So, Sony’s PlayStation Experience event just happened, and the biggest take away was a new trailer for the much anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake, which featured our first glimpses of gameplay. As someone who holds FFVII in extremely high regard, and someone who’s been an avid supporter of a potential remake for many years, I can’t help but feel conflicted.
Graphically, it looks like a PS4 game. From characters models to environments and animations, everything looks fantastic. Watching Cloud walk around a re-envisioned Midgar was enough to send chills down my spine. Seeing Barret and the other Avalanche members put a smile on my face, and that classic music sounds as good as ever. Everything looked great, until the trailer answered the biggest question looming over the game: how will they handle the combat? While it’s not 100% clear how everything will work, it does seem that Square-Enix have opted to go with an Action-RPG style system, rather than the classic turn based ATB mechanic of the first game. Producer Yoshinori Kitase stated in a recently released interview that the game will not be completely action based, so it’ll probably be more like Kingdom Hearts than Fable, but still a far cry from the original nonetheless.
Let’s be clear, I don’t hate action-RPGs or anything, but FFVII will forever be a turn-based game to me. When the remake was announced my initial thought was that it would be the definitive version of a classic game. Now, I’m looking at it as an entirely new game, one which I’ll probably enjoy, but never to the same extent of the original. I’m not alone in how I feel, the highest rated comment on the Youtube page for the new trailer is a person saying they were hoping the game would still be turn-based. Online communities everywhere are split between those against the change, and those who are embracing it.
It essentially boils down to two different groups of people. The first group being those, like myself, who want the original game to be preserved as much as possible, with the obvious graphical overhaul and minor quality-of-life adjustments being the only changes, and the second group being those who essentially want a “new” FFVII. Sadly, it seems like too much time has passed since FFVII’s original release, and the first group will probably never get the remake they’d envisioned.
The Resident Evil remake largely is seen as the greatest video game remake ever done. Originally released on the GameCube, and later on other consoles (including the Xbox One and PS4), the RE remake received massive critical acclaim and is adored by fans of the franchise. Why? Because it’s a perfect remake of a classic game. Capcom took the original, gave it a complete graphical overhaul, added a few new enemies, some new areas, a couple of tiny game play improvements, and that’s it. It’s the same game, just better. The remake still features the famous tank control scheme, and the fixed camera angles of the classic version. It plays and feels identical, which is why fans praise the remake as the definitive version of RE. If you were not a fan of the original, you won’t like the remake, and that’s the point! A remake is supposed to be fan service, and Capcom succeeded with flying colors.
The thing is, and you wouldn’t know this by just looking at them, since RE1 looks pretty bad these days, and the remake is still gorgeous, but there was only six years between the release of the original and the release of the GameCube version. Had the GameCube remake never of happened, and Capcom only decided to remake RE now, nearly 20 years after its original release, would they have the balls to release a game that played like the classic? I highly doubt it. It’s been too long. They’d fear fans wouldn’t embrace a game with such archaic gameplay. They’d first remove the fixed camera angles and give the player an over-the-shoulder view a-la RE4, but then the level structure and enemy placement would need to be completely redone, since the original game was designed around the fact that the player’s view was heavily restricted. At the end of the day, after all the changes and tweaks, it simply wouldn’t be RE anymore! Thankfully for RE fans, Capcom did remake the game 2002, and since then it has been re-released time and time again, including in 2015 for 8th generation consoles, proving that fans to this day still want to play a remake that perfectly emulates the classic game.
Much like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII is nearly 20 years old. When it was released turn-based games were still in their prime. These days all games, including RPGs, are faster, and more action-oriented. It would be a financial risk to release a turn-based RPG in today’s market. It’s a shame that this remake wasn’t done during the first couple of years of the PS3’s life cycle. Imagine if on FFVII’s 10 year anniversary, Square-Enix launched a near identical remake of the original that was on par with Final Fantasy XIII in terms of visuals. It would have sold millions. And then they could have remastered it for the PS4 and sold millions more. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed, and it seems like there’s no going back. FFVII Remake is destined to be an action-RPG, and while that disappoints me, it doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy the game. Hopefully though there won’t be too many other drastic changes, because if they announce micro-transactions at the Gold Saucer I’m jumping ship.