Last week, Square Enix dropped the first entry in the Final Fantasy VII Remake series, which covers the entire Midgar section of the original game. There are plenty of familiar faces and story beats in the remake, but there’s also quite a bit different. Square Enix has made this 5-8 hour slice into a full game, and with that come some minor and significant story changes that could have wide-ranging consequences going forward. Though not every change will be to everyone’s liking, Square Enix and director Tetsuya Nomura have incorporated much that strengthens and expands the original story. At the same time, there are elements longtime fans may find questionable.
We’ve compiled what we believe to be the most significant changes to the story in Final Fantasy VII Remake. From the least significant to the most significant, here are Final Fantasy VII Remake’s most prominent changes to the Final Fantasy VII narrative.
SPOILER ALERT! We will be discussing story elements from Final Fantasy VII Remake, including major reveals.
The first significant story change comes early in the game and serves to further flesh out three of the original game’s side characters. In Chapter 4, Cloud accompanies Avalanche members Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge to the Sector 7 Employee Housing Area on Sector 7’s upper plate. Their goal is to use a visit to Jessie’s mom as a distraction to raid a Shinra warehouse for explosives supplies.
Chapter 4 is unique compared to the rest of the game. Rather than joining forces with beloved characters Barret, Tifa and Aerith, the chapter focuses on the Avalanche crew. This gives all three characters additional screen time than the meager few sections they got out of the original game. It’s refreshing to see what kind of people Jessie and Biggs are, and that builds up into weightier punches during later events. Sadly, the same development isn’t offered to Wedge who, throughout the game, continues to be a walking joke.
It’s also here that players are introduced to VII Remake’s most outlandish new character, Roche. This motorcycle-riding SOLDIER is looking for an exhilarating opponent and Cloud is just the person to give it to him. Roche is a spectacular boss battle and injects personality into the game. Sadly, this is his only appearance in the game.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, but the members of your party are severely limited by the story. Taking place solely in Midgar, party members are limited to just Cloud, Barret, Tifa and Aerith. Though Red XIII shows up in Chapter 17, he only joins the party as a guest character and never becomes playable. If you’re a fan of Vincent Valentine, Cid Highwide, Yuffie or Cait Sith then you’re out of luck until the next game.
Once again, not a huge surprise, but it isn’t helped by the marketing. Anyone who didn’t follow the development of VII Remake closely may not realize that this isn’t a full remake of the original VII. Thus, they might wonder why their favorite characters from the original don’t show up.
The original Final Fantasy VII spoke of an event that ended long before the story began. In the original, the Shinra-Wutai war had already ended by the time Final Fantasy VII began, and Wutai lost. That’s pretty much it. Things are different in VII Remake, though. Here, the war ended in a ceasefire with neither side winning, but Shinra is itching to start the war up again. How? By using Avalanche.
By the end of Chapter 7, it’s revealed that Shinra has been using Avalanche’s bombing of the Mako Reactors to create propaganda and stoke war among the populace. At the end of Chapter 1, Shinra blows up their own Mako Reactor, following a botched bomb, and making the explosion even more catastrophic. Then, later in the game, it’s pretty much confirmed that Shinra wants to restart the war. Why? Well, they’d like to build a new Mako Reactor on Wutai land.
Expect the potential war to make a prominent splash in future parts of VII Remake. It’ll also be interesting to see how Yuffie, a Wutai resident, is tied into this plot.
The Nibelheim Incident produced some of the original VII’s most memorable scenes. The tragedy that befell the town was awful and helped cement just how cruel Shinra and Professor Hojo were. One of those big reveals is the revelation that Shinra was experimenting on humans by injecting them with Mako. The results were terrifying monsters.
Since Nibelheim doesn’t appear in VII Remake, Square Enix needed something new to showcase the horrific experiments undertaken by the company. Enter Chapter 13 where, following the release of the Sector 7 plate, Cloud and company discover a hidden lab right under the Sector 7 slums. The chapter ends with a battle against these monsters. Furthermore, Hojo’s vile experimentations are given greater focus in Chapter 17, where players interact with these monsters.
Professor Hojo will, of course, play a more prominent role in the next VII Remake games. With a greater focus on his experiments this early in the game, it’ll be interesting to see how Square Enix ties Vincent Valentine into the story. After all, Hojo did experiment directly on Vincent. Expect to face off against many of his monsters, hopefully with Vincent at your side.
One of the difficulties with reboots, remakes and prequels is that external expectations can have an outsized influence on a project, for better or worse. Darth Vader’s shadow stretched massively over the Star Wars prequels, as did Sauron’s in The Hobbit films. Both were highly-influential villains that fans loved, and both wormed their way into the next installments in their respective series, even if it may not have made all that much sense.
Sephiroth gets the same treatment. Sephiroth doesn’t appear at all during the Midgar section of Final Fantasy VII. The first 5-8 hours set up the idea that Shinra is the bad guy of the story. It isn’t till players get to President Shinra’s office do they learn about Sephiroth and it isn’t till they leave Midgar that they meet him.
Sephiroth, however, is bigger than Final Fantasy VII. While many remember the original game, even more remember its villain. His persona has allowed him to transcend the game and enter the pop culture stratosphere. He’s been in Kingdom Hearts and usually finds some way to return in other Compilation of Final Fantasy VII projects. As such, it’s no surprise that Sephiroth shows up numerous times in VII Remake.
The narrative utilizes Sephiroth well. He often appears as a figment of Cloud’s fractured mind trying to get him to do something. It isn’t till Chapter 17 that he physically appears, killing President Shinra. Sephiroth also weirdly serves as the final boss. Yes, he’s the main antagonist of Final Fantasy VII, but not VII Remake. It also puts the development team in an awkward position considering Sephiroth is likely to be the final boss of the next entries. How they’ll manage to top VII Remake’s last fight is going to be quite the challenge.
In our review, we hinted that a new story element felt more at home in Kingdom Hearts. That story element is the Whispers and the theme of defying fate. Early in the game, Cloud meets hooded dust figures harassing Aerith. These are the Whispers, who we later learn aim to steer people towards their proper destinies. Both an ally and antagonistic force, they show up numerous times throughout the story.
It all culminates in a penultimate boss fight as the party attempts to alter their destinies. They’re defying fate and altering time, two themes of Kingdom Hearts, and the much-maligned Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. Considering that Tetsuya Nomura (Kingdom Hearts) and Motomu Toriyama (Final Fantasy XIII trilogy) are co-directors on the VII Remake, it’s no wonder these elements crop up.
The introduction of these elements alters the themes of Final Fantasy VII. The original themes of identity, self-sacrifice and atonement all appear to be intact. Still, the addition of defying fate will likely have some serious ripple effects across the remainder of the series. One such effect appears during VII Remake’s ending. It would appear that the tampering with destiny and time have created a paradox where Zack Fair survives his ordeal with Shinra’s soldiers. His survival is sure to lead to even more alterations to the original story.
There’s no doubt that whispers and fate are going to play a huge role going forward. We’ll have to wait and see how it all unfolds.