Ok so it’s been less than 24 hours since I completed Final Fantasy 7 Remake and I still cannot understand what, why and how Square Enix decided to go the route they are going with the ending.
For a bit of context, let’s go back to 1997. When Final Fantasy 7 came out, it very quickly became my number one game of all time. I would say ever since, only Mass Effect 2 has really come close to beating it. I’ve divulged in all the media that came afterwards with the movies, the anime, the spin off game et al. I am literally a Final Fantasy 7 fanboy.
Then, that fateful E3 in 2005 came when Sony showed off a technical demo of the opening of Final Fantasy 7 using the PS3 hardware and since then, a cry for a remake was born, not just from me but from a lot of fans.
Since 2005 speculation was rife that a remake was coming and that speculation was sequentially stamped out and then raised up again year after year until finally, in 2015, Sony confirmed that a Remake for Final Fantasy 7 was in development.
Since then it’s been a wild ride. We went through nearly 2 years of no news, a studio change and then trailers and development updates started coming thick and fast. Fast forward to April 2020 and the game was finally released.
There was a huge caveat to this remake though. As the scope of the original was so large, Square Enix decided to do the remake in parts in order to add to the story and make it accessible to modern audiences. This meant that the first part of the remake concentrated only on the Midgar section which, in the original game was hardly like 10 percent of the the whole story. Square Enix took that 10 percent and made a 30 hour game out of it.
|The original game released in 1997|
So the good news is we got the remake, the bad news is it’s going to take years before we can play out the full story. Or so we all thought, as it turns out, we may not be playing the original story like we initially were lead to believe.
Now, after waiting 15 years, I have played the remake and completed it and instead of being overjoyed at the first part of a remake of my favourite game of all time, I’m incredibly conflicted as to how I feel about this whole remake and if it even should have happened at all.
STORY & GAMEPLAY
So, in terms of plot, if you have never played the original game, Final Fantasy 7 is based around a character called Cloud Strife who has a complex history with an evil corporate energy company called Shinra. Shinra are ripping the plant of natural resources for profit and energy and this is made apparent in the city of Midgar which is a dense metropolis built in layers. Those at the top are the rich, those in the bottom layers are the poor. Cloud and his friends want to change that and make Shinra pay for what they are doing to the planet. This is essentially the start of the plot but more gets added as you play through such as the reveal of the eventual main antagonist and possibly the most legendary video game character of all time, Sephiroth.
After around 10 hours in, I was overjoyed with the game. The combat was slick, fluid and didn’t take away too much from the original. The characters were incredibly fleshed out and the new content and script added to their development a hundred fold. I was very happy with the direction that the developers went with the game. Also, with the exception of some very odd texture popping and Clouds mouth animation being very janky, the game looks incredibly beautiful and there were a lot of times I simply stopped to admire the view.
The plot stuck with the original game with some embellishments and slightly nuanced changes that didn’t effect or change the main story and these were changes that I was happy with.
The pacing is done very well and you never felt things are going too fast or too slow at any point. There were worries of what Square Enix would have to do in order to make this a fully fleshed out game just in Midgar but they did it incredibly well.
As you progress through the linear story, you come across hub areas disguised as towns in the slums and these areas are “open” enough to provide side quests for you to complete and items to collect. There are 3 of these areas in total, Sector 7 slums, Sector 5 slums and Wall Market. Towards the end after Sector 7 is destroyed, you have some final side quests to complete that cover all remaining hubs and you are able to fast travel to each area using a Chocobo carriage service.
The side quests themselves are pretty non-offensive but you do find some filler in there. For example one quest was to help a little girl find her 3 cats. This consists of Cloud literally running around Sector 7 on the lookout for cats until Tifa mentions she can hear a cat and you go up to it and press triangle.
There are also some quests that help the main story too and you will also get some decent gear and Gil (the in game currency) for completing them. As I said, they are inoffensive and are fairly cookie cutter quests which you can complete quickly so won’t take too much of your time.
Another new aspect of the game is the battle system. This can be divisive but I found it to be very easy to get used to and after a few hours, I was swiftly hacking and slashing and giving commands to my party members smoothly, setting up a chain of attacks in quick succession. Talking of hack and slash, there is a tendency to just mash square here which gets the job done for smaller battles but can get tedious and repetitive but when it comes to boss battles, that’s where the new battle system truly shines.
Summons have also changed drastically from the original game. You can now only summon once in battle and that summon stays with you for a period of time enabling you to command it to do special moves just like anyone else in your party. Once the Summons time is up, it will then perform its signature move and peace out.
Combining the Summon changes with the new dynamic flow of battle, the combat system is surprisingly deep and tactical when it needs to be despite looking like a hack and slasher on steroids which is a great evolution of the original turn based strategy mechanic of the original game.
If you stretch it long enough you can easily get 40 hours and more from the game and despite the whole story being contained in Midgar. You still get some very deep world building and character development with not just the usual crew but with new characters as well.
OK so in conclusion, the game plays great, looks great and for fans of the original they will be relatively happy.
However, this ending is something I need to vent about so again, some very heavy spoilers ahead, only read on if you have finished the game or don’t care about getting spoiled!
As the story wraps up in Midgar, concluding with the bike chase sequence, all seems well and basically in line with the original story.
BUT, right towards the end, there is a huge twist involving alternative timelines and retconning events from the original game and even the prequel PSP game Crisis Core. Final Fantasy 7 Remake becomes very meta very quickly and I do not know how to deal with this.
At the start of the game, when you meet Aerith for the first time, a new plot addition quickly makes its presence with the appearance of hooded flying beings that turn up at pivotal points of the game and either help you or hinder you. Well it turns out that these beings are called Whispers who are arbiters of fate and they are trying to ensure that the events of the original game happen. But as Cloud and the team start seeing visions of what happens in the original game with the meteorite, Aerith dying etc.they decide to ensure that that outcome doesn’t happen and essentially defeat fate which now means they are no longer tied to their fates from the original game.
Yes you read that right. Square Enix have basically given themselves an in game plot device in order to retcon the story and basically do whatever the hell they want going forward.
The two biggest moments here are Sephiroth killing Barrett but the Whispers saving him as Barrett wasn’t supposed to die at the hands of Sephiroth in the original game. Like I said, very meta.
Another absolutely huge and possible universe changing moment is a flashback to Zack and his final battle from the Crisis Core game. Zack is facing off against Shinra soldiers where he eventually meets his end. With Cloud in the current timeline fighting the Whispers and defeating them, the flashback shows that Zack DOESN’T die and survives the ambush. He grabs an injured Cloud and heads on to Midgar.
Now if you know the backstory of Zack and Cloud you would know this is absolute madness as Zack dying was the sole basis of Clouds character and why he is how he is. So not having Zack die is a huge deal whether that’s on the timeline that remake Cloud is in or a different one altogether.
And Sephiroth. Perhaps one of gamings biggest ever characters. He was IN this remake. It wasn’t subtle, he was there from the start and the end. In fact, the final battle with Sephiroth at the end of the Remake is the same battle you have with him at the end of the original game. So how Square Enix are intending for the ending of the whole remake story to go down now is anyone’s guess.
My issue with the ending other than this excuse to retcon the story is this; they are obviously tailoring the story to ensure Aerith doesn’t die anymore like she does in the original game and also, the twist and fate and destiny stuff seems to come out of nowhere and completely throws off the pace and direction of the game.
The end title card literally says “The Unknown Journey Will Continue” which is basically Square Enix telling players that events as you know them will not unfold as you think they will and now all of us are unaware of what will happen next.
I feel sorry for newcomers as the game gives you no indication as to who Zack and even Sephiroth are so you are left to guess. Suffice it to say, you will definitely need to play the Original game if you want to play this without too much confusion.
I will probably go more into the ending via a video but after 30 hours of absolutely loving the game and the nostalgia and call backs and thoroughly enjoying myself, I now have no idea what to feel about this remake.
Square Enix have consistently said that the general story will stay the same and to be fair, that’s still true at the moment despite the alternative timeline nonsense. The real test and confirmation of where the developers are heading with the remake will be when the next part comes out and that will most likely be years from now so we will have a long wait.
In the meantime, if you have never played Final Fantasy 7 before, I implore you to play the original first before taking on the remake. Also, Crisis Core on the PSP is an excellent prequel laying down all the history between Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth.