Like any obsession, there is an entry point, a gateway, that took you from one side of the door to the other. From casual admirer to obsessive and addicted. For gamers, depending on when you started, that could be any number of games. It could be the first time you saw a young martial artist throw her thousand legs kick and wreck a colossal wrestler. Or maybe it was watching a plumber jump onto the head of a turtle and kick him into a bunch of walking mushrooms. Perhaps it was watching a fox pilot a starship or even a super-soldier hiding from enemy soldiers by jumping into a cardboard box. But if you played games in the late 90s, it’s hard to talk to anyone that doesn’t have nostalgia for the blonde-haired mercenary and his ragtag group facing a corporation. While it was the seventh in the franchise, Final Fantasy VII might as well be the first based on the impact it has had for the series as well for RPGs. So it only made sense that when news that this classic was being remade gamers young and old were excited. Here are a few spoiler-free reasons why you should pick up the remake.
New Battle System
While the turn-based battle system of “you go, I go,” was status quo when the original came out, in today’s microwave culture even the most beautifully designed fights would seem like dog-paddling in taffy to today’s armchair adrenaline junkie. So the new system has evolved much like the game has and takes more of the system from Final Fantasy XV with a real-time system with turn-based elements. You can still attack, block, and dodge by pressing the desired button, but other actions like magic, items, and such will depend on the action bar filling up and you going into Tactical Mode and choosing an action. For those who really have the attention span of a fruit fly, there is also an option to bypass the choices by making them shortcuts ala Kingdom Hearts.
This does come with some drawbacks, albeit slight. Camera is really the biggest one as when you are in action, or switching to another character, or just how you position yourself, you won’t be able to see enemies. While this doesn’t sound like a significant issue, it becomes pretty annoying when these characters can attack you just as freely as you can attack them.
Filling in the Gaps
If you’re a Final Fantasy fan, be it you played it with all the lore and cosplays and fan fiction or just love the characters, especially of VII, you wouldn’t think there were any gaps to fill. But the truth is, while the original was a fantastic game, there was still a lot left to the imagination. For all the characters and battle sequences –and at the moment groundbreaking design– there were gaping holes in the story and of the characters. And this is where the remake really stands out. In the original, Avalanche was a heroic eco-terrorist group looking to save the future. In the remake and perhaps more in line with today’s sensibilities, the line between hero and terrorist are more blurred. While the original’s straight forward narrative made Avalanche, Cloud, and his eventual friends –the obvious good guys– and Shinra the evil corporation, we get to see how the actions of Avalanche affect the people. We understand the conflicts of their members and their ideology. We get to see the fan-favorite Tifa go from just badass cutesy to a full character. Avalanche stalwarts Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie get to say why they are taking on the fight, what motivates them, and it’s not in long soliloquies that were skipped through but real dialogue. Even Cloud evolves through the game, and we learn what makes him ultimately care. Watch any movie where a character turns sides, and there is always the one person who brings up that betraying one’s country, team, army whatever is a big thing. It’s not just something that happens. So it’s great that they explore what brings Cloud through the change from Ex-Soldier, to Mercenary to champion of the people.
A Whole Different Game
While the game is being touted as a remake, it might be better labeled as a reboot as there are significant changes to the story and the way things happen. In a conversation with Hip Hop Wired’s Bernard Smalls, FF 7 remake producer Kitase said, “…focus on the portion of the story up to the escape from Midgar, allowing us to avoid omitting any important scenes and to expand on the original by going deeper into the world and characters than before. Effectively it would be a new game with an emphasis on creating a realistic presentation with substance.” Playing through the game, you are pleasantly surprised with the new additions to the game as well as the familiar. But not so familiar that you feel like you are replaying the game with just better graphics like the recent Modern Warfare 2 Remaster. This is more reimagined and retooled, which has given new players an excellent game and past players a unique experience and new things to enjoy about an icon.
Time spent on a game is to some gamers a badge of honor. Grinding for the best weapons, all the armor, searching every nook and cranny of the map, and obtaining that platinum trophy or whatever it’s called for you Xboxers (by the way, did I mention FF 7 remake is PS4 exclusive for a year?). The original was a massive game, and the remake seems to be prepared to eclipse that with it being told in multiple parts. The first release will take place primarily in Midgar, with the rest of the story being told in subsequent releases. But don’t fret, each release is slated to be a full game just released in different parts. A risky proposition for Square Enix gambling on the attention span of gamers and on the eve of a new game system being released, but it also could lock players in like the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings trilogies.
Timing is Everything
Timing for Final Fantasy VII is a significant benefit. Right now, we are amid mass amounts of people stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Who doesn’t need a distraction? And this distraction doesn’t come in the ultra-violent type that can be some of the FPS games or a story that hits almost too close to home like Resident Evil or The Division. I play both, and FF7 was a welcomed respite from having to meditate after playing the other games when a reference was too spot-on for today’s world. And while there is some timeliness in the new deeper dive into the characters, primarily climate change and economic disparity, there is also hope, a budding love story, laughs, fun, and beauty.
Also, the game, adding in the side missions, doing some exploring, etc… I spent a little over 40 hours in-game. While that can be on the low side for an installation of Final Fantasy, I think it’s perfect for the 7th addition. It gives you replayability without feeling like you are undertaking a herculean feat. It also leaves you satisfied but still wanting more, like you played a full game, and you enjoyed it, got your money’s worth, but you are pumped for the next one.