I share all of your criticisms. The obvious padding, even early on, is rough. I've tried to finish it twice.
I was actually thinking about giving it another go last night while I was watching some footage of Crisis Core Reunion on the IGN channel on Pluto TV. I remember how much I loved Crisis Core on PSP and thought "maybe I should finally finish Intergrade then pick up Reunion and relive my youth".
The padding initially seems egregious when you're coming off of Memories of the original, with Midgar being a masterclass of pacing on the PS1, containing like ~1/3 of the script in the first six hours of the game. It's very front loaded with establishing events, new characters, new mechanics, intrigue, comedy, The whole shebang, and it's essentially the prologue.
The sooner you go into it without the baggage of the originals pacing, it becomes a lot better. People go into this lamenting that they won't see the Nibelheim incident, or the Cargo Ship, or the Temple/City of the Ancients, and take it out on the extended sections.
Let's break it down here: Spoilers ahead.
Events that are consistent with the OG:
-Intro, second scene on.
-Mako Reactor 1
-The train escape
-arrival in the slums
-Seventh Heaven and Beginner's Hall visit
-Guy admiring the Pillar
-The two bickering Guards
- the corkscrew tunnel
- the plate interior
- Mako Reactor 5
- the fall/episode in Cloud's head
- Meeting Aerith and Reno
- Aerith's house/sneaking out
- the collapsed expressway
- Wall Market/cross dressing
- Don Corneo's Mansion/Sewers
- Train Graveyard/Pillar
- Aerith's house II - The Reckoning
- The Climb/Shinra HQ
- The G-Bike chase/escape
Events that WEREN'T consistent with OG:
- Shinra blowing the Reactor
- some MP recognizes Buster Sword
- Sephiroth appears super early
- Promise flashback is moved
- Sidequests (did you know there's one with a cat? JFC WORST GAME EVER)
- Jessie's scenario
- Sector 7 is bigger.
- the Corkscrew tunnel, Plate Interior are turned into proper dungeons as opposed to three screens.
- Reno fight, WHISPERS
- MOAR SIDEQUESTS
- Rude introduced early, fought early
- Wall Market glow up.
- Cross dressing is now more fabulous and PC.
- Sewers and Train Graveyard are extended into full dungeons.
- Whispers, one OG casualty survives.
- Additional dungeon
- SIDEQUESTS OMF AHHHHHHHHHHHHH
- The climb is changed from a bullshit PS1 prototype of a QTE to an actual chapter.
- Heli Gunner fought early.
- Some mini games were removed from Shinra HQ
- An additional dungeon is added, with two parties, a la old FFVI dungeon design. People hate this, too, though, because it sucks, or something.
- Chapter 18 and the DLC
- Is Genesis in this game? No? Fuck it, I'm counting it against the game because fuck Genesis and fuck this Remake.
NOW THEN, let's break this down in autistic levels of detail here. The big complaints about this game are:
- HURR DURR NOMURA KINGDOM HARTSDFF
- It's not a 1:1 Remake
- I was touched by someone who made anime grunts as a small boy and now I must protest the inclusion of it in everything in which it may appear until my face is as blue as majestic sapphire.
- sidequests - you hate them? Fucking skip them.
- Most of the padding is extended dungeons. If you split the dungeons up, I count ~9, without the DLC counter. 9 dungeons in a full length RPG. Oh no. The horror. The OG had like 35, and for all this uproar, if one room is removed from those 35, it will be ARMAGEDDON from the fanbase, but as for now? 9 is too God damn Many.
- Nomura, Kojima, Hasan, Tom Hulett, Spencer, Ryan, Quinn, Sarkeesian, we all have our Hitlers.
-Nothing is a 1:1 Remake, anymore. Furthermore, if we look at other media, shot for shot Remakes in say, cinema, are usually looked down upon as derivative. But nah, we all have social disorders, so any change Ruins our day/game.
- Ngh! I completely *pants* understand why that would *nods* MHMMM, bother you.