With each new console generation, there are new accomplishments and developments that allow creators to do more with their games. Maybe they have more money or time to get things done. Perhaps a creation is less of a risk and can draw from new ideas to offer a different sort of experience than originally expected. Back in 1997, when Final Fantasy VII was first released, it was a feat for its time. It told a story that generations have fallen in love with and it holds up. With Final Fantasy VII Remake, we have a situation where Square Enix could return, reinvest in a proven entity, and perhaps create something that attempts to do more with the source material and create an experience that builds on it.
Now, before we get into this, this isn’t to say one version is better or worse. The original Final Fantasy VII and the first part of the remake each have different sorts of goals. I imagine it will be a game where people will likely love one over the other, but perhaps come to appreciate what the other does. With so many people from the original involved, as Kazushige Nojima is still its writer, Tetsuya Nomura one of its artists (and one of its directors), Nobuo Uematsu returning to compose, and the original other writer and director Yoshinori Kitase onboard as the producer, it feels like the creators got a chance to do more with a game important to them and many other people.
This comes through clearest when it comes to character portrayals. Final Fantasy VII did a great job of presenting people who stuck with players, even if they didn’t always get as much time or attention. But, there were also situations where both major and minor characters took time to develop and present an accurate assessment of who they are. Final Fantasy VII Remake, due to its focus on all escapades in Midgar, has the luxury of giving us better first, second, and third impressions of people.
Cloud’s stoic behavior and clipped responses in the original could paint him as arrogant or cold. Final Fantasy VII Remake paints a different picture even within his first chapter. His flashbacks to his past with SOLDIER show a haunted individual trying to keep things together and not let weaknesses show. His shifts in tone when Tifa is brought up by Jessie hint that people do matter to him. We can see he isn’t “emo,” as some might like to say. The additional narrative opportunities grant him and other major characters more nuance and depth.
Speaking of Jessie, this laser focus on one portion of the story allows her and other NPCs that qualify as “important” to actually matter. It always did seem a bit “off” in the original Final Fantasy VII for people who were trusted enough to join Avalanche on a bombing mission would largely… disappear. More time spent in Midgar means more moments with her, Biggs, and Wedge, getting to understand who they are as people and why they are there.
It’s also great at world building and offering a sense of scope. Final Fantasy VII did this too, of course. It presented us with a massive view of the city and how its unique sort of technology is interwoven into people’s lives. But we never spent as much time on the upper plates. We didn’t get to understand how people in each section lived. And, while we did spend time exploring the Sector 7 slums, it didn’t always feel like a place where hundreds or thousands of people were all living on top of each other.
Final Fantasy VII Remake, in its attempts to give people more to do and better set the stage so we see things happened over multiple days, rather than a briefer period, offers us chances to see more. We can catch nuances, such as seeing what sorts of phones the people use. We have a better idea of the different cars available. We see the different sorts of buildings on the upper and lower plates. There are people constantly roaming about and ambient conversations providing context even if we don’t have chances to actually talk with people.
There are differences between Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake, more than people may be able to even review on an initial playthrough. Even if you speed through it, you’ll come away with a deeper impression of these versions of the characters, Midgar, and the groups interacting with one another. I feel like it doesn’t feel like something meant to replace our love for and memories of Final Fantasy VII. Rather, a feel it is a complement to it. Like even if it is years before we subsequent installments, that this does for Final Fantasy VII what Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII all accomplish. It helps with a compendium and a bigger picture. It lends more ambiance and insight into what Final Fantasy VII, as a whole, can be.
Final Fantasy VII Remake will come to the PlayStation 4 on April 10, 2020.