This post contains minor spoilers up to Chapter 11 (or so) of the FF7 Remake.
There are a lot of things about Final Fantasy 7 that come up in casual conversation: Cloud’s giant sword, Sephiroth’s beautiful silver hair, two different kinds of giant talking cats, and so on.
What you might miss is just how weird the game was – especially its monster designs.
Here are some of the kinds of enemies you encounter in the first few hours:
- Hedgehog Pies, which look more like spiny, slimy toads.
- Mono Drive, a giant floating jellyfish that can cast Fire.
- Sahagins, which are basically grumpy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
You never learn much, if anything, about how they fit (or even whether they exist) in the game’s fiction. Few are mentioned in the script.
The Final Fantasy 7 Remake takes on the gargantuan task of creating in-universe lore for every single enemy, turning monsters we’ve known for years into an intrinsic part of the levels themselves.
It’s a smart bit of world building, one that players could reasonably expect in a modern role playing game rivalling your Skyrims or Monster Hunters of today.
Take the Train Graveyard, a desolate location filled with the metal carcasses of old locomotives near the Sector 7 slums.
Tifa, one of your party members and childhood friend of the protagonist Cloud, mentions that it’s rumoured to be haunted. Lo and behold, you’ll run into several undead enemies, including cute (ish) ghosts that resemble a bedsheet draped over a helium balloon.
These ghosts get fleshed out (in a manner of speaking) in the Remake. We now learn they’re often the spirits of children, mysteriously trapped in the Train Graveyard.
They’ve even become part of the larger world’s lore; Marlene, the young daughter of Avalanche leader Barret, heard scary stories about these ghosts from other kids at school.
Most impressive, however, is what the Remake does with another enemy from the Graveyard: Eligor, a grotesque cross between a centaur and a grim reaper riding a chariot. In the original game, he was a rare enemy that you could Steal a rare weapon for Aerith if you were lucky.
In the Remake, it’s a sinister spirit who feeds on the fears and insecurities of humans who wander into the Graveyard. It’s also been upgraded to a full-on boss fight, serving as the final gatekeeper before Cloud, Tifa and Aerith can move on.
Thanks to these welcome additions to the enemies’ backgrounds, the Train Graveyard sequence feels like a self-contained story with its own characters and personalities. If Final Fantasy 7 had an anime television adaptation in the ‘90s, a single half-hour episode set in the graveyard would look a lot like this.
One of the weirdest enemies that used to show up in the Sector 5 slums, known as the Hell House, also gets the boss-fight treatment in the Remake.
At first, it’s the least threatening “monster” you could imagine popping up during a random battle. But smack it with your sword enough and it cracks open to reveal monstrous mechanical limbs, and starts cast dangerous area-of-effect spells.
In the Remake, the famous Wall Market has been expanded into a sprawling, neon-lit den of vice similar to what you’d see in a modern-day Yakuza game
It comes complete with an underground arena full of bizarre fights in front of a frothing audience. Hell House serves as the final “opponent” you must crush before moving on.
As Aerith and Cloud brace for another musclebound pit fighter to enter the arena, the floor itself instead opens up, revealing a wooden house you’d expect to be the homestead of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
“That’s no ordinary house,” Cloud says, incredibly, as whatever angry spirit slumlord Don Corneo has bound inside spews flames out its windows and chimney.
The demonic structure now flies around the arena and fires volleys of chairs at you like guided missiles. All the while, two loudmouth commentators bark and banter through the speakers, incredibly commenting on the specific spells and attacks you summon to break the Hell House’s walls down.
FOLKS, IT LOOKS LIKE THE HELL HOUSE JUST GOT FORECLOOOOOSED!!!
— Christine Love (@christinelove) April 22, 2020
It’s the perfect pairing of an absurd enemy from the original game and the flamboyant reimagining of the Wall Market.
Much like the rest of the Remake I’ve played so far, these fights remix an old favourite in surprising ways, spinning minor threads into bombastic set pieces and storytelling that fits into place instead of feeling like tacked-on filler.
And yes, you can still steal that Bladed Staff from the Eligor.