So I’ve been laid low the last couple of weeks with a heavy case of bronchitis – not exactly the sort of thing you want amidst the virus concerns going around, that’s for sure. But slowly, eventually, I could get up. Not see the light of day, per see, because Doxycycline is a hell of an antibiotic (it makes you allergic to sunlight!) – but anyway. That’s been my last couple of weeks.
But anyway, time to get back… to Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Now, I could spend my time talking about how the Final Fantasy 7 Remake is essentially Final Fantasy 13 in Final Fantasy 7 Drag – and I wouldn’t be wrong, since they even brought over the Crystarium System – but I think it’s a bit early to be saying the whole Remake Saga will be like Final Fantasy 13; but Square-Enix is absolutely on notice that we’re watching, and I’ll put the media on notice that sucking up that hard to Square-Enix and not calling this out was a gross dereliction of duty.
Still, that’s not the bit that worries me the most. I admit that FF7 Remake isn’t terrible even though the systems are borrowed from one of the worst Final Fantasy games ever made. As I said – look at the Nintendo Switch. It’s basically a reformed, re-packaged Wii U and it works and is a huge success. Old ideas can be reinvented. Recycling isn’t always a Doom spell.
What bothers me is the Episodic Nature of the whole thing.
I’ve been thinking – about the length of the first disc. Up to and including THAT part of the story – yes, THAT part. I checked around – up to the end of Midgar, for most people, is four to five hours. Up to the end of disc one is another eight to ten hours of content – double that of the Midgar thing, with plenty of key plot points along the way.
So if the first Midgar section is now 30-40 hours… what happens with the rest of the game?
Reports say that Square-Enix aren’t sure how many parts there will be; many fans and some in the media claim it’ll be three episodes, but at the current rate of changing the story – there’s at least the potential to drag out the first DISC of Final Fantasy 7 to three episodes. The second disc could be three or even FOUR episodes long, seeing as it’s about 15-20 hours of content even there in the original. Admittedly, the last disc is basically bitchwork and side-quests and you can speed through then in four to six hours…
My point is – if Square-Enix compresses this to three episodes, they’ll be skipping a LOT of the original story at this point, particularly if they keep adding to the plot and padding things out in the way they have done in the first episode.
I can’t help but think this is a terrible idea.
Let’s say that Final Fantasy 7 Remake, as I suspect, will ‘ironically’ (in the good ol’ Alanis sense) be seven episodes long. I think that’ll cover the whole thing – but that’s SEVEN full-priced games chopping up a game you can still buy and now on pretty much any device you can think of. That’s £16 versus seven times £50 at the basic entry level – £350, for those not quick enough on the math.
This is a LOT of money for a Final Fantasy 7 Remake that probably still won’t even cover the additional Final Fantasy 7 stuff like Before Crisis and Crisis Core… or post-Final Fantasy 7 content like Dirge of Cerberus and Advent Children. There’s a LOT of content to play with here.
Essentially, I’m thinking Square-Enix has bitten off a little more than it is feasibly going to be able to chew here.
And then there’s time scales – Final Fantasy 7 Remake should have been out more than a year ago, as I recall, and we had teasers as far back as 2015 I believe. In short – it took five years from the first teaser to get the first episode out. Yes, they have the engine now – they can speed this up a bit – but I still don’t think Square-Enix is going to be able to put out a new episode every year. At least not with any real quality assurance.
I’d also like you to think about that – the engine looks good now, but it will age. Back in the late-2000’s, the Telltale Engine was hot as hell, but they had to stick with it and by the end the industry had long since surpassed them. Staying with one engine for a long period of time causes issues. Ask Blizzard and Bethesda how this works out too, Fallout 76 was a mess and World of Warcraft is fumbling around for a hook that has long, LONG since disappeared into the briny deep.
So you could be looking at a DECADE of episodes, and I have to ask… are we really going to just wait out the whole thing? Or will there be a hell of a lot of pressure on Square-Enix to get this moving faster? Even then… they’d have to cut massive chunks out of the original tale at this point, or pretty much abandon any of the sort of interesting ideas they threw out in Episode One about “Destiny is Destiny”, timeline interference and alternate reality theory. Neither will land very well with fans, or reviewers.
Whilst this is happening – the rest of the industry will be making new RPG content, or at least reviving older content in modern clothing. The industry is going to move on fast in the coming years – and locked in as Square-Enix now are to Final Fantasy 7 Remake, they’re going to find it hard to adapt their engine to changing times and possibly even changing attitudes.
I like Final Fantasy 7 – I do, even though I still preferred Grandia – but we’ve got to really, honestly, straight-up admit that this is a project that someone should have interjected into a LONG time ago. There’s content in Episode One that could have made an interesting new Final Fantasy game. But no-one seemed to think about long-term consequences here. They got so enamoured with the idea of an Episodic JRPG they never stopped to think if they SHOULD make one.
For the record, one does exist – Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes series. Heck knows I keep being told to get into that series but oh man oh man, I’ve taken a look at what I’d have to play to catch up and I’m ALL in the “Nope!” section for that one.
Even then – at least you can be sure in The Legend of Heroes, they finish one story before moving to the next. Square-Enix have a complete tale that most people will argue is ‘flawless’ (we’ll agree to disagree but I won’t say it’s bad – Final Fantasy 8 says hi, by the way!) – but they’ve chosen to not only break it up, but mess around with it. That’s a ballsy move that may work… it may not… but was it necessary? If it’s ‘flawless’ in the original state, then trying to change it can only lead to a degradation in quality, surely?
I may ultimately skip over the Final Fantasy 7 Remake saga as a result. I’ve played the original and finished it – back when it was new and a couple of times over the years. It’s great. But this remake feels like a lethal mix of a company drunk on its own importance, talent trying to fix something that wasn’t that broken to begin with, and a business/accountancy decision to milk the fans of this series for every single penny by insisting they pay top dollar for every installment. I fear this can only end poorly. Again, look how this sort of hubris has been working out for World of Warcraft.
I probably won’t even pass judgement in my Best or Worst list either; because ultimately, we all know this isn’t finished.
And whilst I know this will be unpopular to mention – there is the very, very slight possibility that it may NEVER be finished. Not really. We’ve had games in the past that proposed sequels or a “to be continued” message only to never get completed. Hey, anyone heard anything about that Beyond Good and Evil 2 thing that UbiSoft was so eager to push a couple years back? Seriously. This does happen from time to time. Kingdoms of Amalur (though THQ Nordic might reanimate that series), Prince of Persia (we’ve seen a few stalls on this over the last decade) and of course, yes, Half Life 2.
Life is too short to be tethered to waiting for a company like Square-Enix to finish beating itself raw over the game that has hung over its head like a Sword of Damocles for the best part of twenty-four years, seemingly unable to live up to. Man, that’s a weird and creepy mental image…
… also at the end, catching up will be super-cheap as everything will go on sale and I’ll have a couple months of stuff to catch up on.
In the mean time, I’ll focus on stuff that is ‘complete’, and let Square-Enix worry about the aftermath of their decisions.