Easily one of the most hyped and anticipated video games over the last five years, Final Fantasy VII Remake has arrived and it is everything I hoped it would be.
It manages to preserve the spirit of the original game while modernizing it in every way imaginable. It feels so close to the Final Fantasy games I grew up playing — those being VII, VIII, IX, and X — while also definitely being a game for 2020. Nostalgic and new at the same time.
Before we proceed, some important declarations: GadgetMatch received an official copy of the game specifically for the purpose of this review. This article will have no spoilers — just a general overview and assessment of the Final Fantasy VII Remake experience.
The devil is in the details
One of the more obvious differences is how the game looks. In 1997, Final Fantasy VII, was a visual breakthrough. It was the first time for a Final Fantasy game of this scale to switch from 2D to 3D.
Being preceded by games like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End just to name a few, the Remake won’t have the same kind of video game graphics impact. But make no mistake, it serves up a visual experience that is utterly breathtaking.
It starts with the little things. The way the game treats light when you go indoors or outdoors is reminiscent of how your eyes would behave when doing the same. It takes a second before your eyes fully adjust to your surroundings. And this treatment of light is consistent throughout the game.
The cinematography is also a masterclass in visual storytelling. There’s a sequence during the beginning of the game where Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart (two of the main characters) were interacting and the way they were positioned in relation to each other and to the environment tells you a lot about the current standing of their relationship.
It’s a classic show-don’t-tell technique and it works wonders. It’s also pretty consistent throughout the game. The shots used for each scene were carefully and meticulously thought out. It adds not only to the cinematic flair, but also to the emotion of the game.
Midgar feels alive
This level of attention to detail is present all over Midgar — the place where most of the game will take place. The way the camera zooms in and out of the city during certain scenes gives you a good grasp of the life and status of Midgar and its people.
The class divide between those living in the upper levels versus those relegated to the slums is very evident in one of the earlier missions. Not just with how the levels are designed, but also with the dialogue of the NPCs (non-playable characters).
There’s a stark contrast between how people from the upper level reacted to the bombing of the first Mako reactor to how the people in the slums reacted. People in the upper levels mostly support the authoritarian Shinra — the city’s ruling organization. They also happen to be direct benefactors of Shinra’s exploits.
Meanwhile, the people in the slums are a mixed bag — some are indifferent, only caring about how they will get through the next day. Some are rightfully afraid of how they will be affected by the ensuing conflict.
By the way, for the uninitiated, the story basically kicks-off with a radical group called Avalanche carrying out the first of a series of bombing missions. The group believes Shinra is syphonying off the planet’s life through the Mako reactors. Mako is the planet’s lifestream. If it runs out, the planet will most likely wither away.
Action-RPG combat with turn-based feel is extremely satisfying
One of the biggest points of discussion is how the Remake will handle combat. The original game — in true JRPG fashion — was turn-based. That was 23 years ago, and outside of Persona 5, the turn-based style hasn’t really attracted plenty of gamers.
What Final Fantasy VII Remake did is fuse that turn-base feel to the more popular Action-RPG type. Something that a lot of gamers today prefer. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.
Here’s how it works: When you go into battle, you have direct control over moving around as well as the character’s physical attacks. Dealing physical damage raises your ATB meter. Your ATB meter then gives you access to using Abilities, Spells, Items, and whenever they become available — Summons and Limit Breaks.
When you trigger the use of your ATB meter the game goes into this slo-mo mode. It sort of reminds me of “bullet time” from Max Payne or that brief slo-mo in Marvel’s Spider-Man that gives you enough time to plan your next move. Except in Final Fantasy VII Remake, that slo-mo is longer, giving you ample time to issue commands for every character in your party.
The whole combat system might also remind you of Kingdom Hearts III, but unlike that game, there’s no way you can just charge in and button mash to win fights. Each enemy has to be dealt with differently and you’ll have to be very careful and tactical in your approach to win battles.
A great way to jump into Final Fantasy
Another thing that Final Fantasy VII Remake masterfully does is not overwhelm you with all the Final Fantasy things you need to know. It slowly introduces you to the story and the franchise’s concepts throughout the game.
The Final Fantasy franchise is full of lore. While each game is a stand alone story, some items, summons, skills, and magic are consistent across all the games.
If you have zero knowledge going in, you’ll feel right at home. The franchise’s lore is carefully integrated into the main story. If you’re a Final Fantasy veteran, the introduction of these concepts flow well enough that they’re not at all boring.
It perfectly walks the tightrope of keeping franchise fans happy without alienating any potential newcomers.
A fantastic remake
It was the Final Fantasy franchise that first had me dreaming what it would be like when in-game graphics would finally match cutscenes. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — the computer-animated film that served as the follow-up to FF7’s story — sparked that dream further.
Final Fantasy VII Remake made that dream come true. The way it transitions from free-roaming to battle to cutscene is seamless. It literally feels like you’re playing a computer-animated film.
While we’ve seen this play out in other games, just the fact that it’s an iconic game with iconic characters given new life by modern technology makes it extra special. Playing it made me feel like a kid again. It’s exactly the jolt that my jaded adult version needed more than anything.
There’s a lot more to this game that can be discussed. So much more can be dissected. Everything from how each character is treated, how the story almost feels like a reflection of society today, the intricacies of its battle system, and many more. I’m excited to have these conversations with fellow gamers.
If you came here looking to find out if you should pick this game up, the answer is a resounding YES. If you pre-ordered (and have already preloaded) the game, let this be a primer for what you’re about to step into — a game that’s carefully crafted to give you a fresh experience of a timeless tale.
Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 will power Switch competitors
Razer is already working on a device
Just a day ago, a leak revealed an upcoming handheld gaming device from Razer. The unannounced Switch competitor also touted an unannounced Snapdragon platform built specifically for handheld gaming. Now, the curtain has been raised. Qualcomm has unveiled the new Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 platform for gaming.
Designed for Android and cloud gaming, the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 can put out elite performance for on-the-go gamers. First, the Adreno GPU can run games at 144 frames per second and 10-bit HDR. For cloud gaming, the platform offers Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E connectivity, plus 5G mmWave and sub-6 compatibility.
Besides those, Qualcomm does not offer much else. Instead, the company is partnering with Razer for the said device leaked before. The upcoming ecosystem will feature a device with a 6.65-inch OLED display with Full HD+ resolution, 10-bit HDR, and 120Hz refresh rate. It will also feature a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second.
Qualcomm and Razer also released a photo depicting the device. As what you might imagine, the device looks like a controller with an expanded screen in the middle. It does look decent enough for a handheld gaming device, but it might also look different when the final product launches in the future.
Razer reportedly working on its own gaming console
It took a while, but the gaming world has finally warmed up to portable gaming machines again. After years of dominance from the Nintendo Switch, other companies are already working on their own variants. Steam has announced the Steam Deck, a portable device allowing users to take their Steam games on the go. Apparently, Razer is joining the fight.
Leaked by VideoCardz, Razer is working on a handheld console with a Snapdragon chipset. The depicted console looks like the Steam Deck’s design: a controller shape with an elongated screen in the middle. The screen reportedly has a buttery 120Hz OLED display, a 1080p camera, and a massive 6000mAh battery. For connectivity, the console is compatible with 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and USB-C connectivity.
More important, the console will reportedly feature an unannounced system from Snapdragon. The mysterious Snapdragon G3x is apparently designed for a “handheld gaming console.” Of course, because the system isn’t official yet (if that is indeed its name), we don’t know how impressive the console will be in the performance department.
Snapdragon does have some weighty shoes to fill given how much the gaming industry has improved over the past year. If it’s any indication, Snapdragon recently released the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, an impressive flagship series that touts enormous improvements over its predecessor.
Unfortunately, the report also does not disclose when the console will launch or how much it will cost.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16: Big power in a compact form factor
Exceptional specs, solidly built body
Whenever I see any device with the ROG branding, I automatically get the impression of how good the device may be even without actually knowing what its features are. I guess it’s true with others too as sending my friends a photo of the hefty ROG box containing this device, garnered excited reactions.
That’s because ROG devices actually live up to its reputation of being amazing gaming devices. A proof of that is in my recent visit to a PC store in Makati where I asked the salesperson which among their gaming laptops is their current best offering in their store and the response I got is a confident, ROG Zephyrus.
Get ready to be blown away as we take a closer look at the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16.
What comes in the box
The whole package came in a large ROG box containing three main items.
First, we get the ROG Zephyrus backpack. Then, there’s a black box which contains the ROG Delta gaming headphones. Lastly, there’s the white Zephyrus box which contains the star of the show — the Zephyrus M16 along with the ROG Chakram Core gaming mouse, the 240W charger and the 100W USB-C charger.
Tough build with a small footprint
Going straight for the laptop, just as I laid my hands on the actual unit, I could already tell how solidly built this device is. The outer shell is made of aluminum with machine cut holes that looks elegant with just a slight hint of being a gaming laptop with its branding.
Some people might prefer laptops with a bit more flare, but I’m personally inclined towards this more serious look. This could easily pass n a corporate setting without getting too much attention for being a gaming laptop.
On their website, ASUS markets the Zephyrus M16 as a laptop with a 16-inch display fitted in a 15-inch chassis. And it’s true. It’s relatively compact with its length measuring only 13.98 inches. This would actually fit laptop bags designed for 15-inchers and placing it beside my old 15-inch Dell G3 made the latter look jurasically huge.
For the bottom half, you might want to get your cleaning cloths ready as the soft matte finish is an easy smudge magnet. While this design decision adds to the premium feel of the unit, it does require a bit of maintenance to keep it from looking like a nasty mess.
Good port selection but placement could do better
A vast amount of ports are also present here on the Zephyrus M16. On its right we can find the charging port, HDMI, RJ45, USB-A, two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports which doubles as a charging port and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. On the left is a microSD card reader and another USB-A port.
I do, however, have mixed feelings with the placement of these ports
None of the ports are placed at the rear portion of each side. The location of the charging port in the middle of the left side sets the wire of the charger to partially cover the exhaust vents of the device when plugged in.
If you then decide to use the 100W charger, you’ll have to bear with having to plug it on the USB-C port near the front of the device.
The USB-A port on the right would have also been nice if it were placed around the back as its current placement feels a bit intrusive when plugging an external mouse.
I understand that the designers might have had to give some room for ventilation or make use of that space around the rear part of the chassis, but the positioning could have been better for at least the essential ports for an obstruction-free experience.
Big, bright and vibrant display
The display is actually the first thing that wowed me on the M16. It’s a 16-inch 2560 X 1600 IPS panel with a 165Hz refresh rate and an aspect ratio of 16:10. It’s vibrant and punchy because it’s an IPS and while not as fast as a TN panel, it’s still relatively fast at 165Hz.
Plus, this being a WQXGA panel, we’re adding more screen real estate vertically and when we combine that with the 100% DCI-P3 color gamut and the Pantone validation, we’re seriously getting ourselves a productivity beast.
This also gets close to being bezel-less with this display as it’s bezels are really thin but still manages to house a 720p webcam.
Let’s also take time to appreciate the Ergo Lift hinge on the M16 that seamlessly hides the chin of the display panel as the bottom half of the device is raised upon opening the lid. Very clever.
A good keyboard, a massive trackpad and an external mouse
For its keyboard, we have an RGB lit keyboard which has a nice tactile feedback and it feels phenomenal. It doesn’t feel mushy, the key travel is a bit more pronounced than others and the typing angle brought by the Ergo Lift hinge makes it comfortable and satisfying to use.
We’re also getting a massive trackpad on the M16. I could say it does perform great as I never found myself reaching for the external mouse for tracking and touch gestures are easily executed without much errors.
However, I don’t know if this is caused by the size of the trackpad or just poor palm rejection but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced a trackpad that gets in the way of my typing. Because my palms often touch the trackpad when typing, this often results in accidental key presses.
We do get a toggle to disable the trackpad in one of the function keys so I guess that could also be a solution.
As an alternative, we have the bundled ROG Chakram Core which is a right-handed wired gaming mouse that features a programmable thumb joystick.
It’s a full sized mouse that fits comfortably in my medium sized hand. I think this would fit best for palm grip users but from the perspective of a claw grip user, I didn’t have any issues with this as well.
Onto the most exciting part, the Zephyrus M16 packs an 11th gen Intel Core i9 11900H processor paired with the RTX 3070 with 32GB of DDR4 RAM and 2TB SSD internal storage.
This is so far the beefiest specced laptop I’ve experienced.
As expected, games like Valorant won’t be a problem running on these specs and that’s exactly what we experienced. Very fluid movement and zero lags even without boosting the Armoury Crate to performance mode.
For a more challenging and graphically demanding game like Control though, the game ran well on its default settings, but maxing out everything including ray tracing and other effects at 1440p did show some stutter. So for this one, we’re still gonna hold back a bit on the settings and resolution for the smoothest experience.
Do note that Control is a very heavy game and most of its additional graphic settings don’t give much difference visually anyway, so keeping some settings on medium or high is still looks stunning on the M16.
On my Shadow of the Tomb Raider test, I ran the benchmark maxing out every setting and got a 64 FPS average at 1440p resolution which are pretty amazing results for a laptop. This would go even higher if we’re playing on 1080p so if more FPS is your thing, you can opt to go for that.
We also experienced pretty decent temperatures on this unit as according to the ROG Armoury Crate, we’re getting around 69 to 73 degrees Celcius in game and would only occasionally hit the 80 degree mark during intense scenes. That’s very respectable for an Intel Core i9 in a compact laptop but it did come at the expense of being noticeably loud.
Speakers and the ROG Delta Headphones
According to ROG, the Zephyrus M16 actually has a six speaker setup. I didn’t really hear the benefits of this but it does sound pretty decent and clean but that’s about it. It won’t be able to fill up a room as its volume just isn’t very loud.
It had to turn on subtitles for games I’m playing as I was having a hard time hearing the dialog audibly. So for a more immersive experience, the ROG Delta headphones is what you’ll want to use for your long gaming sessions.
It’s a USB-C powered pair of headphones that are stylish and solidly built. It sports an ROG logo with breathing RGB lighting, a digital volume rocker and a switch for the RGB light.
Sound-wise, I do believe this sounds close to neutral and does seem balanced which isn’t what I usually experience on a pair of gaming headphones but it’s actually what I prefer.
I was expecting it to be boosted on the bass as gaming headphones often have this characteristic but that isn’t the case on this one. In fact, I did feel that it was rolled off a bit on the low end which gives us more clarity and less rumble.
All in all, this pair does give a pleasurable experience for gaming as the closed back and its noise cancellation forces you to focus on tackling your adventure.
Battery life and charging
It’s pretty common for gaming laptops not to have very good battery life as we do have a lot of power hungry components running. With the Zephyrus M16, we’ve experienced pretty similar results with other gaming laptops at around six hours of normal use.
Gaming on battery only got us about 45 minutes on Shadow of the Tomb Raider before everything became unplayably laggy just as power saving mode kicked in at 20 percent of battery remaining.
As for its charging, considering that this is a 240W charger, the results aren’t very fast getting us from empty to full in 1 hour and 45 minutes. With the 100W charger, it took us from ten percent to full in 2 hours and 8 minutes which is acceptable especially if we consider its pocket friendly size.
Is the ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16 your GadgetMatch?
Despite some minor inconveniences, there’s nothing in particular that I could say we would really hate with the Zephyrus M16.
It’s definitely a laptop designed for gaming enthusiasts who’d really want to get the best experience in a compact package and I don’t think they would be disappointed with gaming on this one.
The price tag of PhP 159,995 may sound too steep for many of us but the exceptional specs, solidly built body, a beautiful 16-inch 16:10 display, great keyboard, huge trackpad and a superb bundle of accessories, are a mouthful to say but these in itself says we’re not getting ripped off.
But if you’re not willing to shell out that much, a slightly less powerful variant with an RTX 3060, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD is also available for PhP 139,990 while a variant with a Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and an RTX 3060 is available for PhP 129,990.
So to sum it all up, at the level where it competes, the Zephyrus M16 is definitely a beast of a gaming laptop in a compact form factor that easily stands out as a great contender.
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