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CJ and Holmes disagree: Is the Final Fantasy VII remake like a live-action Simpsons' porn parody?

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How hot and wet do you like it?

[CJ and Holmes Disagree is a series where Destructoid Features editor CJ Andreissen and washed-up Dtoid Show host Jonathan Holmes disagree about video games. Who will you agree or disagree with?]

[Realistic Simpsons art by Brad Anderson]

This community blog from 13 years ago is my first piece of published, prime-time game blogging. I was shocked to see it moved to the front page at the time, as my opinion that  "realistic graphics aren't that great, actually" really went against the grain of the PS3/360 "hardcore gamer" at the time. But here we are 12 years later and it turns out I was right. Colorful and abstract titles like Fortnite, Minecraft, Overwatch, and Pokémon Go are the biggest games of the decade. Pixar and Dreamworks films are nearly as popular and equally "cartoony," while attempts at photo-realistic CGI films like Beowulf and The Polar Express are all but dead. 

Ironically, the exception to that rule comes from Disney, the former figurehead of cartoon cinema. Despite general tepid critical responses, their recent run of "live-action" remakes of their own 2D, animated films have been huge hits. When given the choice, people would rather buy tickets to a movie they've already seen before than take a chance on something new, as long as the old movie in question has been given some sort of technically impressive face-lift. The same trends have found a place in both games and pornography. Remakes of 10-year-old+ games have never sold better, and in the porn world, CGI and/or cosplay-based porn parodies are hotter than ever. People like re-experiencing things they are already attached to in a new, sometimes fuckable, light. 

That's all well and good, but my question is, are these game remakes all that different from the porn parodies? I can speak for myself when I say that the Barrett in the Final Fantasy 7 remake does not look like Barrett. He looks like a Barret cosplayer at best. That character, and most of the characters from Final Fantasy 7, were never meant to look anything like real people. That's why they carry swords that are longer than they are, or are talking cats, or are a talking cat that's sitting on top of a giant white cat-like monster with bat wings. This is not a series that has been striving for realism from the start like Resident Evil, which was born into this world with a now-infamous live-action cut scene. This is the game where you ride giant chickens down a rainbow road before doing some sick jumps on your snowboard and then save the world from a combination of corporate greed and a symbol of your impostor syndrome. 

Sure, Final Fantasy 7 could use a technical update, but not at the expense of its original art direction. It's impressive looking for sure, but it's not that different than watching a guy painted yellow with really impressive make-up, wearing a really impressive-bald cap, porking a lady with a really impressive blue beehive wig on. If I were the kind of guy to watch that kind of Simpsons' porn parody, I would enjoy it because I like those characters, and I like that the people who made the porn probably likes those characters too, but I wouldn't feel like that really was Marge and Homer bumping uglies up on the screen. I'd feel like it was impassioned fan art that is in no way a replacement of the real thing, worth a few minutes of my time for a laugh and acknowledging nod, but that's about it.

But I have a feeling CJ may see things differently. 

CJ: Holmes, let me first start off by congratulating you on picking a title for this installment of me explaining to you why your opinion is wrong that will making people give the story a "What the Fuck?" click.

Now, where to begin with the argument at hand. Oh I know. What the hell, man? I was blissfully benighted toward the existence of Simpsons' parody porn and now it's something that will keep me from ever getting an erection again. Whatever, it's not like I was doing anything with them anyway. As much as I despise you right now, I'm going to press on and make the point that Final Fantasy VII Remake isn't some porn parody, but rather the end result of everything Square Enix has been working toward since it was still known as Square.

Final Fantasy VII is not a pretty game by any modern standards. It's still perfectly playable, that's for sure, but its blocky characters, muddy backgrounds, horrendous motorcycle/snowboard controls, and stilted cutscenes have not aged well. And that's not a shocking revelation. Very rarely is the first entry of a franchise on a new console as good as it could be. Just look at the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. With VII, Square was just learning the PlayStation hardware. True fact: Final Fantasy VII was the second game Square published for the original PlayStation, after Tobal No. 1

So you have this game that is going to be one of the first products from the publisher on this new hardware and the in-game look doesn't come anywhere close to what we see in concept art. Again, something that was quite common throughout the early generations of gaming. But you are right. The original character art found in the booklets and visual compendiums for Final Fantasy VII point to a more animated design, like something from late '80s anime or all the human characters in Kingdom Hearts. Tetsuya Nomura is one of the greatest character designers to come out of Square, belts and all, and he is one whose designs have evolved as the technology has improved. 

And actually, Final Fantasy VII is the perfect example to show this evolution. Not just between the original and the remake, but between every project that made up the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Because it wasn't just game. It was the original release, a PSP prequel, a movie, a PS2 sequel, and a mobile game. Nomura was the character designer for all of those projects. If the capabilities of the hardware was limited, such as the cell phone game, then he leaned into his more colorful art design. But for everything else, he pushed toward the same realistic standards he did for all his other Final Fantasy projects. If you think Barrett looks like a cosplayer in Remake, check out his fishnet t-shirt design in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. His cartoony original look was abandoned just as soon as Square figured out how to make muscly characters with correct proportions.

Quite frankly, nobody should be surprised by the look of the cast in VII Remake. Nomura was the character designer for Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy Type-0, among all the other projects he's worked on for what is now Square Enix. In each one of those games, the character art got more and more realistic without fail. It may not be the same type of art style you fell in love with thumbing through the original Final Fantasy VII manual, but it is the direction the series has gone in for more than 20 years now.

Nomura can do doe-eyed characters with the best of them -- just look at The World Ends With You -- but that's a style the mainline Final Fantasy series has moved on from. It may not have started as something that aimed for realistic character art, but it quickly evolved into one as technology improved to the point where Nomura and the developers could create life-like looking people with the porcelain china doll skin they love so much. This isn't porn parody, it's graphics porn at its finest.

Holmes: I hear you CJ, but I also don't, because I'm too busy thinking about this scene from an Academy Award-winning film... 

...and this video game equivalent of the same scene that tries its best, but just can't get past the wet, dead-eyed, plastic-faced problems inherent to this brand of CGI character design. 

Also thinking about how instantaneously I felt an emotional connection with this face...

...and how long it took my brain forever to adjust to looking at this one (which is a shame, because the movie as a whole deserved better). 

Which finally brings me back around to thinking about how much I wish the Final Fantasy 7 remake utilized the kind of art that Hunter Robinson makes...

...and how I'll have to settle for this uninspiring, Fast and Furious-looking dude in its place. 

I guess there are worse things in life to suffer through, but hey, if you are one of the many people who were afraid to say something less-than-hyped about the FF7 Remake, hopefully you feel less alone now. 

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Jonathan Holmes
Jonathan HolmesBad Joke Uncle   gamer profile

"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Ju... more + disclosures


 


 


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    Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #features #Final Fantasy #PS4 #Square Enix

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