A Quiet Stroll Through the Sector 7 Slums Gives Final Fantasy 7 Remake Its Heart
It may not look like much, but it’s home.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s Sector 7 slums aren’t the cheeriest setting in video games. They are slums, after all. It’s right in the name. But for all the earth-shaking moments that make up Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the one that I find myself going back to the most is a simple nighttime stroll through Sector 7, a town that still feels cozy even on the brink of catastrophe.
Sector 7 is an important place in the story of Final Fantasy 7. For one thing, it’s home turf for Avalanche, the rebel group fighting to save the planet from the Shinra Power Company. It’s also where Seventh Heaven bar sits, doubling as the base for Barret and Tifa’s Avalanche splinter cell. What it means for players is even more important. A cozy game environment to spend time in is nice enough on its own, but the Sector 7 slums go beyond that, offering a living illustration of why Final Fantasy 7’s characters care about Midgar at all, and why you should, too.
But for the regular citizens of the Sector 7 slums, it’s just home. You first set foot in the slums in Chapter 3 of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, after you’ve bombed a Mako reactor on a mission gone awry. Thanks to Shinra, the reactor’s destruction causes more chaos than Avalanche anticipated, and after your escape from the aftermath, the slums feel like a peaceful oasis. From that point on, you can spend a lot of time in Sector 7 completing side quests, but my favorite way to experience it is with no objective at all.
At the end of Chapter 4, you return once more to the slums. It’s nighttime, and the citizens of the slums are taking a well-earned break to enjoy their downtrodden town as well as they can. In the daylight, the dirty streets look downright squalid, but lit by street lights and neon signs, the slums look incredible. It takes only a few minutes to run through the entire area, but by slowing your pace to a leisurely walk, you can take in just how much care went into making the slums feel like a living place. There’s a reason why, two years after playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake, I still keep a save file from this part of the game, just so I can enjoy the Sector 7 ambiance from time to time.
Compared to the nightlife district of the Wall Market, the slums are a pretty dour place. But while Wall Market is meant to be enjoyed — often in the seediest way possible — residents have to find their own joy in the sums. For the people here, dancing in back alleys or sitting at an outdoor café in the dirt-strewn streets isn’t just an escape, but a way of making their district, discarded by the city, into a home.
Elsewhere, people crowd around TVs to watch the footage of Avalanche’s attack, fearful that next time, they could be collateral damage. Others shop at street stalls, advertise their businesses, or gather outside to talk about the day. I can’t walk through the Sector 7 slums without feeling its hard-won vibrancy and understanding why it’s so important to protect it.
That makes it all the more tragic that the slums are ultimately doomed. Being Avalanche’s home base makes the slums a target of Shinra, which drops the steel plate that keeps the sky hidden from Sector 7’s residents in order to literally crush its opposition. After that, the town that’s become a central point in the lives of Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s characters turns into a nightmare. Instead of people catching up at the end of the day, its streets are filled with people running for their lives. The places they used to gather, which have been a frequent backdrop to your adventures, are crushed into rubble by falling debris. The destruction of the Sector 7 slums is horrifying, and far more than the original Final Fantasy 7, the remake lets you know exactly what’s lost when Shinra attacks it.
Final Fantasy 7 Intergrade also includes a trip to the Sector 7 slums. That’s where everyone’s favorite materia thief, Yuffie — who showed up to this spy mission dressed as a moogle for some reason —meets her Avalanche contact on the way to infiltrate Shinra. Yuffie is from Wutai, a place far from Midgar, so to her, the slums are just one stop along her journey. In her eyes, Midgar is nothing more than a stronghold for Shinra, and she makes it clear that she has no love for the people living here. When asked what she thinks of the slums, she complains about the crowds and the smell, and she’s shocked to learn that her Avalanche contacts actually like it there. She’s not wrong about the problems in Midgar, but I can’t help but think that spending a night wandering the slums just might change her mind.
The Sector 7 slums aren’t the only place in danger in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Shinra poses a threat to the entire world, as the members of Avalanche are fond of reminding us. This tiny neighborhood doesn’t even make it to the end of the game in any recognizable form. While they may be insignificant in the grand scheme, the slums show what’s at stake more than any impassioned speech from Barret can. And for one brief moment, they offer Cloud and the player both a chance to see what’s worth saving in this world.
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