It's not fair to say, "A Final Fantasy game is only as good as its music." Let's be honest though, fans scrutinize the soundtrack for each title almost as thoroughly as they evaluate its story and systems.
That's likely why the soundtrack for Final Fantasy 7 Remake has been entirely remade. Even the brief trial of Final Fantasy Remake that Square set up at PAX West offers amazing new takes on old tunes. Our Senior Editor Caty McCarthy even wrote about Remake's new music when she visited E3 2019.
"Everyone knows the Mako Reactor music. The almost marching band-like steady drum backing it; the howls of instruments falling in line of a haunting choir," she writes. "In the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the familiar music chimes in when Cloud and the members of Avalanche who hired him are exploring the Mako Reactor. It's not as dramatic as the original, but there's something unique about the new orchestration."
Indeed, Remake's version of Final Fantasy 7's famous Mako Reactor theme is a little demurer. The brassy, bonging bells have been toned way down, and are now almost replaced by quieter (though no less intimidating) strings. But when I played the Final Fantasy 7 Remake for myself at PAX West, I noticed Square Enix is also playing with the game's soundtrack in a way that perfectly suits its action-heavy gameplay.
When Cloud engages an enemy, we already know the throw-down happens wherever the former SOLDIER and his foe stand. There's no shift to a battle screen, no waiting for a battle to load while a camera slowly introduces each enemy. There's no change in the battle music, either—or so you'd think if you don't listen carefully. When Cloud is pulled into a fight in the Mako Reactor bombing mission, the music immediately intensifies. Its tempo increases, and it becomes heavier, more urgent. Whenever a robot sentinel or guard attacks you, the music shift is a good reminder that Shinra doesn't take kindly to trespassers.
This new style of music presentation might not please nostalgic Final Fantasy 7 fans who enjoy the jarring shifts from the map music to the Final Fantasy 7 fight song, then back again. As for myself, I appreciate how well Remake's new music direction is tailored for the new battle system. As much as I love menu-based RPGs, I was never a fan of having my exploration get broken up by the constant intrusion of battle music.
I also caught a small audio Easter egg during the boss fight with the scorpion robot boss at the end of Remake's Reactor mission. The music during the struggle incorporates the classic Final Fantasy 7 boss theme, but it interlaces it with parts of the bombing mission music that's otherwise absent in Remake's demo. It's a cool homage that pairs well with a cool fight.
I'm stoked to pick out any other references Final Fantasy 7 Remake composer Nobuo Uematsu (and friends) slips into the soundtrack. I'll have to wait a while, though: It's not coming out until March 3, 2020.