We should embrace change in the Final Fantasy VII remake0 Comments
A city where most never see the sky, a population whose days are marked by digital clocks rather than the sun’s journey. The majority ekes out their existence in the vast system of scrap metal shanty towns bedecked in aerosol neon, political messages of angry activists on the walls, mingled with the meaningless vandalism of tired youth. People gather in grungy bars to talk, sometimes about the Planet, a living presence. It will die soon. Above them rests the plate, where the privileged few live their lavish lives in willful ignorance. After some time, it becomes apparent that there is more to the world than a plate suspended above the squalor that supplies its power. Midgar is but one city in a large, suffering world. This new discovery is a stunning truth, and the wonder fails to fade as its distant corners are explored in a desperate journey to save it.
Final Fantasy VII’s strongest point is its world. The Planet reveals its secrets in a steady trickle. We are immediately thrown into the world, yet we aren’t quite sure just what’s going on. Little by little the pieces come together. Stepping out of the city for the first time, it’s extremely exciting, but a little daunting. Midgar is a self contained world on a small scale. Discovering that there is more to explore reminds us of how little we know, how much there is to do -- and what a world it is. Monsters that lurk in the marsh, seeking vulnerable explorers naive enough to wander into its territory on foot, hidden caves, lost civilizations, other cultures vastly different from the humans that dwell in Midgar. It is a fascinating place, for all of its rough, Lego-esque appearance.
The world is but one, albeit large, piece of what makes up what is perhaps the most famous Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VII is a well-made game, even by today’s standards, but it hasn’t aged flawlessly. Its characters and story hold promise, but they are limited, sometimes difficult to grasp or downright nonsensical, with JRPG tropes abound. The materia system still holds its ground nearly 20 years later, but turn based battles -- active or not -- are quickly becoming a thing of the past. However, Final Fantasy VII holds a special place in thousands of people’s hearts. It captivated the imaginations of thousands of children in the nineties, from which the vast nostalgia for the game springs.
But nostalgia can sometimes be blinding. It’s hard to accept that something we hold so dearly is not as perfect as we once remembered. News of the Final Fantasy VII remake is a reminder of that. Square Enix made their intention clear when using the term “remake” - the game would be seeing significant changes for a new generation. We’ve discovered this includes changes to the battle system. While some welcome these alterations, others do not embrace them so warmly. Some folks are quite vocal about their feelings toward the remake - perhaps the game doesn’t need changing. Perhaps the gameplay, as they remember it, is fine as is. Yet, if handled with care, and I know trusting Square Enix is a difficult thing these days, it’s my belief that Final Fantasy VII could benefit from change.
One of the largest complaints with JRPGs these days are the battle systems. Many current JRPGs are straying from the standard formula and embracing new ideas. Those that do not sometimes fall behind. Some aspects of Final Fantasy VII’s combat were well done. Materia was an easy -- but fulfilling -- way to customize equipment. Combining different Materia to make characters powerful and super efficient was incredibly satisfying. But with today’s technology, it’s time for the Final Fantasy VII remake to explore new combat options. Materia can stay, but a more immediate battle system that abandons the turn based formula would up the fun factor and create an interesting new experience. Square Enix has been open to experimenting with new ways of approaching combat in their RPGs, and it will be exciting to see what they come up with for a game as lovingly crafted as Final Fantasy VII.
While changes to technology have vastly widened our options for play in video games, we have also gotten better at crossing cultural barriers in the interim. Final Fantasy VII’s translation was a bit rough around the edges. Times are changing, though. Nowadays, there are plenty of Japanese games that have excellent translations thanks to talented freelance and in-house localization teams -- the Persona and Phoenix Wright series spring to mind almost immediately. They both have great translations that are relevant to a Western audience while still remaining true to the original material. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn also did an exceptional job at localizing both written text (quest overviews, item descriptions) and the script. It’s a delight to stumble across punny colloquialisms or subtle pop culture references in mission and quest titles. With the resources available for proper translation efforts, the Final Fantasy VII remake will be able to communicate its story more clearly while building a better connection to its audience.
Translation quality makes a huge, but subtle difference. However, the story and its characters at the source need to be solid. Final Fantasy VII has a promising story, but it’s oftentimes overly complicated, clouded by foggy themes and has a tendency to go on some fairly goofy tangents. The potential is there -- warnings about environmental degradation, political and corporate corruption, the unreliable nature of our own memories -- but they often get lost in the noise when the story gets ahead of itself. The characters, too, are cookie cutter, barely 3D personalities that deserve more time to truly develop. There are hints here and there of why we should like these people, but they could be stronger overall. When standing amongst games with powerful narratives like Dragon Age, Final Fantasy VII could pale in comparison. The idea of changing the narrative and beloved characters is troubling, but if these changes include telling that familiar story in a far more graceful way, the game itself will have a stronger impact. The Final Fantasy VII remake needs to make alterations to the story if a new version wants to hold its own in today’s gaming environment.
People are often quickly offended when they hear that a remake of an old, favorite video game includes creative alterations to the mechanics and storyline, and many ask "Why can’t they just make the same game over again with updated graphics?" I think Final Fantasy VII deserves more than that. Its legacy in the video game industry is undeniable. If the game’s original team -- a team that created this game with love and creative passion -- want to recreate it in a new image, why shouldn’t they be able to? Final Fantasy VII was great to begin with, but what would happen if it was allowed to achieve its full potential? Im my mind, it’s worth taking a risk to find out.