the generation, Square could truly get the most out of the system here. The beautifully orchestrated music will even change to account for your actions. If you’re slow and methodical in fights, hiding behind cover, you’ll see no fanfare, but if you’re constantly dodging and weaving through enemy attacks you’ll be rewarded with epic reimaginings of classic masterpieces.

I do have some minor gripes with FFVIIR. You’ll encounter quite a few airborne enemies, but there’s no good way to deal with them. You can, of course, cast magic or use Barret, but sometimes you’ll want to stick with a certain character. The episodic nature of the game constantly weighed on me. I didn’t feel the need to just go through the story but prepare for later encounters I won’t see for years. This was especially noticeable with the neutered enemy-skill materia. In the original, you could learn twenty-four different abilities with it. Now, there are only four.

I was invested in every moment of my time with Final Fantasy VII Remake. I don’t consider the original one of my favorite games of all time, but this game has allowed me to connect with these characters in ways that were impossible generations ago. With delicious combat, wonderful characters, and beautiful art, I can’t recommend Final Fantasy VII Remake enough. My eyes are closely watching Final Fantasy XVI and FFVIIR Part 2.