We've joked, we've snarked, and we've rolled our eyes, but it's clear Square Enix never gave up on the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Sony's May 9 State of Play presentation gave us our first glimpse of the troubled remake since a brief trailer aired at the 2015 PlayStation Experience. Thankfully, the new trailer shows off a game that's much healthier-looking than the anemic title we saw at the PlayStation Experience. And with a promise of "more to come" at E3, well, the Final Fantasy 7 Remake just might happen after all.
Square Enix recently went on a hiring spree for the remake and lead Square Enix programmer Naoki Hamaguchi just joined Tetsuya Nomura as a second director. I still doubt we're close to a release date for the final product (which is still an episodic endeavor), but at least it's shaping up.
Being a bit obsessive about Final Fantasy 7, I picked through the new trailer and gleaned some cool tidbits from the flashes of battle and snippets of character interaction. I also came away with a few intriguing comparisons to the 2015 trailer. For example:
The action-based battle system is still in play: To date, the most controversial thing about the Final Fantasy 7 Remake is its new battle system. Even though we've only seen fleeting glimpses of it in trailers, it's clear Square Enix ditched Final Fantasy 7's traditional menu-based system in favor of something more akin to Kingdom Hearts or the obscure (and great) Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core for the PSP.
I'm of two minds about this change. Mind one: I've played Final Fantasy 7 more times than I've called my own mother to say hello. If Square Enix wants to tell me "Here's that game you've played to death with a totally fresh new spin," I'm not going to say "No." Mind two: Remakes like this are primarily of interest to people who played the original during childhood. They're going to play this and wonder "Where's the game I loved when I was a sassy 12-year-old?".
It's interesting Square Enix is still hell-bent on rebuilding Final Fantasy 7 from the ground-up when HD PlayStation remakes like Crash N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited already make mad cash. They're also easier to make, if the Final Fantasy 7 Remake's four-year delay is anything to go by. Kudos to Square Enix for taking the riskier route, I suppose.
We're finally beyond the Bombing Mission: The 2015 PlayStation Experience trailer for the Final Fantasy 7 Remake doesn't have much to show beyond the initial Mako Reactor bombing, i.e. Cloud's first job with the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE. The snippets of gameplay cover Cloud's subsequent escape from pursuing Shinra soldiers, and that's about it.
The new Final Fantasy 7 Remake trailer has a little more to show us, as we catch glimpses of the Midgar sewers (which is where Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris end up after their misadventure in Wall Market. I guess this means the whole Don Corneo/cross-dressing subplot is intact. Oh joy). The sewer sequence isn't too distant from the first bombing mission, but at least we have confirmation Final Fantasy 7 Remake 2.0 is well and truly on the road. And speaking of things lurking in Midgar's sewers:
Aps is uglier than ever: Don Corneo's slimy pet monster, Aps, makes an appearance in the trailer, and he's about as bad-tempered as you'd expect. Most of the bosses and monsters in the Midgar portion of Final Fantasy 7 are mechanical, so I'm glad the new Remake trailer gives us a look at one of the area's few organic foes. Aps' simple polygonal horns have been replaced by menacing, glowing growths, and he's covered with broken chains and other evidence of restraints that didn't pass their first stress test. Really looking forward to fighting him, even though I bet he still spams that cheap-ass Sewer Tsunami attack.
Everything looks much brighter and livelier than in the last trailer: When you compare the 2015 Final Fantasy 7 Remake trailer to the 2019 trailer, you can see how much more attention the new team is putting into making Midgar more colorful and visually interesting. The former trailer is mostly flat, dull greys and faded blues, while the latter has brightly-lit streets, well-textured enemies, and interesting backgrounds.
Midgar isn't Disneyland; it's not meant to look the least bit bright or cheerful. That doesn't mean it lacks color. In fact, I've repeatedly noted how much work Square put into making sure every single building in Midgar's slums tells a story about who lives there. Moreover, Midgar's perpetual darkness is shot through with electric blue lights and pools of smoky, radioactive green Mako—a unique aesthetic the new trailer seems to embrace far more than the old trailer.
There's plenty of fire to jazz things up, too. No doubt the bombing of the Mako Reactor lights up the night, and so does Cloud's flashback of Sephiroth (whose cameo strikes me as a "We're so-ooo-rry!" from Square Enix for making us wait so long).
It's unclear if you can still tell Aeris to shove her flowers: This is a small thing, but I wonder if the Final Fantasy 7 Remake will let you be mean to Aeris. In the original game, you can reject the flowers she tries to sell you; in the Remake, it appears she might just give you the dumb weed.
I guess I won't be surprised if the Final Fantasy 7 Remake takes away what little control we have over the Aeris, Tifa, and Cloud love triangle (or love square, if you include Yuffie. Love star if you also include Barret). The Square Enix of 2019 is much more concerned with the image of its most lucrative characters than the Square of 1997 was. In other words, if Square Enix has a specific story it wants to tell through the Final Fantasy 7 Remake's iterations of Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris, we have no choice but to sit back and watch. There was a time when we could re-name Cloud "ASSHOLE" and Barret "MR T," but that time is long gone.
Cloud doesn't look as emaciated in the new trailer—which is actually disappointing: When the 2015 Final Fantasy 7 Remake trailer dropped, there were some complaints about how Cloud looks wan and sickly. Cloud has a bit more color in the new trailer, though like most Final Fantasy boys, he still looks like he might benefit from a snack of 500 sandwiches.
Thing is, I appreciate how out-of-sorts Cloud looks in the old trailer. Without giving too much of Final Fantasy 7's story away, the game's opening bombing mission takes place mere days after Cloud's undergone a hell of an ordeal. There's no reason for him to be looking bright-eyed, Mako infusions aside.
Then again, there's every possibility the Remake's previous modelers made Cloud look ill because they weren't good at their job. Who knows.
Jesse is still a cinnamon roll who is too good, too pure for this world: AVALANCHE member Jesse shows up very briefly in the new Final Fantasy 7 Remake trailer, but she quickly became Twitter's favorite. I likewise have a soft spot for the computer wiz and her hopeless crush on Cloud.
I am curious to see if she still comes off as sympathetic in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The world's changed a whole hell of a lot in these past two decades: Terrorism of any kind isn't a plot device you can use lightly. I suppose the answer to keeping Jesse (and other AVALANCHE members) sympathetic might lie in some of the supplementary Final Fantasy 7 materials published in Japan ages ago. During LiveJournal's heyday, a Final Fantasy 7 fan translated a novella wherein Aeris meets Jesse in the Lifestream and she expresses deep regret over innocent people dying during the Bombing Mission. Turns out the bomb Jesse put together was based on instructions from a fringe part of AVALANCHE and was therefore much more powerful than it needed to be. Innocent Shinra employees were caught in the blast as a consequence.
A tragic "whoopsie" doesn't absolve Jesse of, y'know, manslaughter, but at least she doesn't come across as a callous monster who's OK with feeding bystanders to "The Greater Good." Hopefully Square Enix uses the Final Fantasy 7 Remake to give us deeper insight into controversial characters.
Doubtless we'll have plenty more to say about the Final Fantasy 7 Remake when Square Enix spills the beans at E3 2019. In the meantime, thumb through our Final Fantasy 7 Remake guide for everything we know about the game.