I’ve been talking a lot about the Final Fantasy VII Remake. To be more specific, I’ve been focusing a lot on how different characters are expanded upon in this entry, to drive home something of a point. While changing up the combat and increasing the scope in Midgar are major points of this installment, so is showing how much certain characters matter. But there’s one person who, well, doesn’t really get as much attention, even though he’s a major party member. The Final Fantasy VII Remake Barret portrayal does offer more, but at the same time isn’t giving the same insights as it does for characters like Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, or even the Turks. Instead, it feels more like it is bracing people for the sequel.
Editor’s Note: There will be Final Fantasy VII Remake spoilers up until Avalanche heads for Shinra’s headquarters. There will also be references to what happened in Final Fantasy VII.
While I like Barret in general, especially after beating the game, most of Final Fantasy VII Remake emphasizes only a few things about him. He’s brash, he’s loud, and he’s militant. He only has one volume and he only sees one side of things. If you’re not with him, you’re against him. It is a lot to take in a game where we’re immediately seeing sides of Cloud that have us realizing he’s more anxiety-ridden and awkward than cold and detached and have a Tifa who genuinely wants the best for people and is struggling with the negative effects Avalanche’s missions will have.
The fact that he’s also not the most effective party member hurts him. He’s not bad, and people who arm him with the right weapons, builds, and materia could see him perform well in fights and in Corneo’s Colosseum. But he’s in an awkward place. Cloud is an obvious all-rounder. Tifa is an incredible powerhouse who can be devastatingly brutal in fights. Aerith is 100% your mage. Barret could, initially, feel like he’s there for chipping away at an enemy, providing magic-based attacks and support, and hitting things occasionally out of Cloud and Tifa’s reach. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people didn’t figure out how to most effectively build him up until they were forced to use him after the plate falls.
Which brings up an important element of the Final Fantasy VII Remake Barret portrayal in general. Things don’t kick off for him until after the plate falls. That’s when the real repercussions begin to hit him. The first time he really started to matter to me in this retelling is when Cloud, Barret, and Tifa hit the ground and all he can think about is what’s happened to Marlene. The moment is etched in my memory, because even though he’s still brash and loud Barret, the impact of losing everyone in that moment is palpable. There’s no bravado, just agony. When Cloud brings up that Aerith likely took care of her and took her to her home in the Sector 5 Slums, Barret’s response stands out.
“Tell me she is! Give me something to hang on to! Even if she’s not. I won’t blame you for it, I swear! Who am I kidding. I’d probably try to tear your head off.”
It’s in that moment that we’re seeing more motivation to Barret’s actions than the Avalanche line of “trying to save the planet.” It’s the first glimpse of things getting really personal for him. Which, for me, made it easier to understand why we have this constant freight train of energy and momentum with us. Once the plate falls, we start seeing Barret’s heart.
Which makes sense, because Square Enix was likely in a difficult place when preparing Barret’s portrayal in Final Fantasy VII Remake. In the original game, most of the characters had their major moments outside of Midgar. While it was possible to lend more weight to characters like Tifa, it just… wasn’t for Barret. All of his backstory comes into play once you reach the western continent and head to the Gold Saucer area. It’s only once you learn about his life in Old Corel that everything is revealed.
So instead, it feels like Final Fantasy VII Remake is building things up for Barret. There are hints about what he’s fighting for throughout, sure. Once we hit that point of no return, his raw emotions are exposed. But it’s only once we’re inside Shinra that we hear how once he almost fell for it and have hints of what he’d lost. While it can be a little disappointing as a result, because we’re seeing all of these other characters get so much more nuance, for Barret it’s more like things are building up and preparing us for more.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is available for the PlayStation 4.