Square has literally done the impossible: they have taken one of the most revered games of all time, stayed true to the fans who love it, and also made the game better by leaps and bounds. I am incredibly impressed with what Square has done with this game, and their love for the original shines through while still allowing the game to look and feel like it's from 2020 and not 1997.
The graphics are potentially the best graphics I've ever seen in a video game. Yes, there are some framerate drops but I honestly barely noticed them, and I don't even have a PS4 Pro. The characters look exactly like you think they should, the facial expressions are spot-on, and the environments are absolutely stunning. Shout out to Wall Market, which Square completely re-did and it is my favorite part of the game by far.
The music is also almost perfect. The original soundtrack was already one of my favorites, and hearing Uematsu take these old classics and make them even better was so much fun to listen to. There are a couple where I liked the original better (they orchestrated almost the entire soundtrack, so all of the old electronic beeps and bops from other songs are sadly gone), but for the most part the songs are even better than the original game.
They did add Sephiroth in earlier in the story than in the original, but I think they really had to do that in order for people to understand that Shinra wasn't going to be the bad guy for the entire set of games. I thought they handled the plot very well, and they added a lot of backstory of the other Avalanche members that really made you care about them instead of just throwing them in as fodder for Shinra to kill. The voice acting was also a lot better than I expected it to me, although the mouths of the characters almost never match up to what they are actually saying.
The battle system is where this game really shines. They took the best parts of the old game (summons, materia, the ATB gauge) and made it so much better. Gone are the days of waiting for my little bar to fill up and then casting a spell. Now you have to dynamically switch through characters, slashing away at enemies in order to fill up your gauge enough to cast a spell or use an item. Summons only appear in harder fights and can help cause massive damage to bosses. Enemies are varied and finding their weak spots is a ton of fun. Boss fights are challenging and long but never feel particularly unfair. The materia system is consistently fun to mess around with, and now you can also upgrade your weapons with a FFX-style sphere grid system. This is the best battle system Square has had in any FF game, and it really is a joy to play.
The reason this game is not a 10 is because the side quests are....bad. Downright awful. It feels like they realized the game was only going to be about 20 hours and the fans were going to shit on them for making it into multiple games so they decided last minute to add in side quests. These side quests are literally the 1995-era "go kill 5 rats," "help me find my cats" bullshit that everyone hates. They do not add any depth to the characters, change the story, or give you anything particularly useful at the end of the day. They are clearly just padding to make the game longer and add more for people to do, but they are so clearly half-assed that it's frustrating to see such a great game marred by these trash quests. I hope that in the next game they either can this idea entirely or spend some time actually making these quests better.
Overall, I spent 32 hours playing this game, and it was full of nostalgia but also fresh ideas that made the game better. It's a fantastic game that I recommend to anyone who likes RPGs and great music.