Square Enix used to have a complicated relationship with Final Fantasy 7. It was the game that popularised JRPGs outside of Japan, catapulting the genre into mainstream stardom as the once underrated series began to receive the attention it had always deserved. For many it was the first game like this they’d ever played, cementing itself as a tentpole of nostalgia that would remain immovable for decades. I should know, I was one of those people.
The arrival of Advent Children in 2005 saw the universe experience a resurgence of sorts, with spin-offs like Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core building upon this new interpretation and teasing where exactly it might end up going next. Much like the modern day, many fans back then were hoping for a fully-fledged remake. Square Enix was clearly aware of these demands, but it was either busy producing other entries in the series or thought it was much too soon for it to be bringing back a fan favourite to new consoles. That didn’t stop it from teasing us though – as an iconic PS3 tech demo can quite clearly attest to.
I think I saw this demo for the first time on Bebo. It was a little before Facebook became a prominent social media platform, so I’d spend many an evening watching new game trailers on the now-deceased website while also indulging in more than a few cringe-inducing AMVs. Yes, I am the coolest, no need to tell me. Then one fateful night, after I’d just finished admiring a Final Fantasy 9 montage set to Linkin Park’s In The End, I saw this groundbreaking trailer in all its glory. Sony and Square Enix made it clear immediately that this was little more than a technical demonstration, but a foolish child like me didn’t know what that meant.
This was the real deal, a futuristic return of a game I’d come to treat as a religion, with its world and characters now depicted in a fidelity previously unforeseen. It was gorgeous, spurring fiery demands from fans for an actual remake instead of a fanciful clip that served to give us blue balls and little else. You can’t just update the iconic opening scene from one of the most beloved games of all time for a next-generation console and not expect people to request the full thing.
If you’re unfamiliar with this tech demo, it essentially recreates the opening scene of Final Fantasy 7 using PS3 hardware. We see a new iteration of Aerith nursing flowers in a Midgar alleyway, watching as she rises to her feet and walks out into the bustling city streets filled with busy crowds and an unrivalled atmosphere for the time. It still looks great, with fans even remastering the clip using machine learning to give us an idea of what this potential remake might have looked like had it ever happened.
The camera then shoots upward, providing a larger scale picture of what Midgar looks like without past constraints, its overpowering capitalist architecture dwarving the slums below. Before we know it the scene changes again, following the arriving train carrying Cloud and company as it flies into the reactor station. Our hero leaps from the roof, swinging his sword in a beautifully melodramatic way before the scene fades to black and we’re left to pick our jaws up off the floor. If Square Enix had picked up on this hype and decided to remake Final Fantasy 7 back then we wouldn’t have the absurd new take available today, so I certainly don’t regret that our demands were ignored until the time was right, until technology was capable enough to depict this adventure without any form of compromise.
Keep in mind that the PS3 wasn’t exactly in a good spot ahead of launch either. It had hardly any games worth playing, a ludicrous asking price, and messaging from Sony that failed to justify its existence with a weighty hubris it would spend years recovering from. Final Fantasy 7 could have changed this trajectory, making its new console the only place to enjoy a revival of a JRPG so legendary that even today nothing can quite compare. But it didn’t happen, and I’m glad it was left alone until both hardware and audiences were ready for such a revival. Baby Jade would have lost her marbles if a remake emerged during her teenage years, but if I could go back in time I’d tell them to be patient because what’s coming is absolutely worth the wait. 16 years later, that tech demo still looks incredible though.
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