Final Fantasy VII Remake is the first episode of an essential in the history of RPG. It focuses exclusively on Midgar, the capital of Shinra. This new writing is an opportunity to further explore the industrial city and rediscover it, on a different scale. Be careful, spoilers in sight.
Midgar, symbol of power
In 1997, the first hours in Midgar offered a beautiful technical demonstration which filled us with miracles for the time and continued what Final Fantasy VI initiated: a world echoing our closest story, far from the usual fantasy from the saga. It is even, to be more precise,a cyberpunk universe. Besides Barret the cyborg with his weapon grafted on his right arm, Midgar is imbued with this influence. Industrialized, it is the theater of global domination of a multinational, the Shinra. And like any good dictatorship, those who govern have control over the media. It was already visible in 1997, this is all the more obvious in 2020 with all the host of cameras, destructive robots, scans, holograms and other mass propaganda. The first contact with Final Fantasy VII was not the most welcoming. Hostile terrain that opens directly into a confrontation against the militia. Anyway and from the start to the end of the arc, the team continues unabated their fight against Midgar and what it represents.
A fantasized city
A successful remake is a game that knows how to modernize its gameplay. It worked with those of Resident Evil 2 and 3, the same goes for Final Fantasy VII. Goodbye to the fixed camera plans seen from above. From now on, we follow the movements of the hero at his height, like many current games. But in a setting like Midgar, it changes dramatically. A little over twenty years ago, certain passages made us feel very small. We are thinking in particular of Cloud’s arrival at the foot of the Shinra Tower. Now we see what the characters see. The effect is striking. You just have to look up to discover the plateau that separates the two levels of the city. From the slums, this overcast and suffocating sky appears threatening. The wealthy people up there cut off those who are out of the sunlight and nature. The detail given to these infrastructures makes all this very real and stunning. With a keen eye we realize that some textures have not received the same care, but on the whole difficult to say that it is not a success. In addition, limitations bring their share of charm. The distant decorations look like watercolors. The clusters of sheets form a pretty patchwork which can make one think of the 2D backgrounds of Bravely Default.
We are certainly very numerous to have played with the camera to admire this work of goldsmith (it is also a shame not to have integrated a photo mode). In this way, the idea that we had of this sprawling city at the time is materialized. The experience becomes more immersive. This view reminds us of the place that these second-class city dwellers occupy in the social hierarchy. This was already present in the original: poverty was very marked in the slums. But the possibility of seeing more concretely the organization of the capital accentuates its grandeur and degeneration. Midgar finally takes on its full meaning, that of a city over the city and its social differences. We find this idea of compartments with the different sectors, but the remake gives us the awareness that it is a whole. Midgar is based on a very geometric, calculated, cold principle. It basically consists of a circular expanse divided into eight angular sectors with a Mako reactor for each end. This vertical organization once again relies on the class struggle.
When Avalanche goes to Reactor 5, the opposite happens. Walking through the scaffolding, we walk above the lower town. Again, this is a stage that invites contemplation. Dizzying, the sight gives Barret a fair reply: “The slum is really small seen from here.” Although on closer inspection these are repeated sprits and what is more, of deplorable quality. But if we opt for a more global view to dwell on the unflattering details, it is no less impressive: the overview of the slums reveals what we had trouble understanding in our exploration corridors. The lower town covers a very large area and extends to the gates of the city. Crossing this powerhouse is enough to make you dizzy. Our eyes directed downwards once again signals this raw reality to us: the slums serve as a recycling center for the lucky ones above and more generally, the Shinra.
A long corridor
And yet, past the wonder of the rediscovery, it must be admitted that Midgar disappoints. We have access to larger areas than in the original it is an undeniable fact. However, there are few new places and above all, our trips quickly find their limits. FF VII Remake is a huge hallway. Sometimes you’re tempted to take a different route than the one suggested, but the game quickly reminds you to order and prevents any exploration. It’s all the more frustrating that the feeling of evolving in a very big, vibrant city is increased tenfold in this replay.
With the forty hours of this component, it would have been a golden opportunity to let us walk more lanes to get lost. We spend most of the time in the lower town and even if from now on we have seen on the plates of the upper level, we imagined a little more commuting between these two worlds. As in the 1997 game, the visit to the wealthiest Midgar is short-lived even if we see more. Gaining a better idea of this more privileged part would have reinforced this idea of social disparity.
Hope for a better world
Whether it’s history or the environment, FF VII is a dark game. In this context, the second meeting with Aeris arrives like an unexpected breath of fresh air. The church in the middle of the slums and the florist’s house in sector 5 seem almost supernatural. They manage to receive sunlight and flowers grow there, like a sacred place. This also represents Aeris, the hope that she embodies and the role that she will have to play in the adventure.
If you do not want to be spoiled by the end of the original game, we advise you to stop there in reading this article. In the end, Midgar is targeted by the meteor, which corresponds to a strong symbol: the seat of power and its capitalist model which dominates the planet, to the point of killing the latter. You know the story, Aeris invokes the river of life that prevents disaster, but part becomes uninhabitable. The deserted population, the activity sustained with the exploitation of Mako energy ceases: a whole world dies out with the fall of Midgar and Shinra. Rather than reconstruct what is left of the city, a new one called Edge is created from the rubbish of the old megalopolis. The kinematics of the end of the original game also reveals the state of Midgar 500 years later, where nature has taken over.
By k-miye, Journalist jeuxvideo.com