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Final Fantasy 7 Remake: 'This is not just for the players of the original'

Cloud Strife and his iconic mop of spiked blonde hair emerge through the rising steam of an overcrowded city.

The main character of Final Fantasy 7 has his distinctive buster sword strapped to his back.

This time, however, he's not a pixelated image as seen in the 1997 PlayStation original - he's been fully rendered in life-like modern graphics.

It's been five years since gamers got a first glimpse of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, when the first trailer dropped.

The remake, which is out now, is a completely rebuilt version of a role-playing game that has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.

And fans of the original are excited to make a return to Midgar, the fantasy city where the remake takes place.

One of those eagerly awaiting the release is Youtuber Elz the Witch, who says she felt "really emotional" when she first played the remake.

"When the title screen came up with the theme music, it looked exactly how I imagined it looking 23 years ago, but with a hundred times better graphics," she tells BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"I didn't expect to be emotional but it's just that nostalgia of something that you've wanted for so long - and you've grown up with - to see come to fruition is really remarkable."

'It helped me understand my sexuality'

For civil servant Rob Bowman, it helped him understand his sexuality.

"Cloud is the protagonist and I related to him a lot," he says.

"In the game, he's trying to figure out who he is, and I was doing the same when I was playing it, although for different reasons.

"For me, it was figuring out my sexuality. Within the game Cloud found out who he was, and it made him stronger as a result.

"To this day, I feel it was the same for me. The game helped me open my eyes."

Getting the remake right for fans of the original, like Rob and Elz, was important for the development team.

Yoshinori Kitase, one of the game's producers, told Newsbeat: "You'll really get that that hit of nostalgia as soon as you start playing.

"There are loads of little moments to recognize and go, 'wow, I really remember this', but it's cool and exciting to see how it's been depicted in in a more modern style."

'This will resonate with new players'

It's been 23 years since the release of the original.

That game broke new ground in terms of its visual style and storytelling - and fans have idolised the story and characters.

But in the two decades since it was first released, a brand-new generation of gamers has emerged.

And that's something the development team were very aware of.

"This is not just for the players of the original," the remake's director, Naoki Hamaguchi, tells Newsbeat.

"It's got the same really well-loved core elements to it, but shown with more style, which will really help the game resonate with players today."

To do that the team have added story details that were not explored in the original and designed an entirely new way for battles to take place.

Yoshinori and Naoki agree it was important to get the balance right between innovating and staying true to the original.

Early reviews are positive but it's too early to tell how the game has landed with new players - although Elz is pleased with what she's played.

"There are always going to be high expectations that the remake is going to be held against," she says.

"I can only speak for myself and I'm really enjoying with how the gameplay has developed."

'Final Fantasy was my first thought after surgery'

Rob is still waiting to get his hands on the release after a mix-up with his pre-order. He's struggled with his health in recent years but believes the wait will be worth it.

"About three years ago I had to have emergency surgery on my heart, it was very likely that I would have died," he says.

"But I came around and the first thing I thought about, the thing I was most upset about, was the fact that I nearly didn't get to play Final Fantasy 7 Remake."

Expectations are high and the development team know that.

"We would definitely be lying if we said there's no pressure at all," they tells Newsbeat.

"We think perhaps more important than that is the passion and the desire of the team to make something good."


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