Culture Feature

How "Final Fantasy VII: Remake" Redefines What a "Remake" Can Be

Final Fantasy VII: Remake is mindblowingly meta.

Square Enix

Between the constant revivals of classic franchises and the endless sequels to anything and everything we've ever loved, pop culture of the modern era reeks of soulless cash grabs perfumed in cheap nostalgia.

But amidst an endless sea of crap, Final Fantasy VII: Remake is a different beast entirely. Despite Final Fantasy VII's status as one of the most beloved video games to ever exist, FFVII: Remake isn't content with simply leeching off its title. Rather, this is a rare remake that aims to add metatextual value to the original and, at the same time, justify its own existence. In doing so, FFVII: Remake doesn't just redefine the original FFVII; it redefines what a remake can be.

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Nintendo Switch Games to Play in Quarantine While You Wait for the Next Day in "Animal Crossing"

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Considering the massive Nintendo Switch shortage (that's still going on months into quarantine!), there's also a decent chance that you bought the console specifically to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But as anyone who has logged 300 plus hours into the game already knows, you eventually reach a point where you've done practically everything you can possibly do on your least until the next day.

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The "Final Fantasy VII Remake" Demo Is Pure Joy

With fresh gameplay, Final Fantasy VII Remake looks great and plays great.

Square Enix

There's a certain surrealism inherent to playing the demo of a game that you've been doggedly following for five years.

Going into the demo for Final Fantasy VII Remake, I knew exactly what to expect—After all, the demo was first playable at E3 2019, and videos of second-hand playthroughs have been on YouTube ever since. I knew that the demo covered Cloud's first mission alongside Barret and the eco-terrorist group, Avalanche. I knew that I'd get to slash the sh!t out of some Shinra goons. I knew that a giant metal scorpion waited for me at the Mako reactor's core.

But as the opening cinematic—which I'd already watched at least ten times—came to a close, I still could hardly believe it when the camera lingered on Cloud instead of skipping me to another YouTube video. After five years of actively waiting, at long last I was actually playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake cloud Square Enix

For a solid three minutes, I ran Cloud around in circles, wildly swinging the Buster Sword in the air. Each thrust had a nice weight to it. In shoddier ARPGs (action role-playing games), weapons tend to feel weightless, so it's always a good sign when your character's giant, heavy sword actually feels like a giant, heavy sword.

Eventually, I decided it was time to move on from the empty corner I started in and proceed with the mission. In a larger sense, the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo is clearly designed as a gameplay tutorial for people who are already familiar with the franchise. While it gives some helpful insights into Final Fantasy VII's sprawling story (and even fleshes out a plot point from the original), the demo's primary focus is throwing enemies at Cloud and teaching you how to mow them down. That was definitely the right call.

Pretty much everybody who is even mildly familiar with video games already knows that Final Fantasy VII has one of the most beloved narratives in the history of the medium. So the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo doesn't need to sell the promise of a narrative—It needs to sell fresh gameplay that sets the reimagining apart from the 1997 original beyond just incredibly updated graphics.

Thankfully, the Final Fantasy VII Remake combat system plays phenomenally, blending modern ARPG combat with more classic JRPG elements like a real-time, menu-based system for magic, specials, and items. The resulting system feels incredibly distinct and entirely new, yet so obviously inspired by the original.

Better yet, even at its simplest, there's an inherent complexity to the gameplay that will almost certainly deepen and expand with the addition of Materia, summons, and new party members in the larger game. One of my biggest worries going into Final Fantasy VII Remake was that it would feel more like a generic hack-and-slash than a Final Fantasy game, but the demo puts all those fears to rest—This is a game that looks great and plays great.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Barret Square Enix

One of my favorite parts of the demo was stepping into Barret's shoes. As cool as it is to swing the Buster Sword willy nilly, I've played as Cloud in everything from Super Smash Bros. to Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring on PlayStation 1. Firing a slew of bullets from Barret's machine gun arm felt like a fresh experience and, most surprisingly, his ranged gameplay flowed perfectly with Cloud's close combat style.

Switching between characters with such distinct play styles can oftentimes lead to a sense of dissonance, but the Final Fantasy VII Remake battle system manages to feel cohesive whether you actively switch characters or just stick to one and dish out commands. In fact, there's so much variety to the potential gameplay tactics that the 45-minute demo actually has a substantial amount of replay value.

Thus far, I've only played the demo once, but I have a feeling that I'll be spending a lot more time with it before Final Fantasy VII Remake's full launch on April 10th. The only thing more exciting than a game with a story I love is a game that compounds a great story with a great gameplay system, too. Final Fantasy VII Remake is shaping up to be the whole package, and after so many years of anticipation, it actually seems to be worth the wait.

New "Final Fantasy 7 Remake" Trailer Makes It Hard to Decide Whether You Should Cheer or Cry

From Red XIII to Cross-Dressing Cloud to the best Nobuo Uematsu theme song in ages, the newest FF7 Remake trailer has everything.

Square Enix

To say that Final Fantasy fans are hyped for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake would be the understatement of the century.

The newest Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer is a master class in video game marketing, hitting literally every note that a fan could ask for in preparation for the game's long-awaited April 10th release. But first, some history:

The original Final Fantasy VII, which came out for Playstation 1 in 1997, was a generation-defining game. For many kids growing up in the '90s, Final Fantasy VII was their first exposure to a truly epic story-based game, a 40+ hour experience that played out across three entire discs. Combining cinematic visuals, deep gameplay mechanics, and unforgettable story beats, Final Fantasy VII captivated imaginations and solidified JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) as a go-to genre in the Western hemisphere.

Not everything stands the test of time, though. While the original Final Fantasy VII's game play and narrative are still just as rich as ever, its visuals are not nearly as impressive in 2020 as they were in 1997, with the polygonal in-game character models frequently positioned as the butt of ridicule within the gaming community. That's not to say the polygon models don't have a certain charm (they absolutely do), but it's impossible to detach affection from nostalgia.

Regardless, if any game in the history of the medium has ever deserved a modern update, it's Final Fantasy VII. So, when after nearly a decade of fan demand, the Final Fantasy VII Remake was officially announced at E3 2015 with a gorgeous cinematic trailer, it seemed impossible for excitement to grow higher. Unlike many modern updates to classic games, Final Fantasy VII Remake wasn't just set to be a prettier re-skin, but rather an entirely new game built from the ground up.

It's been five long years of waiting since then––a relatively long time for game development––but anticipation has only continued to mount. Ramping up to the game's launch over the past year, Square Enix has slowly rolled out trailers revealing everything from new gameplay elements to updated designs of beloved characters like Tifa, Aerith, and Sephiroth. Each trailer has evoked the same response: "How could this possibly get any better?"

Red XIII Square Enix

Now, this newest trailer answers that question once again: "Like this."

The new trailer introduces us to many of the members of the Shinra Electric Power Company, the corrupt megacorporation responsible for much of the sociopolitical oppression in the world of Final Fantasy VII. We get the first official reveal of fan favorite character Red XIII, the talking lion-like creature who Cloud and co. rescue from the Shinra lab. We get the promise of fresh storylines with Roche, a new character who seems to view Cloud as a rival. We get summon clips of Leviathan and Chocobo. We even get an extended clip of cross-dressing Cloud, one of the original game's sillier story beats that many fans worried wouldn't translate well into the modern era. And more surprising than its inclusion, it actually seems to work within a progressive context, with Cloud's makeup artist saying, "True beauty is an expression of the heart. A thing without shame, to which notions of gender don't apply."

Oh, and let's not forget legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu's new theme song for the game. "Hollow," with its downbeat tune and haunting vocals by Yosh from the band Survive Said The Prophet, imbues the entire trailer with a deep sense of sad nostalgia––a feeling that any fan of the original game will recognize as emotionally spot-on.

After every new Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer, it's hard to say whether the proper response should be cheering or crying. But that's the beauty of this game, just like its predecessor in 1997. We can do both.