Can Final Fantasy VII The Remake Surpass The Original

Finally after 18 years of unrest and uncertainty Square/Enix finally announced a proper remake of the legendary J-RPG that popularized the genre almost two full decades ago. The question is now that we know that the game is on development, was it a good idea?

Considering that well, Final Fantasy has for the most part “Sucked” since the 10th installment, and has been milked consistently with mediocre entries and direct sequels for the past decade, the fear in most sectors now that the game has been announced is that Square has forgotten how to make a good J-RPG let alone a proper Final Fantasy. It doesn’t help matters that Final Fantasy XV has been in development for 10 years (yes you read that right, 10 years!) So perhaps Final Fantasy enthusiasts shouldn’t worry too much, at this pace the FFVII Remake will appear on PS5 or maybe even the PS6.

Pessimistic views on Square aside, the problems the remake faces are daunting, even if Square/Enix were to make the best game it can possibly make it will never surpass the original in terms of critical achievements and overall impact in the gaming industry. I have named a few problems the game will encounter randomly in order to better grasp what Square and Director Kitase’s challenges are:

Problem #1: The Times

Back in the mid 90’s the J-RPG genre found itself on the brink of a golden era, both commercially and critically. Commercially the genre was considered both sophisticated and beautiful. Games like the Lunar Series, FFVI, Chrono Trigger, and Wild Arms, had all received rave reviews. The gaming community constantly awaited the next big RPG for the promise of epic adventuring and brilliant storytelling. The medium back then was well suited for the over head camera view points and the stylized over-world maps.

The genre which had at one point, as it is today been considered a niche genre, was on the brink of reaching the mainstream, with the immense amount of quality titles pouring over from Japan, none which was more eagerly awaited than Final Fantasy VII, it was a safe bet that at least in the 32-64 bit era, the J-RPG was one of the genres if not the genre to rule them all.

Final Fantasy VII had the kind of hype in gaming magazines and gaming circles during those days that can only be matched today by the Call of Duty, GTA, Halo type of hype that has dominated the industry since the XBOX days. The genre was about to boom, and Final Fantasy VII was the ignition Switch.

By contrast assuming Square fires on all cylinders and gets the game done by 2017 to commemorate the game’s 20th year anniversary. Final Fantasy VII will arrive amongst a sea of hype mostly proliferated by those of us played the game nearly two decades ago. But most 12-15 year olds today (the age range most us probably fell into into when we first played the game in 1997) have no idea of what a J-RPG is, and have no Final Fantasy VI to reference in their wait for the FFVII remake… hell they don’t even have a Wild Arms to play!

Wanting to know what the fuss is all about they will either A, play the horrendous FFXIII (or any of the pointless direct sequels) and thus miss the point and/or B, download the original and be bored by the out dated graphics and miss the point the same way. The thing is the J-RPG genre on consoles has been dead probably since the inception of the PS3 a decade ago (The Tales Series being the exception as the series is still fighting the good fight). While FFVII arrived to blast a genre (that was about to boom anyway) into the mainstream game community, the Remake will enter the fray in a last ditch effort to revive a genre, (and a Series) that has long been relegated to mediocre cell phone and portable gaming titles.

Besides the old school gamer, there is no grand hype this time, and that’s because the Final Fantasy series has pretty much been dead after the first 10 installments, it speaks droves of the series’ sorry state when FF fans still clamor for a remake of a 20 year old game simply because Square hasn’t been able to surpass it or even come near it’s greatness since 2002. Aside from the Tales series (Namco) no one else seems to be fighting the good console fight with quality J-RPGs. Which brings us back to Final Fantasy VI…

Problem # 2 A Tainted Legacy and a Murdered Name

Its right to say that FFVII popularized the surging genre beyond measure in the late 90’s but we have to remember the game that paved the way for VII to be so hyped during it’s development; The great Final Fantasy VI. Basic commonsense says that the only reason VII was awaited with such ‘fanatism’ was quite simply because it’s predecessor was an extraordinary game (worthy of a remake itself) that reached the mainstream in its SNES days and CONVERTED many gamers to the genre and the series. Final Fantasy VI was the Cinematic game before the Cinematic clips (FMV) were ever incorporated in mainstream games.

Even before VI, the Final Fantasy series had quite a good if not great track record of quality titles, that made anticipating the “Next” entry in the series quite a special feeling. A new Final Fantasy game up until the 10th installment was an event because we RPG aficionados knew the game would be special.

The FFVII Remake has no FFVI preceding it, and to put it bluntly, only a tainted series that has through Square/Enix money whoring practices lost any type of respect it once might have had.

Case in point: FFX-2 unnecessary and mediocre. FFXI an online game not worthy of a main number. FFXII a good RPG, that didn’t play, look, or sound like Final Fantasy. FFXIII, XIII-2 and XIII Lightning Returns, were an abomination not just to the series name, but the J-RPG genre itself to say the least. That’s almost 14 years, and by the time VII the Remake rolls around it might be 16 years of mediocre series entries.

Quite simply put, few people these days care about the Final Fantasy name, much less expect a grand entry anytime soon, which is the reason why we have the VII remake in the first place…

Problem # 3 Square/Enix Kitase, Nomura and gang, haven’t made a great game since Sakaguchi was at the helm of the series.

One reason FFVII is being remade in my opinion is, because I believe that I am not sure that Kitase and Nomura believe they can make a great RPG anymore from scratch, so why not use a Stellar time proven plot line, with a stellar time proven setting and brilliant Musical compositions in order to try out their perfected Turn based battle system which was about the only thing that FFXIII did right. The statement above posses a problem, because part of the reason the series died, was Squares inability to match the quality of games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and The Witcher in the newer more powerful consoles.

The situation is this; Final Fantasy VII at the time of its release was a game that at the time offered an unrivaled gigantic coherent world (Or at the very least the illusion of it), that enticed the player to play hours on end to explore and uncover its secrets. Final Fantasy VII the Remake will have to create that kind of awe inspiring feeling that it did in 1997 in an era where gamers have already played Fallout 3 and possibly 4, Skyrim and The Witcher 3 to death. Those games offer the kind of gigantic worlds that Final Fantasy games back in the 1990’s hinted at, but that never materialized as the series entered modern consoles mainly because the West got it right developing their massive RPGs and the Japanese either stayed in the traditional vein (Tales) or worse turned the genre into fancy, corridor adventures with thin plot (FFXIII).

This is the reason (The success of West RPGs) the gigantic Twilight Princess and Skyward sword where the last 3-D Zeldas to feature somewhat segmented overworlds as the new Zelda U promises Skyrim type of freedom. Will Final Fantasy VII The Remake offer a real size scale with current graphics of the planet we saw in 1997? That’s the main question in terms of gameplay that Square has to answer to those of us who lost faith in them after towns and exploration where abruptly removed from their 13th entry in the series.

A lot of newer comers to the genre, might say to me: so what if the game doesn’t have a world map? To them I say, you probably never played an JRPG in the nineties and never experienced how satisfying it was to traverse Final Fantasy VII’s planet. It was just as fun and as mind blowing then as it was to explore Skyrim’s world in 2011.This is vital: How will Square capture that sense of freedom again in 2017? It’s hard to envision it, especially considering how linear FFXIII was, but and yet hope is the last thing to go, if Nintendo can change the Zelda series to accommodate the times, so can Square.

Which brings us to combat, will they stay turn based (FFXIII style) or will they go another direction with the combat system. The old school gamer in me relishes the return turn based systems, and yet having played turned based RPGs this year I can see how they have for the most part aged poorly. Having played Tales of Abyss in the 3ds not too long ago, I can safely say that action based systems have aged better and are relatively still fun to play. So for the sake of the greater good, (I know will commit blasphemy here) FFVII the remake should go the action combat route. However I am not sure square enix will go this route, the FF team should take note of their Kingdom Hearts fighting system which to me was very, very good, a faster version of it would be just perfect.

Other than those concerns, I don’t have many regarding Plot and music as it has always been fantastic, and story wise how can they ruin a universe that amateur Fan Fic writers have used to create compelling stories and novels? I don’t think they can, I assume they have good writers, (FFXIII awful story being the exception) or at least the money to hire them for what Kitase considers will be the game that will define his “life work”.

Problem #4 Critical reception?

Professional reviewers and by Professional I mean mostly the reviewers that sites like use for their avg. percentage scores, have a tough task ahead of them. Will they rate FFVII The remake higher than it deserves because of Nostalgia, or on the converse will they rate they game too low because of Nostalgia? Nostalgia plays a big factor in JRPGs more so than any genre. How else would an average (truly average) game such as Legend of Dragoon gain some what of a surprising following in the last ten years. Never in a million years did I think that mediocre game would gain a cult following when I finished it in 2002, but alas Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Being that I am probably the biggest advocate for Final Fantasy VII that has ever lived, I am expecting that FFVII The remake will not meet my expectations, after all I was like 12 when I first touched the original, it captured my imagination, it really changed my life. I am song writer and an avid reader today thanks to that game. So if the game exceeds my low expectations will I get carried over and give it a 10 or a 9 instead of an 8 for example? Or on the converse will I not recognize a great Remake because I still live in the memory of the fantastic experience that the first game was? The game that I played in the better days of my life? Truly this will be a polarizing game. Kitase probably was somewhat apprehensive on embarking on the Remake venture because he knows no matter how good FFVII the Remake ends up being, it will never live up to the original’s memory, talk about pressure.

In the end Nostalgia has brought about the remake, and in the end it might be the human feeling that decides its fate on the games scores and on the fan response to it. Final Fantasy VII the JRPG that changed the genre, that brought it to the mainstream, that created millions of JRPG fans, that turned kids into avid writers and readers, the game that changed lives, perhaps a game that should stay in our memories, instead of being rebooted as a phoenix down for a genre that died in consoles a generation ago, its coming again to attempt the fulfillment of unfulfillable expectations. For better of for worse FFVII Remake we anxiously await your arrival.

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