Final Fantasy VII Remake: Questions, Concerns, and Euphoria
After years of clamoring and hoping, fans finally got confirmation of dreams come true: Square Enix is remaking the classic, fan-favorite 1997 RPG Final Fantasy VII. Such a possibility was teased as far back as E3 2005, with the PlayStation 3 tech demo, and it’s captured the fanbase’s imagination since.
But this time, it’s real.
No more April Fool’s jokes or trolling: while the reality is still a while off, the FFVII remake is official as of Sony’s press conference on Monday, when they released this teaser trailer.
The full dialogue of the trailer reads:
Long ago we looked upon a foreboding sky. The memory of the star that threatened all burns eternal in our hearts. In its wake came an age of silence. Yet with each fond remembrance, we knew those encountered were not forgotten, that someday we would see them again. Perhaps it was no more than wishful thinking. But after the long calm, there are now beginnings of a stir. The Reunion at hand may bring joy; it may bring fear, but let us embrace whatever it brings, for they are coming back. At last, the promise has been made.
At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. This beautifully directed trailer featured an unknown voice vaguely alluding to the events of the game. The soundtrack crawled under my skin as I watched. I itched. It felt familiar, and sounded like something out of Advent Children, but it couldn’t really be FFVII. Even as the various sectors flashed by with the trains and the children frolicking on the playground, I was in disbelief. “Are they making another sequel to FFVII?” I thought.
Yoshinori Kitase’s name appeared onscreen. Then Kazushige Nojima’s. Tetsuya Nomura’s. All men who worked on the original game. The camera panned up to show the Mako reactor and the Sam Fisher-goggled Shinra soldiers.
Then the iconic first three notes of FFVII’s opening sequence hit. Barret’s machine gun arm filled the left side of the screen. The camera drew back, and in came the Buster Sword.
Then one word: “Remake.”
I read Siliconera’s article Monday morning on Reddit and disregarded it for lack of evidence. It just wasn’t possible. Square Enix was adamant that they wouldn’t remake FFVII, not until they had created a game that surpassed it. That, or they succumbed to financial ruin and needed the sales to keep them afloat. Their second attempt at a final Final Fantasy.
But it’s actually here, still shocking millions of people, and the fans are running wild with what they hope to see and what changes they want made.
While I’m as excited as the rest of the fans, I observe this announcement with a great deal of skepticism and reservation. There are many reasons FFVII consistently charts on “Best Games Ever” lists and sits so firmly in its fans hearts. It’s because even when you return to the game five or ten years later, every pixel and MIDI tune are exactly the way you remember them.
When the title gets remade for PS4 and XBox One, it’s going to be a fundamentally different game. It’ll have the same characters, settings, and story that people know, but the way they are presented will be wholly different. Subtle changes in the writing will certainly run throughout that will impact the experience, in possibly negative ways.
First, embarrassing and egregious translation errors will be fixed (they’re actually fixed in the PC version, already).
That means our favorite flower girl is no longer “Aeris,” too. The correct translation is “Aerith.”
But secondly, and more importantly, FFVII will need to undergo some serious censorship before it’s fit for upscaling.
Unless Square Enix purposefully aims for an M rating—which I find unlikely—then a lot of dialogue will get cut and changed. No matter how you feel about the dialogue boxes, they’re certainly gone in favor of voice acting.
That means principal characters Barret and Cid already lose a lot of their flavor.
FFVII is pretty vulgar at times. With text boxes and special characters, the expletives can be censored while still effectively conveying their meaning. Yet when this game is voice acted, that won’t work. Will they bleep out certain words? Toning the language down will affect the game’s meaning in huge ways, and it won’t be the same.
Speaking of vulgar, I can think of at least two plot points that I anticipate seeing revised.
Remember when Cloud and Aeris had to sneak into Don Corneo’s mansion? It’s a quest that requires Cloud to dress in woman’s drag in order to gain admittance to see the Don. Hardly any of this quest is scalable to HD, for both explicit and subtextual reasons.
First, there’s the Honeybee Inn, a brothel. Although it’s an optional area, in it the player finds overt evidence of kinky roleplay and gay orgies. Looking more closely, the Inn’s “&$#% Room” possibly references sexual assault against the main character.
In 1997 this weird, prolonged, and uncomfortable yet hysterical homoerotic quest was doable because of the hardware’s limitations. It’s played entirely for laughs, but with HD visual fidelity, it just won’t fly. Even if the game is rated M, I still don’t believe the scenes will translate culturally to American audiences anymore.
An additional concern I have is that with the retconned Cloud from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (the 2005 film sequel), the slapstick nature of the drag disguise just isn’t feasible according to the character’s “emo,” distant, and cold personality.
Fortunately, according to an interview with Tetsuya Nomura on Wednesday, the game’s “sillier elements” will remain intact. Nomura confirmed this includes the crossdressing quest. But how much will it be censored? It’s possible that Japan, with its more lenient attitudes towards sex and sexuality, will keep everything as it was. Yet it’s more than possible the American and PAL versions will be edited, however, to preserve that T-rating.
The second major change we can expect to see revolves around AVALANCHE.
Avalanche, led by Barret and Tifa, is a small group of eco-terrorists who methodically bomb the Shinra Electric Power Company’s Mako energy plants, because extracting the energy is killing the planet. This is a narrative that should definitely still resonate; we hear about global warming every day. Avalanche are poster children for an Edward Abbey novel.
There’s obviously one problem with that, though. The main characters of FFVII are terrorists.
In post-9/11 America, can we get behind heroes who are unabashed terrorists? As a culture, we’re sensitive to that word and its issues, regardless of what it might refer to. The average American reader will associate the word with the Islamic State and with Al-Qaeda.
So whatever the FFVII remake does, it faces numerous rhetorical problems. Is it a matter of altering the language so that Avalanche are portrayed as a noble resistance (akin to the Rebellion in Star Wars)? Does it entail leaving their actions intact, but removing the word “terrorist” from the script? Or will it be more dramatic and completely rewrite the scenario where Avalanche’s fallout ends up killing numerous innocents?
Avalanche’s righteousness isn’t questionable, but the original game doesn’t resist their terrorist designation, either. Nearly twenty years later, in a nation fighting an endless War on Terrorism, different rules of censorship apply.
So while I’m concerned about these things, that’s not to say I can’t also be excited about what’s to come, because FFVII is a fantastic game. I hope the battle and materia systems remain intact. I hope that chocobo breeding gets more streamlined. I hope there are general tweaks and improvements that expedite menus and traversal. I hope that full cinematography will make this game even more compelling than it already is.
But what happens when Square Enix adds Cosmo Canyon DLC missions? What if you can purchase a new life for Aeris?
It’s probably best not to get too far ahead. We’ve got a considerable wait, although Square Enix indicates more information will come at the end of the year.
So the questions are, what are we willing to sacrifice in a remake? Is remaking a game more about being influenced by the source material, or should it be identical to its source? If they change too much, is it still the same text?
As the teaser trailer says: “Let us embrace whatever it brings.”