To a huge communal holding of breath Final Fantasy VII Remake (FF7R) was finally announced for the PS5 in the latest PlayStation State of Play. Mid-February there were rumblings. Rumblings we may get some more news about FF7R. As the Internet does many suggestions were put out there from a PS5 upgrade to information on Part 2. Whilst we now have news of the upgraded version, releasing in June with a new Yuffie centred episode, I am still eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the remake.
FF7R was more than just a great game for me, and one year on from its release I think about it more and more. I put some of this down to the timing of the game’s release two weeks before the first UK lockdown.
My playtime with the game spans the month of March and beyond; I received the trophy for finishing chapter 18 in mid-May. During this time I saw the changing of the seasons, from late winter, into spring which hit some high temperatures. Play sessions with the later parts of the game became more infrequent as I spent more time outside with my family in the later afternoon and evenings. The cold, darker nights of relaxing on the sofa playing whilst my wife watched something had been replaced. The recent February weather of cold snaps, snow, and then never-ending rain has me itching for warmer times. I want to be back out in the garden, sat in the sun. I want to be back inside with a familiar story and the comfort of known characters.
FF7R elicited in me a sense of nostalgia and, more so, a feeling that everything would be all right. If I have to put my recent longing for the game down to something it is this underlying feeling of comfort. As games I think about from 2020 go, it has overtaken both The Last of Us Part 2 and Crusader Kings 3, the only two games I rated higher in last year’s top picks. This comfort now comes from both the memories I hold of the original game and those made last year.
The original Final Fantasy VII will always hold a special place in my gaming brain. It is the game that cemented in me that I had found my hobby. The upgrade in visuals, scope, and sound from anything I had played on the Mega Drive blew my young mind. FF7R could never have that same impact. It’s too much for any game to rise to that pedestal especially when the jump in graphics, scope, and sound are incremental these days between both games and platform generations. It does illicit those early feelings of the original though. Every story beat, battle and musical cue reminded me of that original experience. It is both a love letter to the original and its own entity. FF7R as a package is amazing for my comfort, yet it’s the visuals and the sound which really drive this.
Visually the game is stunning and one of the best looking games at the end of the last generation (apart from a few very obvious texture issues). The upgrade for Intergrade is looking even better, who knew I wanted better fog effects. It’s crisp yet grungy graphics looking as my mind thought they did in the original, though I feel now is the time to mention FF7: Advent Children. I really liked Advent Children as a short, contained continuation of the FF7 story. The visuals of FF7R are more akin to those of Advent Children so this may have spoilt my memories slightly. Even with this, I do have a clear picture in my mind of exactly what FF7 looks like. In the remake it isn’t necessarily the link in style with Advent Children, it is more the aesthetic link with FF7. Those grungy, neon-soaked alleys, streets and industrial complexes of FF7 are brought to life in such great detail within the remake. The train station instantly struck me at the opening of the game. The lighting and the way it cast shadows, the movement of the characters around the space and small additions like the times and destinations on the boards all add to an overwhelming sense of familiarity. The environments are true to the original but upgraded so much. It drew me into the familiar, held me and let me go with a comforting sigh of new life. This continued through the game. Some environments and their playable space were expanded but still maintained their aesthetic links with the original. How the environments are framed helps this and the wide field of view over Clouds shoulder allows a fantastic sight of these visual delights.
The other half giving me that familiar kick is the sound. I say sound rather than a specific element as I feel all of it contributes. The Soundtrack upgrade evokes the tone of the original FF7 score whilst adapting it to the modern play style. The melodies don’t just loop now but flow to react with the tension or quiet of the game. It feels natural and incredibly expressive. As the visuals held me, the music was almost like a blanket, covering me in warmth. Matched with the visuals I am instantly transported into the world, the story and I relive my feelings of experiencing the original game.
This extends to the sound effects, as I understand it the development team produced entirely new sounds for the remake. They have done such a good job that I feel they’ve been pulled from the original rather than closely replicated in some cases. The weapon swings, the menu pings and the environmental sounds are just as detailed as the visuals. They add to the background music, enhancing the play, enhancing that comforting feeling.
The newest sound element is the voice acting. It is very well done, adding a totally new aspect to supplement the story. Sometimes the characters’ voices didn’t align with those I had in my head. I took those in stride, adapting my perceived expectations to take in these unknown voices. Cloud, though not played by Steve Burton who I was familiar with from Advent Children, fell very close to both Burton and the blocky Cloud from my young mind. Again Advent Children played a part in giving the characters voices so the difference between the original and the remake was not as stark.
These two elements combined, visuals and sounds, give me a huge sense of comfort. It’s something I currently don’t have from my gaming time. Everything is new, which in itself is great, it just doesn’t evoke the same feelings. I could return to FF7R and feel this again. I could challenge myself and start a harder playthrough, extend that game time and that feeling of comfort. I was waiting to play through a second time a few months out from Part 2. With FF7R Intergrade releasing in June I may accelerate my return to FF7R, as long as I can secure a PS5 by then. For now, perhaps on a rainy, darker evening, I’ll load it up sit on the title screen and let the mood wash over me for a while.