To say 2020 was the dumpster fire that just kept on raging on and on is a pretty accurate metaphor for what the entire year felt like. It’s really hard to think of anything positive that came out of the year as all of the terribleness just simply overwhelms whatever good happened during this miserable period. There was one good thing, one specific video game, which did come out of 2020, however, and it was big enough to make an awful year manageable for me. It made my time stuck at home, unable to go out and actually enjoy life, much more bearable. In fact, I would say it sort of convinced me staying at home was a good thing as, well, I just had keep on playing it whenever I had the time, which was a lot since I didn’t have any real big responsibilities or adult things to do during a good chunk of 2020.
That video game is, unsurprisingly to a lot of readers here, Final Fantasy VII Remake. This is my personal choice for 2020’s Game of the Year.
I will be fair and state I wasn’t able to play a whole lot of games during 2020 because of, well, what was happening in the world. This makes me wholly unqualified to really be the best judge as I may have missed a ton of the other high-quality games which did come out last year. There may be that one shining gem which I didn’t play and I really have to catch up on the top-rated ones. However, it’s also hard to deny there’s just something magical about Square Enix’s reimagining of their historic game they released way back on the original PlayStation way back in 1997.
Even when it was announced a whole 5 years ago, the excitement for Final Fantasy VII Remake was palpable. I may not have played the original game but I was more than familiar with its legacy. Any gamer worth their salt knows the basic story and the events which transpired. We’ve also come in contact with the main characters like Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockhart, Barret Wallace, Red XIII and, most especially, Aerith Gainsborough and Sephiroth. The strange this is I don’t really know how I learned about them. I just knew about it through general osmosis of people talking about Final Fantasy VII, even to this day. That’s how powerful the original game’s legacy is and why fans, both old and new alike, were excited to see an updated version of the PlayStation classic.
All of the hype was amazing indeed but it did make me worried. With all of the excitement surrounding its impending release, I was sure Square Enix would not be able to meet the fandom’s lofty expectations. To my surprise, they did! Not only did they meet them, they far exceeded them to a huge degree! Square Enix delivered and most fans were more than pleased with the final Final Fantasy VII Remake product. There were a few outliers who didn’t exactly like the new direction the Remake went but even that proponent were still very happy with the game they got.
However, this doesn’t explain why I would pick Final Fantasy VII Remake as 2020’s Game of the Year. Like I said before, I didn’t play the original PlayStation game and, while I am familiar with its history and how iconic it has become, I don’t have any nostalgic love for it. Yes, I was excited because of how it looked and the hype was very infectious, I will admit. That didn’t mean it would automatically love it. It was going to be my first time playing any version of Final Fantasy VII. Come to think of it, I haven’t actually played a Final Fantasy game in-depth before. I do have some memories of my brother playing Final Fantasy VIII and maybe a few vague memories of him playing the original Final Fantasy VII when I was very, very, very young. I still didn’t really know what to expect nor was I sure if I was going to even like it.
Final Fantasy VII Remake shattered my expectations in a lot of ways.
There was just something about all the individual components which made Final Fantasy VII Remake more than just special. However, I would never say it was a flawless game as there were always a few things I could nitpick at. The character models and most of the backgrounds looked fantastic but there were more than a few low-res images which would reel their ugly head. The voice acting, while mostly really good, had some problematic delivery. Strangely enough, my biggest issue regarding this was from Brianna White from Strange Rebel Gaming who voices Aerith. There were just a few lines which came off rather forced. Oh, and some of the dialogue did come off as rather obtuse. I mean, that bit trying to explain why Aerith needed to return to Shinra voluntarily just didn’t make a lick of sense to me.
I will even say there are some parts which just dragged on as a lot of the side quests didn’t feel particularly fulfilling and the run through Sector 6 felt like a slog. The overall story can be a little overstuffed, especially by the ending as it just dumps a whole lot of exposition on you without warning. I also didn’t exactly appreciate all of the Easter Eggs Square Enix sprinkled in throughout the game because only hardcore fans who have played the original will understand. Okay, it was cool to see this weird bipedal cat wearing a crown slams his fist into the ground in frustration. I didn’t know what it was but I thought it was cool?
Basically, what I’m trying to say is I don’t think Final Fantasy VII Remake is without its flaws. However, they’re all very easy to overlook because of how good everything just gels together. You can tell Square Enix put a lot of effort into making everything run smoothly. This goes doubly for the combat system. I don’t really like a lot of high-octane action games but Final Fantasy VII Remake’s battle system just clicked with me. That’s mostly because each character does have a distinct style and yet you can still mold them into something totally different thanks to the materia system. I do have my favorite materia loadout for each character but I still do enjoy messing around with it and tweaking who gets what skills, magic and buffs.
However, the thing that really puts Final Fantasy VII Remake over the top for me is the music! The music is just so darn good! I’ve always heard the original Final Fantasy VII has one of the best soundtracks of all time but I only was able to appreciate how good it was while playing Remake! Not only are the songs really good but Square Enix did some kind of wizardy magic with how it just melds and transitions based on what’s happening so seamlessly! That change from Aerith’s theme to the battle theme during Chapter 2 is just everything to me regarding how much work they put into the music!
Even with all that, technically, the game that did win Game of the Year from The Game Awards was The Last of Us: Part 2. Now, I have yet to play that game and I will eventually get to doing so in the future. Despite what a lot of its detractors say about it, I can appreciate Naughty Dog taking a huge risk with the direction they went. If I want video games to go beyond simple entertainment, we do need these kinds of risky undertakings to grow and become more mature. I will even go on as far as saying The Last of Us: Part 2 is even more technically sound in aspects like graphics, sound design, animation and, yes, even story; just because you don’t like the story, it doesn’t mean it’s not well written.
However, to me, Game of the Year doesn’t have to be the most technically rich nor does it have to take the most risks. Game of the Year has to be the game that was the most enjoyable to play and made you want to keep playing it, long after you’ve finished it. This indeed rings true for the crapfest that was 2020. Final Fantasy VII Remake was the lighthouse which helped me through one of the worst years I’ve every experienced. For that, it definitely deserves Game of the Year in my book.
Now, how about some news about the next part, Square Enix?
What was your Game of the Year? Let me know in the comments section below!