After 15 years of speculation, teasing, announcing, cancelling, delaying, hurrying, confirming, deconfirming, and a ton of confusion, the Final Fantasy 7 Remake has finally released. Is it everything that longtime fans of the game have been dreaming of?
Chapter 0: A Note From the Author
My dad was a huge RPG fan growing up, with the Final Fantasy series holding many of his favorites in the genre. He owned every mainline game available on the PS1 (Anthology, 7, 8, 9) as well as a copy of the criminally underrated Chrono Cross, and if we went to my grandpa’s house and found my dad’s collection of SNES and NES games, we would find copies of other classic RPG titles, including Final Fantasy 6 (my dad’s favorite in the series, which he will only refer to as the North American title Final Fantasy 3), Chrono Trigger, and maybe even a Mana game or two.
Due to his influence and collection of Final Fantasy games available, I quickly found my way into the world of Midgar. I loved the idea of having a huge sword on my back and running around with some dude who decided the best replacement for his missing hand was a gun, some sentient red wolf-cheetah thing, and some lady who punches so hard that it could bring down machines. I absolutely loved Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 with all of the lore and life it breaths into the world of Final Fantasy 7.
One of my long time friends and I initially bonded over videos of Final Fantasy 7 animations and Advent Children clips dubbed over with Skillet songs or funny audio. We would theorize about the world and when we thought the sequel or remake would come out. That friendship eventually branched out from there, and Talon is still a good friend to this day!
I was extremely excited for this release, buying a PS4 a few weeks ago so I could play this game when it releases, rather then next year when it hit Xbox. I harassed my local Wal-Mart customer service to try and get them to release it before street date like I had seen many other stores across the nation had done. I was bouncing with nervous, but excited energy when I got off work and got to sit in my chair at home, but then had to wait for the 30 minute download off the data disc.
For the integrity of this review, I decided to review this game as if it is not a remake, but rather a completely new game with absolutely no source material. In the conclusion part of this review, I will bring up bits and pieces of the original game and see how they were altered and weigh it’s impact and whether or not it was for the better. I’ll also bring it up in the introduction for context, and maybe a little bit for the dramatics.
Also part of this review will include spoiler but all of those are in the section is separate from the rest of the review and clearly marked.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Things were very different for gaming back in 1997.
In 1997, turn based combat was still the norm for RPGs, top down maps were on the way and games were utilizing fixed camera angles to create 3-D worlds on the extremely limited hardware of the time. Sprites and 2-D art was out, polygons and character models were in. Sega was still in the console business with the Sega Saturn and was just a year out from releasing the Dreamcast.
Square Enix, which was still just Square at this time, sat alone atop the mountain of RPG publisher, with companies like Atlus and Bethesda just getting started, and far removed from the juggernauts they would become today. Dragon Quest was such a massive series in Japan that any time one of the series installments came out, the country would have to essentially stop due to the amount of people taking time off or calling out of work to play the game. The Final Fantasy series was growing in popularity with every release, and the Mana series was so vastly different and interesting that it was sure to explode in popularity.
1994 had seen the release of Final Fantasy 6 on the Super Nintendo/Famicom, a game that would change the way storytelling and writing was done in video games, and 1995 had seen Chrono Trigger blow the minds of criitcs and players alike. Nintendo had been Square’s exclusive publisher during the 80s and early 90s, making the NES and SNES the go to consoles for RPG gaming and giving Nintendo a step on Sega in the true console war.
But 1997 would change everything, because Nintendo would make a series of devastating mistakes.
The Nintendo 64 console was a huge step forward in gaming, opening the door into 3D gaming and ultimately paving the way for modern gaming. The console would single-handedly birth and develop the 3D platformer genre, as well as breath new life into some of the most iconic and memorable series of all time. The console was great for Nintendo and it’s first party developers.
The same console was terrible for third party developers and shows in the amount of third party titles available on the system. Nintendo’s refusal to upgrade to discs and keep using cartridges limited the amount of space available for game development, and Nintendo’s controller for the N64 was a nightmare to plan for. Third party developers were abandoning Nintendo completely, with Konami and Square being among the biggest losses suffered.
This could not have come at a worse time either, with the console market seeing the introduction of a new contender: Sony’s Playstation.
The Playstation was a technical marvel for the time: it used discs rather then cartridges, it’s Dualshock controller was universally praised and is the model for almost all modern controllers, the processing power allowed for faster and more complex ventures into gaming. The price point was a little steep at the time, but the Playstation was in plenty of households across the US and Japan that it made the console viable for massive releases.
In 1997, Square used that platform to release their biggest title to date, a title that would forever change the way the west perceived the gaming industry of the east; Final Fantasy 7.
Directed by the visionary and legendary Yoshinori Kitase (Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger), FF7 was a complete 180 for the series: where the previous games had used sprites and pixel art, FF7 used 3-D models and polygon, allowing for better animation and more expressive movement; where the previous games had used top down maps, FF7 used fixed cameras and gorgeously drawn area to give the world more detail and seem larger; where the older games were fantasy based and existed in a D&D-esque world, FF7 was a science fiction title, with just a few fantasy elements sprinkled in. The static battle screens of the previous titles was replaced with sweeping camera shots, showcasing the new animations and 3-D character models. There was so much data in the game, that the game had to be spread across four discs, which would have equated to somewhere around 20 or 30 SNES cartridges at the lowest.
The Final Fantasy series had been growing in popularity since it’s debut on the NES in 1987, but with the release of Final Fantasy 7, the series would be elevated from it’s cult status amongst gamers to a juggernaut that would command the RPG genre through the rest of 90s and the 2000s. Final Fantasy 7 would inspire media and art long after it’s release, and see the release of countless sequels, prequels, movies, and spinoffs.
23 years later, that legacy remains, but it’s effect on media and gaming have long since been surpassed.
Square Enix’s reign on top of the RPG genre is coming to a close, if not over entirely. The Final Fantasy series has dwindled not just in popularity, but also in quality, and the most impressive title the series has had in about a decade is a MMORPG. Storytelling in games has progressed significantly and so has game journalism and criticism, forcing games to bigger and better (or have a larger budget for marketing like Game Freak). The entirety of 1997 games can be played on cell phones that everyone has in their pockets, while modern consoles are comparable to the super computers of the late 90’s.
Square Enix asked themselves how they could capitalize most appropriately on the current state of gaming, aiming for a massive project that could shake up the current landscape in gaming media. With their lack of success recently developing new projects, they shifted their focus to their historic past and immediately settled on an obvious answer. Remaking the masterpiece of the 90’s – Final Fantasy 7.
Given to the mind behind the original character designs, Tetsuya Nomura, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has already shaped gaming history, with it’s massive marketing campaign and launch breaking countless records, despite battling against a worldwide pandemic and financial crisis. A timed Playstation exclusive, FF7R had millions of eyes on everyone of Sony’s “State of Play” livestreams just to catch another exclusive look at the title, and upon it’s release, had players flocking Wal-mart and Target and buy every copy on the shelf.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake was made to not only bring the legacy of the 90’s masterpiece to the modern era, but also help reestablish and rebuild FF7, and ultimately Square Enix’s, effect on modern media and gaming. The original game has aged very well in almost every way, but by updating and remaking it, Square Enix aimed to shed new light on the massive and beautiful world that Kitase envisioned 23 years ago.
Does the remake achieve those goals? Does Nomura do honor to Kitase’s masterpiece? Did Square Enix retake their spot on the throne?