Five Things the Final Fantasy VII Remake Could Use

final-fantasy-vii-remake

Eighteen years have passed since the release of the original Final Fantasy VII, and a whole new generation of gamers are ready to explore this fantastic world for the first time. For the gaming industry, Square-Enix has effectively reached the status of Disney. They really don’t have to truly innovate anymore as they could probably get by through updating, remaking and re-releasing their golden age classics.

There are plenty of other wishlists for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, but this article covers some content elements. Many of the other articles have been more obvious. New soundtracks! Better graphics! As though Square-Enix is expected to release a remake with MIDI music and character models that use a jaw dropping 17 polygons.

Rather, these recommendations are more about expanding the core gameplay. Questions regarding the combat system and faithfulness to the story have yet to be answered. So rather, these suggestions work against what has been established from the original game.

airshipFull Exploration of Midgar and the Ocean

Traveling the world and beyond is a common hallmark of the Final Fantasy series. Since game one, travel by land, sea and air were long established. The fourth game sent the main characters to the moon.

Yet after the release of Final Fantasy VII, it was heavily rumored that there were large swathes of the map left on the cutting room floor.

No one can really blame then Squaresoft for the decision. The game was fairly massive to begin with, so it really wasn’t a surprise to anyone that about five sectors of Midgar didn’t make the final product. Likewise, when AVALANCHE finally commandeers the ShinRa sub, they can only use it to explore the inner ocean between the three major continents. There’s a whole outer ocean just begging to be explored. And perhaps out there, a slight change to the story will allow us to…

Fight the Sapphire WEAPON

When Final Fantasy VII came to the United States, Squaresoft decided to add two new bosses the Japanese audiences didn’t receive until later. These were the powerful Emerald and Ruby WEAPONS, and defeating them is a brag-worthy achievement to this day.

Sapphire_Weapon_FMVBut among the original series of WEAPON bosses was one that the plot never allowed us to fight; the Sapphire WEAPON. It would require a slight alteration to events to permit this battle, but why not let players complete their trophy collection?

Say that the Sapphire WEAPON was injured instead of destroyed and forced to retreat, allowing Cloud and company to hunt him later. Perhaps that could lead to a fourth Limit Break for Cait Sith. Wait, Cait Sith has only two Limit Breaks? Well then…

A Full Set of Limit Breaks for Cait Sith

Cait Sith is best described as a divisive character, story wise. Some people liked him, some didn’t. But in terms of play-ability and use in combat, there’s definite room for improvement.

Every other character besides shape-shifting Vincent possessed a total of seven Limit Breaks, the powerful attacks each party member can execute after absorbing enough damage. Most characters divided these attacks into four levels. The first tier of any level was earned by having the party member slay 80 foes, while the second tier of a level was earned by using the first tier 10 times. The fourth level was unique and specially earned by discovery. This added incentive to swap characters to obtain all their abilities.

CaitSith-FFVIIArtBut Cait Sith was different. As the game’s resident gambler, he possessed only two Limit Breaks; a dice based attack he starts with and the random slots. Thus there just wasn’t much to earn with him once the second skill had been achieved.

Gambling and gaming wise, there are plenty of themes to choose from. Roulette boards, poker, darts and billiards, maybe some kind of Black Jack game where every hit results in “card” that hopefully adds up to 21 unless the player chooses to stay while a bust hurts him. There’s more fun to be had with Cait Sith!

Furthermore, one of the slot “attacks” actually resulted in an automatic game over. Maybe instead, how about a horde of status effects against the whole party? Automatically losing seems too harsh, especially if the player hasn’t saved recently.

Allow Swapping the Main Character During Travel

Above, incentive to swap characters was mentioned. While the importance of Cloud to the plot is understood, one wonders why he can’t sit out a bit more during the more mundane segments of the game. Why not let Barrett lead when the player is just leveling in the Junon area? Or let Aeris or Tifa catch the chocobo? When approaching a location that requires Cloud, they can just force him to join the party.

If Square-Enix even goes so far as to add quips and rib poking between their characters during combat, the reason to do this grows even larger, allowing for interesting relationship building and stronger dynamics.

More Time with “That Character”

In early 1997, the world’s most public spoiler involved a man armored in black telling a maimed fellow, “I am your father.”

The second most public spoiler involved the death of a certain character in Final Fantasy VII.  Amusingly, before the game was even released state-side, a rumor sprouted that the Japanese version would allow for (paraphrased) “the resurrection of a party member who dies,” while the United States version would not. This proved false, and the person leading the petition even apologized for the mistake.

Midgar

As mentioned before, a new generation of gamers has grown since the release of the original, so it’s worth trying to preserve the spoilers even after so long. But even in the first edition, the time the player had with this character was fairly short. Usually, the player achieves the departed’s ultimate weapon and Limit Break just before the events of their demise.

Attempting to undo the death of this character risks a great deal of the plot falling apart. So rather, it would seem fair to ask for a few events to slow down and strengthen an already strong emotional connection. It just seems a gentler way for veterans who are already used to the loss to better accept it.

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Spicing Prose, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue III, Oh My…

Just a quick plug: Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight from Emby Press has been released for Kindle (and is expected to be print a little later), which contains the origin tales for the forthcoming Outliers universe. Expect a more formal announcement with the upcoming catalog for the summer season.

Sutton_Hoo_helmet_reconstructedOn Monday the 15th of June, I wrapped up the last major edits for the novel. For this round, anyway…

The work still isn’t complete but I can count the number of hours it requires with one hand. A beta reader has been providing invaluable input and is only seven chapters from completing the entire book.

However I discovered a slight problem. I’ve been tracking ratios and numbers of superfluously applied words and realized that “glance,” “look,” “up”, “gaze” and “upon” were serious offenders, often being cited almost a hundred times. “Eyes” too. I’m a huge proponent of body language during dialogue, although I recognize that not everyone is attentive to subtle hints. The next time I juggle multiple characters, I’ll probably adjust the passages involving facial expressions and gestures to reflect how observant the POV character is of people.

I spent two hours last night undergoing a process I’ll call a “Thesaurus Spicing.” But it’s not enough to locate and replace every other use of those words; I also had to check if I repeated the same phrase on a page and decide how often I can tolerate their re-occurrence. Once every three to five pages was occasionally acceptable. Once every ten to fourteen pages is perfect. But spotting the word two or three times on the same page? Pass the paprika please.

With regard to ratios, I considered the difference between a short story and a novel. A short is, at maximum, 10,000 words but often stands at a range of 6,000 to 8,000. The novel’s size is something just over 80,000 words (and shy of 300 pages, just the right length.) So word recycling is a bigger deal in a book— one can’t allow the reader get bored! Even if the same word is used a full 100 times (which I’ve reduced to 40 to 50 now), that’s just .1% of the overall manuscript which really isn’t that bad. The problem then is really about the literary lumpiness.

The real problem of Thesaurus Spicing is when you accidentally place an alternate word or phrase that already appears nearby. So when you modify the manuscript, you have to double check any previous queried and updated passages. The only downside is that I’m going to need to quickly skim through the entire manuscript a final time before submitting the finished product to my waiting publishers.

The end of editing came at a strange time. I heard of not one but two highly wished for titles being announced; Shenmue III and the long coveted Final Fantasy VII remake. As if Fallout 4 and Doom 4 weren’t awesome enough.

final-fantasy-vii-remakeI’ve been cynical about the possibility of a remade Final Fantasy VII before, and according to some sources so were Square-Enix’s board. Yet as I mulled on the possibility, I realized that the game only needs two things to be acceptable.

The first is a good battle system since the ATB (Active Time Battle) mechanisms of yesteryear are a touch dated for the new generation. Still if they add a “classic” battle option with ATB instead of whatever nouveau system Square-Enix conjures, they can probably satisfy old school fans as well as the fresh ranks of players. If I recall correctly, Star Ocean II did something similar.

The other requirement is faith to the original story, including the weird quirks like the brothel in Midgar and some of the side quests. Unfortunately I think that’s the one request we won’t get. Final Fantasy VII has had a number of peripheral spin-offs and additions, like Advent Children and especially Crisis Core, which shoehorn new details into the original story. I doubt the canon will remain unscathed.

But with regard to Shenmue III, it’s just so awesome that KickStarter can bring to life that which otherwise would not be. What a time to be alive.

Final Fantasy VII Remake Explained

History repeats! But not for these guys...

History repeats! But not for these guys…

Both Kotaku and IGN have released stories about the shareholders meeting over at Square Enix. And the reasoning they provide as to why they haven’t created a remake actually makes perfect sense: They have yet to make a Final Fantasy better than VII financially and critically anyway. Although in all fairness, the most financially successful Final Fantasy was the first MMORPG, XI.

I had to add financially and critically. There’s always that guy who is quick to say, “FF7 was not my favorite,” as though their opinion obviously meant all the difference in the world.

So the gist of what we’re told is that if they do a FF7 remake before topping the game, then the Final Fantasy series is finished. That would be admitting that they cannot do any better than their crown jewel of the past. So until Square Enix is in a dire financial situation or they finally do come out with a title that tops FF7, it’s not going to happen.

I, however, have a slightly different theory as to why Square Enix doesn’t want to do it. Pride.

Hironobu Sakaguchi left the company Squaresoft in 2004, after the colossal bomb that was Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. Although he did not direct a game since FFV, his creative touches were felt in the well remembered VI and VII (and several others). To not make a game better than those Sakaguchi helped to create is to admit that they will never be as successful as they once were.

And that’s not a message of weakness Square Enix would want to send.

10 Musical Selections for Writing

Gary Moore. April 4th, 1952-February 6th, 2011.

Gary Moore. April 4th, 1952 to February 6th, 2011.

Okay, so my eye is feeling a bit better but I’m still going to hold off on the review. So instead, here are 10 more music pieces for writing. 10 more, you may ask? If you have not seen it, then allow me to direct you to the original 20 musical pieces post.

However, this post is a bit melancholy because I had just discovered that Gary Moore, a talented guitarist and singer from the UK, died of a heart attack earlier this year. Many people have not heard of the skilled musician and his amazing blues, but I had been listening to his music since before his death in February, 2011. For a lyrical taste of his work, check out Over the Hills and Far Away.

A quick note. This particular set of songs takes more from games than before. It’s easier to pick music from game sound tracks than it is from movies. The downside is that game sound tracks rarely show up on sites like Pandora.

  1. Cloud’s Theme, Final Fantasy VII Orchestral Soundtrack.
    It’s a strange theme that mixes hope with hopeless, and something on the lighter side with darker undertones. This song could work well for a overture of your piece.
  2. Doom 3 Theme, by Tweaker.
    Explosive piece that threatens something menacing until it just bursts into combative guitar and drumming, mixed with eerie vocal sound effects.
  3. Pandora’s Music Box, by Nox Arcana.
    Nox Arcana is an incredibly reliable source of subtle, creepy music sans vocals. Adding this music to any scene instantly turns it into horror material just because of its gentle yet eldritch nature.
  4. Underworld Domain, by Dargaard.
    A piece that is so pure, it was perfectly named. Unfortunately, this piece breaks the no lyrics rule, but given how well the singer blends her voice with the music, I’m making an exception.
  5. Wilderness, Diablo II OST.
    I love the Diablo series, and despite becoming slightly more cartoonish than it’s previous incarnations, I am still looking forward to Diablo III.  Here’s a piece from the second installment. Stay a while and listen!
  6. Arkham Bridge, Mechwarrior 2 OST.
    I used to be a huge, huge Mechwarrior and Battletech fan. As I got older however, I grew out of it. It wasn’t deep enough for me, just a constant mix of politics and warfare. That and I met one of the authors and wasn’t impressed with their attitude. If you don’t care for your fans, they’ll soon not care about you. Still, good music. You may also want to check out Umber Wall.
  7. Bloody Tears, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night OC Remix.
    Okay, I seriously believe that ‘Bloody Tears’ may just be the single most remixed game music of all time. There are dozens of versions, from classical pieces to piano solos, heavy metal jams to DJ dance mixes. The original piece started from the NES game Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and was updated in later titles. Here’s an acoustic guitar version, a violin version and the version from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
  8. Theology/Civilization, by Basil Poledorius.
    Straight from the original (as in, 1982) Conan the Barbarian, this ponderous piece is slow and mixes renaissance touches with classical music.  I admit that this is not one of my favorite pieces of music, but I suspect that others will enjoy this for its lighter notations. It can’t rain all the time.

    Explaining exactly what Berserk is about is... you know what? Find out yourself.

    Explaining exactly what Berserk is about is... you know what? I'm not responsible for what will happen to your sanity. Find out yourself.

  9. Murder, by Susumu Hirasawa.
    I honestly don’t watch much anime or read much manga anymore. But there is still one series I go out of my way to read, and that is Berserk by Kentaro Miura. Beautifully animated, beautifully told, I cannot stress how amazing is Berserk. This piece just keeps growing and growing in madness…
  10. The Loner, by Gary Moore.
    A non-lyrical piece by Moore, the original version of The Loner is 6 minutes long and takes a minute to warm up appropriately. However, compared to other versions, the guitar isn’t as distracting, but communicates its sorrowful melody well. To be honest, a chance to apply this to writing would be very difficult because it’s sad but also not slow. It may work well if a character is fondly recalling a person who has passed on. Rest in peace, Mr. Moore. You will be missed.