Final Fantasy VII Remake May Have Won Me Over as a Non-Final Fantasy Person
While I've never had much of an emotional connection to the series, Final Fantasy VII Remake still managed to tug at nostalgic heartstrings.
Of all the games that are releasing in 2020, few come with the kind of emotional weight and baggage that Final Fantasy VII Remake has. While there are plenty of anticipated games, new installments of beloved franchises, and a few other high-profile remakes on the way, Final Fantasy VII Remake is attempting to deliver a reimagining of one of the most acclaimed JRPGs–let alone games–of all time. That is especially the case when weighed against the heavy expectations of its ardent fans, who have been waiting on bated breath for FFVII Remake since it was first revealed nearly five years ago.
That initial reaction to the reveal of Final Fantasy VII Remake was met with everything from cheers to full-on tears of joy, and was a huge part of why E3 2015 was considered “The Year of Dreams” alongside The Last Guardian and Shenmue III. Say what you will about how those two games turned out, but for the past five years, the fan anticipation for Final Fantasy VII Remake has lingered largely from one of its most appealing elements: nostalgia.
Even if Final Fantasy VII Remake is largely a faithful retread of what we first saw from the original Final Fantasy VII over 20 years ago, there’s no denying that the appeal of seeing the game’s most iconic moments recreated from the ground up through modern technology will be almost like reliving the game again for the first time. From the memorable opening chapters in Midgar to The Infamous Death and twists that FFVII fans are still reeling over, the emotional connection that fans have had to the original game over the last two decades is surely one of the biggest reasons why Final Fantasy VII Remake will surely resonate among this year’s most anticipated games.
That being said, as much as I am looking forward to to seeing what Square Enix has been building in Final Fantasy VII Remake over the past 5+ years, I can’t say that I’ve been invested in it as much as Final Fantasy‘s most devoted fans. For the longest time, I hadn’t really considered myself as much of a “Final Fantasy person,” having only played bits and pieces of previous games in the series. I hadn’t even fully played through Final Fantasy VII proper until my holiday break in 2015, after wanting to finally see what fans have loved from the game over the last 20 years.
While I mostly enjoyed my time with Final Fantasy VII, it was one of the few times that I’ve ever really engaged with a series that I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with. For every installment of the series that I’ve loved like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, there have been those that I’ve felt obliged to see through to the end despite my issues with them like Final Fantasy X and XV, or that I’ve struggled to get into like Final Fantasy XII. Whether it was simply its world and presentation or various quirks with its gameplay, Final Fantasy is a series that has felt hot and cold to me over the years. Although, I imagine that might just be the norm for all Final Fantasy lovers, given that every fan has their own taste in which entries they think are the best to play.
As much as Final Fantasy is a series that I’ve had a difficult time connecting with over the years, I still felt the anticipation leading into the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake, perhaps because I’m feeling that excitement through the love of the series’ fans. I still remember several years ago getting caught up in the excitement of its reveal at E3 2015 and scouring through fan reaction videos on YouTube, seeing how one trailer was able to stir up so many emotions and feelings from people that have loved this game for most of their lives. I myself have started to feel a little bit of that tinge of nostalgia now that I’ve actually had the chance to play Final Fantasy VII Remake.
At PAX East this week in Boston, I played through Square Enix’s showfloor demo of Final Fantasy VII Remake, which went through about 20 minutes of gameplay with Cloud and Barrett, and culminated in the iconic boss fight against the Scorpion Sentinel. This isn’t a new segment of the game that has been shown by any means, after we first saw this section at Square Enix’s E3 demo last year. However, getting to play it first-hand was a different experience entirely, and having a bit of time with Final Fantasy VII Remake before it releases in April not only gave me some context for how it plays compared to the original, but also to see how the game merges its nostalgic past with the series’ fluctuating present.
When you think back on how Final Fantasy has changed throughout the last two decades from the turn-based style of its earlier entires to the more action-focused direction of its newer installments, it’s interesting to see how Final Fantasy VII Remake seems to meet fans a bit in the middle. While the gameplay itself is largely reminiscent of Final Fantasy XV, the combat has a bit of a slower-paced, more methodical element to it than what we saw in FFXV. Through its Active Time Battle system, Final Fantasy VII Remake blends the modernized elements of more recent Final Fantasy games while still keeping the familiarity and style of the original Final Fantasy VII, and in a way felt like what I was envisioning in my head when I first played through the original game five years ago.
This of course is the ultimate goal of any good remake; to take the imagination and love that someone had for the original experience, and to modify it through the lens of change and advancements since its release. As we saw last year with Resident Evil 2, there is clearly a way for video game remakes to not only improve and build on the original, but to create something that will stand as its own experience. From what I played so far of Final Fantasy VII Remake, there were definitely moments where I could see how this remake will clearly play to the expectations of nostalgia and the hopes and dreams of fans. But more importantly, I came away from the demo even more impressed at how it augments the experience of the original with its new gameplay elements, details, and especially its visuals.
Even as someone that wouldn’t necessarily consider themself a “Final Fantasy person,” I couldn’t help but feel a bit of excitement as I played through the demo of Final Fantasy VII Remake. It might have started once I heard the iconic battle theme begin to play, or when I executed Cloud’s Limit Break to finish the boss fight against the Scorpion Sentinel. But more importantly, it was getting swept up in the excitement of other players around me at the booth that have been waiting decades to see one of their biggest hopes and dreams come true, and I can’t wait to experience it along with them.
Final Fantasy VII Remake will release for PS4 on April 10, 2020.