Feeling Hollow After ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’

After finishing Final Fantasy VII Remake, I mostly feel hollow and haunted. It’s a specter that’s followed me, even during Animal Crossing sessions. The characters and world hang low and silent—but ever present—against my mind.

It’s no different with the original Final Fantasy VII. Countless people have loved a game that has torn them down, only to build them back up again. The story, the music, the characters have moved people enough to warrant spin-off games, animated movies, short stories, and now a remake.

Honestly, I was worried that FF7R wouldn’t be able to live up to the titan that is FF7, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve come to care for FF7R, missing the many hours already established in the game. Before I explain what I think of the ending (because doesn’t everyone have something to say about it?), I do want to point out why I feel so empty after playing FF7R, and why it’s haunted me. Please be aware that I’ll be revealing a few light spoilers, so I strongly suggest that you consider this before reading on.

In the beginning of the original, Cloud Strife was a blank slate that eventually had a satisfying story arc. However, in the remake, we still see this emptiness to him, this pushback from attachment, but it isn’t too long before Cloud opens up, responding to Jessie, Tifa, and Aerith. It also isn’t long before Barret cracks Cloud’s hard exterior, and it’s clear that Cloud realizes he’s part of something bigger. He cares for those he’s come to call friends.

Tifa possesses both a soft, gentle nature while still remaining a badass with monk-like skills. Not to mention that she’s able to coax out a side of Cloud most don’t see. Jessie too is able to keep up with Cloud’s dry humor with her own in-your-face attitude and quick-tongued responses. Barret triggers brotherhood bonds strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds, while many others come in contact with Cloud and are able to peel back that shell to reveal someone who is much more caring than he would like to admit.

That becomes even more apparent when Cloud falls straight through a church and lands abruptly into Aerith’s path. If Cloud is the brains and Tifa the brawn, then Aerith is most surely the heart. She brings life and a new sense of purpose to the group and to Cloud specifically. Even in times of dark moments, she is the light. A refreshing new outlook on an already bleak future, she has enough sass to make everyone smile and it is strikingly noticeable when she isn’t part of the group.

Speaking of refreshing, FF7R’s gameplay found a way to combine the classic turn-based RPG with the blood-pumping breakneck nature of an action RPG. You must be able to utilize both to properly take on foes. And it somehow works! Not only that, but everything you do is gorgeous. From throwing lightning spells to swinging your Buster Sword, it looks just like a Final Fantasy movie. Summons make for some pretty wild eye candy too. And sure, it’s slightly annoying to always be the target of your enemies since the AI knows when you’re controlling a character, but by switching back and forth between characters, it gives you not only reprieve from enemies but a different style of gameplay.

It’s also a relief to me to see that FF7R has incorporated all the right story beats from FF7! Never in a million years would I have guessed that so much of the original would have made its way into a remake. I was speaking to a friend of mine about the game and we both squealed over how we were pleasantly surprised that they kept the Cloud cross-dressing scene and how utterly glorious it was. They even went so far as to make sure they included a rhythm game that made me giggle with glee and distilled happiness.

To be completely honest with you, the game frightened me on so many levels. I wasn’t sure about storyline accuracy, gameplayability, and the voice acting cast. The voice acting throughout the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (and the video game series Kingdom Hearts) was nostalgically ingrained into the deepest folds of my soul, so when I popped in the game and waited for that first burst of voice acting, I was pleasantly relieved.

Everyone, the voice actors are phenomenal.

Cloud’s voice actor has this subtle way of getting in the right amount of attitude while still sounding complex. Aerith’s voice actor can oscillate between sugar-sweet to seriously multi-leveled in 2.3 seconds. Jesse’s voice actor has this energy that just compels you to like her. And so much more. Seriously, they’ve all done a fabulous job.

The music of FF7 has always been complex and moving, and it’s no different with FF7R. This time we get a full-orchestral version of all the songs and also (magically enough) a jukebox that plays the FF7 songs we all know and love but with a twist.

When I first heard Aerith’s theme in all its HD glory, my heart did this weird clenchy thing that was the farthest from a heart attack and much more closely related to that first spark of joy you get when trying something fun for the first time. The battle music is upbeat and gets your blood pumping, and the ending credits theme “Hollow” is gorgeous (and reminds me of something in Crisis Core that I just can’t place).

The saying goes that “the devil is in the details” and I suppose the people working on FF7R took that to heart because the details are what make this game. From character development to combat, everything is remarkable.

Before this becomes too long, I briefly want to touch upon the ending and what this means to me. The ending to FF7R completely changes the FF7 story as we know it. You can all look up the theories on where this could take the story, but all I want to say about it is that it gives a fresh new life, separate from the FF7 masterpiece. I understand that it also gives this sense of change to the story (which is…bold), but they’ve done a phenomenal job with the remake so far and I’ve no reason not to trust them. All of the minute changes they’ve made in the remake were actually hints at the ending and offer multiple possibilities for the future of this story. Though I would have looked forward to a straight, faithfully-adapted FF7R, this introduces fascinating possibilities.

I understand that not everyone agrees with me, but personally I appreciate the changes. The interesting thing is that though the story has been derailed, has sprouted wings, and is spiraling towards a new track, the creators have hinted that the story beats in FF7 will continue to appear in future FF7R installments. It will definitely be interesting to see how they keep things the same while completely and totally changing the FF7 that we know and love. I wait—both with nervous and giddy anticipation—to see how this story unfolds. Meanwhile, I remain hollow.