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. 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.
We've already heard slivers of memorable the renditions of iconic Nobuo Uematsu-composed tunes in trailers ("Opening - Bombing Mission," "Aerith's Theme," the Final Fantasy 7 theme obviously), but our recent look both hands-on and hands-off was the first time we've heard how the music feels within the game. Gone are the MIDI-like virtual instruments; now we have legit cellos.
The Mako Reactor music, which appeared in both demos, was the most striking to me. It's a subtle rendition too. Gone are the swells that made the original so memorable, but somehow, it works anyway. It feels as if it's been toned down as to not overpower the light banter between Barrett and Cloud, among other conversational moments. Where JRPG soundtracks used to be bombastic because, in truth, they were the only sound communicating the mood and how characters feel in a time before voice acting was a thing, in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the music doesn't need to do that heavy lifting anymore. It can linger in the background, while still offering a melody to get stuck in your head.
It makes me excited to hear what other tracks from the score are like in the remake. Does "It's Difficult to Stand On Both Feet, Isn't It?" still have its comedic horn blasts? Will "Stolen Materia" use actual flutes? It's all a mystery for now.
When the Final Fantasy 7 Remake was originally announced, Nobuo Uematsu's name was conspicuously absent from the returning staff list. Since then though, producer Yoshinori Kitase confirmed in an interview in May 2018 that Uematsu is working on the music for the remake at some capacity; my guess is a consulting one, rather than full composer. Yet later in 2018, Uematsu announced that he's taking an indefinite break from composing. It's possible that his work on Final Fantasy 7 Remake is very minimal and already concluded.
Still, even without Uematsu officially at the helm, the refreshed soundtrack for Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn't sounding to just be the original soundtrack but now with an orchestra; after all, that would be boring, right? It's the same qualm I had when people were up in arms about the action combat shown first in 2015 (and again this year). Why would you want to play—and in this case hear—the same exact game as the original when the original is readily available? That would be boring! In expanding the world, the characters, Midgar into its own standalone game, and the tunes of the soundtrack, Final Fantasy 7 Remake really is shaking up the most beloved JRPG of all-time in refreshing ways.
We'll see if Square Enix changes too much when Final Fantasy 7 Remake is out in March 2020 for PlayStation 4.