Overall that was a great experience but brought down a bit by some clunky design and far too much padding.
I'm slightly conflicted in that I really love how they have mixed things up and allowed the remake series to now forge its own destiny but at the same time a part of me can't help but be slightly disappointed that we haven't had a version of the original game but with modern graphics and tweaks. The original will always be there though so it's not the end of the world!
For most of the game I really enjoyed the whispers side of things and the idea of the developers playing with the concept that a force exists that is trying to make things happen the same way they did last time. It works nicely in the game as well as acting as a metaphor for the environment in which this remake exists (fairly heavy handed admittedly!) People are desperately precious over things like this and the "fans" basically act like the whispers - attempting to force game makers into simply repeating the past note for note. It became far too prominent and on the nose at the end unfortunately, but I guess they had to come up with some way of manufacturing an end game scenario for when they leave Midgar.
Ignoring some of the odd areas and detail pop in during the more open spaces the game is absolutely fantastic to look at, a genuine treat for the eyes that manages to recreate how the original game felt at the time. Being able to properly see and explore some of these places in such glorious detail is a huge treat for fans of the original. The music is also sublime, absolutely incredible work has been done here. Some of the attempts to return to the tracks from the original game in the intervening years, either in something like Advent Children or in live music concerts, have failed to capture the feel of those tracks quite right - either changing them too much or making the production too elaborate in a way that doesn't serve the original intent of the track. But here they strike the perfect line between simply recreating the tracks with better instrumentation and building on them in a way that really works.
One of the biggest failures in terms of the overall product is that I don't believe they have succeeded in making this game stand on its own. The meta narrative and how this plays off experience and expectations from the first game is brilliant for someone who knows the original intimately but is just going to fall flat for a newcomer. I genuinely don't see how anyone who hasn't played the original game can find the story to this satisfying. There's no real antagonist for the story, there's no real goal for the characters, no arcs for anyone to go through and no standard "three act" structure to hold things together. The ending literally comes out of nowhere and there's no real drive for what the characters are doing in the final chapter.
Further more I feel that they haven't sufficiently answered the question of "how do you make a small section of the original feel like a full game?" Both the narrative and the gameplay systems that are in place here feel like you're only playing part of a game - yes it's been clear that the whole game here is being sold as episodic content but each part still needs to feel like a whole section with sufficient story and progression to carry the player through a satisfying journey. Many mechanics and systems here feel like merely setting things up for more satisfying experience further down the line. Aspects of things like materia system feel largely impossible to get full advantage of within the limits of this first part without severe grinding. The more customisable and fun parts of the original materia system such as the linking of support materia with magic materia, the use of unique command materia etc. these aspects get no real chance to shine here because there just isn't enough time and resources for them. I think there are only two orbs of Elemental materia in the entire game, and one of those is tied to being a completionist so for most people they will never really get to play around with how fun and powerful this can be.
Despite having a hell of a lot more Sephiroth in this than we get in the equivalent sections from the original game he actually comes across as a far weaker character here as a result of the over exposure and lack of the steady build up of his mystique which you get in the original game. His connection with Cloud is handled far better in the original game as well.
A lot of the charm and character of the game has been lost as well which is a shame, there's a particular feel to the original game that hasn't really been recaptured here. I think they could have stayed closer to the tone of the original whilst still telling a new twist on the story.
Overall - a great game with some flaws and quirks. I loved playing it, I can't wait for the next instalment, but I also have no intention of playing this again any time soon!
Finally got to this a few weeks back and wrapped up my playthrough last night. One heck of an experience. Bit confused with how they handled those last few moments. But certainly not enough to spoil my enjoyment. I'm not as big of a die hard FF7 fan but still felt really emotional towards these characters which goes to show just how great this cast is. Overall it was really fun but with a few bumps and awkward spots that felt out of place. I agree with a lot of stuff Jenuall brought up too.
I think my biggest gripe was how the combat would make sense at certain times but also just not click as well as I would like, but that mostly might just be on me. Also the camera was pretty hit or miss, making some fights a nightmare to keep track of. I found it frustrating that it was easy to get interrupted which almost forces you into certain corners at times. Often making you waste MP and Items because you didn't see enemy number 5 sneak up behind you.
The biggest highlight for me was the soundtrack. Hamauzu's music was just beyond godlike.