Square Enix acknowledged in its recently published annual report that revitalizing its existing IPs will play a big part in future development strategies. This has me both excited and a little nervous. Remasters are almost more common nowadays than sequels, and they’re hard to screw up. It’s happened, of course: Crazy Taxi got re-released on the Xbox 360 but it lacked the soundtrack that made the original so awesome. You can play Dragon Quest VIII on your smartphone, but it doesn’t have the excellent voice acting that gave the characters so much life in the PS2 original. For harcore fans the slightest tweaks can make or break the experience, so there’s nothing as nerve-racking as anticipating a full-blown remake of a beloved classic. As we await additional details on and footage of the Final Fantasy VII remake, I think it’s absolutely vital that we check our expectations lest they ruin the experience long before we get a chance to play the game.
Final Fantasy VII is without a doubt going to be the most highly anticipated and most widely criticized remake in gaming history. Fans don’t know what to expect but they all know, each and every one of them, exactly what they want. If you lined up five different people and asked them what absolutely has to be included in the remake to make it a success, you’re likely to get five different answers. Some people may refuse to buy the game if the cross-dressing, Honeybee Inn mini quest gets the boot. I myself will be devastated and heart-broken if the Golden Saucer mini games and chocobo farming don’t come back. This is something that Square Enix is acutely aware of, and I don’t envy them for the task they have before them. At the end of the announcement trailer at E3 they could have easily flashed the word ‘Remaster’ or ‘HD’ instead of ‘Remake,’ and fans still would have lost their minds.
Remasters are something that we see all of the time, and they’re safer. Remasters don’t take as much time or resources to produce, and a publisher can assign a relatively small team to take on the project. They typically end up being simple ports with upgraded textures and improved framerates, but if we’re lucky they might include bonus content like the extra multiplayer modes in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition . If I had a dollar, by the way, for every time I saw a new ‘definitive edition,’ ‘ultimate edition,’ or ‘legendary edition’ of this game or that game, I’d be able to fund my own indie studio.
Remasters are generally a good thing, though, and they’re a great way for publishers to bring in some extra revenue by giving gamers a reason to try out games that they otherwise might have missed out on. I never got around to playing The Last of Us on my PS3, but I’ll probably take a shot at the remaster for the PS4. If that weren’t an option, I doubt that I’d make the effort to experience a story that is supposedly one of the best of this generation.
Remakes are an entirely different animal, and we see them less often. We’re talking a reimagining; a completely unique manifestation of vision. Sometimes a remake becomes the definitive version of a game: such was the case with Lunar Silver Star Story Complete for the PS1. I went almost a decade before realizing that game was even a thing on the Sega CD. Turok , on the other hand, is a game that’s still best experienced on your N64. Remakes are risky business, because the majority of players to whom the game will appeal come into it with very definite expectations, and those can destroy what might have otherwise been considered an incredible game in its own right. When this happens, it’s the fan’s fault, and not the developer’s.
The cold fact is that it’s up to us to check our expectations at the door and approach a remake with open minds. We already know that FF VII will be a reimagining, so it’s not as simple as picturing your favorite scenes playing out exactly as they did 18 years ago, only with updated graphics. While that is no doubt exactly what many are hoping for, the truth is that certain changes must be made in order for older games to appeal to a new generation of gamers. The combat system is something that will definitely see some changes. Random encounters and turn-based, menu-driven combat would likely seem about as much fun as watching paint dry for anyone who didn’t cut their teeth on the RPGs of the ’90s.
Are you looking forward to the FF VII remake with inextinguishable optimism, or are you worried that the elements that made this such a memorable game for you are going to be lost in its reimagining? What do you think about Square Enix revisiting existing IPs? I for one wouldn’t mind a Final Fantasy Tactics Advance remaster (fingers crossed).