Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A few thoughts on the Final Fantasy VII remake

Announced at this years E3 was Square Enix confirming a long awaited remake of their classic Final Fantasy VII game. A remake gamers have been waiting on for years as it is considered one of the best titles in the franchise. While I'm no huge FF fan I have understood that some of the older 2D titles in the franchise are often considered better games, FF6 for one is mentioned a lot.

However, FF7 broke the barrier when it comes to public popularity. Everybody seemed to play FF7 when it was released on the first PlayStation in 1997. It's success was monumental and as such a remake has been something on the wishlist for many gamers since then, especially considering the varying quality of the games in the franchise since the release of FF7. It is perhaps one of the top ten most famous games of all time and is definitely in my top ten list of games I have enjoyed the most. So yes, a remake is for me as exciting as the many outspoken people on the net. I just prefer to stay calm, until we actually get more information of what the end product will be. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter none the less.

So a remake then, what do I think about it? As much as I have hopeful thoughts about this remake, I do have my concerns. If we look at other remakes we have in fact two very well produced and popular remakes of two other classic PS1 games, from the same era as FF7. We have Resident Evil, originally released in 1996, remade on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002 (and actually further remastered into HD this year) which, although was fairly true to the original game, updated itself with new areas and ideas. It may have lost some of it's colourful palette for the time periods more grey, brown and gritty palette, but all in all it was an excellent revisit to the scary mansion and it's new changes were made for both new players and veterans alike.

Tomb Raider, which originally released the same year as FF7, in 1997, received it's remake ten years later in 2007 and was dubbed Anniversary. It was perhaps even more true to the original than the RE remake. Adding new modern controls and a far less blocky design to it's levels. All in all just bringing it's visuals ten years further on and gives new players a change to feel the magic and atmosphere of the original without having it spoiled by dated visuals and clumsy controls. TR, unlike the RE remake, dared to change the controls and for the better in my opinion. Be gone tank controls!

These two examples are perhaps the best I have as something I'd love to see the Final Fantasy VII remake become, yet within lies some problems. Should the FF7 remake simply copy the original to a tee, and HD enhance the exact backdrops of the original only in far more detailed graphics? Staying true to it's set camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds? Or should it go fully 3D with a third person perspective?

I could argue I'd prefer the first example. I am perhaps scared that a fully 3D game will give another impression on areas you traverse, seeing things from Clouds perspective more than being a viewer from above. It alters the perception of and atmosphere in both good and bad ways. The colour palette and overall look of each location should be prioritized to be kept as distinct and close to the original. However parts that were simple designed and ugly in the original can of course the updated to be far more rich on details. A huge upgrade is needed for the characters to blend more into the backgrounds. Unlike Resident Evil's mansion rooms, more than often in FF7 the ambitious backdrops seemed like a 2D picture that some 3D characters walked across with some weird looking perspectives and often looked out of place.

The good,

the bad

and the ugly.

Talking about ugly, how should the actual character models be? The original FF7 cast has a weird way of depicting it's characters. First you have the fairly detailed CGI model, then you have the fine, but still basic, battle model of each character and then, sigh, you have the laughable simple and ugly 3D characters you traverse the world with. These 3D models looked bad back in 1997 and look like something of the geometry of a Lego figure. As such the character models need a tremendous make-over and remodelling, however some of the almost childish and anime like humour in FF7 looked kind of "cute" with it's simple Lego-like figures. How will such scenes translate to "realistic" characters? In my opinion the characters need to have a more anime or fantasy like appearance. Art over realism if you get my drift.

There's a huge difference in remaking such an old game and remastering a one that was just from the last generation, much like how Final Fantasy X was remastered. Perhaps Square Enix should have done a remaster years ago instead of having the trouble of reconsidering how to translate the game in a remake fashion. Taking into consideration all the pros and cons of updating dialogue (remember the original only had text boxes), character style, basic animations (and humour) and the more "cartoonish" looks. Going full realism and gritty is something I really hope they avoid. I must mention that a fully 3D version of FF7 is possible as the Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII prequel game on the PlayStation Portable proved.

I wait in suspense for what they deliver, and if the remake can bring me back to living out my first playthrough in the late 90's. I suppose fans should be prepared for quite a bit of changes being made to the game, but I really hope for keeping some of the magic and original charm that made FF7 such a true gaming classic.

We will see, but Square Enix; don't...don't fuck with the music.

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