Dear SquareEnix: Please Don’t Remake Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is quite literally one of the most talked about RPG’s in existence and is known by almost every gamer no matter their genre of preference. It seems to land on every “Top 10″ or “Favorite” list relevant to the RPG genre, sometimes even on lists it doesn’t even belong in. As the trend of HD remakes has become more common the fans have continued to scream out one loud phrase:
Please remake Final Fantasy VII.
But that I say no, just no. Please Square for the love of mana, do not remake Final Fantasy VII no matter what.
Somehow I seem to be one of the few people in existence that didn’t care for the game. And sadly thanks to the endless fans of the series my mild indifference has been twisted into full-blown fanboi hate. I played it when it first came out much like the majority of the FFVII fans. But while others were enthralled with the world of Gaia I found myself wanting more from the game. Over the years I’ve debated with a number of fans as to why they love the tale of Cloud and co. so much and it always seems to boil down to one thing, it was their first.
Our firsts always seem to stand out in our minds as either pinnacles of greatness or bastions of failure and gaming is no different. But the difficult thing about memories is that they are always better in our mind than we truly realize. Have you ever gone back and watched a classic cartoon from your childhood? The first thing you notice is the outdated look and the sheer corniness of the era. Now that doesn’t discount how good the property was as I know I can still go back and watch the old Transformer cartoons with the same reverence now as I did then. But it does often pin a sense of reality to one’s nostalgia.
The digital land of video games however doesn’t always stand the test of time as well as movies or television. The Playstation era in particular was a time where games were experimenting with the 3d artstyle and post-midi sound, neither formats which translate very well to the HD era. Even beyond the technical differences of the era the main problem with the resurrection of Final Fantasy VII is this, it’s simply not as good as fans remember. So what’s my problem with FFVII you ask? Let’s break it down.
1.) The Main Character
The Advent Children movie really made it look like Cloud was a super BAMF of Samuel L Jackson qualities, but in the actual game he usually ranged from adequate to emo. In the modern times of rugged manly men like Marcus Fenix and Kratos or the witty banter of characters like Nathan Drake and Dante, Cloud just comes off as archaic. The thing I always find the most amusing is how much criticism Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII received when in essence she is the female Cloud. While Cloud’s backstory was at first interesting, the eventual reality that his personality was just a copy of his friend Zack, turned it a bit sour. But from the flashbacks in FFVII and story from Crisis Core, they make Zack to be more interesting than Cloud in every conceivable way. In essence Cloud is not the deep character that he is so fondly remembered as.
2.) The Supporting Cast
More than anything else in Final Fantasy VII its the supporting cast that I find so lacking. Other character driven RPG’s such as Mass Effect, Tales of Vesperia and Valkyrie Chronicles have a supporting cast so strong that they often overshadow the main character. VII however does not pull off the same achievement or even comes close. While AVALANCHE served an important purpose at the beginning of the game, Barrett and his rebellion took a backseat to chasing Sephiroth causing the role of the character to feel lost and ultimately broken. Then there’s the fact that the character is so borderline stereotypical that it borders on racist. Instead of portraying Barrett as a strong (black) character that loved his crew and family he came off as brash, rash and violent. Whether this is the product of characterization in the 90′s or the sad mainview stream of what a character has to be to be accepted as black, Barretts character managed to rub me wrong in every way possible.
Then you have Tifa whose purpose in the game ranges from supportive childhood friend to the girl who wishes Cloud would just pay attention to her. While in the scope of the gameplay she was a great character and certainly kicked ass her overall addition to the crew always seemed odd. She always acted as nothing more than the person to slap Cloud for being so emo all the time, a job that certainly needed to be done. More than any other character, I wanted to like her, but the narrative in the game kept me from seeing her as anything more than a character to fill Aerith’s void. Though her portrayal in Advent Children was a huge step up.
Red XIII somehow ended up being my favorite character. Don’t ask me how the silent dog with attitude became my fav, but for some reason he seemed the only person with common sense and an even disposition.
Vincent can’t really be criticized due to the fact that he literally did not share his background in the game. At least his silent brooding nature was justified from the almost the minute you got him.
The rest of the cast such as Cid, Yuffie and Cat Sith were fairly forgettable, though that’s to be expected with sidekick type characters. And I won’t say anything about Aerith, its ill to speak of the dead (see what I did there?).
While other games have certainly had boring side characters, for a game as critical lauded as Final Fantasy VII I expect a bit more than what was given.
3.) The Villain
Sephiroth was not a very fearsome villain. He literally spends most of the game slaughtering scientists, businessmen, innocents and little girls in flower fields. His reasons for turning his back on humanity are as cloudy and confused as they come. Up to the point where he finds out he’s a son of an alien he is by all the means a champion of light. But with one encounter he swings all the way over to crazed madman seeking to become a god. While yes there is the additional problem of Jenova influencing his mind, the man who is behind the alien serves no real purpose, no real presence. In comparison to the true king of Final Fantasy villains, Kefka, the One Winged Angel is ultimately remembered for killing Aerith and little more. Not to mention he manages to come back from the dead more times than Ganon.
4.) The Game Itself
One cry I hear often from Final Fantasy fans is how linear Final Fantasy XIII was and how the franchise has forever been dirtied by its move to multiplatform (the concept that going multiplatform destroys a franchise makes me laugh as is). But I wonder when the last time someone played FFVII. While for the most part it is more open-ended than XIII, there are more times in the game where you’re locked in a zone than not. Though I think the issue of linearity is only an issue when you are not invested in the story. And I think its safe say that fans of the game were certainly engrossed. The least linear of all the Final Fantasy games, XII, seems to get no love despite its terrific sense of exploration. So does the franchise need linearity or non-linearity? And holding VII as the king of non-linear RPG’s is a crown it does not deserve by any means. Then you have what seems to be the impending death of turn-based games. While VII is not strictly turn-based as the Active Time Battle system forced you to be a little proactive, its overall style and flow is a strictly throwback.
If it seems like I’m going out my way to rip apart a childhood favorite of many, I’m not. While my displeasure with the seventh entry of the Final Fantasy dynasty is no secret, I can objectively look and see what other’s see in the tale. For anyone who was not into RPG’s before the game came out it must have been groundbreaking. If all you knew was Mario and Sonic and smattering of action games then the dirty city landscape of Midgar must have seemed as awe-inspiring as Blade Runner. To those who never played a Final Fantasy or japanese RPG the concept of a main character dying blew your mind. Unfortunately for me known of those scenarios applied to me and VII failed to be a first in any category.
The real problem is that it’s 2012 now. Main characters die, games can be gritty and dirty and games are constantly pushing the boundaries. Final Fantasy VII can’t just be a simple HD remix, it would have to be a remake for it to be viable. The problem with that is the true purpose of a remake isn’t to just suck more blood from a franchise (though that’s certainly what they’ve turned into now) but to introduce it to a new audience. An audience that was either too young to remember the original or because the property was not well-known. Final Fantasy VII does not have that problem as anyone capable of using the controller has at the very least HEARD of the game let alone played it. The memories of what made Final Fantasy VII legendary will not hold up to the bar set by today’s games. Much like the resurrection of the Transformers movies, some franchises are better left as pleasant memories in your mind and collectors editions on your shelf
So as far as a Final Fantasy VII remake goes. Let it go. Let some classics stay classics.
But Square Enix you can totally remake Final Fantasy VI /hypocrite.