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Kill the Messenger
Finally. The makers of Final Fantasy 7 have fulfilled our final fantasy of remaking Final Fantasy 7. Recently they announced they would to remake Final Fantasy 7 in the game: Final Fantasy VII Remake (ha ha).
All alliteration and puns aside, this news comes after many years of false rumors and speculation - even flat out misdirection. The plan is to remake FF7 for the twentieth year anniversary in 2017. There have been prequels, spin-offs, side-stories, cell-phone games, movies, cameos, and anime remakes - and finally the origin is getting a facelift. But is that all?
The game designers' lips are sealed, and fans seems to fall into one of two categories in response to that question. There are the "golden age" Fundamentalists, who believe the original game to be as close as code can be to Scripture (notice the capital "S") - and thus any changes other than graphics upgrades would be Sacrilege (again, the "S"). The other camp, the "live in the now" Modernists, realize that they can relive the original game by playing the original game, so they're open to a re-imagining.
The Fundamentalists have a valid point: The game was and still is a cultural icon. After 20 years, people still care about Sephiroth and the horrible betrayals that created his psychosis. We still want to see Cloud fulfill his promises to Aeris and Zack. And let's be honest: can we really trust the emo-wrist-slashers that wrote emo-wrist-slasher-Cloud for Advent Children to NOT make the whole thing into a teen-angst never-play-a-Final-Fantasy-again franchise-ender? (Note: the action scenes in AC were so cool that I myself have forgiven them for the emo-fest).
On the other side of the fence there's the Modernists' argument. We've played the game already. Fifty to sixty times in fact. On Playstation (1), PC, and emulators. With hands tied behind our backs and blindfolded. This is a chance for something NEW. Add in a big dose of nostalgia and throwbacks, and you've got something that can not only make every fangirl feel warm and giddy inside, but also bring in the new generation. Let's face it. It's been twenty years. Twenty. Things that were "cowabunga" twenty years ago are now "ehw" (a la Disgust from "Inside Out"). Speaking of TMNT; kmn wtf if they "revive" FF7 like they "revived" Ninja Turtles, I rage-quit life.
In the end, I think the Fundamentalists are going to realize that nothing stands the test of time. What was accessible and welcomed by the youth and young adults of the 90's will now undoubtedly be snubbed and rejected by the 2020 crowd. I remember 20+ minute sequences where the camera angle was static - overhead - and two or three characters were just talking back and forth. And this is 90's game "talking" - a.k.a. READING. Blue dialog boxes appeared one after another after another for 20-30 minutes.
All the modern voice acting, dramatic angles, and pretty graphics in the world won't change the fact that most of the world today now leans toward 1 to 5 minute gaming experiences (Fallout Shelter, Halo (Warzone), Candy Crush). How much "fun" will it be for a anyone, new to FF or hard-core fan of the original alike, to sit 20+ minutes where we don't even press a button on the controller because modern games advance dialog automatically to keep in sync with the voice-acting.
A reimagining is really the only possible way to make this game as loved by new gamers as it was by the original audience. So long as the game makers stay true to the characters, story, and "feel" of FF7, they can make it happen. We'll see what they do.
To Be Continued...
AND NOW, because I don't believe in only poking holes in ideas without also providing constructive feedback... here's my idea.
The above, 20+ minute dialogue scenario would still be engaging to a modern audience if there were some interaction. It would be better still if that interaction could reflect their OWN experience of the game. It beyond even that, it would be amazing if what you did had an impact on the relationships and side-stories available during your play-through, much like the "Disgaea" and "Tales" franchises.
So here's the idea:
A character says something to you (Cloud).
The player gets a "choose a response" overlay - but instead of the old, tired...
A. Dialog option that takes forever to read because there's, like, a paragraph there or something 1, or
B. Stupid jerkface response 2
...we modernize it.
You choose simply an emotion or reaction to convey. Cloud then says something in reaction to the scene, but the words he chooses (and who he says them to) are decided by the emotional response the player is having. It may sound simple, but it's actually more complex and more engaging than any idea game makers have put out there. Instead of spending minutes reading overly-simplified responses and choosing the one that scores you points with Tifa, you get to make Cloud react to the situation with what YOU are feeling.
And just to be clear, I'm not talking about "A. Happy", or "B. Angry" like "Fable". I'm talking about contextually sensitive emotional triggers.
So let's say Yuffie says: "I pick-pocketed all of your Materia. You can have it back for 2,000,000 Gil." You would be provided a set of responses that match Cloud's personality AND let you pick the direction of the story:
A. Money > Sadness
B. Pick-Pocketing > Surprise
C. Materia > Anger
... and so forth
So let's say you choose "B," Cloud could say something like, "That's impressive for a backwoods yokel from Wutai. Now give it all back before I show you how we treat thieves in SOLDIER."
Since they're so simple to read, the developers could even offer any number of options instead of the typical 4 responses; So long as ALL of the available responses are true to the character that you're controlling (typically Cloud). Cloud (and you) get to have a VOICE. Most "choose a path" games skip the part where Cloud says the words you choose because it's a waste of time to hear the words you already read and picked. Of course there would also be a timeout and default response to keep things lively. And in the background, whether or not your choice affects the conversation path or some secret "Yuffie-o-meter" number, is up to the developers and the importance of the scene.
This game mechanic is one way to bring something "amazing in the 90's" up to the micro-transaction-jones-ing standards of today. It also lets the makers stay true to the original narrative and style of the game. It keeps Cloud in the spotlight since he'll still have a VOICE. Best of all it gives gamers what they've really been wanting all these years - we can finally know what it's like to BE Cloud Strife.
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