Final Fantasy 7 is being remade and, to every fan of jRPGs, this is the most high profile release on the horizon. It’s a mainstream, tentpole return to the golden era of 90s jRPGs, and not only that, the revisiting of the jRPG that broke the genre truly into the mainstream in the first place. It’s important to not get too invested in the decisions they’ll make about the game — like any high profile project, it’s not going to be possible to please everyone, especially when they’re trying to thread the needle of attracting new fans and pulling in the millennials who grew up with FF7. Already the battle system has become a point of contention — Square’s decided to go with an action-oriented battle system in an attempt to please the younger and more mainstream audience, sparking tons of angry videos on Youtube from older fans who want a turn based system.
So, all that said, here are 7 things I’d love to see in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
1) A Compromise Battle System
I think it’s possible to have an action-oriented battle system that still pleases RPG fans. I don’t necessarily agree that turn-based battles have become a dinosaur or stopped evolving — Persona 5 was a great, award-winning turn-based RPG released just last year. However, I do think that an action oriented battle system fits the style of FF7 and there are a lot of great examples of this action RPG hybrid working. The main one that comes to mind is Mass Effect, especially the later Mass Effects; but even going back to FF7’s PS1 roots, Legend of Dragoon saw the turn-based system positively evolved by adding quick-time components to attacks. What I’d love to see in FF7 is an action system that brings in its complexity through strategy and preparation, akin to Mass Effect. One idea is to have simplistic action taking place, but also have the ATB bar that allows you to perform equipped skills, like a reverse cooldown. This is where FF15 went wrong — it went full action game. Outfitting your party, making choices about skills and finding interesting, powerful combinations within the confines of the system is what made Mass Effect’s system work. So a strong secondary system is necessary. Which brings me to…
2) Materia, Updated but not Changed
With an action-oriented battle system, it’s hard to imagine some of the strongest combinations players could create with the materia system carrying over. Things like counter attack connected to mime could never be implemented in as satisfying a way because the player doesn’t have as much control over the flow of battle. So I understand they may need to alter some of the existing materia, but maintaining the spirit of the system and its feel is important. Collecting materia, slots on weapon and armor, and linking one materia to another should stay intact. My concern is that they’ll over-complicate the system and create some new iteration where you can link multiple materia or combine materia or some other system that’s influenced by popular RPG subsystems in recent years. I think they should avoid that. Keep the main thrust of the system in place, but update some of the materia itself to take advantage of the new battle system.
3) Distinct Character Abilities
One of the main, valid criticisms, of the original FF7 is that, aside from limit breaks, there were very few substantial differences between characters. Sure, Vincent, Barret and Yuffie had long range attacks, and characters had mildly variant stats, but there was not too much real differentiation. There are pros and cons to this. The big pro was that you can just pick the characters you like and do just fine; the con was, your characters didn’t have a defining trait. Here’s how I think they should handle this: they should give every character one singular action command that, while not unique to them, they get for free. For instance, Vincent could have Deathblow, Yuffie could have Mug, etc. These skills could still be applied to other characters, but some would have them by default.
4) A Character Growth System
I think, aside from materia, there could be a secondary system that assists with character growth to customize and specialize characters. Sure, materia applied some passive stat changes so that you could focus a character more into a mage or warrior, etc., but it was minimally noticeable. Your heavily magic character could be a perfectly fine attacker, and your attacker could be a perfectly fine mage at the same time. I’d love to see a system where every character can increase specialization in a customizable way on top of the materia system. The materia system should be the main system, but this would augment it. It could be something as simple as Mario RPG’s upgrade selections — specialize attack, health or magic for that level and get a stat bonus for that stat — to something like talent trees for each character that give more creative specialized bonuses. Think of the possibilities — in the original FF7, a few skills won out above all others. With this added in, things like cover materia + multiple counter attacks, or quadra magic + hp absorb + powerful magic could challenge miming knights of the round for supremacy, or at least for certain character archetypes.
5) A World Map
World maps might be considered an antiquated concept at this point, but it was a huge component of the original game. Changing this aspect of the game to something like FF12’s interconnected maps or FF15’s fully open world would be a substantial alteration to the game that I don’t think is necessary. These systems are very, very different. In a sense, the world map system acts as a menu, a graphical improvement on a text based menu in which you select a location. These other systems are menus themselves, and FF15’s variant was actually a regression, since for the most part you selected the location from a text-based menu anyway. I think it’s very possible for them to implement a modern variation of the world map just by having the camera pull out and reposition to an overhead view. It can look beautiful, it can have vehicles, and it can do a great job of showing the world as having the scope of an entire planet. Other systems struggle to create the sense of a world — they’re trying so hard to be representational of space that they can only give a sense of something about the size of an American state.
6) One More Secret Character
Now, I don’t think they should add any characters who didn’t exist in the original Final Fantasy 7. Moreover, I don’t think they should add any characters who join the party for the majority of the game, because it could significantly change the plot. Instead of beating around the bush, here’s what I think would be cool: if Reno joined you as a guest character for one specific dungeon, like the attack on Wutai, and then after the Turks retire following the events of the return to Midgar, he becomes available to join your party as an optional end-game character.
7) Polishing the Plot
They definitely shouldn’t significantly change the plot, and absolutely shouldn’t try to retcon a bunch of characters or events from Crisis Core, Before Crisis, Advent Children or anything else into the game, but let’s be honest: some aspects of the translation were wonky, and some aspects of the very cool story were revealed in a confusing way. They should simply polish the game so that things like Jenova being an alien that the scientists confused for an ancient savior should be clear. Cloud’s past and character arc should be told in a way that people can clearly understand it. Reeves’s motivations for betraying Shinra should be clear. The origins of the weapons should be more robustly explained beyond ‘they protect the planet’. I’d love to see some of this stuff, not altered, but just fleshed out and told more clearly.
Hoping FF7 will be a terrific game. Even if they don’t do these things, I can still be satisfied, but those are my thoughts. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!