Like a crazed cosmetic surgeon with a thirst for the blood of your childhood memories, Square Enix will be tearing off the face of your beloved Final Fantasy 7, stomping it into the dirt, and slapping on a new one – all shiny and plastic. Seriously. Unlike Square Enix, the game company that first brought you our much-loved ‘spiky-headed jerk’, Square Enix will completely botch this remake, stripping away every instance of light-heartedness, passion, and charm to leave us with a pile of indiscernible, modern gaming goop. Aaaand exhale…
Let me actually begin by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of Matt Peckham in his article on Wired. It is challenging to look so far into the past and consider the affection we have for our nostalgic relics as anything but good, wholesome memories. It’s counter-intuitive, in a way, to criticize the things we love and hold dear. If fond memories bring us happiness, how could they be anything but beneficial? But instead of looking at this upcoming remake as a pure reincarnation, we should accept that maybe there is some value in putting certain items under the knife. Considering it’s pretty much a guarantee that the remake will not just be a graphical overhaul (as explained in a translation of Nomura’s comments in this Kotaku article,) we had better become comfortable with some pretty big modifications to gameplay and story. But rather than freaking out and poisoning the well so that we won’t be able to enjoy whatever this remake does wind up being, let’s take the trailer’s final words to heart. “The reunion at hand may bring joy, it may bring fear, but let us embrace whatever it brings.”
And so… I am excited for this remake. I am ready to embrace whatever this reunion may bring. But I’ll be GODDAMNED if you put your hands on my chocobos.
Here’s 8 things I’d actually have a paragraph 1-style hissy fit over if removed from the FF7 remake.
Now – Nomura has already told us to look forward to cloud in a dress and the Honey Bee Inn and Square Enix will obviously not be deleting the first 5 hours of gameplay from their remake, so maybe I should clarify. In all it’s neon glory – Wall Market is an intricate and living space in my mind. It’s a wonderful, sad, and somehow realistic place in a funny, cartoonish sense. The people are down-trodden, alcoholic, mentally unstable, gruff, and perverse. Don Corneo and his mansion form the perfect finale for the materialism and depravity on display all throughout the town. While a certain amount of nuance and sensitivity would be a much-welcomed change to this segment, N8 would H8 to see it heavily altered due to the opinions of focus groups or the forces of political correctness.
The idea that the first two hours of FF7 could somehow be rebranded as something other-than eco-terrorism makes me very uncomfortable. There is no confusion in the original as to what the player is engaging in early in the game. The members of AVALANCHE are dedicated to performing acts of destruction in order to stop Shinra’s consumption of Mako energy – and they know their actions are killing others. Jesse addresses this with, “Because of our actions many people died. This is probably our punishment…” The parallels to the energy industry and eco-terrorists in the real world are indisputable. In a world where ‘terrorism’ is a manufactured synonym for evil, it’s not hard to imagine the FF7 remake losing this term in fear of backlash. The prospect of glorifying ‘terrorists’ is potentially too risky for a huge company like Square Enix. But to lose this framing would be to lose one of the most vibrant and direct political messages housed in any Final Fantasy game.
3/8. A truly open world map.
One of the things FF7 does better than any other 3D FF game is its world map. The progressive expansion of freedom in relation to your party’s transportation options is such a great way of building a feeling of growth. As soon as you leave Midgar, you’re on foot. You upgrade to a crummy little chocobo, then a buggy, then the Tiny Bronco, until you finally get the Highwind; each with a little boost in maneuverability or speed or usefulness. There is a wonderful feeling of undiscovered potential as you continue to learn the little secrets the overworld houses. New chocobos allow you to explore islands and mountains and the submarine brings you to all that’s hidden underwater. It’s a wonderful thing to imagine a humongous overworld with great swathes of plain, mountain, and sea in all the glory of modern HD. It’d be a shame to revert to the open-ish world map style of of FF12 or 13.
So, here’s the thing… At least half of the minigames from FF7 were complete garbage. The excavation minigame in Bone Village was heavily based on guesstimation, the CPR minigame in Junon you literally couldn’t lose, and the Great Glacier cliff minigame had you button mashing to climb a mountain and stave off hypothermia. Not to mention a serious majority of the Gold Saucer minigames were just terrible (arm wrestling, basketball, rock-paper-scissors…) But in remembrance – even the atrocious minigames added so much charm. The idea of playing through this remake without the optional Fort Condor tower defense game, the snowboarding, the chocobo racing and breeding, the motorcycling, and the roller coaster shooting just feels so empty. I’d love to see these (or other) minigames return, all polished and smoothed-out with our modern day graphics and design.
5/8. Date night!
I want to be able to go on a date with Barrett. That is all.
6/8. Weird enemies
Not that Final Fantasy has ever really ‘dulled-down’ their enemy roster, so to speak, but it certainly would be a shame to miss out on some of the classic weirdos like… Icicle! And Hell House! And Swingy-guillotine guy called Ghirofelgo… And that orange ball that gave you a stupid amount of AP for killing it… And a warning sign…?
Goofy stuff like this is desperately needed in the mainstream world of cut-and-paste RPGs and blockbusters.
7/8. General campyness
If, as Tetsuya Nomura has said in his interview with Engadget, “jumping forward to attack an enemy, then jumping back to wait for their next turn” will be too “bizarre” for the remake, then it is truly hard to imagine the whole ‘Jumping with Mr. Dolphin’ scene. I can very easily see this type of gimmicky, janky-looking extraneous stuff being tossed out the window without a second question. And this is a shame, considering the campy feeling of these segments always felt like a big reason FF7 has such a huge cult following. I’m sure we’ll miss Hojo on the beach, Palmer mooning us and getting hit by a truck, and the slap-fight between Tifa and Scarlet.
8/8. Bizarre and creepy scenes
It would be impossible to bring the weird sound effects, low-poly graphical manipulations, and cheesey text boxes that FF7 is known for into the remake. That being said, there are scenes that are so weird, creepy, and bizarre that would look so good in the remake. The segment inside of Cloud’s mind, for example contains a number of unsettling moments. Tifa spinning around in a black abyss, as one example…
The thought of that inexplicable drip-drop noise still gives me chills, as does the ghost of Aeris in the slums church.
So – again – I am looking forward to this remake with all the optimism and open-mindedness as a man-child can. I do not think the remake will be bad. I also don’t think the remake will be the game I have known and loved for the past two decades. But that’s fine. That’s how it should be. There is no reason to tamper with something that is already so beloved. Square Enix is going in the right direction with heavy changes, because this should be thought of as a new game – a true remake- not just a rehash.