Final Fantasy 7 Remake Preview | Tactical Mode | Sound | Characters |
It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 23rd anniversary of the Japanese release of the original PlayStation classic, Final Fantasy VII. The monumental title that changed the world of RPGs by showing they could be more than just niche products set in fantasy worlds filled with elves and other fantastical creatures that flooded the genre since practically their inception.
Creator Square Enix, then Square Soft, had built up a prestigious pedigree with the previous six Final Fantasies for Nintendo on their Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo systems with Final Fantasy VI (released in the US as Final Fantasy III) being one of their most acclaimed titles at the time.
Around the time Nintendo was working on the successor to the SNES, the Nintendo 64, it would make sense that Square would continue to make another grand entry in the franchise for the system. In fact, there were videos of a work in progress of what the next game would look like utilizing 3D renditions of Final Fantasy VI characters with some changes to their looks. Yet, as we all know, the next entry would instead find its new home on Nintendo’s brand new rival, Sony and their PlayStation.
Because of Nintendo’s decision to stick with the more expensive cartridges, Square moved to the PlayStation as the system would utilize the CD-ROM format which offered various advantages from more data that could be stored to ease of production (supposedly, it would have taken 3-4 times as many cartridges to fit all of FFVII). In doing so, Square was able to fit the game onto three discs filled with huge worlds, a bombastic soundtrack composed by series regular Nobuo Uematsu, and CG full motion videos, a first for the franchise.
The game introduced us to the mercenary group AVALANCHE and some of its members: Cloud Strife, instantly recognized by his pointy blonde hair and giant Buster Sword he is able to somehow wield and spin with one hand, and Barret Wallace, a man with a gun for a hand who bore a striking resemblance to Mr. T before some redesigns. They are later joined after a failed bombing mission by party members Tifa Lockhart, a bartender and friend of theirs who prefers to let her fists do the talking against enemies, Aerith (or Aeris) Gainsborough, a flower girl Cloud runs into who is more than she seems, Red XIII (also known by his true name Nanaki), a red lion-like animal that was experimented by one of the antagonists from the game, Cait Sith, a robotic plush cat toy who rides a giant moogle-like creature, and Cid Highwind, a foul-mouthed airship pilot with a penchant for smoking.
In the game, players can also recruit two secret optional party members Yuffie Kisaragi, a ninja with sticky fingers, and Vincent Valentine, a brooding man with a mysterious past. They go up against a who’s who of villains including a wise-cracking, baton-wielding Reno and his stoic partner Rude, crazed scientist Hojo and his JENOVA experiments, and of course, the silver-haired wonder himself, Sephiroth and his instantly recognizable battle theme, “One-Winged Angel.”
Final Fantasy VII’s characters are some of Square Enix’s (and possibly gaming’s) most recognizable characters, often making various appearances in other Square properties especially the Kingdom Hearts franchise (funny enough what would be my introduction to and, in the case of Cloud, appearing as a playable fighter in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. games as DLC for the Wii U/3DS iteration and as an unlockable fighter in Switch’s Ultimate.
As stated earlier, Final Fantasy VII was a game changer (pun intended) as it is often cited as the game that brought role-playing games back into the mainstream. The game would be used as a standard for practically all the RPGs that followed it for years to come. That being said, while it is no doubt a classic and well-deserving of its praise...the game has definitely not aged well. That was my first thought when I played the game for the first time...far after its prime in the early 2010s.
As such, I unfortunately had played later games in the series that I felt improved upon the formula set in VII as well as not being so emotionally moved by a certain character’s demise. I do still understand that this game was a masterpiece...in 1997. Much like how I felt about Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I realize that while these games have their place in history and recognize their importance, I played far more refined games in their respective series that have made it a bit harder to go back to. Also, because it was the first game in the series to utilize 3D graphics, the graphics have unfortunately become extremely dated as well.
While they no doubt have their charm, the differences between the overworld 3D models versus the battle 3D models are a bit jarring especially when compared to the next entry Final Fantasy VIII which was able to keep the models practically the same between overworld and battle. If there is anything I believe that have stood the test of time is, not surprisingly, its music.
Yes, the midi tracks are no doubt a product of their time, Nobuo Uematsu’s ways of composing tracks and working with the limitations presented to him showed just how truly a skilled composer he is, and as such, there are reasons why most can instantly recognized the soothing piano and violins from “Aerith’s Theme” to the aforementioned bombastic final boss theme “One-Winged Angel” and its various uses throughout gaming.
Since its release, Final Fantasy VII would see various projects tied to its story and characters. These titles would be bundled under the name of Compilation of Final Fantasy VII and include the games Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (a prequel story featuring fan favorite Zack Fair released for the PlayStation Portable), Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII (another prequel story for mobile devices featuring the Turks, another mercenary group that worked with the villians from the main game), and Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus (a third person shooter featuring Vincent as the main character set three years after the game for the PlayStation 2).
It also includes the feature film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children set two years after the game and features followers of Sephiroth attempting to revive him and the OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII which features the destruction of one of the locations from the game, Nibelheim. And now, 23 years later, we will be returning to Midgar with Cloud and team in the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake for the PlayStation 4 (or at least, a timed exclusive for the PS4).
Rumors of the remake began around the time when the PlayStation 3 was announced. This was due to the existence of the Final Fantasy VII: Technical Demo for PS3 back at E3 2005. It showcased the opening cinematic up to the point where Cloud jumps off the train before ending.
For many fans, this began the endless questions about a possible remake on the PS3 and when it would come, yet it was just meant to show off the power of PS3 and would evolve into development for the divisive Final Fantasy XIII. Just over a decade later, the official announcement of Square Enix working on Remake came during E3 2015.
Since then, not much was said about the project for a few years, though this could have been due to Square working on not only the remake, but Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III as well, two games that were having their own elongated development hells. Also, the fact that director Tetsuya Nomura was working in some way on all three could have also been the reason for the long development times.
It was at E3 2019 when we got a new trailer announcing the release date: March 3, 2020. There would be three editions of the game fans could pre-order: the standard edition, a deluxe edition that included a soundtrack, artbook, and steelbook case, and a special collector’s edition dubbed “1st Class” in reference to Cloud’s rank in SOLDIER that includes the items in the deluxe edition but also has a PlayArts Kai figure of Cloud on his motorcycle, the Hardy Daytona, and is a Square Enix Store exclusive.
However, to many fans’ dismay, Final Fantasy VII Remake would be the first of many games to receive delay announcements this year. It and Square’s other project, Marvel’s Avengers, received delays with the former being pushed back to April 10th (placing it a week after the highly anticipated Resident Evil 3 Remake) and the latter being pushed to September 4th, a few weeks before another delayed, highly anticipated game, Cyberpunk 2077.
While not much is known yet, what we do know is that the remake will be a two-disc Blu-Ray game and Square Enix is splitting up the game making it episodic focusing mainly on story events happening in Midgar; this has been seen as a controversial move among games journalists and fans considering it will be a full priced game and the fact we do not know how many episodes Square Enix is planning on splitting this.
Of course, the graphics have seen a complete overhaul utilizing Unreal Engine 4, of which Square used for 2019’s Kingdom Hearts III, as well as seeing an overhaul to its battle system. Gone is the traditional turn-based style the original used and now the game uses a real time system much like Final Fantasy XV and the Kingdom Hearts series.
Also new is a “tactical mode” in which time slows down to allow players to select a special ability to use. Since it is a real time battle system, players get to control the characters directly. Also, players are able to switch between party members on the fly and utilize their unique traits, i.e. using Barret’s gun arm for long-ranged attacks and keep some distance between him and enemies.
The Materia augmentation returns as well with some small tweaks and leveling up Materia and skills up to maximum allows you to retain the skill even with the Materia unequipped. It is yet to be seen if there will be multiple weapons to equip as with the original game and if characters are shown wielding those weapons while equipped. Summons like Shiva and Ifrit are shown to be returning as well with some major tweaks; they are on a timer and fight alongside characters until time runs out in which they will perform their signature attacks and disappear from the battlefield.
Also, the secret optional characters Yuffie and Vincent have been confirmed that they will now be non-optional which will allow them to have more presence in the story as the story did not often recognize them unless they were in the active party, especially in the FMV cutscenes as it would have been very expensive to animate cutscenes featuring characters many players might never see. That being said, we do not know if and when they will show up in the first episode or if they will be saved for the later episode(s).
Original composer Nobuo Uematsu is returning as well to arrange and remix the classic tracks as well as create new tracks for the game, in fact, the new rendition of the battle theme “Let the Battles Begin!” is available to preview on the internet and I felt it sounds phenomenal; players and audiophiles will not be disappointed. That being said, there might be some parts of the audio side that players will have to get used to...the game will feature a brand new voice cast for the remake.
What is interesting is that just a year or so ago, Square released the next entry to the Dissidia series which featured series regulars Steve Burton, Rachel Leigh Cook, and George Newbern as Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth respectively who have voiced the characters for over a decade in various projects that featured them. That being said, the trailers that have featured English voice acting performances, while sounding a bit “anime” in some edits, they do not sound out of character and sound like what fans have become acquainted with over the years since they introduced voice acting to the VII characters.
With this over twenty year span between the original and remake, it will be interesting to see how Square is able to keep fans of the original happy while attempting to cater to new hopeful fans. I never considered Final Fantasy VII as one of my “favorite” Final Fantasies; it was always a game I thought was “okay” and that was way overhyped.
With the remake, I continue to be impressed by the strides Square has made to improve all of the aspects of the original. Am I upset that the game is being split up and being charged full price for them, a little bit, but considering it seems they are jamming quite a lot of story content into these episodes (remember, this is two whole Blu-Ray discs), I can forgive the price a little bit.
I just hope there are maybe only one or two more episodes, the latter of which would funnily enough match the number of discs the original had. Will it surpass my expectations and become one of my new favorite Final Fantasies and be placed among the likes of X, IX, and XIII (yes, I am one of the few that enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII), maybe. It has a lot to overcome since the VII fandom had nearly ruined the original game for me before I got around to playing it.
That being said, I am still looking forward for the remake and have my copy pre-ordered. If you want to experience the original before it comes out, now that you have an extra month to do so, you can always play the original PS1 classic on said system, the PS classic version available on PlayStation Network which is based off the original black label version (later rereleases would change the English script and censor swear words more often), the original PC version, an updated PC version available on Steam, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, XBox One, and even the Nintendo Switch, which finally sees the game that is famous for not being on a Nintendo console when released now return to the company that was instrumental to their success back in the 80s.
No matter what you choose, just be prepared to jump a simpler time in terms of game mechanics. If you can overcome a bit of a learning curve, there is a lot to enjoy (or hate) as you explore the game’s locations and discover all the hidden secrets it has to offer from all the minigames you can play to the various side-quests that usually result in very power weapons or items leading to super powerful summons. In any case, even if the original is not your cup of tea or you are more used to the real time action seen in later games, do at least give the remake a look.