The Fantastic Looking ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ Needs A More Suitable Name

By now, you've probably seen the new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake, the long-teased revision of Square (Enix)'s JRPG classic of 1997, aka the JRPG that essentially made JRPGs a thing in the West. It's here, if you've not; or, direct your eyes to the video below. I'll wait.

Focused solely on the early part of the original game, restricting the action to events that play out in the city of Midgar, before Cloud and company moves out into the wider world of Gaia, the trailer for the PlayStation 4 exclusive is pretty impressive. Character depictions are, for my money, right on the money; the plot beats shown are immediately familiar to previous players, incorporating AVALANCHE's bombing run on the Sector 1 Reactor and the Guard Scorpion boss battle; and Aeris/Aerith the flower girl is suitably magical and mysterious.

What I don't get, however, is why this is billed as a remake - as we've had a string of those of late, for current-generation consoles, and this Final Fantasy VII doesn't feel like it's a part of the same circle. Now I appreciate that my position here is, ultimately, a semantics stance that doesn't stand up to scrutiny beyond: well, that's just your opinion, man. But bear with me, for a few more paragraphs.

Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix
Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix

There's a definite blurred line out there amid players when it comes to what's a remake and what's a remaster. So, to tackle that: 2017's Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is a remaster, building as it did on the original games' level layouts but using new art and animations; whereas the 2018 Shadow of the Colossus is very much a remake, with every asset rebuilt from the ground up.

Also in the former category, the likes of The Last of Us Remastered - featuring upgrades to visuals, frame rate and draw distance - and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which enhanced the graphics of its previous-gen games and added new features including split-screen multiplayer. In the latter category: 2019's Resident Evil 2 and, to turn back the years, 2004's Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. The high-definition Resident Evil remaster that came out in 2015 was based on the 2002 GameCube remake of the 1996 original, so that's both make and master, confusingly and brilliantly.

Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix
Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix

Anyway, those four remakes - and so many more - share a very important quality: they are in so many ways the same game as what came before. Not just in terms of plot beats and protagonist choice, but in more mechanical terms, if that's quite the correct term. They play the same way(s) - if you climbed the terrific beasts of Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2, the remake will find you doing the same. Resident Evil 2, while not beat-for-beat identical to its original PlayStation predecessor, is much the same experience, albeit updated to reflect the more action-oriented gameplay the series drafted in with the fourth main instalment.

Which brings me back to Final Fantasy VII Remake and the fact that, held up beside these other remakes, it's a whole other thing. Characters, locations, plot: we expect these to largely be the same as what we played in 1997 (or more recently, given it came out in late March 2019 for Switch, marking its debut on any Nintendo platform). But look at it in motion? Yes, it's a beautiful sight. But that's... That's not the turn-based system of old. And the game's proposed release structure - apparently it's remaining episodic - is dramatically different to the three-disc behemoth we were presented with the first time.

Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix
Final Fantasy VII Remake / Credit: Square Enix

The real-time combat side of Remake is presented front and centre in the new trailer - and with design credits on the game including Mitsunori Takahashi (whose past form includes the fighter Dissidia: Final Fantasy and the action-styled RPG Kingdom Hearts II) and Kyohei Suzuki (combat planner for Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days), there's the definite impression that the game's slicing and dicing (and limit-breaking and Materia-using) is going to be a lot more involved than selecting an action from a menu and watching the results play out. Active Time Battles, these are not.

So, here's what I'm proposing: this is Final Fantasy VII Reimagined. Or, if we want to get really 1990s on the whole thing, how about Final Fantasy 7.1? "Remake", to me, says: here's the same game, built using new tools and technology, but ultimately delivering a familiar feeling. But Remake isn't that - it's old faces in new circumstances, the stage having been scrapped and reconstructed in a whole new style. It's a gothic church, all buttresses and rib vaults, pulled down and replaced by a glass-and-steel tower of wholly modern worship, but retaining the same name.

All of which is to say: I, too, am excited for this new adventure. But I'm confused by how we've let "remake" mean almost anything we need it to be, regardless of the qualities of the product in question. Ultimately, it doesn't matter - like I said, this is basically a case of semantics, a tweet-worthy discussion point stretched to hashtag-content length. Nevertheless, it's an itchy bugbear, a minor irritation in the anticipation for what is probably the most eagerly awaited Final Fantasy game of all time. And it won't matter a damn when that Buster Sword cleaves a Hell House, a famous fanfare plays, and we're all in love again.

Featured Image Credit: Square Enix / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Mike Diver

Head of Content at GAMINGbible. Ex-editor of VICE Gaming and co-founder of Waypoint. Former writer/consultant for BBC's The Gaming Show. Former contributor to Edge, Eurogamer, Kotaku, PCGamesN, Official PlayStation Magazine, gamesTM. Author of 'Indie Games: The Complete Introduction to Indie Gaming' (2016) and 'How to Be a Professional Gamer' (2016). New book, 'Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History of Video Games', coming in 2019. Contact: [email protected]

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