Five Things the FF7 Remake Needs to Succeed

...Because I couldn't think of seven things

After several spinoffs, a feature-length sequel, and even teasing us with a torturous tech demo in 2006, Square-Enix announced at E3 on June 15 the remake of what is widely-considered one of the greatest games of all time: Final Fantasy 7.
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Once everyone at E3 had finished screeching and wetting themselves, hard-nosed veterans who have become more and more disenfranchised with Square’s abysmal track record in recent years let the eye-rolling begin. Suffice it to say, many of us who poured 300+ hours into FF7 in the late-nineties, with our throats now parched and our bladders now empty, have yet to uncross our arms and unsquint our eyes. Arguments for why the remake will bomb range from the fear that the game will be changed so much that veterans will be alienated to the assured fact that teenaged Ridaline kids simply won’t have the patience and intuition to appreciate the classic format of the turn-based, genre-defining JRPG. The overall questions, then, are: “Who is the target audience of this remake?” and “Does Squenix still have the staying power to produce a JRPG that is both a financial and an artistic success?
Gaming has metamorphed since 1997, and Squenix is likely (hopefully) wise enough to realize they simply can’t please everyone in today’s diverse gaming market. Improvements to graphics and music are assumed in this remake, but there are some things that can’t be assumed. With that said, here’s my list of five things the FF7 remake must do to succeed.

ONE: It MUST NOT Make Substantial Changes to the Metanarrative

FF7’s story is perfect, it was perf—what are you doing Squenix? No, stop that. STOP! (Slaps Squenix’s hand.) Leave it alone! It’s like you’re picking a scab or something.
Bad! Very bad!

Bad! Very bad!

The reason FF7 succeeded in the first place was the mystery, intrigue, and driving momentum of its plot. Now that we live in the shadows of FF7 spinoffs, prequels, and sequels, Squenix may be tempted to play Frankenstein with the award-winning story by nipping and tucking the main plot with details from Crisis Core or Advent Children. If the remake is to succeed, Squenix cannot remove the engine behind the original’s success. The narrative plumbline can bend a little, but it cannot break. Keep your toilet-paper-eating paws in your pockets, Squenix, and everything will be hunky dory.

TWO: It MUST Include New Side Quests with the Base Game

On the other hand, there’s plenty of room to leave the main plot intact while supplementing and expanding it. The world of FF7 is clearly larger than what we saw in the original game. Surely there were locations and potential adventures glossed over in the 1997 edition? Think of all the sectors of Midgar players never visited or the residential neighborhoods in Junon. More original content that supplements and lengthens the game without changing its narrative core will be necessary to satisfy veterans who know the original inside and out.
Squenix may be tempted to release expanded material for twenty bucks a pop via DLC. This will inevitably be seen as a cash-grab. While I am not opposed to the notion of DLC releases later on (maybe a playable version of the events in Advent Children?) the vanilla remake must ship with a significant body of new, original content before buyers should be expected to drop the cash for DLC add-ons. Squenix has a lot of trust to regain from the fans who made its Board of Directors filthy rich in the 90s. Should they fail to show us they are as committed to us as we are to them, they’ll run the risk of coming off like a real-life Shinra, Inc.

THREE: IT MUST Believably Abandon Clunky 90s JRPG Conventions which Make No Practical Sense

Any time a character dies in FF7, they can be resurrected with a magical poof of phoenix down feathers. Why, oh why, can Aerith not be resurrected in this manner at the end of disc 1? Because her plot shield is gone? You’ll have to do better than that, Squenix.
(NOTE: I’m aware of the conventions surrounding phoenix down in the Final Fantasyverse and the differences between being “knocked out” and “killed.” FF Tactics handled this beautifully. I’m suggesting those conventions will require deliberately thorough explanation in the FF7 remake.)
And let’s not leave out explaining why the party can never have more than three members. Gamers are too persnickety nowadays to blithely accept arbitrary party-size limits. Some of the best things FF7 did was show the non-party characters raiding Midgar in disc two’s climax or to allow the player to switch between three separate battle parties while facing Sephiroth in the second-to-last fight. This is the kind of smart mechanic Square needs to fully integrate into the remake: if Cloud, Tifa, and Barret are fighting now, fine. But where are Aerith, Red XIII, and Yuffie? New side quests featuring the “B Team” would provide a perfect opportunity to integrate new material (see point two above) into the game while neatly handling the perennial issue of why all nine of our heroes don’t just attack the boss together. This isn’t Dragon Ball Z, guys.
Other things to fix:
  • All party characters on the screen at once; no more disappearing into Cloud’s pockets.
  • New armor, not just weapons, should appear on character models.
  • No “battle maps.” Characters fight where they are when the enemy encounter occurs.
  • Regionally-appropriate clothing, IE, “No, Tifa should not be dressed like that at the Great Glacier.”
  • As gruesome as it might be, we need to see blood when Aerith gets it in the City of the Ancients.
  • We need the option to skip those two-minute summon cut scenes. I’ve got my eye on you, Knights of the Round and Neobahamut.
  • The game should be fully-voiced.

FOUR: It MUST Include Supplemented and Expanded Gameplay

Why shouldn’t there be more options to specialize and customize characters with new equipment, items, abilities, and materia? Why shouldn’t there be new, adaptive enemies who focus-fire your healer or capitalize on your other weak points? Why shouldn’t there be new, more debilitating status effects that can’t be neatly overcome with a Soft or an Antidote? New algorithms and technology advances mean players can be challenged by adaptive AI. At the least, this should be an option for those who want to enjoy the remake for more than its story. Make the gameplay more interesting, but don’t give it a heart transplant. Unless it’s a Kingdom Hearts transplant. I could live with that.

FIVE: IT MUST Feature Streamlined Translation and Non-Wooden Voice Acting

A butt-ton of your income from this game is gonna come from the Anglophone world, Squenix, so you can afford to pay respectable translators, you can afford to open up a bit of leeway so the translation makes full sense in English (we can do without the obscure Japanese idioms that bear more explanation than they’re worth) and you can afford to hire voice actors who will breathe life into these beloved characters. Context is king. Don’t arbitrarily make things wooden for no good reason, preserving Japanese idiosyncrasies that will only handicap us English-speakers.
At the same time, the charming, slightly irreverent tone of the original translation was a big contributor to what made FF7 so fun and lovable in the first place. FF7 is ridiculous. A stuffed cat riding an oversized mog? Cloud rides a dolphin to sneak into Junon? Don Corneo? And yet somehow, you made it work. The horse-hoof hands and colorful character models blended with the overall experience. FF7 was serious without taking itself too seriously. If you want to capture our hearts again, you can’t sacrifice the sense of humor that pervaded the original.

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CONCLUSION

If Squenix at least does these five things, we can fully expect that the FF7 remake will do more than tickle the nostaliga bug. It could satisfy the longings of a generation of 90s JRPGers while winning the hearts of a new generation…and who knows, if it does well enough, we might even get a FF7-II.

Agree? Disagree? Something nice to say? Leave it below.

Daniel Rodrigues-Martin

DANIEL RODRIGUES-MARTIN is an author, editor, and gamer. Buy his books on Amazon and Visit his website at www.danielrodriguesmartin.weebly.com.

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