Final Fantasy VII, quite possibly the greatest game ever made is being re-made. It’s been a long time coming.
“…Quite possibly the greatest game ever made.”
That’s what was printed on the back cover of my Greatest Hits edition of Final Fantasy VII, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most honest statements to ever grace game packaging. This was the game that, for all intents and purposes, put the original PlayStation system on the map and brought the Final Fantasy series into a 3-D world. Technically, it was a marvel: Gorgeously scored, a thrilling story, amazing cutscenes, and MASSIVE. And I mean massive. A console-based, three-disc game was unheard of in 1997, and it broke all conceptions of what a console game could do.
And there was SO much to do! Exploration, battles, a theme park, chocobo farming, snowboarding, and much, much more–I’m not sure there’s ever been a game that was so varied in its experience before or since. And believe it or not, a game this large was still re-playable. I’ve completed the game multiple times, and I still have a “perfect game” file going ten years later.
If you haven’t played it, I highly recommend it.
Naturally, Final Fantasy VII struck a chord in the hearts of many players. It’s easy to say that this was THE watershed moment for role-playing games; the gaming equivalent of Star Wars for a generation who never thought games could be this.
However, time moves on. In a few years, the PSX was outdated and replaced with the Playstation 2, which went on to become one of the greatest consoles ever. People attached to the the PS2 quickly, and Final Fantasy VII looked ancient in comparison to the games that followed. Within a decade of its release, fans were already whispering of a remake. A tech demo for the Playstation 3 did much to spur these rumors on, but the furor grew and grew. Fans wanted an updated version, complete with all the trappings of modern games. Voice acting. Realistic environments. Mouths. However, Square repeatedly squashed this speculation.
Until this week.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get chills when I saw the Buster Sword and that spiky hair. However, immediately after those chills subsided, I had to ask myself a few questions.
1. What is being remade, exactly?
Are we getting gussied-up graphics, but primarily the same style of game, or is this a complete do-over, down tot he nuts and bolts?
If this is just a prettier version of the same game, I could get down with that in a big way. I mean, part of my love for this game at this point is how familiar it all feels to me. I’ve spent more time on this game than any other, except perhaps Skyrim. It feels like coming home. I’m not sure how it will feel to have all of that uprooted.
If this is a complete remake from the ground-up, nuts and bolts, then they have a major challenge ahead of them. Let’s face it, Final Fantasy VII was revolutionary because of just how far it pushed RPGs forward. I think audiences are going to expect that same kind of forward push along with this title. Also, RPGs have moved past the overworld travel/random encounter style of gameplay (for better or worse). I’m not sure this game will be successful unless it returns to its roots.
We’ve always loved Active Time Battle. We’ve always wanted Active Time battle. It’s time for Active Time Battle to come back! No more sphere grids, no more auto battle, and definitely no more action-oriented gameplay. I want my RPG battles to be RPG battles. I want the meters and the waiting and the deliberate action.
2. Don’t think King Kong; think Scarface.
There’s a lot to be said about having one version of a game. Kids who play NES Super Mario Bros. will be playing the same version I played 30 years ago. When my daughter played (and crushed) Final Fantasy VII, I was shocked at how sentimental it made me feel. I loved seeing her awe when she discovered Yuffie, and smiled when she conquered Sephiroth. This remake will be a different game, and I’m not sure those moments would have been the same if she played a new version instead of the original. That being said, if it is radically updated, we may have a scenario where the original would be the classic, always worthy of play, and the remake would be a modern gem. Don’t think King Kong; think Scarface. A remake that can stand on its own yet distinct from the original.
3. What does this move by Square say about the Final Fantasy franchise?
Even as fans are waiting for the release of the much delayed Final Fantasy XV, the company announces a remake of their most popular game ever. To say that it doesn’t feel like there is a lot of confidence in the current state of the franchise is an understatement. And, let’s be clear: I loved Final Fantasy XIII for what it is, and spent well over 200 hours mastering it. But, it just didn’t have the same grandeur of the vast, explorable world of Final Fantasy VII. I think it would be smart for Square to take a look at what worked at the height of the franchise, and bring that forward into a new era. It worked with Xcom. It can work here. Let this be the game I remember with the 1080p clarity of nostalgia.
On the bright side, however, this trailer looks PHENOMENAL! If Square manages to bring this game into the modern day and nail the gameplay so that it hearkens back to everything that was loved about the original, then there is real potential for a great game.
I’m excited. Really excited, actually. I’m hoping this remake could rekindle a new golden age of RPGs, so like the Cetra, I’l be waiting.
But please–don’t change Aeris.
Joseph Tavano is the owner and editor in chief of RetroZap. Born just months before Luke found out who his father was, he has been fortunate to have had Star Wars in his life as long as he can remember. Growing up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, he can remember substituting sticks for lightsabers and BMX bikes for speeders. He loves comics, retro games, vintage sci-fi paperbacks, and maps. Though an accomplished drummer, he doesn’t crave adventure (as much) any more, and prefers his old haunts in Salem, Massachusetts, where he resides with his family. Buy him a glass of whiskey and he’ll return it in kind.