Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Starting From Nothing

The Final Fantasy series is video game royalty. It’s a franchise that I only know about through osmosis. And Final Fantasy 7 is the most well known of the series. It’s tough to get into games without at least hearing about Final Fantasy. But despite a tight grip on the zeitgeist, I’ve never touched a FF game. Well, that streak is over now. I’ve finished Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and I have thoughts. Now, this isn’t a review, I’m far to uninformed about the world and history surrounding the behemoth that is this game, but I do have some thoughts none the less.

I was wary of playing this game at all, I figured it would all just go over my head, and the nostalgia and fan service would pass me by without me even noticing. But I try and play every game that means something in a year, and after the blast, I had playing Resident Evil 2 last year, why not jump in and see what all the fuss is about. I’ll be honest I flat out did not like this game very much in my first few hours. I didn’t think it was a bad game; I just wasn’t connecting with it on any sort of meaningful level. I thought Cloud was a black hole of personality, and the world didn’t interest me all that much. It took a long time for those feelings to change, like 3/4ths of the way through the game.

I’m still not thrilled about Cloud as a character, but I understand him a bit better. Barrett also grew on me. This incredibly loud stereotype of a character became the heart of this ragtag group of people. Both Aerith and Tifa are wonderful characters that feel fleshed out and actualized. Even the minor characters become special—most of my way through the early part of the game. The only thing keeping me playing was Jessie. I thought she was funny, disarming, and just a delight to be around. Also a great opposite next to the ever dull Cloud. Biggs and Wedge were also functional filler next to the frosty early game relationship of Barrett and Cloud. All this is to say I think the crowning achievement of this game is its portrayal of characters. While I think this game introduces way too many villains, especially for none of them to have any sort of comeuppance at the end of the game, I thought they were cartoonish in a very believable way. Hojo chief among them. What’s with that guy.

The game in its final 5 hours becomes something completely different from where it started; it’s no longer an RPG; it becomes a boss rush game where level after level introduces a new kind of villain that is more interesting than the last. I’m still sorting through my feelings about the game, but the more I listen to others talk about it, the more I appreciate it. I don’t think I’ll ever love this game. That ship sailed in 1997. But creating this story about rewriting your destiny is really interesting for a game so steeped in its own fandom. I’m a fan of that kind of bravery. This new series is no longer tied to the past. But I didn’t learn about any of that until players of the original game talked about the differences between the new and old game. I had no idea those whispers where not in the original game. Honestly, I found everything involving them to be a bit confusing until the very end.

I’m interested to see where this altered direction takes these characters I don’t have nearly the connection that others do with them, but I want to know how they twist and turn the old timeline. What changes, who dies, who lives, This game is flawed, but it’s also great. It’s tough to pin down, and I’m the last person to dictate the greatness of this game, considering it’s my first Final Fantasy game. Things like ugly NPCs and many hidden loading screens drag down a genuinely remarkable take on a classic video game. If this piece feels a little all over the place that’s because my feelings on the game are incredibly tough to narrow down right now, I’ve just finished it and can’t think of another game that has given me this sort of mixed emotions. I loved parts of it, and I hated parts of it. I cringed at some lines of dialogue and laughed out loud at others; I was swept away by elements of the world and entirely underwhelmed by its blandness at times. All that being said, I can’t think of another game like it.

Knowing what I know now I feel better about the game. But I don’t know if that makes the game better. I needed certain things explained to me having never played the original. I didn’t realize this was a bold new take on the original story until I had already rolled credits. Is that on the game for not making me more aware of its nuance or is it on me for missing out on the classic FF 7 story beats. This game is going to be divisive but I’m certainly more interested in it now than I was going into this game.