How FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE expands and adds to the original story

Warning: this article contains story spoilers for the game.
By Duncan Heaney

Previously we looked at the combat of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE - today we’re going to talk about the story.

So consider this your warning: here be spoilers.

One of the most fascinating things about FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is how it takes familiar scenes from the original game, but expands and reinterprets them to add richness and depth to the story. It also smartly sprinkles in new elements that keeps things surprising.

To illustrate how it does this, I’m going to discuss a very specific sequence from very early in the game - the aftermath of the opening bombing mission.

So if you want to go into the game as blind as possible, now’s the time to tap out. Go read this article about FINAL FANTASY love stories or something instead.

Final spoiler warning: Story details start below Barret:

After the bombing

If you want to know about the dramatic events of the game’s opening bombing mission, you can experience it for yourself in the demo (cough - download link - cough).

For the most part though, that opening part skews close to what fans will expect - Cloud and company get in, fight their way to the reactor, beat the bolts off a giant robot scorpion and get out in the nick of time, as the reactor explodes around them.

But what happens after that? Well, as in the original game, the team splits up to reunite later, and Cloud wanders alone through the Upper Plate streets of Midgar.

And what streets they are - this area drives home just how richly-reimagined this iconic location really is. The streets are densely-packed with detail - buildings tower around you, streetlights illuminate the scene with vivid color, every NPC is unique, and most have something to say as you get near. Despite the devastation around you, the place feels alive.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably take this section very slow, taking the time to really soak in the scale and atmosphere of the place.

But then Cloud has an unexpected reunion with a figure that fans of the original FINAL FANTASY VII will instantly recognize…

Suddenly, we’re in exciting territory - this is new! And there’s no dawdling now, as a startled Cloud pursues the elusive figure through the streets and alleys. Although he loses sight of his target, he does eventually encounter a very familiar flower-seller: Aerith.

But she has problems of her own - she’s surrounded by black wisps of… something, which cause her to stumble and fall. Cloud’s presence seems to drive them away, and they strike up a conversation - much as it did in the original game.

Rest assured that, yes, Cloud can still has an option whether or not to buy a flower - and here’s a fun fact: a grateful Aerith will now give it to him for free, rather than charge him a gil!

Unfortunately, the interaction is cut short by a double-whammy of interruptions. First Shinra forces identify Cloud, and Aeirth’s mysterious harassers return. And while she flees, Cloud… well, let’s just say he resists arrest.

Here’s yet another example of how the game redefines a classic moment. In the original game, Cloud is confronted by Shinra security but very quickly escapes onto a moving train. It all takes place in the same area, and lasts only a few minutes at most.

But in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, the confrontation sparks an exhilarating chase up, over and around the streets of Midgar. The scene still ends with Cloud jumping for the train, but how he gets there is much more intense.

Story Spoilers end here

The game’s co-director Naoki Hamaguchi recently described their team’s approach to the story of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE:

“I’ve considered the following phrase important: respect for the original,” he said. "FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE takes on the challenge of creating something… that matches the current generation, while treating the captivating elements of the original game with respect.”

That’s apparent from what we played - all the major events of the game are there just as you’d hope. But there’s another important element too - as Hamaguchi-san himself says:

“For those who’ve played it: new but familiar.”

Ultimately, I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. After extended time with the game, I suspect that fans will be very happy with how they’ve adapted the key beats of the story. But they’ll also be surprised too.

And as a fan myself, that’s very exciting indeed.

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE releases for PS4 on April 10, 2020. It’s available to preorder now from most retailers, including the Square Enix Store:

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