Alright, put the kids to bed, turn off your cell phone unless you are reading this on your cell phone then please keep reading. Let’s get just cut into the meat of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. There is a ton to discuss and I have a lot of thoughts about many aspects of this game. I previously reviewed the game and went over some of the more superficial aspects without spoiling the plot. I recognize that there are people who have yet to experience the original title and I felt it was necessary to split this into a two part review for the sake of those who wish to be surprised. Even as someone who played the original many times over, I am left pleasantly surprised, and eager for more.
(EDIT 4/29/2020 – I have slept on the game more. I have had conversations with many people about the game and I have come to understand more of it. It took a while to really let it sink in, but I figured with new information comes new aspects, and I will be changing this piece with my new perspectives.)
Note: Before I go any further I will state that there are plotline spoilers in this article. I specifically left this whole three pages out of the original review so I didn’t spoil anything for people who haven’t played the original game. If you have completed the game, and it seems possible that you did by now, then please read on. If you do not care about certain elements, then read on. If you are not buying this game out of sheer resentment of Square for not releasing a full game; then you might want to turn back. Or read on. Either way, consider yourself warned.
I’m gonna rip the bandaid right off and just say there is a reason for splitting the game up into segments. FF7R does a lot to change the formula from the original in a way that makes it incredibly self aware of what it is doing. It’s not a copy and paste with fancy upgraded graphics. It’s not Resident Evil. No offense to Resident Evil or Capcom, but this is just an entirely different beast. Square didn’t just put a new coat of paint on an old title, it completely overhauled the entire experience. To be frank, what Square did with this game will alter the story so far out of our expectations that it is impossible to determine what will happen next. From this moment on, we are going to explore uncharted territory, and some people will definitely despise it. This sacred cow of a game is currently balancing on the edge and it will take time to see if it sticks the landing or breaks it’s ankles.
When it comes to characters, I’ll state the obvious note first: Cloud is an asshole. He is a money grubbing merc with little to no regard for other people or just the general concept of emotion. It’s always about the money for him, and this is exacerbated by him being constantly at odds with Barret, Tifa, and the rest of this little sect of Avalanche. Yes, no one downright hates him, if anything people like him for some reason. Barret makes remarks about him being too expensive and being too much of an asshole. Barret easily solidified himself as a character that shoots first and asks questions later. I am constantly going back and forth between the two, wanting to tell Cloud to be more sympathetic and Barret to just shut up for once because he is just running his mouth off and it’s obnoxious.
At times Cloud can be totally devoid of any kind of personal characteristic. He is bland and doesn’t sway far from the “give me money or I’m not doing it” attitude. He is as cold as they come, but once the end starts rolling in, Cloud becomes more tolerable by me and the rest of the party. They see that he is troubled by something, and we all learn it has to do with Sephiroth.
We also have loudmouth Barret. The man with a gun for an arm who has his own sorted past that we don’t learn about at all in this game. Barret is at times obnoxious and incredibly full of himself. He has a lot of bark and the appropriate amount of bite to follow up with. He clearly sees himself as a leader of the group, beating his chest constantly. He spouts rhetoric about the planet, how it’s dying, and how his sect of Avalanche is the only group that can defeat Shinra and save the planet. He is a dedicated fighter and a loving father figure, which many followers view as incredibly admirable. After all, if you are going to lead a suicide mission to blow up a reactor, you have to be incredibly charismatic.
Tifa is a lovely character that seems to be pensive most of the time. She is in it for the same reason Barret is in it, but she seems more reserved about her intentions. She listens, thinks, and then acts, unlike Barret who is more of a short fuse. Tifa is thoughtful and has a lot of weight on her shoulders being perhaps one of the few characters who stops to think about what is going on. Her relationship with Cloud seems at ends. At one point she looks like she is interested in him, throwing him glances. Other times she seems almost intimidated by the mere presence of Aerith.
Aerith is the breath of fresh air within the dampness and garbage piled Midgar. Square did an amazing job characterizing her. We know she is a sweet flower girl from the slums who eventually needs help to get away from the Turks. We experience how she is loved by literally everyone within her sector to a point where people make comments to her as she walks down the street. Aerith is incredibly selfless to a point where she has to translate the concept of kindness to Cloud. In return Cloud experiences some sort of emotion besides dull, pent-up aggression. She is more dimensional, she feels more real and impactful on the environment around her. If you played the original game, you know what happens, and building her character up more just makes you think about that possible scene and the wave of anticipation that instantly overcomes you when you see the quick flashback of the materia hitting the ground. Her role in this game is paramount in comparison to almost any other character. She even says a kind of meta style line, “Don’t fall in love with me” to Cloud. Aerith is the true lynchpin to the progression of the story, despite the Cloud storyline.
Supporting characters like Biggs, Wedge, and Jesse are all wonderful in their own little way. Wedge is trying to do the right thing, Jesse is super thirsty for Cloud. We don’t really know a lot about Biggs, to be honest. The game doesn’t dive too much into him, so when his expected death came, I didn’t know how to feel. I felt genuinely bad about Jesse because we really got to learn a lot about her. She was a failed actress who turned rebel. She has a father who was poisoned by mako, and that caused her to spiral out of acting. Wedge like cats and is somehow invulnerable.
Hojo takes the spotlight as a mad scientist who has several cards up his sleeve. His maniacal behavior really makes you love to hate him. Add on to the fact that he has this wicked sneer on his face and constantly looks sweaty all of the time, creates a very solid character that promises to have a truly large impact on the story going forward.
Don Corneo is another supporting character that is just as sleezy as they come. I didn’t think they could make him more intolerable, but the crazy folks at Square managed to do it. Everything from his haircut to his lavish lifestyle, his misogynistic and “holier than thou” attitude, it all just lends itself to create this incredibly sordid character. Like Hojo and many of the antagonists of this story, you just love to hate him.
I discussed how there are many changes in the plot of the game, but the interesting thing is how these segments really come together. What you experienced in the original is still here, but just a tiny bit different. The infamous scene where Cloud has to put a dress on in order to sneak into Don’s home is a rather large change in the game. Instead of running around and getting a bunch of pieces to put together the optimal dress, you are actually competing for an endorsement. You have to fight in the new Wall Market coliseum, then go to the Honeybee Inn and take part in a dance, and so on. When everything is said and done, you complete the rest of the scene as it was in the original game.
The path being different but with the same outcome is something that happens constantly in the game, and I cannot help but think that Square is tipping their hat towards me, or nudging me saying “Hey, remember that? Cool, huh?” This is strangely apparent when you fight the Hell House, which was just a regular monster in the original game. The Hell House becomes this special fight inside the coliseum. These little nods are cool and I welcome them. It’s a level of fan service that is easily rewarding for those that played the previous games and doesn’t alienate people who haven’t.
(EDIT 4/29/2020 – This is where I am making changes.)
Perhaps one of the largest changes, plot-wise is the presence of the Whispers. They are hooded, faceless ghosts that follow the party and act in the name of destiny and fate. At first I thought they were stupid and perhaps a metaphor for the shrilling fans of the series that wish to damn this game into oblivion. What they are is much more than just a plot device though. Their inclusion is thoughtful and opens the door to a new future of FF7.
The Whispers only appear when something diverges from the plot of the original game, and this is where your knowledge of the original game starts paying off. Scenes like where Jesse is going to bomb the second reactor in lieu of Cloud is met with a whisper knocking Jesse over causing her to break her ankle, forcing Cloud to go. They are attempting to preserve the status quo for some reason, and that reason is because they know how things will turn out, but so does someone else, and that person is Sephiroth.
The first thing that I was incredibly blind to was the constant appearance of Sephiroth, the legendary antagonist. He makes an appearance right away in this game, yet in the original you didn’t see him till much later, and didn’t fight him until the end. Sephiroth comes right out the gate swinging, talking to Cloud with a more personal flavor. This is because Sephiroth is an inter-dimensional time traveler who has seen the future and needs to change it for his personal benefit. What we are playing is just one of the timelines where he succeeds in getting Cloud to kill the embodiment of destiny and fate.
Aerith is also someone who knows what is going on She keeps the information tucked away until it becomes neccessary for the party to know what is going on. Little bits of her knowledge slips (possibly) unbeknownst to the player. When the plate begins to fall and she must go save Marlene, Aerith knows who she is before meeting her. In another instance late in the game, Aerith appears to Cloud in the middle of her garden. She says to him, “Don’t fall in love with me,” which is a foreboding comment if you are someone who has played the original game.
If this seems quite complex and possibly hard to follow or understand initially (as it was for me), it’s because Tetsuya Nomura is responsible for this remake. He is famously responsible for the convoluted story behind Kingdom Hearts. It explains the love for hooded figures and gigantic shadow monsters. It explains the reason why the ending can fly right over your head if you are not paying attention. The combat, the characters, the tone; it’s all because we have this subtle injection of Kingdom Hearts within our Final Fantasy. At times it works, and at other times I can feel the hands on the steering wheel starting to slip up but then instantly grab once the vehicle seems like it’s about to careen into a ditch.
Mix that with the message at the end about going into the unknown, and we have a fine concoction of the “whatever” emoji. The future of Final Fantasy 7 is going to be rewritten, and the worry I have is that it will slowly decay into obscurity. I know there is a chance that we can get something interesting and new, and that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that the next iteration of the game has a chance of being quite archaic. Tones can shift, things can and will most likely change. People will be up in arms and it puts Square in an interesting position. Will Square back out of killing important characters? We don’t know, and the fact that we don’t know is settling in with me slowly. Now I can be just as excited for something new. My expectations are subverted, and one part of me can’t wait to play the next part of this story.
Zach, a character that some players know nothing about, yet had his own game on the PSP called Crisis Core, is still alive. He is where Cloud got his signature buster sword from. We know that Zach is Aerith’s ex-boyfriend, so it will be interesting to see the possible love triangle. Or perhaps Zach going loose and taking it all out on Aerith. It is hard to tell where that plot will go, and it’s hard for me to think of a concept that makes sense. In the original game we also know that the story Cloud tells in Kalm is not the exact story we are all lead to believe. Cloud may have been there, but he was one of the soldiers who witnessed what happened, while all the events actually happened to Zach (for the most part).
Although, I do have a certain prediction when it comes to Barret. I feel like he will experience a slight breakdown when we get to Corel Prison, which used to be the town of Corel before it all went to hell. I could still see this being a scene, but instead of Barret’s friend Dyne surviving and becoming the leader of this prison area, it’s actually this reality’s Barret. Or perhaps that timeline’s Barret is dead, Marlene is still there and doesn’t recognize Barret, or something else. Although that will be hard to swing as we know that Jesse, Biggs, and Wedge are all still alive. Unless Dyne is the new leader of this sect of Avalanche. Who knows, all I can anticipate is Barret having a breakdown of epic proportions.
No matter what the outcome is, FF7R stands as a solid title. It is just unfortunate that we now have a company known for taking it’s time making games, delaying games, and changing things beyond our recognition. Will volume 2 still hold up? Will Square tarnish the name of Final Fantasy 7 while they attempt to suck it dry of everything that made it special? As I said before, I hope we get the next iterations sooner rather than later.