Final Fantasy 7 was immediately iconic when it launched in 1997, becoming an icon of the original PlayStation era and catapulting JRPGs into the western stratosphere. It was no longer a kind of niche dominated by imports and the occasional localization, Squaresoft had single-handedly transformed the landscape of the game and had never looked back.
Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, Aerith, Sephiroth and so many more have become impromptu mascots of the genre that have warmed the hearts of millions over the years, with fans regularly revisiting the classic adventure despite its archaic visuals and mechanics. relatively slow turn-based. Even as I got older, this journey has remained timeless, which is part of why the remake hit so hard. It wasn’t just a lavish visual upgrade or a mechanical overhaul, it was a graft of the spirit of the original game that left everything that made it so special intact.
I remember going to a preview event for the game and I was imbued with a vertigo that was the furthest thing from the pro. A small venue in London has been rigged to look like Tifa’s seventh heaven, right down to the drinks behind the bar and cute little pieces of paraphernalia scattered around the place. If it weren’t for all the games reporters clumsily fussed over, I might have convinced myself it was Midgar. For the day I had become your average shitmuncher, the hype bursting to the brim as I sat down to play the game’s opening like it was Christmas morning. My God, it was worth the wait.
Square Enix could have recreated the original opening with the exact same frames and fans would have been more than thrilled, settling for modern hardware making Aerith kneel down to tend to a singular flower in the lanes of Midgar or the camera stretching upward to accommodate the vastness of the Shinra’s headquarters. Yet Final Fantasy 7 Remake is so much more, he’s keenly aware that the world he lives in is so vast and ripe for expansion, existing on a scale the PS1 was unable to do justice to. From the first frame we see a weathered bird flying across the landscape, a dry desert giving way to an avalanche of rusty metal and industrial fumes, the ominous music making it clear that this metropolis is far darker than its technology would expect us to. make it believe.
We see people living and working as children ride their bicycles, the monotony of everyday life punctuated by small details like scavenging dogs and decaying plants that make it clear that this world is dying and few beauties. remain in its discolored exterior. . It all seems hopeless, but as the sky darkens and day turns to night, we finally meet Aerith. The flower girl is kneeling on the sidewalk, praying for a singular piece of the stream of life springing from the worn concrete. It is a sign of life, a small fruit of hope in a world swallowed up by distress. Suddenly, the music swells as she walks the busy streets, gazing skyward as a flurry of helicopters rise above her head.
The title card appears, and we are pushed onto the train, Cloud and company ready to fight their oppressors, even if it means putting innocent people in danger. It’s already perfect and that’s just the opening cutscene – Final Fantasy 7 Remake is so special to me. Once you really get started playing, the explosive score and explosive pace of the Reactor mission means you are constantly moving forward, battling enemies, and navigating weird but familiar environments. Each encounter is a small tutorial in its own right, explaining the ropes alongside smaller cutscenes and character interactions that help cement who these people are and what their place in this wild world means for the future.
It sounds like classic 1997 dialogue, but spoken and a more kinetic combat system makes it feel a lot more alive. Even Barret feasting you on the struggles of the planet on an elevator ride is captivating with excellent performance and an atmosphere that is both campy and heartfelt. We see flashbacks to Cloud’s past and greater development from Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge – teasing how far Final Fantasy 7 Remake will go in their lives compared to the original.
Every moment is precious, and it all culminates in a boss battle with Scorpion Sentry that cements this re-imagining as an experience that’s unafraid to be an action blockbuster when the situation calls for it, using the new system of Enhanced combat to have enemies soar into the sky and shoot you from above, while Cloud must react to environmental hazards and specific strategies that require quick thinking and sudden reflexes. Everything seems incredible.
Once the reactor catches fire and you step out into the streets of Midgar, the scale of Final Fantasy 7 Remake becomes clear. Now you can walk these streets, converse with the people and understand that under all heroic deeds you are little more than another face in the crowd that the Shinra knowingly abuses. Yet this insignificance also means that you and the rest of Avalanche are able to fight back, to stand up for something that will ultimately change the world forever. All thanks to an opening act that cements the tone, action, characters, and message of Final Fantasy like few games in the genre or even the entire medium have managed to accomplish.
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