So, by now you've heard of Square Enix's, um, stunt at the Playstation Experience.
For those of you who haven't, ol' Squeenix announced Final Fantasy VII for the PS4! WOOOOOOOOOO-
Turns out, SE meant the original FFVII was coming to PS4. Upscaled, yes, but it's the 1997 version in all it's blocky glory. So...oops? Here's that GIF from Kotaku's Mike Fahey that sums it up beautifully:
So yeah. Disappointment all around.
But here's my question: Do we really need a remake of what many consider to be the greatest game of all time?
I really don't think we do.
Call me a pessimist if you like, but for years now, I've seen a potential FFVII remake go one of two ways. Let's call them Scenario A and Scenario B.
In Scenario A, FFVII gets remade on PS4 and looks even better than the FFXV gameplay demos we've been seeing. Midgar looks amazing. Character models are jaw dropping. You spend all your time at Gold Saucer.
Now, in this scenario, FFVII plays and looks exactly like it's 1997 counterpart. Graphically, it's a wonder, but the battle system, world map, and Materia remain untouched. The story is left completely alone, save for fixing a couple of the spelling/mistranslation errors. "Off Course!", for example. Sounds fantastic, right?
We wouldn't lose moments like this...but we wouldn't gain new ones, either.
Here's the thing: FFVII is held in such high regard becuase, as far as JRPG's go-as far as games go-it's basically perfect. Story, gameplay, music, atmosphere...everything combines perfectly to make a game that's far beyond the sum of it's parts. That's what we experienced way back then, in 1997.
In other words...we've done this all already. Many of us, several times. A remake that overhauled the graphics but kept everything else the same-that's what most people want. But as we've all journeyed through this world many, many times already-and in fact, revisited it through things like Crisis Core, Dirge of Cerberus, and Advent Children, a graphical-but-otherwise-identical remake would initially wow us...but we'd end up feeling empty afterward. Where would the excitement be? Every one of us can recite the story by heart. Every one of us knows how to breed a Gold Chocobo, how to beat Emerald Weapon, and we all have the high score on G-Bike.
So, I ask you: what does a remake really offer? There's nothing new there.
Which brings us to Scenario B.
Scenario B goes like this: Again, FFVII is remade for PS4. Again, it's a huge graphics showcase. You bring it home, rip off the shrink wrap-with your teeth, if need be-and slam it into the PS4 disc drive because Holy Crap you need to play this NOW.
But something's wrong...hey, Cloud's not on top of the train. He's in the train...oh, ok, not a big deal, I can live with...huh? Tifa's in the opening mission? Wait, I don't...OMG THE MUSIC IS DIFFERENT.
Later on, you find they've changed your favorite game around. Like, a lot. Maybe Zach's hair is brown. Maybe they went with the retcon from Last Order, where Sephiroth jumps over the railing in the Mako Reactor (rather than be thrown by Cloud. It changes a lot, when you think about it.)
Maybe they let you resurrect Aeris in this one.
Maybe the combat is different. Maybe it plays like FFXV; that is to say, closer to Kingdom Hearts than FFVII. Maybe the Materia system is overhauled. Maybe there is no Materia.
Does that sound unlikely to you? Surely they wouldn't screw around with a winning formula, right?
Yeah. Exactly, Barret.
Except game developers have done it before.How many sequels can you name that dropped most-if not all-elements that made their predecessors so great? Devil May Cry 2? Any Mega Man X game after X4? Even Final Fantasy itself, some would argue, has sort of lost it's way.
You can ask yourselves "Why would they change it?" But that's the Historian's Fallacy at work: you'll look at the decisions they make regarding, say, Final Fantasy XIII, and you wonder why they made a game that doesn't seem to resemble older games in the series. And yet, those changes made sense to Square Enix during development. Hindsight is even clearer that 20/20, since you have access to more information than they possibly could have.
So, in that scenario, we're left with a game called Final Fantasy VII on PS4, but one that barely resembles what we played 17 years ago. It's a new, incredible experience. Are we happy now?
No. We're pissed, because how dare they change it.
It comes back again to the love we all have for FFVII. There are games we play, and games we experience. FFVII is one of them, and experiences stay with you forever. And so changing things around would be like someone diving into your childhood memories and drawing dicks all over them. We hold FFVII in such high regard that to change anything would be heresy of the highest order.
With these two scenarios in mind, that means Square Enix can't make an exact remake, and they can't make a changed remake either. They're as stymied by it as you or I, and I have a feeling they though about this too, at some point. There's also the notion that anything less than perfect with regards to the remake, and fans will be once again frothing at the mouth calling for heads on pikes. Which is way too extreme for a developer of freaking video games.
You know what I suggest? If you like FFVII, play it. Play some other things, too. Play FFXV when it comes out, it looks great. If-IF-Square Enix gives in to somewhat confused pressure and delivers a FFVII remake, well, I'll be right there with you at the midnight launch. Don't let me fool you, I'm very much into nostalgia. I write about it every damn week.
But as a gamer, while I love so many games that are gathering dust as I write this, I always look forward to the future too. And what's great about the future, i.e. a FFVII port to PS4, is I can revisit this masterpiece whenever I choose, rather than waiting endlessly for a remake that just isn't coming.
In short, the game is perfect as is. We should be anxiously awaiting the newest Final Fantasy rather than lingering in the past. The memories aren't going anywhere. Does a remake really bring anything new to the table?
Brian "WingZero351" White writes Game of the Week every Tuesday here on TAY. He writes other stuff too, and is working on his first game. You can catch up with him on Twitter.