Opinion: Final Fantasy 7 Remake helps the story finally confront its own morality
There’s a scene in the opening hours of Final Fantasy 7 Remake that completely justifies its existence, showcasing why Square Enix was right in returning to what is arguably the most iconic well in gaming history. Shortly after detonating Midgar’s Section 1 Reactor, Cloud and the rest of Avalanche escape to the streets seeking anonymity.
Instead, what they see is something else entirely as the populace fails to comprehend that their home has been blown to pieces. They no longer feel safe, and it’s because of this story’s perceived heroes. Power is gone, their loved ones are likely dead and our heroes are forced to drink it all in, coming to terms with the cost of their actions that service the greater good.
It’s a tremendously powerful moment, expressing a sentiment that the original game brushed over both because of inconsistent localisation and technology that simply wasn’t capable of expressing, deep, photorealistic emotions of the remake. People paranoid as their close friends are buried beneath the rubble after working the late shift in a now decimated reactor is hard to stomach, reminiscent of attacks we’ve seen in the real world.
Despite the fantastical aspects underpinning its world and characters, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is surprisingly relevant to our modern climate. The plot follows a younger generation of freedom fighters seeking to overthrow a mega-corporation seeking to exploit the planet and its people for financial gain. Its an obvious metaphor for global warming and the dangers of capitalism, but perhaps one that will resonate greater with a 2020 audience.
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The original game was politically transcendant for the medium back in 1997, managing to tell a deep, branching story with no spoken dialogue to speak of. It was and remains a delight to play, yet abandoned its ambitious provocations of political exploration for something more personal and outlandish after the first 12 hours, with its message of saving the planet acting as an overarching throughline more than anything else.
With the assistance of new technology and advanced visuals, Final Fantasy 7 Remake has an oppurtunity to explore these themes to their natural conclusion, and just might from what I’ve seen thus far. Cloud, Barret, Tifa and the remainder of the cast are fully aware of the damage their causing, but know the lives lost are minimal compared to what they’re fighting for. The planet is dying, and their home will cease to exist if Shinra continues its rampage.
If we end up seeing these characters deal with the consequences of their own morality alongside personal turmoil I’ll be thrilled. Not because I’m a masochistic witch, but because it will add an additional layer of complexity to personalities we’ve spend decades connecting to. Reshaping what fans know and love is a brave move poised for backlash, but Square Enix doesn’t seem afraid of taking risks.
The opening handful of hours I played at a recent preview event presented a narrative which follows the original faithfully, yet expands upon and introduces new sections with surprising frequency. Flashback sequences, dialogue and characters (judging from trailers) we’ve never seen before are set to make an appearance, and I really can’t wait. That, and optional characters like Yuffie Kisaragi and Vincent Valentine are no longer optional, suggesting they’ll be incorporated into the main story, which has already been hinted at.
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Set to be split across multiple episodes, the eventual narrative conclusion of Final Fantasy 7 Remake is still several years away, and will likely bleed onto the next generation of consoles. So, whether or not it truly commits to the ambitious themes it tackles in the opening hours is a complete mystery.
But I have high hopes that it will, not holding back on Avalanche’s status as a terrorist group fighting for what’s right in a mythical world eerily similar to our own in a few distinct ways.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake will be launching exclusively for PS4 on April 10, 2020. You can read my comprehensive preview here.