I did not play Ultimate Fantasy 7 as a child. I got here to it with all of the cynicism of a full-grown grownup who has no time for half-baked melodrama or an notorious rush-job translation that undercuts necessary scenes—like when Tifa tries to jog Cloud’s reminiscence of an necessary dialog they as soon as had on a water tower by saying “Look, the effectively.” For starters, it wasn’t a effectively, and he cannot take a look at it since you’re having this flashback inside a bar. Tifa, are you drunk proper now?
(As Tim Rogers factors out in his wonderful YouTube collection about FF7’s translation, a extra correct model of that dialogue can be: “Come on, the water tower? In our village?”)
One of many largest issues I had with FF7 was its hero. Grumpalump Cloud, the angriest prettyboy in Midgar, who smouldered with generic rage like an all-too-typical western videogame man. The very first thing Cloud does is inform his companions in ecoterrorism he does not care what their names had been, as a result of that is simply how cool and distant he’s. What a instrument.
Finally he is revealed to be form of a dweeb, which is the way you make a personality likeable when your viewers is nerds, however that is after hours of him appearing like a man who by no means obtained over studying Berserk when he was 12. FF7 followers will inform you Cloud was the primary character of his kind, that it was Sq. Enix who originated this mannequin of tormented, Byronic hero. I am fairly positive that was Byron, truly.
I by no means did end FF7, obtained slowed down by random encounters and finally gave up. If I might been 13 years outdated with on a regular basis on the earth possibly I’d have, however even then it looks as if disc one’s Midgar is the half most gamers reminisce about. Which is why the remake turning that cyberpunk metropolis opening into its personal 35-hour trendy status videogame sits advantageous with me.
In Ultimate Fantasy 7 Remake Cloud nonetheless acts all stoic and alienated, however the distinction between that and the goofy world he is in feels extra deliberate. This can be a place the place poor folks get round by driving big chickenbirds, the place the manifestation of pure evil is a strolling home that shoots missiles, and for those who get in hassle you possibly can summon a tiny cactus badass to assist out. It is exhausting to be Captain Critical Enterprise when a lizardman turns you right into a toad, or it’s a must to name on Fats Chocobo in a boss struggle.
The remake rubs Cloud up in opposition to the setting’s goofiness in a self-aware method, particularly in sidequests involving the kids of the slums. He needs to be a mercenary, however half his jobs contain rounding up or working instantly for the native youngsters. He competes of their whack-a-box sport, tracks down their lacking cats. One child cosplaying as a fuzzy moogle makes him accumulate “moogle medals” to change for treasures. Cloud’s robust man act is consistently deflated by his circumstances, and never simply in that one bit the place he places on a costume.
Finally Cloud begins providing the youngsters a “particular low cost on toad kings” and giving recommendation on tips on how to comply with your ardour. Contrasting a hardened hero with harmless youngsters is a basic storytelling transfer, from Lone Wolf and Cub to The Mandalorian, and in Cloud’s case it forces him to behave like an grownup as an alternative of the moody teenager he has the psychological age of—to be a human as an alternative of a stereotype.
This all occurs within the first couple of sidequest hubs, areas the place a number of the remake’s new additions happen. First Tifa after which Aerith drag Cloud round their neighbourhoods, introducing him to everybody. Tifa’s landlady is especially unimpressed, telling her to not hassle with a man who has no character simply because he is obtained a “huge sword”, nudge, nudge.
These sequences add rather a lot to Midgar, which may generally really feel like a nonsensical mash-up, with old school pickup vans alongside cyberpunk motorbikes, cowboys and wizards. The remake does not make Midgar practical, nevertheless it does present sufficient of the bizarre lifetime of its inhabitants that you simply care whether or not they get blown up. You need to save these gangs of misfit urchins and feisty matrons by combating for them.
There may be, in fact, a number of combating.
Hiroyuki Ito, working as battle designer on Ultimate Fantasy 4, got here up with its Energetic Time Battle system as a result of he favored Formulation 1 racing. Watching the quickest drivers lap the others, he determined to include pace into what had beforehand been turn-based fight. By FF7, the ATB system was entrenched. I hated it.
The essential concept is that you simply’re solely allowed to inform a personality what to do as soon as their ATB gauge is full. It is a sport of hurry up and wait. When the gauge is filling, there’s nothing to do however watch, after which as quickly because it’s full you rush by the menus to pick an assault or drink a potion or no matter as shortly as you possibly can. All so you may get again to watching the bar fill once more.
The intent was to make you’re feeling pressured, nevertheless it builds extra annoyance than stress. You are both ready for the sport to allow you to play whereas nothing occurs, or frantically navigating a menu, combating in opposition to the abstraction that ought to be getting out of your method. Even for those who set it to the mode that pauses time in menus, you continue to have to attend for the bars to refill earlier than you are allowed into them.
At first, the fight in FF7 Remake appears to be like like an motion sport. Characters launch combos, they block and dodge in actual time. They nonetheless have ATB bars that refill whereas that is occurring, damaged into chunks that may be spent on particular skills, however for those who simply watch it being performed it looks as if some other check of your button-pressing response pace. In play, it is one thing fairly totally different.
These dodges do not have invincibility frames, and among the assaults have a number of dedication—Cloud’s huge sword wants some huge wind-ups. What issues is spending ATB bars to solid spells or hearth off particular assaults, and people bars refill a lot sooner while you’re controlling a personality.
It is an odd dance and the sport does not train it tremendous effectively, however the ultimate approach to play is hopping between characters like a psychic frog, increase their ATB bars, selecting a particular, then hopping over to the subsequent whereas the animation goes off. Cloud’s obtained an assault referred to as infinity finish that prices two bars and does a heap of injury, nevertheless it takes ages to play out. As an alternative of sitting there watching an admittedly slick animation, you leap over to another person and get the subsequent transfer going.
This performs into the stagger mechanic. Construct stress on an enemy—enhanced by focusing on particular areas, exploiting elemental weaknesses, and so forth—and so they’ll be surprised. In addition to being unable to assault, staggered enemies take extra injury, multiplied by a share that may be elevated by some assaults. Push that share method excessive, and when it peaks you are in an ideal place to slam down a high-damage finisher like infinity’s finish.
Nevertheless, most enemies do not stay staggered lengthy sufficient so that you can do it that method. As an alternative, you queue up infinity’s finish with Cloud first, then leap over to Tifa and race to get the multiplier maxed earlier than his hit connects. Get it proper, and hundreds of hit factors fall off some big robotic like confetti. It feels nice.
There’s extra to the fight than that, with positioning taking part in a task—you need to preserve Aerith in her arcane ward the place spells get solid twice, and generally characters can acquire bonuses by attacking from behind—and returning parts of the unique like restrict breaks and equippable materia. There is a good bit to it, and the keyboard controls are horrible, nevertheless it’s the closest factor to real-time-with-pause fight I’ve ever favored.
It sneakily illuminates extra of the principle characters’ personalities as effectively. Cloud can swap between two combating stances, operator and punisher, every primarily based on the model of somebody he used to look as much as (take a look at the best way he stands in every and see who he resembles). Even the best way he casts the treatment spell is expressive, with a brilliant informal over-the-shoulder flick as if even when he is maintaining somebody alive he does not need them to know he cares.
Cloud is not the one character I perceive the enchantment of extra now. In FF7 and its spin-offs Aerith generally comes off so healthful she would possibly as effectively be a capybara as an alternative of a girl. Within the remake she’s wily and street-smart, and will get among the funniest traces. And when Cloud will get put in a costume, her response is ecstatic in an actual “This higher not awaken something in me” form of method. (That complete sequence, and the way it’s recontextualized to ditch the unique’s “males sporting attire is humorous” message is method higher than I anticipated.) The entire solid, even minor secondary characters, really feel like they’ve inner lives.
If I might been in the best place on the proper time, I may need been capable of see previous FF7’s flaws to appreciate its characters had been extra than simply stereotypes method again when it got here out. However the huge RPG of 1997 I performed was Fallout, and by the point I obtained round to FF7 its second had handed. The remake helped me perceive why it is endured, why folks put on t-shirts with the heroes’ names like they’re the Beatles.
It is nonetheless a disgrace the PC port is so lackluster that I needed to run it in DirectX 11 mode to cope with the stuttering and plug in a controller to cease the minigames feeling painful, although.