I bought the original PlayStation just so I could play Final Fantasy VII. Until then, all I’d had was a SNES and a Genesis, so I was in awe when the opening cutscene for FFVII began. The rest of the game was equally stunning, the visuals beyond anything I’d thought possible in a game. I couldn’t wait to find out more about this “SOLDIER” named Cloud who was fighting to save the planet while suffering from PTSD that had fractured his psyche.
I played through Final Fantasy VII again last year, wondering if nostalgia had clouded my memory of it. I was happy that it was as good as I remembered. I enjoyed it all the more since I was playing through it with my wife who got to experience it for the first time. With the remake almost here, I thought about what I’m most looking forward to re-experiencing from the original using current-gen tech.
A steampunk dystopian city run by the conglomerate Shinra Corps, Midgar remains arguably the most memorable city in the Final Fantasy franchise. I don’t think any other single location in the series was this fleshed out or has this much personality. You spend the majority of the first act within its vast Mako Reactor nexus, traveling from one sector to the next and meeting its many inhabitants. This includes the corrupt soldiers hanging around the decadent Wall Market with its red light district run by Don Corneo, to the impoverished citizens forced to stay underneath in the slums where the seedy underbelly of Midgar thrives. There’s the train graveyard and the trains themselves that connect the massive capital city.
Climbing Shinra Headquarters is in Sector 0 remains one of the most tense, and haunting sequences in the game. Finding that trail of blood from the victims of Sephiroth’s killing rampage was terrifying. I’m looking forward to exploring Midgar all over again in full 3D with a new vantage point rather than the prerendered glory of the first.
Crisis Core, released in 2007 for the PSP, is one of the most underrated games in the series. It’s a moving story about Zack, Cloud’s best friend and mentor, that reveals more about the tragedy that serves as the backdrop for Final Fantasy VII. There are flashbacks to Zack in the original and much of Cloud’s memories are mixed up with what he witnessed of Zack’s journey. I’ve long wanted a remaster of Crisis Core for modern consoles. If the developers could incorporate some more about his story into the remake, I’d be all aboard.
My wife yelled at Cloud during Aerith’s death. “Why are you just standing there? Do something!” I know Aerith’s fate has been discussed a million times before, for good reason: It was, and is still considered to be, one of the most shocking moments in gaming history. To go along with all the discussions about her death were the rumored cheats on how to actually save Aerith.
This is going to be a controversial opinion, but it’d be amazing if that alternative became a reality for the remake so you can save Aerith and have her accompany your party for the remainder of the trip. This would really change the flow of the entire game and give it a different identity as well. Am I the only one who has wondered at the significance of the game opening and closing on almost the same shot of Aerith? It made me wonder if Final Fantasy VII had really been Aerith’s story all along.
I’ve loved chocobos since I first came across them in Final Fantasy IV. I liked chocobo racing at the Gold Saucer in FFVII, which was a trippy array of color beams on laser-lit roads. I admit, I spent way too much time raising a Golden Chocobo just so I could get the Knights of the Round summon (and given how powerful the summon was, it was totally worth it). I’m looking forward to experiencing chocobo racing all over again in high-res and hopefully having some multiplayer matches against some of my friends.
Tangential to the racing, I have fond memories of going to the Gold Saucer and experiencing date night. Aerith accompanied me the first time. The last time I played through, I got Barrett, and we had an enjoyable, if somewhat quiet, evening watching fireworks. He got irritated towards the end of the night, though, and wished he was hanging out with his daughter, Marlene, not Cloud. Kweh!
The summons in FFVII are breathtaking, and that was just with PlayStation 1-era graphics. Seeing the Astral deities in FFXV were unbelievable, so I’m excited about FFVII’s summons, from Bahamut Zero to Alexander, and of course the previously mentioned Knights.
Last year, I wrote a piece about how the whole Cosmo Canyon sequence is a meditation on family, sacrifice, and existence itself. In it, Red XIII (who my wife renamed KittyLion) comes to terms with his father’s past actions while getting a lesson on courage and what exactly is at stake in Final Fantasy VII. It’s about more than just Sephiroth: There’s themes about the planet, the stream of life, and the cycles that connect all of us.
As I wrote then: “I found these environmental themes especially poignant knowing Hironobu Sakaguchi explored the ideas of the Lifestream following the death of his mother. He channeled much of his sorrow into these concepts and while others would take over development of FFVII, that sense of tragedy and yearning pervades throughout the entire game.”
I’d forgotten how creepy and mystical the temple was. Aerith begins remembering her past, which is as convoluted and confusing as the series of M.C. Escher-style Penrose stairs within. Sephiroth describes it as “a lost treasure house of knowledge. The wisdom of the ancients.” The clock puzzle was as esoteric as the labyrinth. Your party discovers a whole wall covered with paintings depicting the summoning of Meteor. Had it happened before?
I remember when Cloud’s mind gets seized by Sephiroth and he begins to wonder if he’s just a clone. I remember Tifa waking up inside Junon after being taken captive by Shinra, then looking out the window. I remember seeing Meteor blazing crimson in the sky, ominously preparing to wreak devastation. I remember feeling utterly hopeless. I remember Tifa and Barrett being taken to be executed and blamed for all that’s happened.
I remember being told a monster called Weapon was on a rampage, and the massive defensive effort by Rufus and the troops that followed. I remember the Junon cannon blasting Weapon, but having no effect with its first shot. I remember Weapon accelerating its attack and soldiers unleashing their entire arsenal. I remember Tifa jumping off the edge of the cannon, only to be rescued by the airship Highwind. I remember being in awe of what was the greatest battle I’d seen in a game up until that point.
Say what you might about the 2005 movie Advent Children, but that final battle with Kadaj/Sephiroth was amazing. The new combat system for FFVII showcased at E3 looks like it has a lot of potential, especially since my favorite part of Final Fantasy XV was the battles. I’d love a multi-tiered battle with Sephiroth fighting for the fate of Gaia deep within the Planet’s Core (which in itself is a pretty good final dungeon). Seeing him launch Supernova against the party will be awesome. My only condition is they have somehow have to include the victory fanfare, which, like many other things, is my favorite in the series.
Honestly, I’m excited about the remake, but at the same time, have to remind myself that the game will be different from the original. The main thing I hope for is that I can feel the same sense of awe I did way back when I opened the PS1 for the first time and popped in the first of the three CDs.