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Final Fantasy VII Remake — Managing your expectations 101

by Ron Duwell | June 16, 2015June 16, 2015 12:20 pm PST

So Square Enix went ahead and did the unthinkable by announcing a full on remake of Final Fantasy VII, and it’s understandable that emotions are all over the place. Such a prospect is born to inflict frustration, relief, excitement, apprehensiveness, and any other number of feelings on long and old time fans. So much has changed since Final Fantasy VII blitzed the gaming world back in 1996. Powers that have shifted, and attentions have turned their heads to other genres.

My own thoughts are a confusing jumbled mess as well. I’ll definitely play it and probably enjoy it, but I don’t think for a minute I’m going to blindly accept this remake at face value and think everything’s just going to be alright. I have a lot of concern about this one. This will, without a doubt, be one of Square Enix’s most ambitious projects in its entire history, even more so than the first time round! It’s a project that it can’t afford to get wrong or suffer the wrath of fanboys who will criticize it for screwing up a golden opportunity or accuse it of not being the company it once was.

On top of pleasing the unpleaseable, it also has to find a way to make money! Sinking millions and millions of dollars into a game that is tapping more into nostalgia than anything else is always a dangerous gamble, but the only way to make it live up to the immaculate standards of the original is to pump an astronomical amount of money into it. Die if you do, die if you don’t!

So, it’s an exciting bet that Square Enix is making, maybe one that could make or break its lasting legacy, but just as many things could go wrong as could go right. For example:

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This has a VERY small chance of living up to many’s expectations

Final Fantasy VII

This isn’t remaking some dopey little RPG that might have picked up a few fans over the years. This is breathing new life into a watershed game that changed the face of the industry forever. This is like taking up the mantle to remake Star Wars or Citizen Kane, remake Super Mario Bros., or remake Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. These are icons of their respective mediums, iconic for the impact that they left on their peers and surroundings.

People hold Final Fantasy VII in such an immaculate regard not just because it is a fun game but because it was an incredible eye-opener in 1996. “Wow, video games can look like this? This is amazing!” Initial impressions were off the charts, but as I said before though, times change. The environment changes. The opinions of people change. Creativity is not a constant stream of thinking, it is an ever-evolving process that adapts to the world around it.

Games, like any other entertainment media, are created to reflect the times they come from, and only the notable survive beyond their intended purpose. Final Fantasy VII came out as 3D was becoming more affordable, its story reflected creepy trends in Japanese storytelling thanks to Evangelion. Both heavily contributed to its success.

We use the phrase “lightning in a bottle” to characterize games like Final Fantasy VII because they just happen to hit with the exact right force at the exact right time, an incredibly rare and even lucky event, just like catching lightning in a bottle. Even if the Final Fantasy VII remake is a technically better game, some will compare it not to the actual game itself but to their ingrained memories of it at the peak of its popularity, a fight that the remake simply can’t win for those who experienced the JRPG’s explosion first hand.

The game can be recreated into something brilliant, but the environment it will be released into cannot enjoy the same comforts. Final Fantasy VII Remake might be able to thrive on its own merits, but there will be plenty who won’t let it.

Nostalgia can do wonderful things for a game. Trust me, I drink liquid nostalgia for breakfast, so I am the last one to criticize people for enjoying a game because its an old favorite. Final Fantasy VII was a revolutionary hit, but it hasn’t exactly aged very well on the mechanics or graphic front.

If we are to invite newcomers and veterans alike into this remake, because let’s face it, it’s not just for older fans, then some changes are going to have to be made if Cloud and his friends’ adventure is going to be enjoyed across the board.

This is not going to be the same game

SQUARE ENIX FINAL FANTASY VII

Too much has changed since Final Fantasy VII arrived on the scene, and it will be impossible to keep many of the fabrics of its core game intact if it wants to be a success.

For example, pre-rendered backgrounds must be replaced by fully 3D environments. HD character models and hand-drawn art stick out at modern resolutions and won’t be able to work. Building towns and houses, each with individual rooms, is a good place to start, but if you remember, Final Fantasy VII is a gargantuan game spanning a metropolis with two layers, villages across the world, temples, a minigame heaven, a rocket ship, mountains, and dozens of Mako Reacters.

Final Fantasy VII made up for this size on the PlayStation by distorting all that information through its awkward character models. Nothing in Final Fantasy VII is drawn to proper scale, and Cloud is even taller than the buildings while putzing around on the world map! The immersion demanded by today’s standards will say that Cloud must remain consistent and in perfect ratio with the world around him or else risk not looking fake.

Yup, that means the world map is out too, forcing Square Enix to recalibrate the entire planet so that Midgar and all the villages seem like their natural sizes. My guess is that Square Enix will have to add a fast travel system in-between the settings it has to rebuild from the ground up, scrapping the overworld entirely since that definitely can’t be recreated to scale.

Uh oh, with no world map, there is no need for colored chocobos or to breed millions of generations to get the Knights of the Round Materia on that distant island.

Dissidia Final Fantasy (47)

Speaking of Materia, that will need a total overhaul as well. These colored rocks are one of Final Fantasy’s most delicate and exploitable systems ever, and they don’t hold up to other RPG mechanics in this modern day. Summons too have to be both beautiful but not take as much time. Random battles have to be tossed out because those haven’t been in style for quite some time. They take too long to load, and again, immersion on today’s standards doesn’t allow for that flashy transition into a battlefield that doesn’t actually exist.

In fact, Final Fantasy’s brand of traditional line fighting hasn’t really been attempted on the consoles since Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360, and even that “hit” felt like an antique when it hit the market. That game effectively killed the line-up menu fighting of the 90s for the seventh console generation. Such style of RPG is only really found on the handhelds anymore.

Unless Square Enix thinks of a magical way to evolve the classic line-fighting formula like in Final Fantasy XIII, expect a different approach to combat as well. Final Fantasy VII Remake simply can’t work as a gorgeous HD game running off a PlayStation 1 train of thought.

In other words there are two ways to remake this game. Remake it from the ground up with zero changes except to the graphics, or use Cloud’s adventure, friends, Materia, summons, and everything that made Final Fantasy VII stand out as a foundation to build a new yet familiar game on top of it.

Distinct camps will support both of these approaches, and ultimately, one is going to end up not being happy.

Directed by Tetsuya Nomura

Cloud Final Fantasy VII

This guy … I have no idea what is going on with this guy. Square Enix seems to be moving beyond its Japanese hierarchy standards within the company, focusing on younger, more in touch directors instead of the older crowd. And yet, Square Enix tapped none other than Tetsuya Nomura to direct this ambitious project.

I guess this gives another window into why he was removed from Final Fantasy XV, doesn’t it? Just remember though, he is now doing both Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III at the same time.

This is the same director who didn’t complete a single original game on the previous generation consoles. The guy who directed Final Fantasy XIII Versus right into a six year vaporware status. With nothing more than a few handheld games to his credits over the last ten years, he has just been handed two of the biggest games on the company’s HD line-up.

I’m not calling into question his talent at making games either. It’s his ability to stick to a schedule. We have plenty of creative types in this world who are good at designing, drawing, and writing stories. Nomura’s style might not always be up my alley, but he is very good at this side of development.

Then we have natural born leaders, people who can organize a team, micromanage problems, keep everyone motivated and on a schedule, and this is where I find he is a little lacking, especially after the Final Fantasy XIII Versus debacle. Final Fantasy VII Remake could be a good game under Nomura, but just don’t expect it before the turn of the decade unless Yoshinori Kitase lights a fire under his drawers.

Cloud Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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