From the moment the camera panned in on Aerith's face while the notes to Final Fantasy VII's opening theme chimed lightly in the background, I got chills.
I've never played a Final Fantasy game before. There's no nostalgia here for me. I don't have fond memories of staying up until 2 AM to beat the game. I'm not familiar with its characters or have any sort of emotional attachment to them. So why did I get chills at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII Remake? Simply because I realized I was playing a piece of history.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most beloved video games ever created.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most beloved video games ever created. While I may not have played it before, I'd definitely heard of it. It was impossible not to. The original cemented itself in pop culture forever, especially if you were a young anime/manga fan. The entire time I've been playing the remake I've been in awe of its scope and also disappointed in myself for not playing the original sooner. It's like I missed out on an important cultural milestone that everyone else had experienced. It can feel a little alienating.
Regardless of whether the original's graphics hold up, you can still appreciate how revolutionary it was for its time. And if Square Enix has its way, Final Fantasy VII Remake will go down as one of the most ambitious and successful remakes of all time.
When I'd heard that Square Enix wasn't releasing the full game all at once, I was skeptical. Now I completely understand why the company made this decision. The breadth of it would have been unprecedented, and I'm not entirely sure possible on current-gen consoles.
What I have played I've really enjoyed. So much so that it's like I'm back in middle school and high school during my anime phase (I say as if my anime phase ever left). I can only imagine that playing this would have been formative for me ten years ago when I was avidly reading manga and watching just about any anime I could torrent online. I may or may not have tried to make Ichigo's bankai from Bleach out of a metal yardstick at one point, so just picture that but with the Buster sword. As I'm writing this I've already looked up "Final Fantasy 7 AMV" on YouTube. There are some good ones... depending on your definition of the word.
It's like I'm back in middle school and high school during my anime phase.
Disregarding that it's a remake, it stands tall on its own as a solid game — at least from what I've played so far. The cinematic action set pieces are over-the-top and ridiculous. The combat is fun and engaging. The story and characters are memorable. There's a lot to love.
For better or worse, I'm also not constantly comparing it to the original. Change is controversial, whether you're a purist or a fan who doesn't mind it. Because I don't have a point of reference, I have no idea how the Final Fantasy VII Remake differs from the initial release back in 1997. Are there new characters? Plot points? Gameplay sections? Were these alterations and additions made for the better? Possibly. But I can't say for certain. And that's okay.
When you imagine your favorite games from decades past, you tend to do so through rose-colored glasses. You think of an idealistic version of your experience, all of the good with none of the bad. That's what Final Fantasy VII Remake creates so well. Without ever playing the original, I can tell this is exactly how I'd imagine it because it's how I imagine all of the games I played as a kid.
It's easy to see why people fell in love with Final Fantasy VII to begin with. You don't need flashy cinematics to realize it has a ton of heart. Is the remake the best game ever made? Not in my opinion, though I can't fully judge since I'm only on chapter 8 out of 18 (and this is just part 1). There are plenty of games I've enjoyed more and liked far better, but that doesn't diminish its own achievements.
At the end of the day, the remake succeeded at making me want to play the original Final Fantasy VII from 1997 just to experience the magic for myself, because if this is what only one part of it's like, I can't imagine how mind-blowing that would have been to play over 20 years ago. And I think that's just about the best compliment you could give a remake.
The first part in a much larger story
I've had a lot of fun playing Final Fantasy VII, so much so that it was hard for me to put the controller down and write this. If you've never played the original for yourself, then I definitely recommend giving the remake a shot.
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