For a long time Final Fantasy 7 [FF7] has had a special place in my gamer heart. It was the first RPG that I had ever played, mainly because it was given to me by my best friend along with his Playstation. It was the first game that I beat without cheating, and also the first game that I bought a Gameshark for so that I could just mess around with the game. To say that I spent “some time“ with FF7 would be a massive understatement.
So, as you can imagine, I was over the moon when the first announcements were made about the game getting a full remake. I know that some of my fellow writers had the chance to play the demo back at PAX West, but I wanted to experience the new game through my fancy rose tinted glasses.
It’s very easy to point out the major changes to the game, like the graphics, the music quality, voice acting, the combat system…oh and of course there’s the fact that fingers exist in the game now.
Now, I’m certainly not the first one to point out these major changes for the remake. What I found to be more impressive is the more subtle changes between the two games. Afterall, it would be easy to just upgrade the graphics and slap a Definitive HD remake label onto the cover and call it a day – there would be people that would buy it for that alone.
What’s great is that hidden in these aesthetic improvements are numerous details of the overall world that you can appreciate – take, for example, just the first few minutes of the opening cutscene.
In the pan back where it shows the Midgar plate and all the city sectors, the city is under construction as expanding as someone would expect from a city during a tech boom. The original game had an entire sector still being constructed with plate extensions shooting off from the initial ring connecting the Mako reactors together. The remake still has that, but it gives off a much more organic feel to the construction. Rather than all the plate construction looking complete. Each new expansion is at different stages of build, with hills and valleys. So while the city has lost that sterile appearance it originally had, it still maintains the cruel uncaring appearance thanks to the slight modification of Aeris portion of the opening cinematic.
The boss fights are also a great improvement. In the original game, boss fights were mostly just slightly more difficult random encounters and level checks. If you failed, you just went back to a previous save point, grind XP until you were at a more comfortable level, and then try again.
The first boss fight of the FF7 remake signals a brave new world, and a fresh level of combat challenge. With more open movement and recognizable attack patterns from the boss, there is much more “action” sprinkled into this RPG. Indeed, with active blocking mechanics, dodging, and this broader battlefield design, it is slightly reminiscent of The Game Which Shall Not Be Named.
After beating the tank, I actually exhaled from the challenge before the realization of ‘That was the introduction boss fight’ sunk in and I had that strange mix of excitement and apprehension of needing to fight progressively more difficult fights. Imagine fighting Emerald or Ruby weapons in this format…exciting!
Finally, with the new remake we finally get to add voices to the characters of our childhoods. With these voices, the tone of the game is more effectively changed. Before we only had Barrett’s rant in the elevator in text form, and combined with the overacting that the sprite needed to do in order to try and convey the tone of the story, it came across somewhat comically and Barrett’s characterization suffered because of it.It definitely didn’t help that he was easily compared to Mr. T from the A team for what he was doing, but thankfully he’s now the raving lunatic that believes the planet is being bled to death like he’s always wanted to be.
So while the game boasts a wide array of improvements from the base game, I found much more excitement in the smaller changes that some of us may not have noticed. After all, it’s easy to take a game from the late 90’s and add a tone of polish to it and make it look nice. But it’s also important that you go back and add back in the important details that deserved to be in the game the first time that the technology, budget or even time didn’t allow people to do back then. I’m excited out of my brain for when the game gets released on April 10th and get to replay my favorite RPG, hopefully the way the developers originally had intended.