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Why Final Fantasy VII Remake is my game of the year

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The thirstiest revival I never knew I wanted

FF7 remake

I spent a lot of time in Final Fantasy VII Remake looking up. In Midgar, the sky is obstructed by metal plates, physical barriers that separate downtrodden citizens from their wealthy counterparts. It’s a quiet reminder that in this place, no one is free. People’s paths are already written.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is just that: a retelling of the iconic 1997 Japanese roleplaying game that made Final Fantasy a household name. Cloud Strife, a brooding mercenary with a spotty past, becomes entangled with Avalanche, a radical group fighting against an evil corporation with aspirations that are destroying the planet. It’s a journey from Midgar, the bustling metropolis in which the game is initially set, to a globe-trotting adventure that winds through characters’ pasts as much as it does their troubled futures. Oh, and there’s an evil guy with gravity-defying bangs and a sword bigger than his body. It’s kind of a theme.

But FFVII Remake is not the complete story of the original game. It’s barely the first act. The game is set entirely in Midgar, with Square Enix opting to blow out an experience that was previously a few hours long into a full game — an episodic take that shouldn’t work and yet… does. FFVII Remake is not just a big-budget paint job; it’s an entirely new retelling that feels lovingly made. It makes the original game look like a blueprint of what its story was always meant to be.

There is so much to see and do in Midgar, whether it’s running requests for oddly named intern Chadley, rescuing cats, learning how to dance in drag, motorcycle fights, or just spending time with the game’s endearing cast. The city feels alive in a way the original game could never achieve. Characters who were barely given any screentime two decades ago, like the eternally thirsty Avalanche member Jessie, now feel like carefully considered personalities. FFVII Remake breathes new life into its crew, whether it’s Cloud hurriedly admitting he looks great in a dress or the game’s sweet flower girl Aerith swearing.

But Square Enix is interested in more than just the story it originally created. Final Fantasy VII Remake’s final act twists the narrative fans have always known in a strange, yet thrilling metatextual way. Cloud and his friends aren’t just fighting against fate; they’re battling the preconceived notions of the very fans who’ve idolized them. In the game’s final moments, it focuses on an unobstructed sky. The future is, for the first time in decades, unknown.