It was a sunny Thursday afternoon after school and I was waiting all week for Friday. I was eager to play a hot new game called the Final Fantasy VII, which was released just a couple of weeks ago.
I popped the game into my PlayStation 1, hoping to get a quick session before I head outside. When I finally shut the console down, it was 3am in the morning.
It has been more than two decades since I played Final Fantasy VII, a game widely regarded as one of the best titles of all time by fans and critics.
Launched in 1997 for the PS1,the turn-based action RPG hit the screens with an unprecedented hype. Gamers found a new world where 3D graphics and CGI cinematics bought a surreal world to life.
Final Fantasy VII arrived at the right moment in history, capturing the wide-eyed imagination of a generation. The graphics was cutting edge and the soundtrack was equally epic, setting the trend for the next era of video games.
When I first heard about the 2020 remake, I had my doubts on whether the game could recreate that same sense of wonder. But Square Enix somehow managed to find a way to recreate that feeling, and part of the charm comes from the inherent nostalgia.
Final Fantasy VII Remake excels from the original through its attention to the tiniest detail.
Comparing the original with the remake is like comparing the blurry photograph of a masterpiece with the original painting at a museum, a feeling quite difficult to express with words alone. But it is more than just a modern era graphics and sound overhaul.
Rebuild, not a remake
Final Fantasy VII Remake retells the story of Cloud Strife, former super soldier turned into a ruthless mercenary, as he takes a contract from Avalanche, a ragtag gang of misfits fighting the Shinra Corporation.
The giant conglomerate is draining the life out of the planet, and the resistance fighters are facing an uphill battle to stop them.
During his journey across the city of Midgar, Cloud meets his closest friend Tifa, a florist named Aerith who hides a secret, and a leader of Avalanche named Barret.
In the retelling, the story of side characters such as Biggs, Wedge and Jessie gets significantly more focus. They were just extras in the original.
Remake sheds the spotlight on the history of its key heroes in flashbacks. As a visual masterpiece on the PlayStation 4, choosing between Aerith Gainsborough and Tifa Lockhart as the romantic interest for Cloud becomes all the more difficult.
Revamped combat system
Remake introduces a complete revamp of the combat system. The new Final Fantasy does away with any complicated features. Real-time fights feel more frantic with strikes, dodge, block and advance attacks that differ distinctly on style depending on the hero.
The game also reintroduces the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, which has been a hallmark of many of the best entries in the series. Heroes can attack the enemies any time, but to use special spells, items or abilities, they must fill the ATB gauge.
Final Fantasy Remake is addictively fun to play. The characters progress through weapons, gear and material, and players can customise a party of three to tackle challenges in different ways.
One gripe I had with the game is that the remake does not have the full story of the original.
However, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a full game that retells the story in the city of Midgar, which will easily take around 30-50 hours to complete. The rest of the story will be released by Square Enix in an episodic format.
It is difficult to get around the fact that Final Fantasy VII Remake assumes you already know Cloud, Tifa, and Barret.
As an iconic game, most of us already know who get killed. Cloud is one of the most recognisable characters in the gaming industry, and many of the game's locations have become iconic since the release of the 1997 original.
But whether you are a veteran of the series, or have just heard the name of Final Fantasy VII for the first time, playing the remake will be a once in a lifetime experience.
The game is only available on PlayStation 4.