I love Final Fantasy 7 so much. All of the Final Fantasies really(13 doesn’t count in my mind). I basically learned to read from FF 4(2 back in my day), I feel that Kefka is roughly as effective a villain as Richard III and I will shout from the rooftops that FF2 has a deeper leveling system than any Elder Scrolls game, but FF7 is my special passion. it’s hardly a secret that most of us at Bit Cultures really like Final Fantasy; I’m not sure if it’s my favorite, but it’s certainly the one I’ve spent the most time and thought on. I had three save files whose clocks all stopped at 99:99. Killing Emerald Weapon and breeding a golden chocobo are still some of the proudest achievements of my life. I am not writing all of this to impress you or elicit sympathy. It’s just that I’m going to be saying a few harsh truths about dated or problematic aspects of this game that may come off as cheap digs, and it’s important to me that you all understand that these are merely concerns coming from a place of love. Okay? Okay.
So you may have heard that they’re doing a remake of Final Fantasy 7 (If you haven’t, welcome to the internet!). The announcement (and only evidence) of the game is a short trailer with no gameplay, a verbal salad of a voice over and climax just showing Cloud and Barrett’s backs. It doesn’t matter. In a console generation both bloated with remakes while sporting a number of exciting new games of it’s own this is still considered a huge deal and getting a lot of hype, and of course there is. Final Fantasy 7 is easily the most broadly beloved and known in the franchise. We just put out a big list of things it did really well, but those were the things Square Enix of 1997 did. We’re getting our remake from the new Squeenix. The one that made 13.
#5 These Guys Made Final Fantasy 13… Three Times in a Row
The high point of Lightning’s Saga
Now, while I’m not saying FF13 was a bad game with the most garbage, nonsense excuse for a story I’ve ever seen in any medium, I am writing it. Seriously though, every character’s motivations are explicitly said aloud by that character at least once an hour, but it’s never adequately explained what core concepts to the story and world are like Fal’cie and the crystarium. You have to look up anything about the world in a punishingly dense encyclopedia and even then the explanations are pretty weak. Then, almost as if to prove such incompetence is no fluke, Lighting struck two more times. This is the company that will be doing Final Fantasy 7; a story about terrorism, the environment, PTSD and classism as told by four unreliable narrators. And yes, I know they have most of the original writing/directing team on board, but you know what? So did the Star Wars prequels. You can understand if I’m a tad skeptical of how they’ll handle things like that…
#4 You are a Terrorist
So the first thing you do in the game is kill a dozen policemen and blow up a power plant for your terrorist organization, AVALANCHE. It’s to save the planet, and AVALANCHE does the deed at night to minimize casualties, but people do die, and the game let’s you know. You see it on the news. Jesse, the woman who made the bomb, expresses horror and sorrow for the people she (and you) killed and claims it was an accident. When she dies Jesse feels she deserves it. Much later Cait Sith (who is a Shinra bureaucrat in disguise) straight up calls out Barret for all of the civilians who died. Barret brushes it aside with the usual “sacrifices are necessary, they died for a greater cause” response, but Cait’s point is made. That being said, these examples are few and far apart. It doesn’t bang your head over the big questions or even provide an answer. The fact that you think about it is all that matters. Compare that to 13 or even Type 0 ( for the record, I actually really liked Type 0) where Snow gives assault rifles to children and claims “Heroes don’t need plans!”only to be proved absolutely right about everything, even though he totally kills Hope’s mom with his stupidity. At least Barret acknowledged that bad things occurred on his watch. Speaking of Barret…
So Barret’s a great character and I don’t think he’s appreciated enough. Every playable character in FF7 has, in some fashion, been maimed or beaten down by the Shinra corporation in some fashion and had their personalities and goals shaped by that pain, but Barret is the most proactive with it. When his hometown is destroyed and his hand is blasted off trying in vain to save his best friend Dyne, he adopts Dyne’s daughter as his own, gets a chaingun grafted onto his arm and forms a terrorist organization to spite Shinra. His story of rage, survivor’s guilt and fatherly love is one of the best, most visceral arcs in the whole game. It’s a real shame he’s mostly remembered for talking like this:
Oh, you think this might be one aspect Squeenix may actually improve on with time. I call Sazh, the cowardly comic relief (who also uses guns) as exhibit A.
I think I can rest my case. Let’s just move onto how…
#2 Cloud is Basically JRPG Hamlet
Somehow even more self involved than Hamlet
If Barret’s story is about rage, survivor’s guilt and fatherly love then Cloud’s is about the dark side of hero worship, PTSD, and the meaning of strength. In the beginning, Cloud is a self assured and smartass mercenary trying just a little too hard to convince everybody how much he doesn’t care. He opens up and let’s love into his heart just in time to see the woman he loves die at the hands of his former hero, Sephiroth. He then proceeds to have a complete mental breakdown, convinced he’s not even real, going comatose. He’s rescued by his other love interest, Tifa, who guides him through his own doubts, shame and failings and eventually showing him his worth. This is all far more complicated than I’m making it sound and that’s kind of the point. I mean, look at the last stoic, too cool for school sword wielding hero named after weather.
No, no the other one
Lightning starts out the game as basically a female Cloud/Squall. A dudette with an attitude and a cool sword. I was honestly interested about how her arc would turn out, how it would compare and contrast to the previous protagonists. Of course Lightning doesn’t really have an arc, does she? More of a straight line a… hallway if you will. A hallway going nowhere special for sixty hours and two more games. Lightning Returns could almost be considered negative character development with her personality being removed. Cloud on the other hand is a blooming onion of neurosis and longing forming into an epic narrative wrapped up in a single game with time left over for chocobo breeding. The game makes it look easy, but it obviously wasn’t. Try as they might, they have yet to make Lighting (forgive the pun) strike twice and I wouldn’t bet on them doing it this time. And while we’re talking about Cloud…
#1 Cloud and the Honeybee Inn
So I already explained what that peculiar episode of Don Corneo and the Honeybee Inn was and why it’s important in a recent Top 10 (check it out, it’s got some good stuff) so I’ll just go ahead and explain why I’m frankly concerned that modern Squeenix will ruin it. I stated in that earlier article that “Cloud in a dress isn’t the joke. Cloud’s personality and outdated gender politics are the joke”. Frankly though, that’s how I chose to read it. In a different light or a different mood this scene could be taken as Cloud in a dress being the joke, which incidentally makes all that business in the brothel laughing at and not with the characters. In a remake, the interpretation of that tone will be the responsibility not of the reader, but the voice actors. I would be worried no matter who was modernizing this scene. FF 13 had fantastic voice acting Even the best actors with great direction are going to be walking a pretty fine line there. If the actors playing Cloud and Aeris miss the mark, even a little, one of the funnest and most progressive scenes in videogames will just be lame joke that was tired in the 80s.
Believe it or not, I’m really excited about the remake and I hope it’s great. I would love nothing more than to write an article about how I was wrong about everything. The Final Fantasy 15 demo was awesome and really gave me a little more faith in Square Enix. I’m also confident that whatever they do in the gameplay department will blow the original out of the water (honestly, nobody was playing FF7 for the combat even in 1997). I just feel that unrestrained hype benefit’s the companies and nobody else. FF7 was a milestone in gaming for so many people. It was their first notion that games could be more than toys. They could communicate big ideas and bigger feelings. Now it’s going to be the first milestone game (or first game period) for a whole new generation. That’s important. Too important to ignore any concerns you might have voiced.