I never played the original Final Fantasy 7, one of the most venerated games on Earth, but I had some assumptions about what to expect while playing the remake. Being totally charmed by Aerith felt like a given: She is, after all, one of the most iconic characters in the medium. What I didn’t expect was to spend so much of my time in Final Fantasy 7 Remake among children — nor did I expect these kids to be the highlight of my experience thus far.
From the first moment that Cloud steps into the slums, Final Fantasy 7 Remake uses youngsters to highlight not only the class disparities at the heart of the game, but the joy of the communities overlooked by Shinra. Sure, the game was serving me drama about ecological ruin and government lies, but when given the option to pursue my own interests, my Cloud wasn’t running to help Avalanche set up a bomb or whatever. He was running around trying to find a bunch of cats for some little girl.
At first, that cat side quest might seem like typical JRPG pablum, meant more as filler than meaningful content, but the quest doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Shortly after collecting the neighborhood cats, I met Chadley. The silver-haired teen is a precocious Shinra intern who wants to sabotage the corrupt company from the inside. That’s in addition to also giving you quests, rewards, and even summons. Chadley has the same energy as that toddler who went viral after singing along to Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of;” that is to say, Chadley is a bonafide champ.
Image: Square Enix via Polygon
But I didn’t fall in love until I got to Sector 5, Aerith’s stomping grounds. From the onset, kids are used to drive home just how beloved Aerith is, and how much she does for her community. One of the first things you do here is pick flowers for the school, where they’re used to make a nice Chocobo installation. Later, when the kids ask you to rescue some of their friends, Cloud and Aerith are given the distinct honor of being the only adults allowed into the kids’ hideout.
From here, things only get cuter. The kids can’t help but fall in love with Cloud — he’s the coolest guy they’ve ever seen, after all, a capable merc who can take anyone on. It’s no surprise, then, when the kids all start running around with wooden weapons that look just like the Buster sword.
But the little ones’ problems don’t stop there. Soon enough, Cloud is on a mission to defeat the ominous Toad King, a variant on a reptilian monster who runs around with a toy crown on its head; a villain fit for a secret hideout where no grown-ups are allowed.
For your hard work, the kids let you in a little further into their worlds. Soon, Cloud finds himself doing a box-destroying minigame in the hopes of winning a good prize from the children. It felt like a welcome distraction after a tough boss battle with Reno, which preceded the entire area.
None of these match the sheer joy that I felt when I met Moggie, however. Throughout the entire game, you collect these Moogle Medals that seem to have no use … until you get to this portion of the game. Here, they finally find use in the form of currency, which can be used at Moggie’s special shop. First things first, of course: You need to buy a membership card to get access to the inventory. It’s a crudely drawn piece of cardboard and it is by far my most treasured item since starting the game.
Moggie tells Cloud that his dream is to make everyone happy, which seems lofty and maybe impossible until you hear how. Moogle medals are apparently highly valued by some collectors in Midgar, and Moggie hopes that by amassing more of this rare resource, he’ll be able to employ all the kids in the neighborhood.
Will it work? Man, I don’t know. But it fills my heart just to hear such pure optimism, especially right now, during a time when some Americans want nothing more than to be selfish.
The kids help show a different side of Cloud, too. The blond merc spends the entire game insisting that he’s a gruff guy, dead set on getting paid and being on his way. No funny business. And to be sure, when it comes to adults, Cloud can definitely be a giant dick, curt and to the point.
We know that much of it is a front, perhaps even a persona adopted by necessity in the wake of unspeakable trauma. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Cloud tells the kids that his premium services will cost them a mere three gil, a far cry from the thousands he’s charged folks with actual means. But there’s a reason that so many of Cloud’s flashbacks center on childhood, before Shinra took everything away from him. All the kids we meet throughout the game are a symbol of hope — of a future that might be possible, if we’re just a little kinder and gentler with one another — which help give everything actual stakes.
Of course I want to save the world. Moggie deserves nothing less.
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The PlayStation 4 Pro is 4K-ready, and several of the PS4’s best games are enhanced to take advantage of the more powerful console’s improved visuals and frame rates.
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