Written by Jayson
*SPOILER ALERT* Please note that there are spoilers within this article. *SPOILER ALERT*
HD Remakes are beginning to be a trend lately, Zone of the Enders, Metal Gear Solid 2 & 3, Resident Evil 4, God of War and the list goes on. Final Fantasy X & X2 will be released soon on the PS3 and PS Vita; another ‘re-mastered’ remake. I’m kinda thinking of getting it somehow as it was the one Final Fantasy Game I actually enjoyed very much (and suffered through as well).
However ask any RPG maniac around and it’s almost certain the remake they wanted to see will be none other than Final Fantasy VII. Released during the PSone era, it was far more popular than the other FF games of today with their attractive character design, a badass villain and a series of cannon titles to boot as well as a CG-animated film. The game was an immediate critical and commercial success upon its release; selling over 10 million copies worldwide. The original is currently available for download on the PlayStation Network.
Many Final Fantasy fans love to see a Final Fantasy remake as much as the next guy especially after seeing the PS3 CG test demo using FFVII. Years of ranting and petitions clamouring for its development and hopeful release but to no avail. There are reasons why Square Enix chose not to release the title or develop it at all. For better or for worse, they just don’t fit the nature of the series and the medium these days.
Straight-Up Acts of Terrorism by the Protagonists
Cloud Strife, Barrett Wallace, Tifa Lockheart: True heroes all, right? They save the world’s life energy from the depredations of the Shinra Corporation, stop the mad Sephiroth from smashing a meteor into the planet, and beat down a few thousand marauding monsters of varying threat levels. How noble! Sure… except for the fact that in the very beginning, the Avalanche organization for which they work is a collective of terrorists, pure and simple. Cloud and company begin the game by infiltrating a power planet, fighting through a corps of guards, and blowing up a reactor that powers a huge portion of the city of Midgar, killing who knows how many people in the process.
Maybe that flew back in 1997, but it’s hard to imagine Square having the courage to present its protagonists in such a negative light these days. The world has grown considerably more sensitive to terrorists in the wake not only of the September 11 attacks but the numerous other terrorists actions that have spread across the globe in the past decade. On some level, FFVII’s story felt like something of a reaction to the 1995 Sarin Gas attacks in the Tokyo metro system perpetrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, but our cultural gatekeepers have grown overly sensitive in the past 15 years. Look at all the games that were cancelled or delayed in the wake of last year’s devastating Tohoku earthquake. Timidity and forced sensitivity rule the media today, which makes it hard to imagine Cloud and Barrett nuking a reactor in HD.
Those Stupid Mini-Games
Final Fantasy V featured a few special events sequences — the escape from Karnak, the battle on the Big Bridge, etc. — that stood apart from the game’s standard mechanics. Its sequel (FFVI) took that concept a step further with its unique group battles (e.g., the defense of Narshe) and the opera sequence. FFVII took a leap beyond that by offering some of gaming’s first standalone mini-games. While Super Mario RPG probably has a claim to being the first RPG to properly incorporate mini-games, FFVII featured more of them, and a greater variety to boot.
But here’s the thing: They weren’t very fun. The Gold Saucer events were fairly reasonable, seeing that while they weren’t much good they at least were optional. But the rest — be it defending a mountain with toy soldiers or interminably performing CPR on a drowning child long after she should have been brain-dead — felt intrusive and out of place. Nothing says “tonal dissonance” like boogie-boarding down a mountain and collecting balloons shortly after your hot date gets impaled with a sword the length of a flatbed truck by an insane villain. Thankfully, Square has increasingly moved away from fully integrated mini-games in the Final Fantasy series and largely reserves those events for the sidelines. Sahz’s sidestory sucked (FFXIII-2), but hey: It was DLC. And with any luck, that would be the case for FFVII’s lamest moments. Like grinding your way through dozens of tedious chocobo races in order to win the Knights of the Round Materia. Or playing that underwater handball game (Bitz-Ball) in FFX and FFX-2.
If you go back and replay FFVII with a more mature eye than you had back in 1997, you’ll realize that the game can be downright weird at times. Remember that part where Barrett (the huge, angry dude with a gun for a hand) dressed up in a sailor suit while the feline Red XIII wobbled about the deck of a ship on two feet? Remember that couple that inexplicably passed out at the train station after spouting what appeared to be random innuendo? Or how about the part where Cloud started talking to the player before looking up to the on-screen cursor and sputtering, “What the hell??”
That stuff was pretty strange, right? Much too weird to fly in a modern Final Fantasy game. Let’s face it: Square takes itself a lot more seriously these days. There may have been some parts in FFXIII that you laughed at, but the humour wasn’t deliberate. Somehow Square Enix wrote a 60-hour game without a single real joke to be found. Have you slogged your way through any of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII material, like Dirge of Cerberus or Advernt Children? Grim, joyless stuff. There’s no room for humour in Square’s revisionist version of Final Fantasy VII, so you can forget all about Cloud breaking the fourth wall or going on an awkward man-date with Barrett. FFVII is serious business.
And no one in Final Fantasy VII is more serious than Cloud Strife. At least, that’s what all the post-release content tells me. Cloud is the definitive solemn hero, weighed down by the oh-so-grim reality of his own existence. Watch him stumble sadly through Crisis Core! See him mope his way through another fight with Sephiroth in Advent Children! See him proclaim meaningfully in Dissidia! Cloud doesn’t fool around.
Except those supplemental projects kind of miss the entire point of Cloud Strife and focus on a hyper-limited slice of his actual personality. In FFVII, Cloud starts out as a cocky, sarcastic jerk; in time, he begins to lose sight of his own self and literally begs his enemies to give him purpose; and eventually, he comes to terms with his own true past (he was a small-town boy who didn’t make the cut to become an elite warrior and adopted the persona of his friend and hero a little too well) and finally makes peace with himself and his friends. Cloud’s is a broad, complex tale, and his personality is too subtle to easily describe with a single generalization. Nevertheless, that’s precisely what every official take on the character has done since FFVII: Reduce him to a sulky child. In Advent Children, Square Enix actually rolled back all of the character development he experienced in the course of FFVII and reverted him to a bland caricature of his initial self.
It’s not hard to imagine that this would be the extent of Cloud’s characterization in a remake of FFVII, too. For whatever reason, Square seems to have decided that the best way to present Cloud is to make him this ultra-emo man child. The problem is, that’s not why everyone liked him! We liked him because he was a hero with a hard edge, a no-nonsense fighter with a pragmatic personality and yet a keen sense of humor, too. Yet you never see Cloud presented that way in FFVII’s spin-offs and sequels. And, one suspects, we probably wouldn’t see him that way in a new version of FFVII, either.
The Honeybee Manor
Midway through the Midgar sequence of the game, Cloud sees his childhood friend Tifa in a strange outfit riding a cart to what basically amounts to a sex dungeon: The Honeybee Manor. Red flag! Would Square Enix really include a sex dungeon in a Final Fantasy VII remake? Probably not.
But let’s say they did. The problem with the Honeybee Manor is that Cloud can only get in if he goes in disguise as a woman. And the process of earning that disguise involves buying mysterious medical supplies for a man in a sleazy hotel, doing push-ups for a strange muscleman who keeps a woman’s wig in his briefs, and other unsavoury acts. Red flag!
And once you’re inside, Cloud gets ogled by other dudes. And, should you play the cards right, he gets to splash around in a hot tub with a bunch of muscular guys, passes out, and wakes up in inky blackness, exclaiming about strange sensations. Red Flag.
Eventually, Cloud meets up with both Aerith and Tifa, both of whom narrowly escape from molestation. They go after the don of the slums, Don Corneo, a fat dude who makes humping motions until they threaten to mutilate his genitals.
In short, the Honeybee Manor constitutes a 30-minute sequence that would go over like a fart in church these days. But that’s just as well. Do you really want to see a weightlifter pull a wig out of his underwear and stick it on Cloud’s head in full HD? There’s a word to describe that image, and that word is, “Barf.”
There’s also the psychological tragedy of seeing Aerith die all over again at the hands of Sephiroth. It was so traumatising that a fan petition was made to Yoshinori Kitase requesting her return. I recalled seeing how my friend actually cried seeing that scene. Tragic? Yes but today it seems that crying boys who play games would rather cry over the deaths of Soap MacTavish and Ghost Riley instead of a flower girl. Perhaps it hasn’t hit on me but if you ask me, no way am I gonna experience it, not even paying me a million dollars will make me.
So there you have it; FFVII will not be remade at all, maybe in another dimension perhaps. In an interview regarding the subject, CEO Yoichi Wada said that a remake of Final Fantasy VII will happen once the company makes a new Final Fantasy title that succeeds the seventh game in terms of quality and sales, something the company has to date failed to do. If Square Enix were to release a remake right now, Wada said that the series would be done for.
Perhaps it was not to be but maybe some things are meant to stay the way they are as it is. We never see Darkstalkers move on to CPS-III system do we? The only thing I can think of is to just enjoy your games as they were, like how I still prefer the actual Resident Evil on the PSone as opposed to the remake by Nintendo for their Gamecube.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not represent the views of the site, SGamers.org.
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