How Square Enix delivered a reboot, a new game, the ultimate fan service, and the ultimate middle finger all at once
In 1997, Square Enix, a company already known for delivering top-tier JRPG games, released Final Fantasy VII. A 3-disc epic, this game sold over 13 million copies and is still the top selling Square Enix game over twenty years later. It inspired a slew of imitations and copycats in character designs and gameplay formats. When I played it myself in 2001, even though it isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy title, I still fell in love with it. It’s one of the most iconic games of all time.
Final Fantasy VII, in my opinion, was too ahead of it’s time. In many ways, it hurt Square Enix almost as much as it helped. As I said before, FFVII is still their highest selling game. Think about that, a Playstation 1 game that came out almost thirty years ago, has still out-performed it’s successors. In fact, Square’s second highest seller isn’t even an original property, it’s their 2013 Tomb Raider game. The third highest is Final Fantasy XIV, a game that is usually overlooked and not considered even in the conversation, because it’s a MMO. The only JRPG Final Fantasy title that comes close to FFVII’s numbers is Final Fantasy X, which was one of the definitive games for the Playstation 2. Considering we’re only a few months away from the release of the Playstation 5, and the last Final Fantasy title to be released was Final Fantasy XV, which made 4 million dollars less than FFVII. In a way, fans of the Final Fantasy series have waited over 20 years for a game that would satisfy the way FFVII did. While some, like myself, consider FFX their favorite, and others love FFXV, the vast majority have been disappointed cause nothing has captured the magic quite like FFVII.
Now, this clamoring for a remake came in waves, at first, people wanted a remake because of Cloud’s cameo in the Kingdom Hearts series, which led to the release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a sequel in the form of a movie. Decent plot, stellar 2005 graphics, it was met with mixed reviews. For some, it was a fun and somewhat fulfilling continuation. Personally, I felt the movie could finally put the game to bed and let fans move on. However that was not the case. Most fans, regardless of the film’s story, viewed the movie as a demonstration of how could a remake might look. So, the demand for the remake rose even higher. Sadly, Square followed the film’s release with the 2006 Playstation 2 game Dirge of Cerberus, which took place in the FFVII universe but was so disconnected from the main story that it felt like another tease. Then, when Sony was getting ready to release the Playstation 3, the did a technical demo that sent fans into hysteria. A remake of the opening cutscene from FFVII, in peak Playstation 3 graphics. A fourth nail in the hype coffin. As if that wasn’t enough, 2007 Square Enix released Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core for the PSP. A prequel to the original story, for Sony’s first ever handheld system. The refusal to give fans what they wanted while not letting the game die in the name of profit might have seemed like a good idea, but it actually was a huge mistake.
Before the release of Final Fantasy XIII Tetsuya Nomura said, in an interview, that he didn’t want to remake FFVII, until he’d made a game better than FFVII. Sadly, Square’s next attempt, Final Fantasy XIII, didn’t live up to that hope at all, being a disappointment on it’s own, but almost ruining the entire franchise when Square decided to give the title two sequels. Then, a game that took 10 years and a title change to make, finally hit the shelves, Final Fantasy XV, and reception was mixed. Again, FFXV sold 4 million less copies than FFVII. The worst part, in my opinion, isn’t just that Nomura couldn’t achieve his goal, but that he didn’t actually choose to take on the FFVII remake, Square just kinda put out a video and put his name on it, or so the rumors say. But, after almost thirty years, a game that was so good it inadvertently almost killed it’s franchise, has been reborn! Final Fantasy VII: Remake is here!
Or rather, part 1 is here. We don’t know how many parts are coming, and neither does Square, but considering part 1 is absolutely gorgeous, incredibly well written, well acted, and is over 100 GBs in size, I’m not surprised that the game is coming out in installments. In fact, I love that for Square. Think about it, they’ve spent almost thirty years in the shadow of this game. “You fuckers didn’t like the movie or the spinoff game? The prequel wasn’t enough? Fine! Here’s your remake, but only part of it, and there’s no telling when the next part’s coming but you bet your ass you’ll be paying full price for it!” This is the consequence the fans have to deal with. For all that this remake is giving the fans, because it is gorgeous, has revolutionary gameplay, and is absolutely perfect, it is also giving them a well deserved middle finger. You want Final Fantasy VII? Well since we’ve revolutionized gameplay and thrown out the classic monster battle style get ready to be dependent on side quests to level up. You want to relive the story? Well this time around your gonna spend more time in the world and see how people are effected by your actions, and your even gonna care about the side characters and feel something when they die. You like Cloud? Well get ready for a Cloud who was written in 2020, whose less brooding badass and more socially inept quiet type with severe PTSD, and as a cherry on top, get ready for completely new elements that will confuse the hell out of you.
I love this game, and I can’t wait to play the other parts of it. The graphics are unparalleled, the gameplay is wonderful, the level building is perfect, and even though the story has been altered and the “whispers” confuse me, I’m all in. I’m especially fond of the weapon upgrade system cause it allows you to play the game using the Buster Sword and still grow stronger. Cloud is a genuinely likable guy and has a personality now, incredible! But, the thing I love most, is Square’s decision to, very blatantly, give the fans who’ve begged for this, exactly what they ask for, and milk it for every penny it’s worth. Fans have longed for the old instead of fulling embracing the new, and while Square played it’s part in that as well, the real cost wasn’t the movie, or the prequel game, or the spinoff, it was feeling pressured by fans, to a point where if you look closely, a lot of Final Fantasy titles since FFVII have taken very similar story beats and character arcs. Square has felt limited as a business. Like a child actor, trapped in the brilliance of their past. So, as much as I love this remake, I really hope once all the parts are released, Square is able to move forward with Final Fantasy, and finally lay this 1997 classic to bed.
Rating: 9/10 (bad time travel?)
PS: While I will always love Aerith, Jessie is officially best girl now!