In 1997, I distinctly remember being over at my friend's house and watching an incredible opening cinematic: stars in the sky, an industrial city, a flower girl in the slums, the screech of a subway car careening to a halt. It was the opening sequence of Final Fantasy VII (FF7), a seminal entry in the Japanese role playing game genre (JRPGs), and a game that I've been thinking about since I was 10 years old. It was the first Final Fantasy game to use 3D computer graphics, with box-shaped characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. It is not the first RPG ever, but for many Western gamers, it was their introduction to the genre's conventions and storytelling mechanisms. Final Fantasy VII is widely acknowledged as the game that made JRPGs popular and with good reason: it had unforgettable characters in a realistic setting with a sense of actual character development. In 2010, the game had sold 10 million copies worldwide; today, it regularly sits as one of the most purchased games on PSN and the Steam version released last year has sold more than 867,000 copies alone.
It is hard not to be cynical about the FF7 remake announcement at E3. Square Enix tried to capitalize on the game's success and released a number of FF7 side stories. In total, there have been three phone games (Before Crisis, Dirge of Cerberus Lost Episode, Final Fantasy VII Snowboarding); two other console games, one of them a story set post-FF7 (Dirge of Cerberus), the other a prequel (Crisis Core); a movie (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children); and a set of short stories (On The Way To A Smile). I've enjoyed some of these transmedia FF7 products, but they haven't separated me from the business reality that Square Enix needs another hit like FF7 in a bad way.
Final Fantasy games have been all over the place in terms of critical reception and most generations of gamers have warm feelings around the first one they experienced. The older crowd likes Final Fantasy I through IV. The Japanese import crowd likes Final Fantasy V and VI (VI was confusingly labeled as III originally in the US). People my age pine for FF7 through X (let's not talk about X-2). MMO players have warm feelings about Final Fantasy XI and A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV (the redo of FFXIV). Younger crowds like Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 (Lightning Returns, while technically XIII-3, is too recent for people to be nostalgic for yet). To date, I haven't heard anyone be nostalgic for Final Fantasy XII, a solid PS2 entry in the franchise, or Final Fantasy Type-0, a Japanese PSP game that was re-released on modern consoles. Final Fantasy XV's demo left audiences wondering who this new generation of Final Fantasy games may be for. The Final Fantasy franchise now serves many audiences, but none of these games reached the critical mass that FF7 did.
There is so much nostalgia for Final Fantasy games that we now have games portraying Final Fantasy as historical record. In short, these games include: Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Dissidia Final Fantasy, Dissidia duodecim 012 Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Final Fantasy All The Bravest, and the newly announced World of Final Fantasy. None of these games that treated the franchise historically hit quite like FF7. Also, FF7 characters are almost always prominently featured in these historical games; outside of the summon/boss character Gilgamesh, Cloud Strife is the Final Fantasy character that has appeared in the most Square Enix games.
Judging by the Internet's reception, I suspect a lot of people in their late 20s and early 30s are nostalgic towards FF7 specifically. This FF7 Remake will feature updated graphics, "updated gameplay," and "more plot devices in the story." I'm not sure how many FF7 fans will respond to these changes. Redoing FF7's combat system and possibly some of the game's iconic scenes is risky, but this game will be widely played by the gaming public. Square Enix is going to make a lot of gil when the FF7 Remake comes, regardless of its actual quality.
I've purchased FF7 at least five separate times on multiple platforms and played it to completion countless other times. I will probably also buy the PS4 port of the PC version that was announced at last year's E3. This FF7 Remake is going to be a day one purchase for me. For me, it can't disappoint; it will recreate that same wonder and awe I had when I was a bright-eyed 10-year-old.
We live in a gaming era with too many HD remakes and sequels, so why not have another for one of the best games ever made? To the few critics lamenting another re-release of FF7 instead of a proper sequel for FF7, I've got a Mark Twain quote that reflect my feelings about new versus old ideas:
"There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages."