Massive Final Fantasy VII Data-Mine
Pretty much the only gaming news that has been making headlines over the Christmas period has been the revelation that Square Enix had uploaded a Final Fantasy VII Remake demo to PSN, and its subsequent leak and data-mine. People used PS4 dev kits and hacked PS4s to be able to access the demo, which has not been made available to the public yet, and the demo has been data-mined, with people finding hours of soundtrack music, the full game script, and tons of storyboards. People have speculated that Square Enix included this information deliberately in order to drum up attention, and it certainly strains credulity to imagine that this much content could have been included by sheer incompetence.
There have been some positive revelations which have come from the demo. Jessie has been pretty much confirmed for best girl. Forget the age old Aerith vs. Tifa argument. Forget the cold hearted bitch, Scarlett. All previous waifus are shit next to Jessie, who is now a charming QT who flirts nonstop with Cloud. Honestly, the death of Jessie during the collapse of Sector 7 is now likely to steal some of Aerith’s thunder. Cloud also has some awesome character direction. Long gone is the emo Cloud of Advent Children, and in his place Final Fantasy VII Remake has taken the cocky and indifferent Cloud of the OG game, and then cranked that character trait up to eleven. This Cloud Strife gives no fucks, and it is glorious to behold. There are also a number of mildly edgy elements that were in some slight doubt, which can now be confirmed as present. Some people had supposed that Square Enix would scrub the game of all the drinking and cussing which occurred in the original game, but both are readily in evidence in the demo. People had also supposed that the violence and horror would be turned down, but the data-mine revealed storyboards have revealed images of Jenova and her Shinra Building blood trail, and both look suitably gruesome. Also, for some reason a bunch of people seem surprised that the Cloud cross dressing sequence made it into the game, but one is unsure how the narrative would even flow if that element were missing.
Talking about missing elements, we come to the decidedly negative revelations which have come to light in the wake of this demo. The choice to portray Avalanche as a terrorist group responsible for dozens of civilian deaths was always a spicy narrative element, and all the more so in the post-9/11 world. That said, this was an interesting story element, and, more importantly, it is an indispensable story element given that much of Barret’s subsequent character development is built directly atop of this narrative foundation. Regardless of this Square Enix has decided to vandalise Final Fantasy VII’s story with wild abandon, by retconning the Avalanche bombing plotline so that they no longer kill anybody, and it is now Shinra who blow up the reactor in order to frame them. Just how much Midgar vital infrastructure are Shinra willing to destroy in order to frame a four man pacifist terror cell anyway? It seems kind of redundant for Shinra to blow up their own reactor to frame Avalanche when they later drop the Sector 7 plate IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THE EXACT SAME THING! Later in the game Barret comes to realise that killing civilians is never acceptable regardless of what they stand to accomplish with such sacrifices, and now this character growth will have to be either completely removed or overwritten by something less compelling. It could be replaced with Barret feeling bad for killing guards, or Barret feeling bad for getting people caught up in his fight against the Shinra, but neither of these things are terribly compelling. This basically sucks.
If Square Enix messing around with Avalanche has taken away something important, then their handling of Sephiroth adds something completely awful. A very important facet of the creation of the Sephiroth mythos in the original game was his complete absence throughout the Midgar section of the game. Sephiroth did not appear in the flesh until the player arrived in Kalm, some 10-15 hours into the adventure. Instead throughout the Midgar section of the game people would talk about Sephiroth in awed tones, and the player would piece together tiny scraps of information about Sephiroth, all the while wondering how on earth he would factor into the story the game way trying to tell. Sephiroth’s presence is a complete mystery, so when the game finally decides to draw back the curtains it comes as a complete revelation. Square Enix have instead decided to completely destroy the game’s introduction to Sephiroth this time around though. Square Enix began this game’s development viewing it through the prism of the original game’s impact on popular culture. Sephiroth is an iconic character, and everyone will be expecting to see the iconic Sephiroth in the game they are making – but problem, Square Enix’s disastrous decision to break the game into multiple parts means that Sephiroth cannot be in the game that they are making. Solution: they will just wontonly stuff Sephiroth into every nook and cranny of the game’s opening regardless of how much subtle foreshadowing this completely breaks. Thus, the very opening cinematic of the game features One Winged Angel being woven throughout the opening musical theme of the game. The audience is not supposed to know what One Winged Angel sounds like. The audience is not supposed to hear One Winged Angel until the final battle of the final part of the game. Unfortunately, just like Sephiroth, One Winged Angel is an iconic part of the original game, and as such it must be used at every available opportunity. Square Enix is harvesting ‘member berries here, not telling a coherent and memorable story. Do not be surprised if Sephiroth’s theme gets completely replaced by One Winged Angel. Every aspect of the game is being rebalanced depending on how popular and iconic it is in the public consciousness. Square Enix have spent the last two decades of their existence subsisting on the laurels of a twenty-three year old game, so it makes sense that they would have a warped perception of the game based on their own distorted hindsight. It gets worse though. Square Enix’s abuse of One Winged Angel at the beginning of the game is the height of subtlety compared to what is to come at the end of their game. Data-mined storyboards of the game reveal that Sephiroth confronts the party atop the highway at the end of the G-bike section. Nomura has previously stated that in Final Fantasy VII Remake Motor would probably not be the final boss of the game in the same way as he was the final Midgar boss in the OG title. This probably means that the party will have to fight either Sephiroth or Jenova on their way out of Midgar, which completely breaks the OG story.
Another point of note is that the demo has seen players defeating normal enemies before the ATB even has a chance to charge, so do not expect a thoughtful use of commands outside of boss fights. Further, some articles have mentioned that the leaked script has references to characters from the Final Fantasy VII extended universe, but they have not mentioned anything specific, which makes one distrust them. Regardless, the game is turning out terribly. For every one thing that Square Enix does awesomely, they do another three things that are completely repugnant to this Final Fantasy VII fan. Of course this is simply a matter of viewing a bunch of the game’s elements from outside of the game’s full context, so there always exists the possibility that Square Enix may have done something to make them better fit the game. But probably no.