Final Fantasy 7 Remake Is Doomed, Even If It’s Perfect
Photo: Square Enix
Let’s start with a full disclosure. When the announcement of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake shattered the 2015 E3, I was not among those losing their minds. I was disappointed. I was filled with rage. I was angry at everyone, who showed even an iota of excitement. You see, Final Fantasy 7 is the game that I attribute to making me a gamer. Prior to FF7, games were just something fun to do in my off-time. They didn’t have the same life-changing impact that movies, music, theater or television did. Final Fantasy 7 changed everything for me as I accompanied Cloud and his friends on an adventure unlike anything I had ever experienced in any other medium of entertainment. When the remake was announced, I was of the opinion that the experience that I had would be lessened by remaking it, because there’s no way the remake would instill the same type of emotions or experience in an individual the way the original did despite its horrendous graphics. I was, of course, being dramatic and ridiculous.
Out at E3 2019, I was able to play the Final Fantasy 7 Remake and soak up all the scarce details released thus far. Despite my cautious skepticism, what we have seen, and played all looks very, very good. I’m even pleased at how Square Enix was able to find a way to weave classic ATB style mechanics into the fast-paced action oriented combat we’ve come to know from their recent iterations of Final Fantasy. I really did fully enjoy the time I spent at E3 playing through the Mako Reactor mission.
We’ve also been told that the Final Fantasy 7 Remake would be put out in installments and that the first of them would be the entire Midgard Arc. This is where some of the first big criticisms began to surface since Midgard is only a small part of the overall game, but even this didn’t bother me too much. I think Midgard is a fascinating place with a lot of potential for story and development. Take into account that Square Enix has said that the first installment of the Remake would be a complete experience all it’s own, it gives it a chance to expand upon and explore characters we didn’t have enough time with in the original.
However, everyone uneasy with the idea of episodic installments of Final Fantasy 7 are right to be wary because even if the first game is perfect and fun and amazing, it’s still doomed to fail. Square Enix isn’t yet sure how many ‘games’ it’s going to take to finish the Remake. They’re essentially turning Final Fantasy 7 into its own franchise. Let’s take a moment to examine some of the very real pitfalls that the game could end up falling into.
Where does each game end?
We already know that the first game will deal with all that happens in Midgard. So, the question becomes… Where exactly does the game end? How does it end? If it’s a complete game experience, then it still needs to have a satisfactory ending. Is Rollerball your final boss? Do you end it after Rufus? Neither of those seem very compelling. You could take it all the way to Kalm and have the flashback with Sephiroth’s Origins be the ending. If you’ve spent the whole game with Cloud have weird flashbacks or premonitions of this psychotic white haired main haunting him, ending with a story about how he was once a hero who went insane would be an alright note to end on. But what about the rest of the game? Which arcs are long enough and meaningful enough to end an entire installment on?
How do you carry over skill growth?
In the original game, by the time you leave Midgard, you’re maybe Level 15 to 20. You’ve possibly unlocked the second tier of Lightning, Fire… You also have access to Poison, Cure, a few Enemy Skills, some command materia and one or two Limit Breaks. You’ve only scratched the surface of the game and have another 80+ Levels to grow and expand your arsenal. If Square Enix wants each installment to feel like a complete game, you’re going to need to have 40-60 hours of game play and in that time players will expect to evolve from a lowly starting character to something more powerful. What does that look like in the second installment? Do we revert back to Level 1 and have to do the process all over again? Or will each game keep adding an entire games worth of abilities and magic and risk over complicating the battle system?
Dealing with Increased Expectations
Another tough aspect of the episodic game format that Square Enix will need to deal with is how to keep the game fresh and interesting. If there’s a mechanic or function that people end up disliking, do you remove it? If there’s an aspect of it that people are really, really into, do you find a way to make that more prevalent in the next game? If not as many people are buying the second or third game as they did the first, do you alter or change something to entice them back? How does this affect the skill growth or progress of players who are perfectly happy with the game? Square Enix in recent years through Final Fantasy XV’s development and the development of their MMO Final Fantasy XIV have shown they are more than willing to submit to fan critique.
Balancing the Scope of the Game
The biggest balancing act for Square Enix is going to be how much new content do you create. Everyone knows the story to Final Fantasy 7. You have to be willing to update the story or add in new details that even die hard fans are going to like and accept, while also staying true to the source material. It’s one of the reasons why they’re able to make an entire game just out of Midgard. But how far does that go? Is Junon its own game? Is the Gold Saucer and Calm? Cosmo Canyon and Nibelheim? It’s going to be very easy for Square Enix to fall into the same holes that Kickstarter games often do and over promise and under deliver. It could be even worse and be another Final Fantasy XV that takes nearly 15 years worth of development time.
Overall, I’d love to see this game do well, but given Square Enix’s most recent history and my falling out with the developer and the franchise as a whole, I don’t have much faith it will. I also recognize that I may just be having an old man yells at cloud moment as Square Enix is still making money hand over fist. When it all comes down it, if need be I’ll just break out the Switch and play the good ol’ Final Fantasy 7, the one that never needed a remake to begin with.
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