Final Fantasy VII Remake — How Does it Stack Up Against its Predecessor?
E3 2005 was a bittersweet event for Final Fantasy fans. The carrot that was dangled in their faces was a pretty enticing one, as it would set an expectation that would only get satisfied nearly 15 years later. I’m talking, of course, about the Final Fantasy VII tech demo during the PlayStation 3’s showcase. A fully remade version of the beloved RPG’s opening sequence with newly minted HD graphics made every gamer across the world salivate. And yet, it was just a demo. The disappointment of discovering this, however, didn’t stop the gaming community from pleading and begging for a remake of FFVII. Fast forward to today, the wish has come true. Final Fantasy VII Remake (part 1) has been with us for a few months now yet we’re all still talking about it and the reason is clear; it’s more than just the same FFVII with prettier graphics.
A Tale Transformed
There’s no easy way to put this softly. FFVII Remake didn’t just get a facelift and a few changes. It had its narrative changed. In some ways, a change was to be expected. After all, the game has been split into episodes. What we’ve received now is merely the first of a series of episodic games. A lot of crucial beasts (and beats) from the PS1’s Final Fantasy VII have been shifted in the Remake. To explain any further would take us into spoiler territory and I’d rather refrain from doing so.
Square Enix best approach was to propose a different version of the story. Having a retelling of FFVII at that level is a blessing.
You see, the problem isn’t that the story is bad or that it doesn’t retain the original’s soul. Quite the opposite. It’s just as powerful and intense as it was some 24 years ago. It’s just different. Radically so. Major players are brought into the fray way ahead of their time while some other storylines are either changed or set aside for perhaps future episodes.
More importantly, the very foundation of what Cloud and Co. are fighting for has completely changed. It’s like an alternate version of the tale, not wholly different from a fairy tale that has had to be altered for future generations. For me to, therefore, give you the exact changes would rob you of the chance to experience the story for yourself. As a diehard fan of the original, I’ll say this: it’s good that Square Enix took this approach. The original story can be played on pretty much any platform these days. Having a retelling of FFVII at this calibre is a blessing.
The Heart of Battle
The Materia system of the original Final Fantasy VII was a genius piece of turn-based game design. It was one of the first systems to provide so much creative freedom to the player. By mixing and matching Materia, you could create ludicrous combinations with spectacular effects. To this day, I’ll never forget putting together a setup that enabled an endless stream of Knights of the Round which my gaming buddy and I left to complete on its own while we got coffee across the street. You can understand my initial disappointment when Square revealed that Final Fantasy VII Remake would have a completely different combat system. Suffice to say, my pre-order was placed at nearly the last minute. What changed that? The FFVIIR demo.
Every character has their own unique combat style which makes your choice of party members a crucial one.
My initial fear that the combat was going to be a rehash of XV’s lifeless, unimpactful action system was gone the moment I took on the demo’s boss. Playing the full version of Remake reassured my choice to give the game a chance. While mixing and matching Materia doesn’t yield even close to the same types of results you could get in the original, this new combat system is a beast of its own. Every attack has a lot of oomph behind it. Every character has their own unique combat style which makes your choice of party members a crucial one.
I especially like having Tifa in my group as her combo system is massively fun and her damage is amazing. Materia do still play a crucial role in battle and summons do exist. Bringing into the fray a monstrosity such as Ifrit, for instance, really changes the dynamic of battle. It’s not the levels of craziness you could reach in the classic version but it’s still a fun ride experimenting with the various combinations of gear, Materia, and party members.
Worth the Wait?
It’s been a long time since that fateful E3 2005 tech demo of Final Fantasy VII. Throughout the years, game design has changed and so have gamer tastes. While these definitely have been driving forces behind FFVIIR’s radical differences from its predecessor, there is one more key reason behind them: we never needed a prettier FFVII. What we needed was a worthy entry into the VII universe and Remake is exactly that.
It’s not to say that a lot of what made the original game great aren’t present. None of the more controversial or “out there” moments have been scrapped. Seeing Cloud in a dress in this graphical fidelity is nothing short of glorious.
Is it a disappointment that we didn’t get the exact wish we had 16 years ago? In some ways, yes. Final Fantasy VII Remake, though, isn’t here to quell that disappointment; it’s here to give us yet another adventure through Midgar with some of our most beloved characters. What more could we possibly ask for? I know what, we could ask for Part 2 (announced this year)!!
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