3 Years Later, The Most Ambitious Remake Ever Still Hasn't Been Topped

Remake has a different meaning here.

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Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII is widely lauded as one of the best games ever — and certainly one of the greatest RPGs ever — so it stands to reason that its remake would probably be pretty good too, right? Final Fantasy VII Remake felt like a fever dream to so many ‘90s kids for many years before developer and publisher Square Enix announced its development at E3 2015. It nearly reached critical acclaim with an 87 on Metacritic, but its recreation of the original game’s most charming facets isn’t all that it has going for it. It also challenges audience expectations, because rather than deliver a shot-for-shot remake of the original with improved graphics, it instead aspires to retell the story while furthering the sub-franchise’s continuity in mysterious ways.

Final Fantasy VII was first launched for PlayStation on January 31, 1997. It became one of the most memorable RPGs at the time because of how it deviated from the gameplay-focused norm and actually delved into the separate characters enough for players to get attached.

Some still cite Cloud’s character development as one of their favorite parts of the game. Others gush about the expansive 3D world, which was a rarity back then. Common talking points include the fact that FF7 was one of the first 3D games, one of the first titles to launch on the PlayStation, and an emotionally compelling story with charming characters.

FF7R tackled the difficult task of appealing to newcomers and longtime fans. The remake’s success arguably depended on the parts developers kept the same as much as the parts they changed. It’s not just a straight one-to-one recreation. Instead, Square Enix subverts the typical idea of a remake by taking what worked in the original FF7 and changing what it needed to freshen the story for a modern audience.

For example, FF7R builds on existing story beats while using new storytelling devices to drive the plot ... like Whispers. These ghastly creatures show up as early as the first hour of the game in an attempt to keep the cast on track with the original timeline. We eventually learn they’re “Arbiters of Fate.” They also point to possibilities that extend beyond the original story like who might survive or not.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake ditches its old turn-based system for something more action-oriented.

Square Enix

There’s a trend of remakes and remasters right now, but companies differ in how they approach each one. For example, even ardent Tales fans couldn’t help but bash Bandai Namco’s Tales of Symphonia port for the Nintendo Switch. It’s another example of an older RPG beloved by many, but it didn’t attempt anything close to the scope of FF7R.

FF7 Remake isn’t perfect. Even our reviewer admits that stretching the first third of the game into a full-length RPG led to some unsightly stretch marks in what could’ve been a more brief and emotionally impactful experience. On the bright side, it also fleshed out many characters and corners of Midgar that the team didn’t have the chance to do before.

In short, Square Enix succeeds with FF7R by bringing to life an old game that already has a fanbase and impressing newcomers with the quality of its gameplay and story. Its soon-to-come sequel, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, picks up where it left off with an intriguing cliffhanger.

We’ll see who stays for the full ride from Final Fantasy VII Remake to its final installment.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth will launch in Winter of 2023 for PlayStation 5. Final Fantasy VII Remake is already available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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