Michael is a 2006 Graduate of Collins College and has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design branching into IT/Coding Fields.
January 31st, 1997. On this day, a Playstation title made by a small Japanese company, then known as Squaresoft, was released. This game would follow along with a rich and hollowed history of video games of the selfsame name. The very game itself would reshape the face of the video game genre called "Role-Playing Games" or RPGs as they are nicknamed, forever; making this small, yet creative holding company into one of the foundation bedrocks of the modern gaming landscape. I speak of course, of Final Fantasy VII.
From the initial cutscene showing the traversing of the stars, to the final climactic battle between the protagonist(s) and antagonist, this whirlwind of loss, love, and legacy would be as endearing as the game that came before it or any game hence.
Author's Note: I am personally a fan of Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III as it was labeled in the US). However, I acknowledge the impact that this game offers to the gaming landscape.
Once completed, there was a belief that as games progress and technology improves, that we could one day revisit the lands of Midgar, relive the incident of Nibelheim, and say our farewells one more time. It was an often kept promise that we, the fans and followers of the series have held onto as we begged this company, now known as "Square-Enix Holdings, Ltd." today, to make it a reality. But sadly, they kept denying us this promise, for over twenty-three years.
This FINALLY leads to the release of the anticipated, and I use that term loosely, Final Fantasy VII Remake. Many people have been hoping against hope itself for its release, fulfilling a long-kept promise that many would not see in their lifetimes. Alas, this promise was not meant to be, as the very game we sought is not that game at all as we remember. No, it is not. It is with a heavy heart and no joy in my saying this, but I must deem that Final Fantasy VII Remake is a failure; a vile creation warping a promise that many have kept in their heart for over two decades, to be left in this state. It is a tragedy. . .
Music to Listen to While Reading This Article
Clarifications Are in Order . . .
As expected of those rallying to defend this title, the possibility of misunderstanding the points made here will be evident. Several things must be addressed before proceeding further into this eulogy:
- This game will sell. It has to sell. The reputation of the game franchise and the company alone (which can be debated at length) will make this game sell.
- The people responsible for its development did successfully complete this game's production; meaning it went through the appropriate phases of game development from concept to gold master rollout.
- The game is competently put together. Even the demo is built properly.
- The game demo is the basis for this eulogy, which is simply a piece of the finalized product already completed. Yet as this is a basic layout of the game as a whole.
- There WILL be spoilers to the original Final Fantasy VII game here, but I can assure you that it will only apply to the intended area this game is focused on . . . relatively speaking, Midgar.
- I refer to this as a "eulogy" as opposed to an "opinion editorial" for the purpose of expressing my disappointment and distraught nature in seeing a game beloved by all reduced to this state.
This should make it perfectly clear that the game on its own merits will succeed; but as the supposed "remake" of a beloved classic, it has failed.
While You Are Here . . . A Poll!
Let us being with the question that many will raise from the outset; why a failure? First, we have to examine what makes Final Fantasy VII such a beloved classic and withstand the test of time (to some degree) whereas Final Fantasy VII Remake won't even be remembered among modern titles in this console generation. Let us begin with the construction of these two games.
From the way the game was designed to play, the truth was laid naked for the world to lament. The very design of Final Fantasy VII Remake, the way this game is made is incorrect.
The original Final Fantasy VII was always an Active Turn-Based Role Playing Game. This means that players would be taken to a separate screen and await a gauge to fill before they are allowed to take action (hence Active Turn); during this sequence, your opponents will attack while the gauge builds up. There was a strategic need to plan ahead with each character as making a critical error in judgment could lead to a game over.
This is not the case with Final Fantasy VII Remake. There is far too much emphasis on Action (relatively button mashing), then strategy. That means so long as you keep mashing the same attack button over and over and keep an eye on your HP (stopping to replenish when it becomes low) you would manage just fine. This does not invoke a sense of planning and execution when it comes to playing this remake, and reducing the unique experience of Final Fantasy with [insert hack and slash game title here].
The reason why this beloved classic is still a Gaming Arena Goliath is because of the fact Final Fantasy VII provided a blending of the traditional methods of gameplay while embracing new mediums of expression. For it to simply follow the trend of modern games to complete a bottom-line goal of sales and shareholder profits makes this sad, depraved, and lost entity called "Final Fantasy VII Remake" all the more tragic to see come to light. This also brings up another issue involving this remake . . .
Too. Much. Talking.
It is true that there is dialogue among characters in the original game, but it was through text boxes. That said, this raises a question: Why does everyone need to have a voice-over? Is reading what the characters say not enough? Do you need to have a voice attached to a character in order to enjoy or understand the same character? While this is true in other visual mediums, it shouldn't be the sole purpose of this game as such a thing was considered unnecessary in the original; along with not being financially sound, but that is a different discussion.
This also eliminates the player to use their own imagination and thus prevents the creation of personal attachment to these characters as they are not limited to the particular voice of one person. The moment that voice-over is used, it eliminates the imaginative process and makes the experience far too rigid. This can be overlooked on newer titles or titles where such is the focus of the game, but for older titles, this breaks the immersion. Final Fantasy VII Remake prevents the fantasy of a player's own imagination by implementing these voice-overs. Yet this is but the tip of the iceberg.
Certain Features are Done Incorrectly
There are more tragic missteps taken by this remake that continue to make little to no logical sense, such as these:
Stopping the Clock?
Since when does the timer stop for cutscenes? That makes no sense whatsoever, as in the original game, anytime there was a timer section, regardless of success or failure, it kept going; preferably stopping early only when you were successful. The clock does not stop so people can have a 15-second bantering or having characters do things for the sake of a scene. The clock continuing despite all that was going on was for the purpose of urgency, meaning that sure, you can have these moments but you're on the clock; and the clock is TICKING. If the clock can start and stop at each and every cutscene, then that urgency is completely hollowed out.
There is some debate over whether or not an updated score should be of use at all but in the case of Final Fantasy VII Remake, it is apparent they have run into a brick wall in terms of music. The original was suited just fine and should not have been rearranged to redefine the same battle music in 6 different ways. It also minimizes the creativity of other musical selections in the game, along with selling short the creativity of the composer. This is the same composer, mind you, that CREATED the original soundtrack to this very game (both original and remake), and this individual simply expects the audience to just accept these arrangements without question?
Author's Note: A bit of a segway of this problem can come from the game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch in that Cloud (as the FF representative character) only comes with two songs.
Unhealthy Obsession with Graphics
I believe this is the reason behind the problems with the recent direction of Square-Enix Holdings Ltd. as a company; this obsession with making things more and more graphically pleasing and fantastical. Because of this, a lot of the nuances that the game provides are lost and are given little substance beyond the superficial design. A prime example of this comes from none other than the focal character of this game, Cloud Strife. The original design of this character in 1997 was exceptional and in truth, was perfectly fine in regard to that world. The current design of him is actually made worse and has been grossly deformed. True, the graphical limits of the initial game are more apparent in the in-game cutscenes and battle animations, but they have a more natural fluidity than the over-emphasized display from the remake. They went too far into the uncanny realm to achieve their ideal design of this character, making him abominable to look out beyond what was necessary to play this game.
Needlessly Focused on Nonessentials
This is where we prelude our next set of lamentations by providing context. The fact that we are focusing on 'character development' for Avalanche members that are inevitably lost to us makes this unnecessary. It wasn't necessary to know the history of the members of Avalanche beyond the purpose they served leading up to the fall of Sector 7 and thus the journey beyond Midgar. Are we only doing this to justify the payment of voiceovers? Are we stalling for time so that players will no longer request this game ever again?
Next is the need for having boxes in a game that has Treasure Chests and that has items dropped from enemies in the past. This baffles me to no end. Why put Treasure Chests in a game that has destructible objects that carry out the same purpose? Either the Chests are meaningless or the objects are meaningless. Both being present is illogical. This leads up to the point of enemies not dropping loot (items such as potions and ethers) along with Gil (the game's currency) and EXP (Experience Points). This would give the implication of a loot box economy or at the very least a teasing of such an economy in the foreseeable future. Considering the nature of most "AAA" Game companies' predatory practices, I can not have confidence that such a possibility will not present itself in the remake.
This sampling of nonessential ideas shines a light on the remake's incredibly dubious choices in comparison to the original where they focused more on the overall story than stacking in extra moments and extra knickknacks to justify the design choices. Speaking of choices . . .
Now we are reaching the heart of the matter, and some of the poorest decisions to this remake to date. While much that was said before could be (and should be in a healthy way) debated on, these are the real concerns that caused this tragedy to unfold, and the untimely failure and demise of a beloved classic in the modern era.
The very nature of this being an "episodic" game experience underscores three problems.
Incorrect Understanding of the Term: Episodic
First, the nature of episodic games is to be isolated incidents that have a clear beginning, middle, and end. They are not connected to each other outside of the characters and settings the game is placed in. The Final Fantasy games themselves are considered episodic of each other in that they have their own isolated themes and stories that are independent of each others' worlds. The story that each game tells is universally the same, but how they go about the telling of the tale is different.
To create a series of games directly tied to one another defeats the purpose of an episodic experience . . . a false narrative, at best. What Final Fantasy VII Remake is doing, or rather attempting to set up, is patently non-episodic. It is akin to Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. The two games aforementioned are the exception as at that time, these games were supposed to span two different times and thus, have their own set of circumstances; still making them episodic. This also becomes a problem in that we're supposed to receive the entire game experience as we did in the original Final Fantasy VII, a game that (at the time) expanded over three discs. This leads to the second problem.
The Reason Behind The Originals Discs
The Hardware Limitations, and Limited Program Understanding during the time of Final Fantasy VII's creation, along with the minimal staff that created this masterpiece is nothing short of a miracle; yet it was also acceptable then due to the nature of the technology used was still in its infancy. Three-Dimensional Gaming was just starting to take shape and so it's expected that such low-resolution character models would exist.
Not to mention having them work in a rendered background, along with creating additional computer-generated imagery (CGI) to interact with the cast, it would be expected for them to run out of memory back in those days. Instead, the solution was to break down the game into three discs so they can still provide a full experience in one go.
Fast-forward to the modern time, where such limitations in space are almost non-existent for a game of this magnitude even with moderate graphical improvements, and the entire game could fit in one Blu-Ray or even a modern DVD disc. For them to deliberately prevent players from experiencing the full game as it was in its original release in 1997 is an insult and a disgrace to the greatness this game provides. Once more, tragedy strikes in the form of . . .
Lazy Design Choice
I find it hard to believe that the telling of the story was their objective this whole time when they have been hesitant to come back to this classic for the past two decades. Why else would they not bother giving their customers/fans the completed game instead of the poorly implemented patchwork left in this state? This proves they weren't interested in providing the full story.
How could they? After twenty-three years of requests and recent failings that have shown not only their hubris but also their limits as creative game developers, this is their only remaining option. Yet in doing this nonsensical approach to an already established game, they make the same predictable mistake as that of both Anthem, and Destiny in expecting the goodwill of the customers/fans would be enough to shore up their wealth and have them ride into the sunset once more as they continue to offer little and expect a lot.
Cash Grabbing Exploitation
This may be the reason behind it all. The bottom line, it's money, and they lack it so badly, they'll bleed their customers instead. Why else would they go to the extent of teasing an episodic design if not to keep customers hook, line, and sinker? If they don't continue supporting it, then they are stuck with an incomplete experience. It's a cash grab that acts as a carrot while Square-Enix Holdings Ltd. continues to whip out the promise of finishing a game if only they had enough people buying the initial copies.
To be fair, they are a business, and a business needs to make a profit to stay in business; that also proves their current business model is unfit for business in the long term, as they are clearly desperate to get back into being wealthy again as a company. All at the expense of one of the most beloved Role-Playing Games of all time. One cannot help but weep.
The Perfect Storm of Problems
This was not an isolated incident. This is the end result of missteps, negligence, unchecked arrogance, and obsession with being different without understanding the very creations left behind. A desperate attempt to find the next "big idea" that would make them better than before; Pursuit of greatness that fails to recognize and respect the achievements left behind. It is not without consequence.
Misleading the Public
Too long we were teased. Too long had we held onto hope and belief that we would get a chance to showcase our past time with the modern generation; only to see this game we love in this despicable state. A once leading company and source of artistic creativity forced to follow and obey market trends in order to survive.
Worse still was the deliberate teasing. Many remember still in 2008 in the hopes that this was the moment we receive a remake. We received a PC updated version of the game and nothing more. A betrayal of goodwill, but at least the game was more accessible now.
But to those that held on since 1997, for those that are not alive today that desired to see this game come to life, only to have its very identity gutted like fish in a market in the form of this "remake," creates a level of despair beyond rational thought.
Too Late, Too Little
As stated before, there were souls no longer a part of this world that held onto hope in seeing this game become a classic once more, while having the needed improvements that comes with technological advances (I'm aware of the current situation in regards to the timing of this article, but this issue predates our the world events surrounding this article's release). Having waited this long is what killed the reputation of Square-Enix and forever scarred the purity and joy of the original game this remake is based on.
It is far too easy for cynics and critics alike (myself among them) to call BS on Square-Enix Holdings Ltd. in the release of this game now. Square-Enix had one job; the window of opportunity is long past.
Doomed to Fail
Because of all these problems, Final Fantasy VII Remake was doomed from the start. Will the game sell? Yes. It's a product that is complete . . . as far as we know. But for all the poor decisions under this company, the end result is a debacle of management, an insult to the original game, and an act of disrespectful defiance to every customer/fan/supporter of this company in the form of a game that didn't need to be remade in the first place. But now, there is no choice but to "support" this game or risk it being in an unfinished state, which is entirely inaccurate to the game that was created back and released on January 31st, 1997.
There was no promised game. Just a severed fraction of an idea that simply rotted over time; creating the meteoric death of a beloved fantasy. The End.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Michael Rivers