Games

Please, Square Enix, Don’t Screw Up the ‘Final Fantasy VII’ Remake

So much hype, and such massive potential to fuck it all up. So, Square, listen to the fans, please.

by Dave Cook
Jun 18 2015, 3:10pm

Cloud meets Barret for the first time in the original 'Final Fantasy VII' of 1997.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

The insane digital circus of E3 2015 descended into war the moment Sony's press conference began. Shuhei Yoshida and his roster of gaming-industry luminaries took to the stage to deliver their rehearsed and meticulously scripted reveal announcements with the precision of highly trained snipers.

One by one, their high-caliber shots were fired deep into the knees of Microsoft's earlier show. Bang. Here's Yu Suzuki with Shenmue 3. Bang. The Last Guardian, at last. Bang. Naughty Dog strikes gold again with Uncharted 4.

In short, the PS4 conference was wish fulfillment at its finest, and a master class in giving people what they want—even if those demands were being met after a decade and more of vocal impatience from the paying public. Better late than never, right?

Shenmue 3 was a huge deal, of course, but I think confirmation of the Final Fantasy VII remake was the real crown jewel in Sony's glittering headpiece. (And yes, we know well enough that it's not a PlayStation-exclusive title, but Sony showed it off first, even before Square themselves did, so sit back down.) Aside from perhaps Half-Life 3, I can't recall a title that has been so requested, so demanded, and yet so feared among series fans and fence-sitters alike.

The playable cast of the original 'FFVII,' via the Final Fantasy Wiki

This game is feared because there's so much riding on it. What if the new game—and it will be a new game, not just a current-gen glossing-over of the original—is really bad, or somehow wholly unfaithful to the experience we remember from 1997? Worse still, the original PS1 release was so long ago now, what if many of us are recalling it differently through the hazy static of recollection? Have our tastes grown with the industry over time? Have other RPGs like Skyrim, the Mass Effect series, and The Witcher 3 set new benchmarks that cause Square's opus to pale now by comparison?

Well, the time for speculation is over, because we, the gamers, made this happen. We've finally got our wish, because we spoke loudly enough, for long enough, and a year or two from now, when we insert our discs into our PlayStation 4 consoles (or, y'know, whatever else it's on), we'll know whether Square Enix has given us the game we always wanted. My gut tells me many people will be disappointed regardless of the new VII's own-terms qualities, because this industry is now one that breeds pessimism like a depressed rabbit on Viagra; but also, a great deal of us will fall in love with Cloud's story and his fractured existence all over again.

The E3 2015 announcement trailer for 'Final Fantasy VII Remake'

Let's say you fall into the hopeful category and consider yourself the type of gamer who likes to give the benefit of the doubt. Does a part of you wonder just how Square Enix might—and that's a theoretical might—make some errors in the name of capturing new gamers who are perhaps unfamiliar with the original Final Fantasy VII? Aside from Streets of Rage 2, this is my favorite game of all time, and I'm going to trust in Square until I'm sitting at home playing it on my own PS4.

I want this game to be good. I really do. I felt my heart flutter when I heard that little jingle as Cloud walked through the rainy Midgar streets in the E3 trailer. I started to imagine how places like the Nibel Reactor, where Sephiroth and Cloud realize the horror of Jenova, will look on current-gen tech, or how badass summoning Neo Bahamut will be in 1080p. Just think for a second about all of that imagery, so many good times made modern. It's enough to send chills down your spine.

But what should Square do to keep the faithful fans happy? I don't say "keep happy" because I think all fans of something feel entitled by default—but if we're talking wish fulfillment, and making the dreams of gamers come true, then whom is the remake for if not the loyal Final Fantasy VII audience? I believe this is one instance where a degree of entitlement is allowed, and this is coming from a bloke who can't stand it. I know—pot, kettle, black, right?

First up is combat. Please, Square, for the love of Barret's beard, please don't ditch the classic Active Time Battle system and sub it with some awkward real-time encounters that try to pass themselves off as tactical. Final Fantasy VII's fighting was like anime chess, where you always had to think several steps ahead. "That git Hojo is going to poison my whole team in the next turn, I can just feel it. I'd better cue some antidotes, just to be safe." You know the fight I mean, and the kind of instance I'm on about.

There was a real tension to waiting your turn when the stakes were high, a tension that you just don't get with real-time combat (which might yet be a misstep by the forthcoming Final Fantasy XV). Case in point: the fight against Ruby Weapon in the desert outside Gold Saucer. That was proper heart-in-throat stuff, and when you finally sent his red ass packing? Pure bliss. Trust me, if you've never beaten that boss, you won't know what I mean.

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Every turn counts, and it's damn thrilling. If you want a great example of how such a battle mechanic can be given a suitable lick of cinematic gloss, then give Mistwalker's Xbox 360 exclusive Lost Odyssey a shot. Seriously, do it if you like the ATB system, as it's a brilliant game.

We're almost certainly going to have to go through this again.

Also, please don't ruin the cinematic mood with crap voice-overs. The narrator in the remake trailer—I think it was supposed to be Sephiroth?—sounded awkward, and I'm praying to Jenova that the vocal talent is top of the line, and not broody, moody, or cutesy like some of the awful pipes heard in previous series entries. I'm looking at you, Mog from Final Fantasy XIII-2, you creepy, hovering bastard.

Better still, give us an option to replace all the English voices with a Japanese dub—that'd definitely get your JRPG fans punching the air in joy. And while we're on the subject of audio, please, please don't lace vocal tracks over the original Final Fantasy VII score. That guff might pass with the ten Lightning Returns super-fans out there, but it has no place on any of Nobuo Uematsu's seminal arrangements. If you do decide to remix things, give us the option to revert back to the original score (orchestral, or PSone classic) at any time.

The world map had better be making a comeback, too, because I'd rather explore the game's wide-open spaces at will than simply pick locations off a menu. Remember the sense of sheer excitement and mild dread that came over you the moment you escaped Shinra's forces on Cloud's bike, only to realize that the real game had only just begun? The whole world was yours to explore, and it held many secrets for those willing to find them all.

We've seen Cloud and Barret in the reveal trailer, but will Tifa Lockhart be coming to the remake, too? Yes, obviously.

Basically, do that again, but harnessing new-gen hardware power, and this will be a modern masterpiece, I'm sure of it. In a way, I've basically given the dullest ransom list every conceived, which reads: "Remake Final Fantasy VII exactly the way it was, but with new visuals." But you know what? I think that'd be perfectly fine in this instance, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be happy to play that game.

Perhaps tighten up the dialogue a little, paper over some plot inconsistencies, and chuck a great trophy set in there for the glory hunters, and Square will be drowning in Gil—enough to buy as many Omnislash Limit Breaks from Battle Square as they like. Also, no microtransactions or walled-off DLC (unless purely cosmetic), and please don't try to reinvent it or shake the game up for the modern age in too much of a mechanic sense. I know that's Square's intent is to "update" the game in ways other than a purely aesthetic overhaul, but it'd be suicide, surely, for them to play around with our emotions too much.

That's my list of demands, Square. Call me entitled and call me demanding; call me selfish or whining. But I prefer to call myself a devoted fan who just wants to see this thing done properly, after holding my breath for so many years. Do us proud, guys... Do us proud.

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