Final Fantasy VII Remake to Be a Hot Mess!
This week has seen the release of May’s issue of Game Informer, and an in-depth interview with Square Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase et al. serves as its leading story. The bulk of the interview predictably focuses on Square Enix’s upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV, yet one or two nuggets of information were allowed to slip regarding Final Fantasy VII Remake, and like all information surrounding the game it serves as one giant red flag for fans of Final Fantasy VII. The information is not exactly new per se, but rather it is Square Enix choosing to double down on regrettable ideas that one might have initially hoped were a poor choice of words or a passing fancy.
First up is something that is painfully apparent just from watching the trailers, yet comes across as bracingly obnoxious when pinned down in actual human words. Kitase, Nomura, and Nojima worked on the original Final Fantasy VII, and because of this they feel entitled to change, modify, or strip out any element they see fit. To this end they have made it quite clear that there are no sacred cows where Final Fantasy VII is concerned, as everything is on the table for a potential re-write, re-imagining, or absent-minded tinker:
“I, along with [Tetsuya] Nomura-san and [Kazushige] Nojima-san–who are involved with the remake–were also involved with the original Final Fantasy. We were the people who created it, so in that sense, we don’t think anything is untouchable.”
Look forward to the retconning of Genesis into the timeline! Square Enix still has not grasped the fact that when something is popular on the scale that Final Fantasy VII was, then it no longer wholly belongs to them, as they must now share it with its own huge audience. Sure, they may still wholly own it in a legal sense, and are at complete liberty to thoroughly ruin it accordingly, but there are millions of people who feel a very strong sense of ownership over the game, and not all of them will be amenable to such wholesale changes. The Lusipurr.com readership is probably tired of hearing this by now, but why bother to remake a game when the plan is to alter it in its every aspect? If the team had all these plans for a game which differed radically from Final Fantasy VII, then why not allow them to make that different game instead of reskinning it in the garb of Final Fantasy VII?
Final Fantasy XIII is just the gift that keeps on giving. Moving on from discussing Square Enix’s plans to change everything that ten million people already like about Final Fantasy VII, Kitase next went on to reveal how the decision to break Final Fantasy VII Remake into multiple parts has been modeled after the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, wherein each entry was radically different from the last:
“When the project was first announced, people were confused by its multi-part nature, but the goal is to structure it more like Final Fantasy XIII than an episodic series.
It will essentially be a full scale game for each part of the multi-part series. In XIII each installment told the story from a different angle.”
Perhaps this turn of events is kind of fitting given that Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s iteration of Cloud mostly looks like Lightning’s blond twin sister. Kitase deliberately highlights how each entry in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy is presented from a different angle to one another, and one suspects that this is not just an idle observation – meaning that we will now also have to worry about wild tonal shifts between episodes!
The real tragedy of Final Fantasy VII Remake is that before Square Enix confirmed it and started announcing their awful plans the potential for a faithful Final Fantasy VII remake existed in the realms of possibility, but the mere existence of this deeply flawed iteration means that we will now never get a remake of Final Fantasy VII that is done well. This is it. It is for this snuffing out of potential that one now mourns. One suspects that entire books could be written on the subject of how wrong Square Enix will eventually get this game…
Final Fantasy VIII-2
… And a companion text could very well be written about Final Fantasy XV, the real subject of May’s issue of Game Informer – and things do not sound much more promising on this front. The game itself looks to take some major influences from Final Fantasy VIII, a title that is held in high esteem for its quality game systems! Anybody who played the recent Platinum Demo will no doubt already know that, like Final Fantasy VIII, magic in Final Fantasy XV will be a finite resource which can be stocked like an item. This is after all a ‘fantasy based on reality’, and what could possibly be more realistic than magic as a single use consumer good? Presumably characters will be able to carry around a maximum 99 of each spell/item, which should be ample considering how thoroughly useless magic is in Final Fantasy XV. What players of the demo might not know is that in the world of Final Fantasy XV magic stock can be recharged at specific points on the map, much like Final Fantasy VIII‘s draw points.
Also like Final Fantasy VIII is the fact that the party’s car [named the Regalia] will need to be refueled, else it will stop working. This is after all a ‘fantasy based on reality’, and what could be more real than having to stop at every service station along the way to refill gas so as not to become stranded in the middle of nowhere? There is a reason that more realistic games like Grand Theft Auto lack this mechanic – this is because it is not fun. The Regalia is also set to present players with yet another source of frustrating encumbrance when it comes to item storage. Most of us take for granted our ability to access party items at any time outside of battle, as this has been RPG best practice since time immemorial, yet this mechanic is yet another baby that Square Enix has thrown out with the bath water. In Final Fantasy XV party items are accessed by opening the Regalia’s trunk; after all this is a ‘fantasy based on reality’, and what could be more real than withdrawing 99 disposable firaga spells from your car’s trunk?
Final Fantasy XV is set to begin with a big battle of some description [probably similar in nature to the beginning of Final Fantasy XII], but after that chapter one begins with the Regalia breaking down, and the party having to push it to the nearest service station where Cid and Cidney will give them several sidequests to complete whilst it is being repaired. To put this another way – the game literally begins with players having to slog their way through Episode Duscae again! One kind of hopes that the particulars of this section will have been changed somewhat since Episode Duscae, but one never knows with Square Enix.
According to Hajime Tabata Final Fantasy XV will be a ‘make or break’ moment for the company, which will determine whether the series will be able to attract a new crowd while enticing back lapsed Final Fantasy fans. Tabata has identified three core qualities which he feels defines the final fantasy series: challenging the status quo, providing an exceptional experience, and using cutting-edge technology. Tabata feels that Final Fantasy VII was the last game in the series to have embodied all three of these qualities. Apparently Final Fantasy XII never happened.
How to Make Enemies and Influence Nobody
Most games have a hard enough time at retail without making additional hurdles for themselves. Now imagine that the game in question is in fact an expansion pack to a classic computer RPG from 1998, which is still adored by a smallish niche of people but has become increasingly overlooked by modern gaming. Now imagine that the expansion added crippling multiplayer bugs and broke a number of popular mods. Finally, imagine that this expansion was not developed by the original team, but instead by a little known studio by the name of Beamdog who essentially just fucked everyone’s shit up out of a commitment to social justice dogma – that is what just happened to Baldur’s Gate. With the release of Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Beamdog filled the game with heavy handed social justice ideology and Tumblr memes, neither one of which respected the gameworld’s existing lore. Niche Gamer’s Carl Batchelor describes it as such:
“After five hours with the game, I encountered numerous situations where a combination of very poor writing and social justice pandering began to weigh the game down. Technical and gameplay missteps were one thing, but the sheer amount of modern 2016 Tumblr-level politics turned what was once a grand medieval swords & sorcery epic into the equivalent of a emotional teenage girl’s self-insert fanfic.”
Of course many Baldur’s Gate fans were unhappy about what had been done to the game, and of course Beamdog’s initial response was to smear them with sneering derision. To listen to Trent Oster, the founder of Beamdog, the only reason that people were upset was because of the mere existence of a male transvestite in the game. Never mind the fact that the only point of the character is to serve as a screeching virtue signal, who divulges his trans status within moments of first meeting the party [because apparently that is typical for transvestites]. Also, never mind the fact that the existence of a transvestite does not even jive with the game’s own lore, as in the world of Baldur’s Gate it is entirely possible to magically switch genders properly, rather having to resort to halfway measures. People’s objections to the character were centered around the poor writing on display, and the fact that it sought to beat them about the head with ideology. Kainé [Nier] and Flea [Chrono Trigger] are two very popular characters in gaming, and they are also trans [more or less]. The difference here is that they were situated naturally within their gameworlds and did not exist for the sole purpose of transmitting heavy-handed political messages. Moreover, this point of contention was only one point on the laundry list of shittyness that was Siege of Dragonspear‘s release. Regardless, Beamdog preferred to stick their collective heads in the sand and make out like the people criticising them were not even Baldur’s Gate fans, as can bee seen from Dee Pennyway’s embarrassing Twitter antics:
“@JEZEBELMagazine @femfreq These are not real #BaldursGate fans.
@JEZEBELMagazine @femfreq GamerGate launching a negative review campaign for a game that includes one line about a transgender character.”
Ultimately though, the poor writing seen in Siege of Dragonspear can really be traced back to just one person, and that person is Amber Scott, the game’s writer – and boy is she a piece of work. Her stated MO when writing for a game is to cram in as much diversity as possible, and she does not care how forced and fake the dialogue may sound as a result:
“As I’ve said before (and I won’t say much more on this subject other than to get my perspective out there):
I’m the writer and creator. I get to make decisions about who I write about and why.
I don’t like writing about straight/white/cis people all the time. It’s not reflective of the real world, it sets up s/w/c as the “normal” baseline from which “other” characters must be added, and it’s boring.
I consciously add as much diversity as I can to my writing and I don’t care if people think that’s “forced” or fake. I find choosing to write from a straight default just as artificial. I’m happy to be an SJW and I hope to write many Social Justice Games in the future that reach as many different types of people as possible. Everyone should get a chance to see themselves reflected in pop culture.
Well that is just brilliant, the writer of Siege of Dragonspear does not care how cringey her own writing sounds – and the results certainly speak for themselves. Her crimes against Baldur’s Gate did not end with merely bad writing though, as Amber Scott will probably be best remembered for [and loathed for] completely altering the personality of an established party member because she was not feminist enough:
“If there was something for the original Baldur’s Gate that just doesn’t mesh for modern day gamers like the sexism, [we tried to address that]. In the original there’s a lot of jokes at women’s expense. Or if not a lot, there’s a couple, like Safana was just a sex object in BG 1, and Jaheira was the nagging wife and that was played for comedy. We were able to say, ‘No, that’s not really the kind of story we want to make.’ In Siege of Dragonspear, Safana gets her own little storyline, she got a way better personality upgrade. If people don’t like that, then too bad.”
In the original Baldur’s Gate Safana was a flirty seductress who used her feminine wiles to manipulate men, while in Siege at Dragonspear her personality has been replaced with snarky girl no.1 – that is quite some upgrade! Niche Gamer’s Carl Batchelor describes the lobotomisation of Safana in fairly concrete terms:
“So what did they do? They completely altered Safana’s personality. No longer is she anything close to resembling the sultry seductress that defined her character both in vanilla Baldur’s Gate and various user based mods over the last 18 years. Now, she is a sarcastic, sometimes ungrateful, always spiteful thief who begrudgingly follows your orders. The difference, especially if you’ve ever ran an evil party with Safana, are extraordinarily profound.”
Siege of Dragonspear got off on the worst possible foot, but the situation really came to a head when Trent Oster started deleting Steam criticism and then implored members of the Beamdog forums to go and flood Steam, Good Old Games, and Metacritic with positive reviews in order to counteract the negative reviews that the game was receiving:
“Hi everyone. I usually spend most of my time lurking here, but I’d like to ask a favour. It appears that having a transgendered cleric and a joke line by Minsc has greatly offended the sensibilities of some people. This has spurred these people into action, causing them to decide this is the worst game of all time and give it a zero review score on Steam, GoG and meta critic. Now, I’d like to ask for that favour. If you are playing the game and having a good time, please consider posting a positive review to balance out the loud minority which is currently painting a dark picture for new players.
Apparently all those zero review scores were really hurting the game on Steam, a platform which curiously lacks the ability for users to give any game a zero rating, but that is a little beside the point. Oster’s comment was posted on his own company’s forums. Even if he just asked that people post their honest reviews it still would have been mostly positive, yet choosing instead to beg specifically for positive reviews in order to undermine the ‘evil bigots’ really does not look terribly good, and served to intensify the tornado of criticism swirling around the launch of the game. At this point rather than acknowledging that he had fucked up irrevocably, Oster decided to defend his soliciting of positive reviews to Tech Raptor:
“As for my post on the forums, I merely asked people who were enjoying the game to share their positive feedback. I know our fans can become engrossed in their enjoyment and I really don’t want potential fans to miss out on the series because of protest reviews by small minded individuals.”
This defiance was really just the last gasp of Beamdog’s resolve however, as not long after this Oster announced that a particularly noxious meme would be removed from the game and that the transvestite character would be re-written to make him more than a blatant mouthpiece for the game’s writer. That said, making these minimal changes kind of misses the point, as they will do nothing to alleviate the game’s most grievous transgression: the assassination of Safana’s original personality. Even if Beamdog recognised this is a problem, it is still doubtful whether they even have the resources to fix the character – especially when they have Amber Scott as a writer. It is not logical to expect superior results from an inferior writer, so it is unlikely that Siege of Dragonspear will ever be more than a lamentable mess. Gamers do not want to play it because it is bad and broken, while SJWs do not want to play it because they do not play games. It is unclear precisely what Trent Oster even expects from this halfway backdown, as his stated course of action does not come close to fixing the game’s problems, while he manages to sour his standing even further by smearing his customers yet again in his backhanded announcement:
“While we appreciate all feedback we receive from our fans, both positive as well as negative, some of the negative feedback has focused not on Siege of Dragonspear but on individual developers at Beamdog — to the point of online threats and harassment.
I just want to make it crystal clear that Beamdog does not condone this behavior, and moreover that it will not have the desired effect as we stand behind all our developers 100%. We created the game as a group, and moving forward we’ll work on the game’s issues as a group, which I believe is exactly as it should be.”
No, fuck head. Amber Scott has a disgusting attitude which manifested itself as disgusting writing in your broken-ass game – and it is entirely appropriate that she be personally criticised for it. If she does not like that, then too bad! criticism is not the same thing as harassment. She is being criticised for a reason – people paid $20 for an experience which her poor writing partially ruined, and they are entitled to express their anger and frustration without Trent Oster finger wagging at them from his high-horse. If people have been making specific threats to Amber Scott then that is clearly not cool, but this author will be in his cold grave before he ever listens to and believes such claims from Trent Oster’s forked tongue. Oster has attempted to disingenuously smear his customers every step of the way, so any protestations now sound a lot like crying ‘wolf’.
Anime News: New Berserk This July!
In terms of dark fantasy there is no bigger title in the world of anime than Berserk, a series which swept to popularity in 1997 and remains a notable work to this day. Given the popularity of the series it is somewhat odd that it has never received another series until now [though it did receive three films], yet that is about to change in July with the release of Berserk (2016). Berserk (2016) will not be treading old ground either [as so many other animes do], as the series will follow Guts in his ‘black swordsman’ story arc from the manga, which was only briefly touched upon in Berserk (1997). The primary Japanese cast from the Berserk: The Golden Age Arc trilogy of films will return to reprise their roles, though the same might not hold true for the English cast as the films were released through Viz Media while Beserk (2016) is being simulcast through Crunchyroll. The series is set to receive a full twenty-four episode run, so hopefully Berserk (2016) should feel every bit as epic as its 1997 counterpart – though speaking frankly, the state of the 3D animation in Beserk (2016)‘s teaser trailer has left one a little concerned about its eventual visual quality.