I finally played and beat Final Fantasy VII. That’s right. Before this year I had never played Final Fantasy VII before. I had played other Final Fantasy games and plenty of other titles from Square Enix, but I’d never actually played the renowned FFVII. I actually had the chance to play the original version on PS1 when I was a kid but I passed. I remember when a used version of the game was given to me and I immediately handed it off to my cousin. I was not going to play a three disc game. That task just seemed too daunting to me. To this day I’ve only ever completed one three disc game other than now FFVII. That was FFXIII. I started but never finished Blue Dragon and Star Ocean: The Last Hope. But the three discs were just too daunting. I spent years being ridiculed for having not played Final Fantasy VII. People constantly stating it’s the best one (until you play it and then have everyone tell you actually it’s FFIX, which I also haven’t played) and how it’s a must play. I got to a point where I legitimately regretted having not played it as a kid because I was tired of not being included in this fan club. But I decided I would wait because I wanted a remake.
Remakes are the in thing and have been for the last several years. It’s easy money. Less than half the work of normal/original development and guaranteed sales from both the nostalgia crowd and the younger generation of gamers who weren’t around when a game was originally released, assuming the game already carries prestige. We’ve seen this happen recently with games like Shadows of the Colossus (for the second time). It’s a cash cow scenario. That’s what I was waiting for with FFVII. I got to a point where I really wanted to play it but I also really didn’t want to deal with those old graphics and text based dialog. It’s actually the most demanded remake in gaming history and has been for many years so I was sure a remake would happen, and it is. They finally announced a full HD remake of FFVII back in 2015. It’s still not out but the rumor mill currently predicts a 2019 release. So I was happy . . . for a time.
I was glad that a true FFVII HD remake had been announced. Not just a port of the original game to the PS4 with a bit of upscaling, but an actual legit remake. This made me happy because after so many years of waiting and ridicule I was finally going to play the game in glorious HD with voice acting. Then, in true Square Enix fashion, they started talking about the game and dashed all my hopes.
What I wanted was a purist HD remake of FFVII. That means the same exact game with the same exact story and gameplay down to the letter. All I wanted was for them to recreate the exact same game in glorious HD. That’s literally all they had to do. But since when do developers do what we actually want them to do in 2018? Square Enix started giving details about this FFVII remake and it all sounded terrible. They said the gameplay was being radically changed, the game was being broken up into multiple episodes (presumably at premium pricing), and the POV and storytelling was going to change between episodes. This is not FFVII, and I can say that confidently having now actually played the game. This is some other game with an FFVII coat of paint. That’s not what I wanted at all. I wanted the authentic FFVII gameplay experience so I could finally say that I played the game and truly understood what everyone else was going on about. So after hearing all this depressing news I ended up just buying the upscaled PS4 port, because then I would at least get the authentic experience. Then I actually played the game . . .
Having now beaten the game, I have to say that I understand, at least in part, where Squre Enix is coming from with the FFVII HD remake changes. Let me be very clear in stating two main things. First, FFVII is one of the best written Final Fantasy games I’ve ever played. It may even be the best one. Certainly the most mature. Second, FFVII has outdated, irritating gameplay that doesn’t even compare to FFX, which is also a turn based RPG. I had so many complaints while playing FFVII. For starters, the game has no direction. There’s a huge open world and not nearly enough clues about where you’re actually supposed to go. I got lost so many times that I eventually had to turn to online walkthroughs just to progress forward in the game. I don’t have time to walk an entire map hoping to find some totally inconspicuous house with a specific character who offhandedly sort of mentions where you need to go. It’s 2018. I’m 28 years old and have a backlog that can literally reach up to my knees when stacked. I’m more than six feet tall by the way. I don’t have time for a super inefficient materia system that requires hours upon hours of mindless grinding just to have a sporting chance against a boss that holds the item you need that would actually make said boss more manageable. I don’t have time for annoying mechanics like having to play carnival games in order to win points so you can use a save point. It’s 2018. I honestly don’t think a game that plays like FFVII could make it in today’s market without the prestige of FFVII. So having now played it, I’m glad Square Enix has decided to modernize the gameplay. I still hope for some level of original authenticity but the whole process definitely needs to be sped up for a modern audience.
Writing wise, FFVII is an excellent game. But let’s not pretend the whole thing isn’t full of holes and cliffhangers. I had so many questions during and at the end of that game. A lot of stuff just happens and never really gets an explanation. I don’t like the idea of paying for multiple episodes but I can now absolutely get behind the idea of a more thorough and detailed narrative that actually fills in the holes. Being able to play as multiple characters in a leading role will hopefully give some clarity to a number of events that took place in the original game that are never really explained.
For once I’m on the side of change in remakes, but I had to play the original game to discover that. I don’t know how these changes will affect a modern audience because without the context of knowing what they’re not suffering through with the original game they won’t truly be able to appreciate a better version of the game, assuming the remake actually delivers. I can’t say that I’ll be buying the remake because I don’t tend to purchase them. But if it is drastically different then I might have to give it a shot. For now, I’m just happy to finally be able to say that I beat Final Fantasy VII and now I understand . . . sort of.