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Why Remaking FFVII is a Bad Idea


Does anyone else think the incessant demand for a Final Fantasy VII remake is one of the most thunderously stupid sentiments in gaming these days? It seems any bit of news regarding SquareEnix is inevitably met with the same comment repeated ad nauseam the internet over: "God the last two/four/dozen FF games have sucked. Just remake Final Fantasy VII already."

Always with that tone, too. "Release it already." As though it's been promised to them and withheld, its development somehow a foregone conclusion that keeps getting postponed by all the inconvenient delays the rest of us call "new Final Fantasy games," and these guys are taking SquareEnix to task for cockblocking them from a game that's been out for fourteen years.

Do I dare unpack the breathtaking logical gymnastics involved in statements like "your last X games have sucked, ergo you must remake one of the most beloved titles of all time?" Do they think the staff of people that have spent the last five years making all those games they didn't like are just going to sit this one out? That the real Square employees are going to return from the world's longest smoke break and commence Bringin' the Fun? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if the folks at Squenix knew how to capture that vintage FF magic, they would never have stopped in the first place, and this chorus demanding their nostalgia be vigorously serviced would likely never have gained traction in the first place.

Nothing the company has done in recent years suggests they are capable of anything but an immaculately rendered letdown.

"It's a license to print money!" many proponents have argued, and they are right. It's a guaranteed million seller at the very least (as with nearly every Final Fantasy). But being a shameless cash-grab should not be counted among a prospective title's virtues for anyone other than company stockholders, and make no mistake, shameless it would be: there is no legitimate creative reason to make Final Fantasy VII again. That's been made abundantly clear by the procession of tie-ins, movies, and prequels released over the years, the best of which carries all the artistic weight of a chintzy retcon, the RPG equivalent of epic lunchbox paraphernalia; the worst of which exists in order to beg its own question: it exists so that you can buy it, and you bought it because it exists. Any merits therein are purely incidental.

VII was not a game that was just shy of greatness. It was not held back by a gigantic design misstep or technical limitation (regardless of what modern standards dictate). It was not great until X point in the story. It was not amazing except for Y battle mechanic. History does not remember it as "almost a masterpiece." FFVII does not need to be fixed. So what, precisely, does a remake have to offer us that a replay can't? Graphics. Period. That's it. Now, I'm not going to claim that the freakish proportions of your dumpy, Cloud-shaped Popeye man was integral to your understanding of the game's themes, and that all would be ruined if you controlled a well-rendered, recognizably human character not suffering from severe edema. But would it add anything to experience? FFXIII had some of the most stunning graphics and character models in the series, or anywhere else for that matter. By and large, that did not make for a more interesting story, it did not expand our understanding of the characters beyond providing heaping portions of tin-earred melodrama, and other than showing off some very lovely set-pieces, it never really managed a setting, a world that contextualized the characters in a way that both informed and intrigued the player.

Or let's take Advent Children, since it was certainly as pretty as XIII and gave VII's cast that all-important makeover. It was one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen. CG modeling had by then reached the point of essentially unlimited storytelling power, which Tetsuya Nomura took as his cue to pop an hour-and-thirty minute long Matrix boner wherein the laws of physics, the stakes of each battle, and the spirit of the original, all became increasingly moot. It was a tech demo that dreamed it was a fight scene that once pretended to be a story so it could pick up chicks.

Now, 90% of FFVII looks like total dog shit, interspersed with five minute snippets where your characters grow four feet taller, sprout faces, and mime emphatically to one another. And despite the dated, quaint, or downright poor moments in presentation, it's a story that's obviously stuck with people the most without all the new-fangled razzle-frazzle.

Many of you, by this point, have probably dismissed me as a luddite nostalgist, afeard of The Newness because it doesn't sync with the VII of my adolescence. But I'm not saying graphics can't add to that experience. Graphical muscle is certainly capable of providing a whole new dimension of drama and depth. But what makes anyone think that's what it would be used for? What, in SquareEnix's recent oeuvre, suggests these are the people capable of adding anything of value to the original? More likely, the unlimited graphical majesty would be used to drop Aeris' neckline a few inches, have Sephiroth level all of Nibelheim using an endless succession of rad backflips, and replace most of the cast's dialogue with choreographed posing and icy over-the-shoulder squints. And boy, who else just can't wait to hear Yuffie talk? Won't that be grand?

I suppose there are plenty of people out there who don't view the company's recent output with quite the same level of virulent negativity as I do. And that's fine, there is no objective way to assess such things. To each his own, I say (though you'll have to imagine me doing so in that really condescending way, where someone's trying to sound like the bigger person but is actually judging you -- judging with their eyes.). Mostly, this hectoring is leveled at people that didn't care for the recent Final Fantasy's either, and still think a remake is a grand idea -- people for whom cause and effect is nothing more than a terrifying bluster of noise and motion without connection, correlation, just one long shrieking blurt of sensory data that ends, inevitably, on an internet message board, talking about how pretty graphics are pretty. It does occur to me that I might just be a dick, though, so...take that under consideration as well.
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About Zugzwangone of us since 7:48 PM on 05.09.2011

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