Final Fantasy VII Remake – The Evolution of Enemy Designs & What They Tell Us (E3 Update)
After what seems like an eternity – or at least 4 years – we are finally getting new details about the planned Final Fantasy VII remake. It’s been 22 years since the original was released; and while many have dissected the trailer and screenshots for insights into the combat and arrangement of these new games, I want to take a closer look at the gloriously re-imagined monsters. Sure the character art and locations also offer us great opportunities to compare; but whereas characters have had various updates over the years with spin-off games/ films and locations will need to be re-imagined slightly due to this no longer being a top-down map, the enemies of Final Fantasy VII offer us the most unique points of comparison.
Sure we’re only two trailers in – and there seems to be more coming at E3 2019 – but there’s already enough points of comparison to show just how much thought (and faithfulness) is being put into each enemy. So let’s kick things off with the type of enemies you’ll face: the Military Police (aka MPs).
MP (Basic and Underwater) – “Security Officer”:
As the basic grunt enemy of the opening levels, it’s pretty obvious that these would be one of the first enemies we’d see. In fact, these were present in the 2015 Announcement trailer. The reason it’s important to bring them up again in light of this new trailer is because it seems we’ve gotten a peak at their Underwater variant. In the original game, the basic sprite for MP was reused by a lot of related enemies. Most were re-colors but some were just straight up copy and pastes. Looking at the new trailer footage, we can tell it’s an Underwater MP due to the color scheme; but by taking a closer look we can actually discern a lot more.
Whereas the color change is still kept in game, it’s important to note that their armor is decidedly different. The MPs for example have more boxy shoulder and knee pads while the Underwater MPs have more streamlined shoulder and knee pads. Final Fantasy VII had many other reused/ recolored enemies like the MPs, so seeing this variation in the MPs (the most basic of basic enemies) is really promising! It shows that later enemies that once we just reused sprites will now have their own distinct style while still looking ‘related’ to their counterparts.
UPDATE: As the first game covers only Midgar, these are not the Junon Underwater MPs specifically. That being said, these are probably the same class of soldier – just on assignment in Midgar.
Sweeper/ Machine-Type Enemies:
Speaking of reused enemy types, the Sweeper-class machines are another big example of this. Though in the trailer, we see something a little different. Whereas FFVII’s Sweeper units used guns, it wasn’t until FFVII: Crisis Core that we got chainsaw machines. Overall, this is an incredibly common class of enemy for Final Fantasy games. So it’s not surprising we’re seeing multiple versions in this game. Those other versions will likely be ‘Custom Sweeper’ or ‘Death Machine’.
Beyond the variations though, the attention to detail here again is remarkable. Even the small steam pipe turret and valve on the Sweeper/ Machine’s shoulder has been faithfully remade. The oval domed-feet is also another nice touch as the drill feet of the original were kind of eccentric/ odd. They were super cool, but not really realistic. This redesign once again references the original while adding a more sensible touch to it. Though when it comes to once ‘odd/silly enemy’ becoming much more realistic, there is one monster in this new trailer that stands ABOVE the rest.
UPDATE: In the later E3 footage, we see the classic gun-look “sweepers”. This means (as expected) the chainsaw one will either be a different enemy or mini-boss. Again, the title as “Custom Sweeper” or “Death Machine” will probably depend on its status as mini-boss or enemy varient.
You might not remember him by name, but you certainly remember where this boss happens. If you’re familiar with the famous cross-dressing scene where Cloud, Tifa and Aeris (Aerith?) infiltrate a Brothel and then fall through a trap door, Aps is the beast that awaits them. Its original design – while perfectly conveying its story as a unsightly amalgam monster – still looks a little comical. Maybe it’s the eyes or maybe it’s the weird golden eyepatch on its snout. Something just feels off. The redesign on the other hand, HOLY COW BEAST!
Whatever was once comical about this beast is gone and is replaced by this rampaging bull monstrosity. It looks like the patch is still there – but this time further back and a darker shade. Though the real design highlights is that creepy long tongue. Just as pronounced are the glowing back horns, which (if I had to take a guess) seems Mako-infused. Add in the return of the broken wrist chains and this beast just screams “locked up nightmare”! As our first real ‘organic’ enemy-type, it’s great to see the detailing and animalistic qualities put into this beast; but Aps wasn’t the only one we saw in this trailer!
Sahagin has been another long time staple of the Final Fantasy series, especially when it comes to FFVII related titles. It of course had a wonderful design in Crisis Core, but I’m most familiar with it from Dirge of Cerberus. (I still have nightmares of those Cait Sith missions!) I bring these two games up because this is another enemy we’ve seen evolve over the years. And like the others, this version combines all the best attributes of its predecessors. When it first went through that polygonal to natural conversion, it got a more slender/ serpentine design. This version keeps that path, but gives it some really imposing musculature while still keeping it agile and fierce.
It’ll be interesting to see how many variations of this creature exist as the original only had the base form and the Desert Sahagin. Crisis Core on the other hand more than half a dozen variations. It’ll definitely be great to see how different types use different shells, weapons and shoulder armor – perhaps Cacti shoulder pads instead of Sea Urchin shoulder pads for the desert variants? Though again, Sahagin isn’t the only monster we’ve seen evolve over the years. In fact, there’s one VERY specific case that comes to mind.
Guard Scorpion – “Scorpion Sentinel”:
Even if you never played much of Final Fantasy VII, you know Guard Scorpion because it is literally the first boss. It was the moment you had to learn to strategize timing to avoid its tail attack as well as learn about Magical weaknesses/ resistances. Guard Scorpion might not be the strongest enemy, but it is certainly one of the most notable. And that is why its design has largely remained unchanged over the years despite its multiple appearances.
A Guard Scorpion (albeit stronger than the one we face in FFVII) is found in Crisis Core and like the Sweeper/ Machine enemies, the remake looks like a more HD version of that incarnation. After all, why mess with perfection? Although not all enemies have enjoyed a steady stream of upgrades over the years. We of course saw that with Aps; but there’s plenty of base enemies that haven’t been seen much in Final Fantasy since the original. And whereas our next one might have had a slight appearance in Crisis Core, it’s new form in the FFVII remake is the most jarring change.
Remember those tiny shrimp-like scorpion bugs you fought in Sector 4? Or perhaps you remember grinding their stronger – yet still small – pink eyed relatives the Head Hunters for EXP near Mideel? Either way, these little guys are back; but WOW are they not little anymore! The Grashtrike we see Cloud fighting in the trailer is incredibly menacing and looks more like a later game enemy. The colors have been changed to dark red and pulsing purple, but they still give off that shrimp/scorpion vibe. And even though we saw a version of Grashtrike in Crisis Core, this version (design wise) is much closer to the original in terms of claws; but it’s still its new size that takes the cake!
Words cannot describe how happy I was to see this monster because it makes me wonder – more than any other – what the redesigns in this game will look like. What used to be a little bug that looked like it could be kicked like a soccer ball is now a serpentine monstrosity that’s twice the size of a full grown man. Does this mean that FF7R will reimagaine size as well as looks? What other monsters will change size? Will the Weapons look even more imposing? Will Hell House actually be a life-sized house? If they can make a simple shrimp scorpion look like this, how grotesque will Jenova look?
Is there a monster you can’t wait to see re-made? Sound off in the comments below and I suppose stay tuned for Part 2 of this article – as soon as we get more footage (which is hopefully soon)
During the E3 footage, we got to see a lot of examples of how different situations need different combatants. This was best shown with Barret firing at a bunch of turrets. Those turrets of course existed in the original FF7 and were called 1st Ray. They also had a “Laser Cannon” variant, but FF7R will be calling them “Sentry Rays. As you can see from the footage, their design is almost identical to the originals.
Like Sahagin and the Machine enemies, the Guard Hound is another enemy we’ve seen evolve over the years. This time around its base form is called “Guard Dog”, but we can’t actually tell much else. This was from a blind-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of the E3 gameplay showcase so there’s not much detailing we can discern. That being said, it’s a dog with a tentacle appendage. It didn’t need much else. Though I am intrigued to see the ‘Dark Nation’ variation – Rufus’s personal pet.
When it comes to ‘faithful adaptations’ though, Mono Drive takes the cake! These candy-cane shiv flowers are just as odd as their original incarnations. As I mentioned earlier with Aps, this is gives us a good sense of some of FF7R’s ‘odder’ creature redesigns. Now more than ever, I want/ NEED there to be a bestiary in this game to learn more about these abominations. Are they plants? Experiments? Both? ANSWER ME SHINRA!!!!!!
Thanks to E3, we now have a look at our 3rd boss – 2nd chronologically: Air Buster. Or maybe you call it AirBuster? Whatever you call it, this redesign looks positively stunning and the way it moves around the arena is even better. The original game hinted at its mobility; but FF7R makes it fully visible. Though the most noticeable thing about this reveal in the E3 trailer was the timer. If memory serves me correctly, there was no timer for this boss. Story-wise it makes perfect sense since Air Buster happens as Barret and crew infiltrate another reactor. This timer could be the explosives you yourself just set off. Additionally, judging by how much more intuitive boss battles are now…. that timer could be scary. Heh, the 2nd boss of the 1st game in this multi-part series and ALREADY Square is calling upon our Emerald Weapon PTSD…
On-Going Mystery: ???
There is another monster we see with the Underwater MP – as well as the subway car battle – but it is unclear whether this is a completely new enemy or (judging by its location) a HEAVY redesign of the Gun Carrier enemy. Seeing as there is a motorcycle chase with Jessie (something that didn’t happen in the original) it’s very likely this is an entirely new enemy.
Credit: For the purpose of commentary, I overlaid past character models over footage of their current incarnations – all of which belongs to the talented monster-makers at Square Enix.