Final Fantasy 7 is a game fans have been demanding a remake for since Sony decided to remaster the opening cinematic when showing off their PS3 hardware. But Square Enix, the original developer for Final Fantasy 7, has been rather forthright with its position on the matter: The game is simply too big, and in order to create it again with the full HD graphic treatment, it would require major cutbacks and compromises. Now the remake is in development, may fear that's what's happening.
Y'see, when Square first started mentioning the sheer size of the game, I couldn't help but nod and agree. Final Fantasy 7 was a huge game. The slums of Midgar alone are probably the size of some full games in terms of feet, and when you added in the entire world map around it, the dozens of crafted dungeons and fun locations like The Golden Saucer, you begin to realise how much of an undertaking FF7 actually is. How could you remake all of that with the level of precision people demand from games made these days?
But, I daresay, that's not even the biggest stumbling block when it comes to bringing a game like FF7 to a modern audience. I wonder how much of the audience that demands the remake would actually buy it. Final Fantasy 7 is a game from the late 90s. The plot is bananas (despite engaging), the combat is slow and everyone looks like origami. I've read opinions from a lot of people saying they want to play the game, but it's really hard for a modern gamer to get into due to its age, adding further voices to the demand that the game is remade.
These people who claimed to try their hardest to get into the seventh entry in Final Fantasy - is that true? We're talking about a 40+ hour game here that was revolutionary for the time it came out in, and many of the things it did that were so great at the time just aren't that new anymore. So are new fans really put off by the graphics, or are they put off by the fact it's just not as good as nostalgic fans say it is?
Because really, that's the harsh truth about every game from your childhood. Games have gotten better since then.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of turn-based combat, and I miss the hell out of it appearing in a lot of my games. Seeing that FF7 remake doesn't have good ol' fashioned turn-based is a bit of a bummer. But that style of combat was designed to make it easier for the player to balance the tactical decision when choosing from your wide variety of moves and also to manage your party efficiently, all within the confines of a limited NES, SNES or PS1 disk. Those limitations don't exist anymore, and designers can bring faster paced combat with a wider general appeal while keeping those elements.
It's not just turn-based combat obviously, but its great case study for the changing nature of games. As technology improves, it's easy to make a case that games are getting shallower. And y'know what, there's definitely a credible argument to be made there. But I think there's also a case to be made on the opposing end that shallow doesn't necessarily mean worse. Some of you reading this, like myself, grew up with turn-based combat. We grew up in an age where stories were told over multiple disks, not multiple releases. We remember being stuck rigidly looking down from the sky with no camera control. And that's what we fell in love with. That's the feeling we want Square to give us again.
But like an ex-girlfriend from long ago, we're missing her for the wrong reasons. Because I daresay it wasn't specifically the turn-based combat we loved. We just loved that as a by-product of us allowing Cloud and friends to get through a battle. In an age before digital gaming, we were conditioned to love and expect a game all at once on disk, but honestly, how many games did you play over the years that felt cheap or rushed in certain areas? Digitally releasing games in segments helps to deliver smaller, more focused chunks, meaning a greater overall quality that we get our hands on a lot quicker than we would have otherwise. Imagine if Duke Nukem Forever was released in episodes over the course of a year back in 2001, the game that became nothing more than a joke would have had a more respected release, for better or worse. In all honesty, if FF7 was remade in its entirety in one release, it would take years to come out, and suffer the same backlash that Duke did.
So go on Square, change things about it. Do things differently. Because I played Final Fantasy 7 already several times. I know exactly how that game goes. So if you're heading down this path of remaking it, I want to be surprised. I want to see new interpretations, and I want to see you experiment with my expectations. I had a lot of trepidation as news of the changes came out, but I've dealt with it. The industry doesn't need more harping on the past right now. It needs someone to take the bull by the horns and charge through into the future, whether that's being on the forefront of the new way people are playing games or using a remake to experiment with gameplay mechanics. A remake shouldn't be treading old ground, simply making everything look nicer. It should be about bringing that game fully into the modern era, and we should be happy that Square is doing that. Because, let's be honest, if you struggled to get into it the first time round, will a change in graphics really help with that?
In the words of the Stones: You can't always get what you want. But if you try some time, you find, you get what you need.