Final Fantasy VII Finally

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.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-27 23-37-21

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.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-01-31 01-40-00

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 . . .

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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.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-19 23-51-34

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.

Final Fantasy VII Screenshot 2018-02-22 02-45-02

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.

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Same World, Different Games

*This is a piece I wrote several years ago (2014), but for some reason never published. What I think is interesting is that some of the things I’ve called for here have been implemented into modern gaming via patches for certain games (GTAV) and also some modern games are finally allowing perspective choice, such as Star Wars: Battlefront (2015). But in general the industry still has a way to go on this topic.

Quite often there are games released (I’m talking AAA almost exclusively) that I really want to play at first announcement. They have the story, or the graphics, or sometimes even just the right looking character. It’s no secret that marketing can be the difference between record sales and a failed project. Sometimes I even do buy without taking the time to properly do my research. But then once I actually get a look at the gameplay, I’m totally disinterested in playing it. In the moments where I learn this after I’ve already purchased I play the game anyway because I’m not one to just throw money away. But in the times where I’m given advanced notice I simply let out a long sigh of disappointment and never purchase or play the game except in the rare occurrence where I get  a chance to play it for free either because a friend has it or PS+ tosses it out one month. And even then sometimes I still pass on it.

1st vs 3rd

I don’t know if other gamers have this issue, but I seem to be dealing with it constantly. There are certain aspects to the way a game is made that I often think are just wrong and would have been better if done differently. I’m not super picky about certain aspects of a game while I’m a complete stickler about others. My biggest pet peeve is when a game that should have clearly been made in third person is produced in first person. This is obviously a subjective opinion. I prefer third person games to first person just like there are plenty of gamers who prefer first person over third person. The main difference is that first person games are tied directly to esports now so they tend to get a lot more support than third person. This is especially true when it comes to PVP for some reason. I do play games in first person and there are certain first person titles that I really love like Mirror’s Edge (2008). But more often than not games are announced that I’m totally ready to buy and then later on found out it’s in first person and then I don’t even bother. Sometimes I’m on the fence about it like with the upcoming Destiny (here I’m referencing the first one because this was written early 2014), but other times I never consider it again.

Destiny limited ed

*I ultimately did purchase the limited edition of Destiny and if you read my blog regularly then you are already aware that I deeply regret it but not because it’s in first person.

Now obviously some games are meant to be in first person and they wouldn’t be any better in third. Call of Duty is a great example of this. It’s a first person shooter that would be no better in any aspect or even possibly be worse than it already is were it to be made in third person. The same is true for certain third person games such as Sly Cooper. That would be a horrible experience in first person, except for maybe in a very well made VR scenario. But quite often some games are produced in one POV when they would be so much “better” and sensible in another other POV.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

For me, there is no better example than Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). You give me a super slick looking cyborg with inlaid blades, robo shades, and enough tech to make Raiden (MGS not MK for all you noobs) jealous and then you tell me I’m not going to be able to see him for most of the game. That makes absolutely no sense. That game should without a doubt have been in third person. We know this to be true because of the many moments where the game switches to third person when you do cool stuff like stealth kills or even just climb ladders. And no I don’t care if the past titles in the series were in first person. Clearly that was the wrong decision, at least for this title, and should have been changed. I was ready to pre-order it after watching the reveal trailers, but when I found out it was in first person I passed. Tried a friend’s copy for about 5 minutes and put it down never to play it again. Even passed on it when it was available for free on PS+. It should have been in third with the option to switch to first for more precise gun use.

There are also games that are in the middle that could be very good in either first or third person. Mass Effect is a great example of this. It’s in third person over the shoulder, which works great. But it also could have easily been a first person shooter and been just as good. It would only have needed to switch to third person for cut scenes which is a common practice in first person games. Between games that could go either way and be fun and games that should have gone the opposite way, I have to ask the question “why not?”

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Mass Effect First Person Mod

Why don’t we ever see games remade in different gameplay styles? It wouldn’t even be that hard in comparison to making a brand new game. You already have your plot, graphics, level design, and voice acting. You need only remake the gameplay and you have a brand new and sometimes better gaming experience in a fraction of the time. Then you can ship it out quicker and charge less for it without taking a loss so everybody wins.

Obviously I’m not saying this is a practice that should be done with every or even most games. I would absolutely never consider playing a first person God of War game. The thought of that just makes me cringe. But there are clearly titles that can and sometimes should be remade in a different POV or with other gameplay focused changes. Wouldn’t you like to try something like Tomb Raider (2013) in first person? It may not be better, but it could also end up being a much more dramatic gameplay experience.

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The only time in the series I preferred first person. God of War III (2010)

I think a great example is Thief (2014). I was so excited to play it that my girlfriend pre-ordered it for me. But it was actually a pretty boring experience (read about it here). I understand why Thief was made in first person and what it was trying to accomplish. But I truly believe that it would be more enjoyable and less annoying to play in a third person view. Especially when it comes to combat, which is pretty sloppy in that game when not landing exclusively stealth knock outs. Now I can admit that it happens to be a game where stealth knockouts should be your go to means of dealing with enemies, but if you played the game then you know that it’s not made well enough to accomplish that in any practical amount of time. Especially for inexperienced to average level stealth players.

While I’ve been focusing on POV, that’s not necessarily the only change in a remake that could lead to a great gaming experience. There are also contextual gameplay changes that could help certain titles a lot. What if we were to see certain games recreated with an entirely different combat system? Now personally I like Final Fantasy XII (2006) and while I don’t consider it to be the best of the franchise, I was not unhappy with the battle system. It was innovative and attempting to change the experience to something other than the basic turn time which had existed for several years. Whether or not it succeeded in creating a good battle system is up for debate, but I do know that many people were unhappy with it as well as the newer systems in more recent games such as Final Fantasy XIII (2009/10). Why couldn’t we see these games recreated or better yet originally released with the ability to play in the classic turn time style? (Some of them actually do include the choice of turn time, but it’s disappearing with each new title.)

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That would be my ideal scenario, if I’m honest. A game comes out where multiple styles of play and POV would make sense and be enjoyable and they are all included in the release copy. But that’s asking a lot for some games. There’s also the possibility of releasing multiple versions of a game or including other gameplay style options as DLC. If given the opportunity, I would totally play Deus Ex: Human Revolution fully in third person. When it was new, I would have even been willing to pay extra for the privilege.

Again, I’m not saying that this is something that should be done for every game. But there are definitely certain titles where it could be quite enjoyable, profitable, and in some cases useful. I bet certain games would even sell more copies and garner more positive response in an alternate version than in the original. While such a policy does go against the current system of video game development in many ways and may even be insulting to developers, I say “so what?” Gaming is about entertaining the player while trying to make a profit. It’s pretty obvious that such a move to create alternate versions of certain games would do just that. And since credibility is kind of a dead thing anyway what with all the HD remakes and paid DLC for unfinished releases, would this really be such a disgusting practice in the current gaming industry?

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Here’s a list of some of the games that I would love to play in remade versions. Note that I’m not saying all these games weren’t great the way they were made. I’m just saying that I believe they would be fun to play in an alternate version.

  • Elder Scrolls – Third Person
  • Brink (2011) – Third Person
  • Uncharted – First Person
  • Kingdom Hearts – Turn Time RPG
  • Demon’s Souls (2009) – First Person
  • Prince of Persia – First Person
  • Minecraft (2011) – Third Person
  • Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (2004) – Real Time Action RPG
  • Dragon Age: Origins (2009) – Turn Time RPG
  • Metroid: Other M (2010) – First Person

I’m curious to know if other gamers have similar pet peeves with games and how you feel about the idea of developers releasing alternate versions so please leave a comment below.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Asdivine Hearts Review – 8/10

This week I reviewed an excellent turn based indie RPG called Asdivine Hearts. It was originally built for mobile but was recently ported to PS4 among other PlayStation platforms. I published this review on Brash Games, but here is the introduction:

asdivine-hearts

JRPGs are a difficult problem as a busy gamer who is constantly backlogged. It’s one of my favorite genres and I am not alone in that opinion. It’s one of the only remaining types of games you can buy where story is as if not more important than gameplay. It’s the best genre when it comes to getting a fully developed and detailed story with multiple characters and interweaving story lines. They’re the type of games that inspired studios like Bioware to make games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age that blur the line between Western style action games and Eastern style plot focused fairy tale adventures. The problem with playing them is that they’re very long. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Their characteristically long length is not a flaw on their part but an issue on that of players for not having the time to always be able to commit to hundred or more hour long adventures. But life has to come first so it’s no body’s fault.

You can read the rest of the review here. For this and other reviews by me on Brash Games you can also check out my Author’s Archive page.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.