Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Finale Was Wasted On A Newcomer Like Me

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Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Finale Was Wasted On A Newcomer Like Me
Screenshot: Square Enix, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Y7DplcyR8">YouTube</a>

I felt guilty while watching the credits roll on Final Fantasy VII Remake early this morning. This game wasn’t meant for me, I thought. I didn’t earn this. Sure, technically I played the game for 30 hours and finally beat the final boss after a couple of frustrating attempts. That was me. But without the context of the original, I’m just an interloper on someone else’s nostalgia.

My knowledge of Final Fantasy VII before Remake hinged on a few obvious story beats. As such, I expected to be a little lost or even miss references entirely when it came to themes fans have held in their hearts for over two decades. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with the strange ghosts that intervened at the most inopportune times, for instance, but figured they were just a plot point to which I wasn’t yet privy as a newcomer. The Leftovers is one of my favourite shows of all time; I’m fine with being kept in the dark.

My feelings of displacement, however, only increased as Remake soldiered toward its conclusion. After rescuing Aerith from the clutches of creepy Shinra scientist Hojo the game goes into overdrive, putting the player through a gauntlet of boss battles. It was past midnight by this point, but I gleefully beat down Rufus Shinra. I demolished several giant robots. I encountered Sephiroth—for real this time, I think—and watched as he extricated one of Hojo’s experiments. I fought that experiment—again, I think—and eventually ended up staring at a portal of light on the highway, Aerith describing it as a point of no return for the party.

I’ll be straight up here and say I have no idea what Sephiroth is doing or why I even had to fight him. The name Jenova means nothing to me. I don’t know why fate is trying to keep Cloud and company from doing whatever it is they’re trying to do. Who the heck is Zack and why does he dress exactly like Cloud? His debut seemed too meaningful to be a simple flashback, but the ease with which the game threw him into the plot left me perplexed. The last few hours of Remake were like walking into a church in the middle of prayer. A reverence is attached to this game that I can only comprehend at a basic level, and it felt sacrilegious being in its presence without having already made a spiritual connection with the original.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely made some sort of connection with Remake. I get emotional thinking about its characters, its antifascist story, the rhythm of its combat. Remake is an incredible game with which I’m, frankly, obsessed. But I can’t help but wonder how much these sentiments are tied to the legacy of the original. I mourned Aerith from the moment she appeared on screen, for crying out loud. Not because I spent hours upon hours watching her and Cloud form a bond in 1997 only to have it cut short by Sephiroth, but because that moment is so pivotal in the History of Video Games that I’ve adopted the tragedy as my own.

In reading what former Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier had to say about Remake, both in his excellent review and a post-mortem on the ending, I’m starting to understand just how much flew over my head. The folks at Square Enix fully embraced the opportunity they were given to subvert expectations by revising plot points players have taken as gospel for years. And it only further drives home the point that I don’t belong on this cliff, with Midgar behind me and the rest of Final Fantasy VII’s world waiting ahead. I’m a baby watching the moon landing in 1969, a transformative moment lost on my limited comprehension of human history. I’ve entered the Holy of Holies and gazed upon the Ark of the Covenant, my ignorance so profound that not even God can strike me down. I can’t help but feel like I owe someone an apology.

Comments

  • Well. Seasoned players are in the same boat, those spectres where never in the OG version, neither was the multiple boss fights at the end of midgar, you never meet sephiroth untill leaving midgar in the OG. Also TT was never a plot point in the OG version.

  • Don’t worry, the rest of us were scratching our heads in disappointment and confusion at that ending too, wondering why the stain that is modern Square had to force some awful Kingdom Hearts trash into FF7.

  • ** Spoilers obviously **

    As someone who has played the original through and through you aren’t alone in some of your bafflement. The Whispers were never part of the original game and here they seem to be a very Nomura-like (Especially the end sequence) addition to the game. Although there is some justification for them in that they are said to be the Will of the Planet, a now tangible form of what was only ever hinted at in the original game through characters speaking for it.

    I agree that Jenova wasn’t explained well enough and relied a little too much on what people already knew but they made it clear enough that she was a threat to the planet, an interloper that did not belong. Thus you have the Will of the Planet enacting a plan of Fate/Destiny to fight it off using the pieces it has at its disposal like a cosmic game of chess.

    The Whispers are like the hand of God, guiding the party to where they need to be, when they need to be and using them as needs be. Sephiroth lies outside of this because he is a tool of Jenova (for reasons not yet revealed), a being not of the planet and a threat to Fate/Destiny itself which is why he can interfere with the plan but cannot completely destroy it as we saw with Barret. Cloud is infused with Mako (As part of SOLDIER but other things that may or may not still be relevant), the lifeblood of the planet and has a strong link with Sephiroth so he can see both sides of the field and has a hazy attunement to the planet’s will.

    Zack does indeed sort of come out of nowhere and feels more like a thread to the next entry or just a bit of fanservice. He is an important part of the story after all and you may have noticed he carried the Buster Sword that Cloud starts with. There’s a reason for that and I’m wondering if they will be playing around with it or keeping it straight because it’s a pivotal moment for a number of characters.

    But yeah overall there’s a lot of familiar story beats but a lot of stuff that’s been ham-fisted in to… I don’t really know if it’s meant to try and differentiate the story or it’s going down the path of Kingdom Hearts and we’ll have 20 Xephiroths, a Duxolc and then Eeyore, don’t get me started about him.

  • Did you hear the recent interviews where they said they wanted to get the next chapter out sooner rather than later, but that would mean taking only a small chunk of the remaining story?

    I was like, “Oh geez, this is going to be a freaking 7-part series.” <_<

    I for one, did not like the nonsense at the end of Remake, I felt it was unnecessary, and the addition of You-Know-Who completely takes the impact away from his introduction later in the story. Like seriously, watching Tifa and Aeris (I refuthe to thay the lithpy name Thquare now callth her) in a scrap-fight with him on the highways of Midgar… Like, what? That just detracts from the central plot.

    Anyway. For the most part I did think the game was great. But you’re not alone in feeling a little lost and overwhelmed at the eye-rolling directions the story is now taking.

  • Yeah I came to the conclusion that the remake wasn’t made for folks who never played the original or those who endlessly revisit the original out of love, it was made for those in the middle who are more susceptible to the nostalgia that the game makes such good use of.
    (Yes I’m aware that doesn’t apply to everyone)

    This new twist might appeal to some but for somebody like me it all just felt too cliche and a waste of effort that could’ve gone in to actually fleshing out the world.
    (Because there really isn’t as much new content as people have been raving about)

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