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Final Fantasy VII art featuring characters Cloud Strife, Sephiroth, and Zack Fair standing amongst majestic cliffs.
Image via Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII’s remake for the PlayStation 4 strays slightly from the original in terms of storyline and gameplay, but is essentially the same game. Diehard Final Fantasy fans complained that the developers didn't remake the game as perfectly as they could have, but critics will always find something that falls short of their expectations.

Overall, the remake had superior graphics and immersive cutscenes, allowing new players to experience the beautiful storyline and gameplay of one of Final Fantasy’s most popular games. The game also inspired the animated movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which received a 7.2/10 IMDb rating.

The protagonist, Cloud Strife, journeys as a mercenary to destroy an evil corporation which siphons the planet's energy for its own benefit. The game has many interesting characters, including Aerith Gainsborough and Tifa Lockhart, who join the main party in a compelling storyline rife with action and drama.

Let’s explore a comparison of the original FFVII and its remake. 

Introduction to Final Fantasy VII

1. Significance of Final Fantasy VII in Gaming History

Final Fantasy VII establishes itself as a giant in gaming history, an epochal release that not only redefined the RPG genre but also transcended gaming itself. Its arrival in 1997 marked a pivotal moment, elevating the RPG experience to new heights and introducing a generation of gamers to an immersive narrative-driven adventure.

2. Impact of the Original Game's Release

Upon its debut, the original Final Fantasy VII revolutionized storytelling in video games. Its intricate narrative, compelling characters like Cloud, Aerith, and Sephiroth, and the intricate blend of steampunk aesthetics with an emotionally charged plot resonated deeply with players worldwide. It not only became a bestseller but left an indelible mark on gaming, setting benchmarks for future RPGs.

An intense battle between Cloud and Sephiroth, in a fiery clash of swords.
Image via Square Enix

3. Introduction of the Remake and Its Reception

With immense anticipation and nostalgia-laden excitement, the announcement of the Remake reverberated across the gaming community. The prospect of revisiting the iconic world of Midgar in a modern, reimagined form sparked fervor among both longtime fans and newcomers. The Remake's unveiling was met with a mix of elation, curiosity, and expectations, as fans hoped for a faithful homage to the original while embracing technological advancements.

The Remake's reception was a blend of awe and apprehension. Its divided reception mirrored the challenges of remaking a beloved classic. Some hailed its visual and narrative enhancements, while others debated alterations and deviations from the source material. The Remake's announcement, followed by its reception, created an intriguing dichotomy between honoring the past and embracing innovation, igniting discussions about the essence of a remake versus the evolution of a cherished narrative.

The introduction sets the stage for a nuanced exploration of Final Fantasy VII's legacy, paving the way for a comprehensive comparison between the original game and its highly anticipated Remake.

Story and Narrative in the Original and Remake

1. Storyline in the Original 

In the original Final Fantasy VII, the narrative unfolds in a world on the brink of environmental collapse. Players embark on an emotionally charged journey following Cloud Strife, a former SOLDIER with a mysterious past, and his involvement with AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group. The story is set primarily in the dystopian city of Midgar, controlled by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a corporation draining the planet's life force for energy. As Cloud and his eclectic group of allies (Aerith, Tifa, Barret, and others) navigate Midgar's complexities, they uncover deeper layers of corruption, personal turmoil, and the looming threat of the enigmatic Sephiroth. The narrative encompasses themes of identity, environmentalism, power struggles, and the impacts of unchecked ambition.

Final Fantasy VII protagonist Cloud, his large sword sheathed on his back.
Image via Square Enix

2. Narrative Elements in the Remake

The Remake adeptly reimagines the beloved storyline, interweaving the familiar narrative beats while introducing compelling deviations and expansions. Character development undergoes significant evolution, breathing new life into the personalities players thought they knew well. Notably, the relationships between characters, especially Aerith and Tifa, receive more intricate exploration, offering nuanced glimpses into their emotions, fears, and aspirations. Plot alterations and additional storylines amplify the stakes, adding layers of complexity that enhance the overall narrative experience. While some deviations may polarize fans, they introduce fresh mysteries and surprises, keeping even the most devoted fans on the edge of their seats.

3. Analysis of the Remake's expansion of the original story

The Remake achieves a delicate balance between honoring the original narrative and charting uncharted territories. It successfully expands upon the core story while preserving its essence, elevating the emotional resonance and depth. The deeper delving into character motivations, their pasts, and relationships enriches the storytelling tapestry, creating stronger connections between players and the characters. New story arcs seamlessly interweave with familiar plotlines, contributing to a more immersive and emotionally engaging experience.

By treading the fine line between nostalgia and innovation, the Remake captivates both seasoned players and newcomers. Its ability to preserve the spirit of the original while venturing into unexplored narrative avenues cements its status as a tribute to the classic while embracing modern storytelling conventions.

This narrative evolution not only honors the legacy of Final Fantasy VII but also sets a new standard for remakes by encapsulating the essence of the original while daringly reimagining it for a contemporary audience.

Gameplay Mechanics

1. Description of Gameplay Mechanics

The original Final Fantasy VII, upon its release, introduced gamers to a revolutionary turn-based RPG system that amalgamated strategic depth with real-time engagement through the Active Time Battle (ATB) mechanic. Players navigated through the sprawling world of Gaia, exploring diverse locales and engaging in random encounters that seamlessly transitioned to turn-based battles. 

The ATB system, characterized by individual gauges filling over time, allowed characters to perform actions once their meters were charged, creating a strategic interplay between speed, tactics, and decision-making. Customization was key, as players equipped characters with materials and orbs granting magical spells, abilities, and augmentations, enabling diverse combat strategies and character builds.

2. Comparison of Gameplay Changes, Enhancements, Features

The Remake marks a paradigm shift in gameplay, departing from turn-based mechanics to embrace a real-time, action-oriented combat system. It blends action RPG elements with strategic depth by allowing players direct control over characters' movements, attacks, and evasions while integrating the iconic ATB system for special abilities, spells, and tactical commands. This evolution not only modernizes the combat experience but also amplifies the intensity and visual spectacle of battles. Also, the Remake expands environmental interaction, providing opportunities for contextual combat maneuvers and leveraging surroundings for tactical advantages, adding a layer of immersion previously unseen.

Beyond combat, the Remake enriches the gameplay with an expanded scope of exploration. 

It introduces new side quests, mini-games, and interactive environments, inviting players to delve deeper into the world of Midgar. These additions infuse the game with a sense of vibrancy and depth, offering avenues for discovery and engagement beyond the primary storyline. Finally, the Remake incorporates segments where players assume control of secondary characters, granting insight into their perspectives and adding variance to gameplay experiences.

An atmospheric image of Final Fantasy VII adventurers exploring Midgar’s ethereal ruins and mysterious ambiance.
Image via Square Enix

3. Evaluation of Updated Mechanics

The updated gameplay mechanics in the Remake wield a profound influence on player immersion and engagement. The transition to real-time combat injects a heightened sense of immediacy, demanding players to actively maneuver, time attacks, and strategize amidst dynamic encounters. This shift appeals to a broader audience, catering to action-oriented gamers while retaining strategic depth for enthusiasts of the original's tactical gameplay.

The introduction of the Tactical Mode feature offers a compelling compromise between real-time action and strategic planning. Players can pause combat, assess battlefield dynamics, and issue commands, catering to varied playstyles and preferences. This mechanic not only grants moments for careful consideration but also accentuates the significance of tactical decision-making within fast-paced combat scenarios.

Also, the expanded exploration elements and additional gameplay facets in the Remake foster a more comprehensive and multifaceted gaming experience. Players are encouraged to explore Midgar's nooks and crannies, partake in optional quests, and engage with the world in a more interactive manner, enhancing both immersion and replayability.

The updated gameplay mechanics in the Remake reimagine the original's mechanics while staying true to its essence. By modernizing the combat system, expanding exploration, and introducing diverse gameplay elements, the Remake manages to cater to a wider spectrum of players, offering an immersive, dynamic, and multifaceted experience that pays homage to the classic while embracing contemporary gaming expectations.

Graphics and Audio Comparison

1. Graphic Fidelity and Visual Enhancements

The graphical leap from the original Final Fantasy VII to the Remake is staggering, reflecting over two decades of technological advancement. The original game, while groundbreaking in its time, relied on pre-rendered backgrounds and polygonal character models, constrained by the hardware limitations of its era. In contrast, the Remake showcases stunningly detailed environments, meticulously crafted character designs, and lifelike animations. The transition from static backgrounds to dynamic, fully explorable environments in the Remake transforms the visual experience, immersing players in a vividly realized rendition of Midgar.

Final Fantasy character Tifa Lockhart leaping into battle.
Image via Square Enix

Visual enhancements in the Remake extend beyond mere graphical fidelity. Lighting, particle effects, and environmental details contribute to a heightened sense of realism, elevating the game's aesthetic appeal. Character models boast intricacies in expressions, clothing textures, and facial animations that breathe life into each interaction, emphasizing emotional depth and nuance.

2. Audio Elements

The original Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, remains an iconic masterpiece in gaming history. Its melodic compositions and memorable themes captured the essence of each moment, evoking emotions and enhancing immersion. While limited by the technological constraints of its time, the MIDI-based soundtrack resonated deeply with players, becoming an integral part of the game's identity.

The Remake's audio elements elevate the auditory experience to new heights. The reimagined soundtrack not only revitalizes Uematsu's original compositions but also introduces new tracks that complement and expand upon the emotional depth of the narrative. The use of a live orchestra and modern audio technology enhances the richness and depth of the music, resonating powerfully with the game's visuals and storytelling.

Voice acting, absent in the original, makes a noteworthy debut in the Remake. Talented voice actors bring the characters to life, infusing dialogues with emotion, personality, and authenticity. The voice performances enhance characterizations, allowing players to forge deeper connections with the cast and immerse themselves more fully in the storyline.

3. Analysis of Updated Graphics and Audio 

The amalgamation of updated graphics and audio elements in the Remake culminates in a deeply immersive experience. The visual splendor, with its attention to detail and atmospheric design, transports players into a meticulously crafted world. The seamless integration of enhanced visuals with a captivating soundtrack and compelling voice acting heightens emotional resonance, nurturing a more profound connection between players and the narrative.

The Remake's immersive qualities are underscored by the synergy between cutting-edge visuals and a rich auditory landscape. Together, these elements create an immersive tapestry that not only honors the nostalgia of the original but also sets a new standard for sensory immersion in gaming experiences.

How Did Fans Appreciate Final Fantasy VII?

The reception of the original Final Fantasy VII upon its release in 1997 was nothing short of monumental. It garnered widespread acclaim, earning praise for its groundbreaking storytelling, expansive world-building, and innovative gameplay mechanics. Fans and critics alike lauded its emotional depth, memorable characters, and the ambitious scope that pushed the boundaries of gaming narratives. Its impact extended far beyond the gaming community, cementing its place as a cultural phenomenon and a cornerstone of RPG history.

Final Fantasy VII character Sephiroth stands fully armored, his hair billowing amidst the vibrant cityscape.
Image via Square Enix

In contrast, the reception of the Remake in 2020 was met with a mix of excitement and divided opinions among fans. While many welcomed the opportunity to revisit the beloved world of Final Fantasy VII with updated visuals and reimagined gameplay, others approached it cautiously. Some fans praised the Remake for its stunning graphics, expanded storytelling, and updated mechanics, viewing it as a respectful homage to the original. However, debates arose among fans regarding narrative changes and alterations, leading to divided opinions on the Remake's faithfulness to the original's essence. Despite differing views, the Remake reignited fervor and discussions within the fanbase, reaffirming the enduring impact and significance of Final Fantasy VII in gaming culture.


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