JENOVA: The explosive combination of music, memories and tension

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Source: Square Enix

This might just be yet another article on the unending list of the zillions that have come out regarding Final Fantasy VII Remake. But in it, I won’t be wasting a lot of time talking about the game itself or about what it did wrong or right compared to the original or even what my expectations are for the second part of this saga. Those are all conversations that you can easily find elsewhere and that, by this point, even as we stand just 40 days after (what was meant to be) the game’s initial release date, have already been analyzed to death.

No, this is a story about a tiny portion of the game. A section that literally forced me to drop my controller to simply lose myself within it. Something that I had been expecting for over 20 years, yet the payoff was so much greater than I could’ve imagined.

Before I begin this story however, allow me to put in my own two cents by pointing out that by no means do I think that Square Enix did a perfect job with the Final Fantasy VII Remake. They re-did sections of the game that in my opinion, would’ve worked pretty well even today, substituting them for tedious battles and running around empty corridors that felt more like something you needed to get out of the way in order to reach the good stuff rather than anything substantial. Not to mention the lack of blood so the game can be available to a wider audience. That walk towards the President’s office used to be filled with a sense of dread. Now, that feeling was replaced by unyielding rage. Which is a true shame because Final Fantasy VII Remake is truly at its best when it stays as close as possible to the original content. In fact, I wouldn’t shy away from calling those moments as the greatest gaming experience of my life.

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Source: Square Enix

But forget all that for now and let’s return to the topic at hand. To that single moment where -what I thought was- perfection was driven just a little bit further to create a mind — blowing experience.

So, I’m in the Shinra HQ, having rescued Aerith. After a chance encounter with — what I believe to be, I don’t even know anymore- Sephiroth and the calamity from the skies, Jenova, I fall prey to Professor Hojo’s twisted little games as he keeps me trapped in his lab until he sees fit to let me go. But I’m sure most of the people who are reading this and played the game know how things went down.

Eventually he lets me go and I move onward towards the top floor of the building, following some purple goo (the rage!) left by what I can only assume is Jenova. Finally I reach the Presidential chamber and after a series of events that I will not go into to avoid spoilers, a battle breaks out. Not with Sephiroth, but with his mother, Jenova (or at least some form of her).

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Source: Square Enix

I should mention that this is all during my first play through of the game. Although I know the story of the original and can somewhat follow the events, this battle is all new to me since the first time I remember encountering Jenova in battle was on the ship from Junon to Costa Del Sol. Anyway, the fight begins, it’s hard to keep up but thankfully I’ve got all the right materia equipped and Nanaki is there (if you don’t know who that is, I can’t help you!) to provide his support, so I’m getting by.

But, thanks to one of the best features not just in this game, but in any game I’ve played, these battles go through multiple stages of increasing difficulty. So when the second stage rears its ugly head (although it couldn’t be much uglier than Jenova’s, I mean have you seen that thing?) I start to break a sweat. What do I hit? Where do I aim? I have no idea, so I just keep striking the main body with all I got, hoping for its health bar to go down as quickly as possible.

Thankfully it works and it leads me to the third and final stage of the battle. This is absolute madness. There are tentacles flying everywhere (I think my targets went from A all the way to Z!), my characters are stopping inexplicably and there’s black goo dropping from the sealing. While I’m in full tension mode, I can hear ‘it’ playing in the background. I could never forget that tune. It was one of the most memorable video game songs I had ever heard and so advanced for its age. Nobuo Uematsu’s “JENOVA”, only remastered or re-edited if you prefer.

Listen after the 4:00 mark.

Even though I’m all tense from the boss fight -which is still going on mind you- I feel compelled to pause the game and lose myself in this magnificent, ecstatic track. The combination of the music, memories and tension lead me to suddenly break out dancing to this beat, as if something within me had just exploded and I was now being consumed by this river of emotions. Thankfully there was no one there to witness this truly horrific sight!

Eventually I get back into the game and finish it with a heavy heart as I am forced to stop listening to this piece of art. If I could’ve gone through the whole game having it play in the background, I would’ve! And this just goes to show that Nobuo Uematsu truly is an artistic genius as his pieces are able to easily withstand the test of time, yet in this situation I also feel that Masashi Hamauzu (FF VII Remake’s music director) also deserves special credit for the work he did on bringing them up to date using today’s technology.

I had been listening to the Distant Worlds version of “JENOVA” for years, thinking about how epic it would be to have a remade version of the 1997 boss battle during which this song played in the background. Yet now that I actually lived it, I realize how wasteful those thoughts were, as it was far better than anything I could’ve ever imagined…

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