The long-anticipated remake of Final Fantasy VII has finally happened. So let’s scratch the surface of how the original has evolved into the Remake.
The most obvious overhaul is the combat system. It borrows the intricacies of Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy XV‘s combat and blends them with the original game’s materia system. The result is a fluid, cinematic system with more complexity than any previous Final Fantasy and one of the best combat systems of this generation. Switching between the party members could easily feel superficial, but each character provides a unique layer to the experience.
Adding layers to the original was clearly a driving philosophy behind the remake. Areas such as Wall Market, the Sector 7 slums, and the area surrounding Aerith’s house have been lovingly recreated with HD graphics. Previously, traveling through the slums of Midgar would take around ten minutes, spanning across a couple of pre-rendered backgrounds. Now, these journeys will take closer to an hour.
That might sound drab, but it’s not when the game is pre-occupied with adding layers to the cast of characters too. We’re granted a substantial insight into Avalanche as a wider organization, along with Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge. What was once a throwaway reference to two Star Wars characters now raises the stakes of the entire game, something the sequel-era Star Wars could learn a thing or two from. The matrix of relationships that exists within the world has you watching the screen rather than the clock. Each moment spent with your ever-rotating party of core characters is something to be treasured.
Reimagining beloved characters
Of course, it’s the core characters that reeled us to begin with – skeptics, first-timers, and those who have begged for Final Fantasy VII to be remade for over a decade. The remake establishes greater complexity to Cloud’s backstory with future installments in mind, yet his growth over the 40 hours of this episode remains immensely satisfying.
Our attachment to the likes of Tifa, Barret, and Aerith only grows stronger. Considering the goofy nature that was part of Final Fantasy VII‘s charm, it would have been so easy for these relationships to collapse. Instead of reading the lines in your head, you’re listening to actors voice them. However, they manage to inject yet more life into these beloved characters.
Style and substance
That brings us to the music. It encapsulates everything the remake does successfully, managing to thread old motifs from the original through the new. Some are more subtle than others, but the soundtrack rarely misses a beat. It helps bring atmosphere to the Midgar slums, particularly at night.
Whilst the game sacrifices some of the intimacy inside each building that came with the cramped nature of the original, thanks to both design limitation and stylistic decision, the remake blends music and incidental dialogue to make up for that.
Having sold over 3.5m copies in its first three days, it’s safe to say there’s going to be a lot more discussion to come from this game. Keep an eye out for a more spoiler-filled analysis of what’s new in the Final Fantasy VII Remake coming soon.