Unless you’ve been on the moon the past month or so, you’ll have heard the news of the Final Fantasy 7 remake announced at E3. Built from the ground up, for the current generation. Exciting times? Yes indeed, but also terrifying. Why so?
(naturally spoilers ahead, but are they really spoilers any more?)
I can’t speak for others, but for myself, Final Fantasy 7 was the first game I played that not only wanted you to play it, but also to listen to it, hear the story it wanted to tell you. Up to that point, I was raised on a diet of platformer games of the likes of Sonic, Mario or Crash Bandicoot. Here’s point A, get to point B, collect/kill things on the way, repeat 20 times, each time increasing in difficulty. Occasional boss fight. Very little story involved.
The same was true of the other type of game I played, games like Theme Park, which saw you buy some land, build a theme park, make tons of money and repeat, or lose all your money, go bankrupt and commit suicide.
Not even kidding there. The game over screen shows you jumping out your office window, which is actually pretty damn traumatising to put in a game played by a then 8 year old, but I digress. Final Fantasy 7 was the first time I played a game that had long swathes of time where you didn’t DO anything but read what the characters were saying. This was a foreign idea to me, and I was hooked instantly.
It is by no means the first game to have done this, obviously (I mean, this game alone was the 7th in a SERIES of games like this), nor is it the first game that has emotional moments in it, but it was for me. The obvious player punch is the death of Aerith, at the end of disc 1. A character that we’ve grown attached to, and our sullen hero has grown fond of, snatched away from us by a grey-haired asshat in a douchey longcoat.
Games nowadays feature lots and lots of DLC, microtransactions and the like. Preorder bonuses are announced at the same time as the game itself pretty often (just look at Evolve and the various Batman: Arkham Whatever games). Square-Enix could theoretically, create a DLC that keeps Aerith alive, or brings her back after her death. I imagine there’s a lot of people who’d literally throw money at their screen in order to do that. I’d find it odd, it’s a key moment in the game. It’s a massive cliche moment, sure (“motivated by the death of <a woman>, our <very definitely male> hero vanquishes his foe and gains his revenge” seems to be a very common trope in games, movies, literature, etc), but that doesn’t lessen the impact.
What WOULD lessen the impact would be the ability to just change this major, pivotal moment in the story. The thing people who haven’t even PLAYED Final Fantasy 7 know about. By now, Aerith’s death is so ingrained in the culture of video games, and perhaps pop culture in general. It’s the gaming equivalent of Luke being the son of Darth Vader, of Snape killing Dumbledore, of Soylent Green being people. It was his sled, he was dead all along, he’s a figment of his imagination, Aerith dies.
You can’t just change all that. Wave a magic wand (made of money of course) and make history different. It’d feel wrong, somehow. At least to me.
Final Fantasy 7 is at times a ridiculous game. You can dress up as a woman and be so convincing, despite being Mr Macho Man Hero, that a lecherous old scrote picks you as his lady companion for the night. One of your party members is a cat-wolf-dog-THING, another is a robot cat riding a fat stuffed toy moogle that wields a megaphone as a weapon. Cat-Wolf-Dog-Thing’s grandfather is a weird old man who sits atop a floating ball. Another character, Not Mr T, swears a lot and initially thinks your character is a bit of a dick, but play the game in a specific (correct) way, and make specific (correct) dialogue choices and Mr Macho Man Hero and Not Mr T can go on a “date” in the Gold Saucer. There’s a slap fight on a cannon between a horrid business woman and a trained martial artist, that somehow is an even fight.
Seriously, Tifa should have just roundhoused her off the end, it’d have been a lot simpler.
Final Fantasy 7 is at times an emotional experience. Aforementioned death of Aerith, while her beautiful theme tune plays. The fact it carries through the next boss fight is a constant reminder of what exactly you’re fighting for. Why you fight. Who you fight for. Even though I KNOW it’s coming, it still gets me. Cloud fighting himself to stop HIM killing her, Sephirith descending from the sky, Cloud cradling her in his arms, the music, the materia, the boss fight, everyone’s reaction afterwards (Yuffie’s reaction being somehow the most upsetting of all) the sinking into the water.
Cait Sith’s (initial) sacrifice is another one that gets me. He trips, he falls, he picks himself up, he marches grimly on. “Even I can save the world!” Sure, there’s a replacement Cait Sith that comes along straight after, considering it’s a robot controlled by a man in an office, but it’s still a touching moment, one that still makes me sad.
Red XIII hates his father, Seto. He believes him to be a coward that abandoned Cosmo Canyon, leaving it to be ransacked by the Gi, only to learn that he was rushing to the entrance of a cavern to defend it from invaders. If the Gi had gone through there, Cosmo Canyon would have been destroyed. Instead, Seto saved them all.
I’ve not even mentioned Cid and Shera, Tifa caring for Cloud in his catatonia and learning the truth of his past, the crushing of Sector 7, when Elmyra met Aerith…
I’m worried the remake won’t do these scenes justice. I’m worried that they’ll try and change things. Tetsuya Nomura hinted in an interview that things could be different to how we know them. “If it’s a full remake, then of course, we want to take a different approach. If we actually just upgraded the visuals — there’d be no need for me to direct it.”
It’s the unknown that scares me. I’m excited for the Final Fantasy 7 I know and love coming to a new generation. I’m scared of what might be different. What we gain, but what we may lose in its place.
I spent so many hours of my life breeding chocobos. I wanted the golden chocobo. I wanted to get the Knights of the Round summon, and have a bird that could handily beat Teioh in the Gold Saucer.
Grinding for money to get the right greens and nuts, trying to get a Wonderful chocobo, getting frustrated when a chocobo flees almost as soon as you enter battle…
Then you pick a black chocobo and a wonderful yellow chocobo (you HAD to pick the black one first for some reason, glitch?) and finally getting your reward. The gold chocobo! The world is open to me! I could get to those stupid little islands the Highwind couldn’t land on! Materia galore.
Then you use your Knights of the Round materia, which you can only get with a gold chocobo, to defeat Ruby Weapon, who drops an item that you can trade for… a gold chocobo.