Obviously there are going to be some Final Fantasy 7 Remake differences to the original, twenty-year-old PS1 game. The characters, story and settings are more or less the same but such a radical overhaul is going to introduce a lot of new things. But what exactly?
As a heavily expanded experience in an episodic format, Final Fantasy 7 Remake introduces several new story beats that add more depth and intrigue to your time spent with Cloud and the gang. You also see much more of Midgar where the game is set, which naturally means you'll see new sides to the metal city and encounter new faces as well. There's a lot of new ground in the Remake, and while there are some minor changes we won't touch on here, we've gathered together the biggest Final Fantasy 7 Remake differences.
SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED WITH CAUTION
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Avalanche members have more screen time
Outside of main characters Aerith, Tifa, and Barret, the Remake also gives you more time to get to know Avalanche members Jessie, Wedge, and Biggs. All three get a lot more screen time in the Remake since the first portion of the game is so fleshed out, and a whole new story element is introduced in Chapter 4. Jessie enlists you to help her gain her father's work pass in order to access a Shinra warehouse. During this chapter, you head to the residential district along with Biggs and Wedge who keep Jessie's mother distracted while you break into her house as Cloud to take the pass. Throughout this chapter, you learn so much about the three characters, and gain more insight into their backstories. They feel much more involved in the story than the first time around, and getting to know new sides to the characters adds more depth and weight to the story.
There are new boss fights and combat elements
The new section in chapter 4 which heavily features the members of Avalanche also introduces a new antagonist and boss fight. As a 3rd Class member of Soldier, Roche has quite the big personality. You first meet him as you ride on a motorcycle with Jessie to head to the Shinra warehouse, where you end up fighting against him on the road. As a reckless thrill-seeker, Roche expresses that he enjoys engaging in battle with Cloud just as much as he loves riding his motorcycle. You also end up fighting him in a one-on-one battle off the road.
Some of the original bosses see some changes too. The famous Airbuster fight returns, but there are some noticeable differences in the Remake. Instead of just engaging in battle straight away, there's a whole build up to the fight where you actively decide to remove parts of the mighty hovering robot to gain an advantage. From choosing to remove big powerful BB explosives to reducing its speed, the choices you're presented with add to the tactical approaches you can take in battle against this classic boss.
Of course, the combat overall has changed too. Instead of the classic turn-based approach in the original, you fight in real-time. It still makes use of the ATB gauge, but it fills up as you hit an enemy. Alongside this, there's also a weapon upgrade system that enables you to improve different aspects of each character's fighting style to suit your strengths. This new system features alongside equipping materia and also being able to change up your weapon to learn new special moves.
There are new side quests: Odd jobs
Since the Remake enables you to see more of Midgar this time around, you also have the opportunity to do some "odd jobs" and increase your reputation as a mercenary in some of the sectors. This also gives the chance to meet some of the city's residents in different areas. You can take part in these side quests in three separate chapters, and they may even lead to additional story beats in the main story, as well as give you additional weapons for different characters. With everything from finding Chocobos to taking down pesky Doomrats, there are a variety of different quests to complete.
Corneo's Colosseum poses a new challenge
Wall Market sets the scene for one of the most famous moments in Final Fantasy 7 Remake once again, but this time it also introduces some new characters, such as Madam M who works at the hand massage parlour, as well as a new location. The market is now home to Corneo's Colosseum, where you'll participate in various battles with Cloud and Aerith in order to progress through the story and gain access to Don Corneos' place. The Colosseum is packed with challenging battles, and also has a delightful little nod to the original sword-swinging victory fanfare Cloud and co used to do in the original after every fight.
During the story we also get to meet another new addition to the character line-up in the Remake. Silver-haired Leslie Kyle works for Don Corneo, and ends up helping Cloud and the gang during the sequence at Corneo's place. He also once again enters the scene in chapter 14, where you learn more about his backstory and why he's so set on seeking to get his revenge on Corneo.
There’s a new dancing mini-game (yes, really)
As part of your efforts to get on the inside of Don Corneo's place to find Tifa, you end up going to the Honey Bee Inn. It's here you meet another new character by the name of Andrea Rhodea, who's the owner of the inn, and it's also where you'll take part in a new dancing mini-game. Cloud has to take to the stage and keep up with Rhodea's moves in order to impress him. It's a fast paced rhythm-type game involving hitting the correct buttons at the right time. Yes, that's right. We actually get to see Cloud dance.
Chadley helps you get Materia
Summoning materia once again returns to the world of Final Fantasy 7, but this time the way in which you get a hold of some of them is entirely different. Yet another new character called Chadley is a young researcher who tasks you with gathering battle intel to help him develop new materia that you can then purchase and use on your weapons. You do so by attaching an Asses materia to a weapon and using it during combat on enemies to learn about their fighting styles, resistances, and weaknesses. Chadley can be found in all of the different areas, and as the story progresses and you gather more intel, Chadely will tell you that you can fight some Summons in a virtual combat simulation to add the Summon to your arsenal. Cloud puts on a nifty VR headset, and you can take on two different summons.
Sephiroth shows up early
In the original game, Sephiroth doesn't actually make a proper appearance in Midgar at all. The silver-haired antagonist is talked about in the first portion of the game, and you also see the aftermath of Sephiroth's actions, but you don't actually physically see him in person.
In the Remake, though, Sephiroth features quite prominently throughout the story and has a much bigger role right from the get-go. It's evident that his presence greatly troubles Cloud, which serves as a way of establishing that Sephiroth is an ever-growing threat that is linked to Cloud. When you first meet Sephiroth in chapter 2, he appears to be an illusion born from Cloud's state of mind. As you follow Sephiroth down a narrow side street surrounded by flames, the screen flickers to suggest that Cloud is struggling to keep his grip on reality and is in fact hallucinating.
The scene quickly establishes that Cloud and Sephiroth have a history, and it also offers some insight into Cloud's past and an incident that's still affecting him. If the events that transpire in the original are anything to go by, the flames and the mention of someone crying out during this scene suggest that Cloud is seeing a hallucination of a past incident that takes place in his hometown.
Sephiroth continues to pop up throughout the story every so often. While Sephiroth is more of an elusive figure in the original, there is still some mystery surrounding all of the past events and the ties that bind Cloud and Sephiroth in the context of the Remake, which will no doubt be explored in future parts.
Cloud’s character is more fleshed out
As well as gaining insight into Cloud's inner psychology, we also see other sides to his character. In a lot of ways, Cloud was quite a blank slate in the original for various reasons. Acting quite cold and aloof, with an effortlessly cool demeanor, the Remake softens his sharp edges to a degree and makes him more human and relatable. Throughout the story, we get more opportunities to spend time with various characters and see more of their personalities and backstories than we did in the original in the beginning. One stand out scene, for example, takes place at the beginning of chapter 14, when Tifa is struggling to digest everything that's just transpired and leans on Cloud's shoulder for comfort. It's a tender moment shared between the two characters, and it shows a more caring side to Cloud's personality. There are plenty of moments like this peppered throughout the story that show Cloud is a multifaceted and more complex individual than he first appears.
The whispers are a new presence that will shape the future story
The first major story difference in Final Fantasy 7 Remake is introduced as early as Chapter 2, when Cloud first meets everyone's favourite "flower girl" Aerith. She appears to be troubled by some invisible force, and when she pulls on Cloud's arm, you suddenly see what's causing it - mysterious apparitions encircle her. These strange ghost-like figures are what are referred to as Whispers. These whispers are tied to the entire story of the Remake and play a key role in the events that unfold, particularly with regard to the ending. They show up throughout the storyline at pivotal moments, and add an extra element of intrigue to the plot. Given the episodic nature of the Remake, the reinterpretation of the classic game does feel like a self-contained experience, and as such, the ending introduced is also new. It appears to set up where the next episode may lead, but it leaves us with some unanswered questions.