Ah yes, the remake, when a game is so good you gotta release it again. Tonight the Inverseman investigates the nature of the remake, where it excels and where it falters and more. Read on!
It’s pretty clear why a company would remake a game: when a game is so successful and so well received the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Developers are businesses too and for as much art they wish to create, they still need to put bread on the table at the end of the day. They also need that extra money so they can create more ambitious works that demand more resources too. In a way money makes the world go ’round, but of course you can’t just compromise the core and soul of your work. The remake is in many ways a quick buck.
Of course a remake or remaster isn’t a completely soulless affair. In many ways, it lets developers retread old ground and make much needed fixes to a game. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys was rather poorly received for its departure from its usual gameplay style, but its remake, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, allowed Falcom to revise the game completely, making it one of the best titles in series. Pokemon Red and Green, from a more objective standpoint, was littered with bugs and balance issues, namely overpowered Psychic types. In addition, players were unable to transfer their old Pokemon to the then new GBA games, so the release of FireRed and LeafGreen gave players a shot at bringing their older Pokemon in a much more refined experience. In reality, by the time the remakes were made, the originals were nearly ten years old.
Which brings us to another asset of the remake: accessibility. Much of the reason why a developer would remake a game is because the original game is difficult to obtain or play today. With the Playstation Network, Steam, and related services, it’s not a problem for anyone to play classic games like Final Fantasy VII, but a game like Final Fantasy X and X-2 were a more difficult affair since the games were on PS2 and were unable to be played on then current hardware. It’s much to the point where new gamers today only know of Tidus and his friends from Dissidia and never got to play the game he came from with their own hands. The remake helps a developer cast his or her net wide so more people can enjoy their work, and a more refined version at that. However, not all is good with the art of the remake.
There are plenty of times when a remake is nearly unnecessary or excessive. PS4 remakes of PS3 games, while still impressive looking, are still too young in the history of the console. Many consumers still own PS3s that see use, so while the PS4 is not backwards compatible, the users have yet to fully transition to PS4 and PS3 has yet to become a scarcity. Other times a remake is unneeded because of other factors, such as the shoddy quality of the infamous Megaman X port on iOS and Android. Controls and presentation were atrocious and “features” such as level skipping and paying actual money for additional power-ups put the earlier remake Megaman X: Maverick Hunter on PSP as the only real remake of the game and this port as nonexistent. An unneeded remake can really make the soulless cash-grab image stick and tarnish the legacy of the original.
Speaking of which this leads to a nice hot-button issue. I’m sorry Square fans, with the current state of Square-Enix’s design philosophy and standards of quality with the highly accessible nature of the game on PSN and PC, a remake of Final Fantasy VII in HD will not necessarily happen the way fans exactly want it. Over the past seventeen years, Square-Enix’s attitude towards their flagship RPG has changed; the games have a completely different attitude and atmosphere as I’ve discussed in a previous article. Games today are “too serious” for shenanigans like Cloud crossdressing to save Tifa from a brothel run by comic relief. Actually, Cloud wouldn’t even be in that situation to begin with since we’re not dealing with the original Cloud anymore, but the post-Advent Children Cloud. The old Cloud would make sarcastic remarks and dry jabs at his friends but after the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII happened, he’d prefer navel-gazing and lamenting his misfortunes as a carbon copy of Vincent’s original personality. While the core story of a remade VII will remain the same, its star players would have a new interpretation in a new atmosphere.
To put the game more in-line with newer design ideas, many features would likely be ignored like the minigames (Fort Condor, many Golden Saucer attractions, etc) and more hidden secrets would be spelled out much like all the neon-signs of “hidden treasure” in Final Fantasy XIII. While there could also be a lot of streamlined features, there’s less room to wander and explore. In fact this article written by Patrick Toworfe at B-TEN does a very good job summing how different the game would feel. Remember watching that great escape from Cocoon in XIII and feeling “that’s a pretty cutscene I wish that was a playable segment!” Now imagine the same treatment applied to the motorcycle segment in VII.
The VII remake fans would actually appreciate would be an extremely good graphics version of the original, nothing more and nothing less, but even still the developers at Square have a different idea. As overjoyed as they might be at the idea of a remake, they want it to be appropriate and do the game justice. Director Yoshinori Kitase said, if he remade VII, he would make it his magnum opus, so just slapping a fresh coat of paint while keeping all those time-honored elements (original Cloud, hidden secrets, etc.) would not go. Other sentiments around the office include remaking VII only after they’ve put out another Final Fantasy as good as it, meaning the mere rehash would not only fail to do the game justice but also slight the name of a company that knows they haven’t been at their best and knows they can do better. Just looking at the track record of XIII, they certainly do know they can do better.
While fans are clamoring for more of the exact same, it’s not really the cure for their RPG cravings. What they want, myself included, is not VII in so much as a game that has the same spark or vision of VII. While a remake would be wonderful, it’s not like Square has been sitting on their hands to keep putting out good games. Bravely Default has a lot of that classic RPG inspiration but with so many conveniences of the modern game. The innovative battle system doesn’t just feed us the ATB system again and again but tries something a little different. Along with many other features, this shows Square still has it and if/when a VII does come it will surely be after a procession of other games just as good or even better than it. Join me next time when I ride a Ferris wheel with a large muscular man.
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