If you go to any of the major message boards talking about Final Fantasy 7 Remake right now, you’ll see a ton of spoiler conversation about Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s ending. This post contains massive spoilers so if you don’t want to get spoiled, turn back now.
Apparently, 95% of the game is still the same. A nice, faithful remake of Final Fantasy 7 ala Resident Evil 2 remake. That is, until you reach the ending for Final Fantasy 7 Remake. At which point a time traveling Sephiroth appears, tells you he’s going to destroy fate, shows you various plot points from the original Final Fantasy 7 and gets stopped by Rick and Morty-esque Time Cops.
Basically, the plot twist turns Final Fantasy 7 Remake into a sort of meta-revisiting of itself. It’s now the events of Final Fantasy 7 playing out with time-traveling Sephiroth butting in to try to change the course of the past. My take? I assume episode 2 will involve Sephiroth changing the plot in some drastic way that throws the ending out of whack and the squad realizes they have to repair the timeline.
That’s not entirely uninteresting. You know what it’s not, though? It’s not the plot of Final Fantasy 7. In fact, it makes this game a sequel to Final Fantasy 7, not a remake. I’m not entirely sure it’ll be as bad as everyone online thinks it will be, especially following the very vocal blowback this twist is receiving.
Part of the reason I was excited for the Final Fantasy 7 Remake was not only to play it myself, but because I loved that game as a kid, I think it’s a magnificent classic game, and I was excited to see it get updated so that it could better stand the test of time and be enjoyed by a new generation that’s not going to be tolerant of the fisher price lego graphics we had in the 90s.
We’ll see where this big story twist goes. The bigger problem I have with this is less that they changed something, and more the direction these changes are taking. Final Fantasy 7’s story was special and original. These changes (including the shounen anime cutscenes that accompany them) are 110% bland standard tropey anime bullshit. So it’s not that I’m terribly offended that they made changes, even though the changes are few, it’s that I think they’re going to destroy something awesome (original Final Fantasy 7) and replace it with something hackneyed and stupid.
In other words, I trust the developers to competently remake Final Fantasy 7 as if it were a dish and they had the recipe and all the ingredients. But I don’t think these people are good cooks, so when they start changing the recipe I get nervous. Let’s say some amateur home cook had the recipe for an award-winning cake, and they’re making the thing and you’re getting all excited and then they start putting pickle juice and chickpeas and soy sauce and jalapenos and shit in it because they think they’re ‘improving’ the cake and being ‘creative’. Like, yeah, maybe that recipe could be improved. But not by you. Not like this. Just follow the recipe.
Pickle juice in a cake? Let’s see dude. Let’s see how that works out. Time travel in Final Fantasy 7 is like pickle juice in cake. Don’t just think about what they’re adding (which is bad), but what they’re removing to add it. In the original Final Fantasy 7, the ending of the ShinRa HQ sequence is an iconic mystery. It’s one of the best, most exciting plot points in the game, where you follow a mysterious trail of blood, fight Rufus, split up and escape Midgar. Here, it’s time-traveling shounen Sephiroth and superfluous flips and a zany fight scene pulled straight out of Bleach. Shrug.
Maybe someone could improve the plot of FF7, but the current cohort at Square Enix is not those people. Square Enix hasn’t been praised for its storytelling… Ever. SquareSoft was the company that was famous for its storytelling. They, like most of the games industry now, are a corporate, industrial game production factory that’s incredible at graphics and engineering and completely awful at plot and storytelling.
The pipeline to becoming a game director was, at one time, through being a scenario writer. Now it’s through being a visual artist (such as the pipeline followed by the director of this game, Nomura), and it shows in the products, including this one. Being a writer in the games industry as it currently is just isn’t a prestigious position at all, let alone one that can dictate the actual content of the game without being overruled. That’s especially sad because writing is also a discipline that everyone thinks they’re good at for no reason, and that there is no distinction between a great writer and just anybody.
Anyway, I suspect they made this change to the ending primarily because of the logistical problems with a remake of Final Fantasy 7. How can the game be split up into 3 full games when there is no convenient final boss encounter for each of the parts? “Oh, we have to make a new villain.” How can we accomplish a world map and the full realization of the story in modern times. “Oh, we can’t, so we’ll have to change things and we need a zany plot device that allows us to do that.”
As I mentioned in my demo impressions, my big concern for this franchise is that it’s following the Xenosaga business model exactly, which is a model that necessitates that the audience for each installment shrinks. What happened with Xenosaga? They planned 6 episodes but by episode 3 the audience was too small to justify continuing the franchise and they cancelled it.
If it was purist FF7, the loyal fans would have stuck around for every episode; now they’re not going to feel too bad about opting out at episode 2 and 3. So my concern is sort of a business concern. If they planned for this thing to become a sort of series beyond 3 episodes, I think that’s looking increasingly unlikely. Given the reaction I’m seeing to this ending, I suspect the sales dropoff for part 2 will be significant. We’ve seen this play out before with Xenosaga. It’s all very reminiscent.
All this said, I’m still quite excited for the remake. If it’s 95% the same, that’s 95% still to look forward to. The gameplay looks incredible. The graphics look incredible. The cinematography and the voice acting are quite good. The upgrade systems look great.
I also suspect that the plot twist won’t change the overarching story nearly as much as people expect, especially given the blowback. Is it unwanted? Yes. Is stereotypical shounen anime nonsense terrible and unappealing? Also yes. The new stuff just screams Advent Children, which was a terrible, terrible scar on the legacy of Final Fantasy 7. But it might be tolerable if it remains 95% the same moving forward.
I can only hope Square Enix remembers how well the outcry against the Sonic the Hedgehog monstrosity turned out for Paramount after they listened to fans. I’ll say it pretty clearly: no one liked Advent Children and no one wants you to rewrite Final Fantasy 7. Don’t put pickles in the cake recipe to give it your own spin. It’s bad. You’re gonna make a bad cake. At the very least, keep it to a minimum.
Of course, most of us haven’t finished the game yet. I’ll reserve full judgment until I’ve totally played through it.