The power of the Shinra Corporation knows no bounds. The ruthless organization rules Midgar with an iron fist, answering to nobody and stopping at nothing to get what they want. Final Fantasy 7 Remake reminds you of Shinra's dominant power time and time again, but one of the best demonstrations of their resources and technological capabilities lies in one of its earliest bosses—the Airbuster.
Spoiler Warning: From here on there will be mild spoilers for an early section of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Read at your own risk!
The Airbuster is a prototype weapon developed by Shinra. It has the base of a hovercraft, allowing it to traverse all types of terrain with ease, with high powered weaponry adorning its upper body, including rifles, cannons, and one massive laser embedded in its chest. It's so advanced that even Shinra struggles to get it functioning at full capacity by the time Cloud, Barret, and Tifa show up at Mako Reactor 5 in the events of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It's a good thing, too.
When Avalanche rocks up at Mako Reactor 5 ready to blow it straight to hell, the cackling Shinra lackey (and all round dick) Heidegger barks orders at his minions to get the Airbuster prepared for deployment immediately. But it's not quite ready yet, as a stammering Shinra trooper tries to explain. Heidegger's having none of it though: he wants all Airbuster parts assembled immediately, and this is where Final Fantasy 7 Remake starts to have some fun.
If you haven't played the original (which an entire generation hasn't), you're probably clueless about the Airbuster. So is the party until they unwittingly stumble upon a monitor displaying schematics, revealing it to be an absolute behemoth seemingly capable of laying waste to entire armies. The Airbuster is formidable, but it can be sabotaged before the battle begins (or not, if you're looking for a real challenge).
Each computer terminal is dedicated to supplying the Airbuster with critical parts. One terminal controls speed and maneuverability, while another boosts weapon capabilities. Cloud is presented with one keycard from a fallen Shinra grunt, and you're given a choice: disable one of the two computers. You can only choose one, and as Barret not-so-subtly hints at you through dialogue, it's a pretty important choice: this is your chance to get a leg up over Shinra's most advanced weapon to date. Shinra has an entire city under its thumb, so you can only imagine how brutal the pinnacle creation of their weapons department might be.
That's the entire point of the preparation for the Airbuster fight: imagination. The first instance of hearing about the mechanical tyrant is through Heidegger's orders of preparing it. This sends your mind racing in one of two ways: if you've played the original Final Fantasy 7, you're excited to see how Airbuster has been remade with Square Enix's vast technological capabilities. If you haven't, you're left wondering what the hell this new weapon of mass destruction is, what beast the Shinra Corporation could possibly bring to bear in their quest to decimate Avalanche.
From first hearing about the Airbuster from Shinra themselves, to Cloud, Barret, and Tifa uncovering its blueprints on a screen, it's all fantastic build-up to the climactic fight. After choosing which part to weaken, you advance to successive rooms, where you're presented with more options for parts to degrade, all while constantly being supplied with less keycards than the number of terminals you're given access to. You need to painstakingly analyze which parts of the Airbuster sound most vital to its operation (or which are most likely to give you a headache in a showdown), as well as remember which parts you opted to weaken before. After all, you don't want to face off against an Airbuster with the movement speed of a snail, but the technological capacity to wreck an entire city.
All of this lets the player build up a mental image of the Airbuster in preparation for the final showdown. Regardless of whether you've played the original Final Fantasy 7 or not, you've ultimately got relatively little idea of what to expect from the 2020 recreation of the Airbuster when you come face to face with it. "Have I weakened its movement speed enough?" and "Am I leaving it with too many bombing attacks?" were questions I found myself plagued by when moving through Mako Reactor 5's chambers, constantly second-guessing my choice of parts to cripple with the sparse keycards I was supplied with.
When the fight with the Airbuster actually does kick off, it's a glorious recreation of the showdown from 1997. The original game had the Airbuster in between your party: Cloud on one side of a walkway, and Tifa and Barret on the other. The player would have to bait the robotic giant into turning around to face one party, while the other would lay into its back for increased damage. This is recreated for the initial portion of the remake's Airbuster fight, where you begin the fight with your party split into the same two portions on either side of Airbuster, whacking it and then guarding against an onslaught when it inevitably turns around to face you.
The fight with Airbuster is great, but it's the buildup to the actual boss itself that leaves a lasting impression. Being given the power to manually alter a boss before facing off against it is a novel idea from Square, just one of a few examples of how (as Kat noted in her review) this remake isn't playing it safe and isn't just retreading the same ground that an entire generation came to know and love back in 1997.