Whenever hallowed video game publisher Square Enix laments about their lack of profits from their latest, hugely expensive titles – the likes of Tomb Raider, Lightning Returns, et al – fanboys and girls from all walks of the internet are quick to shout in unison at their brilliant idea to fix Square Enix’s money woes:
“Why don’t they just finally remake Final Fantasy VII? They’ll make millions!”
Except, for reasons that I will soon disclose, that is actually a terrible idea. Having recently revisited the game on a recent whim, allow me to discuss 7 reasons why remaking Final Fantasy VII isn’t as surefire a success as most might think.
7) The Story Isn’t as Good as You Might Remember
First of all, while I’ve written extensively before about the folly that is rose-colored nostalgia glasses, it’s important to note that as we grow up, so does our tolerance – or lack thereof – for lackluster storytelling. And while the Internet is clogged with sob stories about nerds who cried their eyes out in 1997 when Aeris died (SPOILER ALERT), the sad fact of it is that FFVII’s emotional punch doesn’t hold much weight when you’re 30 years old.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The characters are still lovable scamps and such, and the world of Midgar is still as interesting as it ever was; but the ups and downs of the actual story has waned after years of playing RPGs with good stories, like Mass Effect or Fallout. Games are now held to a much higher storytelling standard, and FFVII’s heavily anime-influenced plot, replete with villains who are simply evil for no discernible reason and side characters with Tragic Backstories culled from the cutting room floor of the Plot Factory, doesn’t quite pass muster.
There’s still the opportunity for a new generation of socially-stunted 13 year olds to experience FFVII themselves for the first time, but that’s a losing argument as well.
6) Gaming Tastes Have Changed, for Good and for Ill
It’s no secret in this world that the fate of the Japanese Role-Playing Game is in a state of flux. What was once a million-selling industry of constant hits has taken the backseat to an ever-unchanging realm of military shooters, first-person Western RPGs, and pretentious indie games. FFVII’s exceptional turn-based combat and deep Materia system that offers endless customization? Pfuh! Where’s the Kill-Cams and Social Media Integration? Where’s the money to be made playing this game on Twitch? I can’t rack up YouTube subscribers playing this game! At least, compared to League of Legends or something.
Final Fantasy VII plays the long game with its solid mechanics, which is completely at odds with what games offer to today’s Adderal-infected 13-year old player base. Games that kids these days play are designed to offer a pleasing sense of excitement and accomplishment every 15 to 30 seconds, which is not what FFVII offers. So let’s be frank here.
5) Final Fantasy VII Is a Grindy, Grindy Game
When Dragon Quest first took Japan by storm in 1986, Nintendo’s lead design guru Shigeru Miyamoto considered the game to be cute, but hardly in the same league as Super Mario Bros. – these RPGs aren’t designed to reward skillful playing, but rather offer the player a war of attrition! Essentially, so long as you keep playing, you will win, as opposed to Mario, where you can play for as long as humanly possible until your thumbs and soul wither and die, but if your skills don’t improve, you’ll never get past world 8-3 and those god-damned Hammer Bros.
FFVII takes that axiom and perfects it, but it still wears its past on its sleeve. FFVII is filled with grindy portions where you’ll be lost and wandering endless deserts and mazes for hours, gaining worthwhile experience points at the expense of countless hours of your life. Video games don’t do this anymore. I mean, just look at Final Fantasy XIII, which funnels you through a series of straightforward corridors as an answer to the series’ storied history of grinding forward.
As much as I love the game, by God there are a lot of infuriatingly aimless portions of the game. The Wutai subquest, Cloud’s flashback at Kalm, those awful Snowfields – the list goes on and on.
4) The Cost of Developing It Would Be Enormous
There’s also the fact that FFVII is a HUGE game. A huge game with an exceptionally diverse amount of locations, characters, items, and an entire world to explore.
When FFVII was being marketed, Sony made it a point to hype up the game’s astronomical development budget – a cool 45 million dollars. That’s chump change compared to Grand Theft Auto V, but look at it this way – re-doing all of FFVII’s exceptional assets, in high definition, would put the game’s budget in the realm of most modern AAA games in the likes of Call of Duty and so forth. Those games get away with such budgets because they make billions of dollars; when was the last time a Final Fantasy game approached that level of fiduciary opulence? Oh, right, Final Fantasy VII.
Modern games have changed. Final Fantasy VII is a wonderful relic of a bygone era. Read on to find out why.
3) There Is a Charm to the Chunky Polygons
Does anyone else remember the CGI feature Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children? No? Probably because it was a forgettable slog; an untenable chimera of too-realistic-looking characters doing insane Matrix-y moves during a convoluted and silly plot that never really mattered much in the first place, with zero stakes and zero character development.
Sadly, Advent Children was a hit, racking up millions in DVD sales. If FFVII ever did get remade, chances are high it’ll keep itself a lot closer to the look, feel, and aggravating sensibilities of Advent Children than Crisis Core, the FFVII pseudo-sequel on the forgotten PSP that served as a much better FFVII retread. FFVII isn’t nothing but charmless, emotionless characters moping through a steampunk Disneyland, as Advent Children depicts; FFVII is actually a colorful and fun experience with a certain amount of charm and sense of humor, much of which is provided by the chunky, boxy polygons that represent the game’s characters. Take away whatever charm the original game provided, and you’re left with a murky, unlovable mess.
Just like Advent Children!
2) You Can Play Final Fantasy VII as It Was, Right Now, for Cheap
On that note, here’s a hot tip. You have access to Steam? You have a PS3? PSP? A PS Vita for some fucking reason? Great!
For around 10 bucks, you can go download Final Fantasy VII and play it, right now. Exactly as it was, exactly as you remembered it. Warts and all, but with rustic charm that can’t be duplicated with a AAA gaming budget and high-resolution, high-definition graphics.
1) A Remake of Final Fantasy VII Would No Longer Be Final Fantasy VII
Because if it’s not that clunky, grindy, chunky game with plot issues, frustrating moments, and a heaping helping of old-school JRPG turn-based goodness, what you’re left with is no longer Final Fantasy VII. It’d just be another modern game, with hi-grade graphics, and none of what made this flawed game a masterpiece in spite of itself.
Or maybe I’m wrong and a FFVII remake would be the bees knees. Who knows? Well, maybe you in the comments!
More from Brian Hanson:
10 of the Crappiest and Most Expensive Video Games Ever Made
The 10 Worst American “Anime” Ripoffs