A lot of gamers rediscovered their love for the recently released Final Fantasy 7 Remake (which we absolutely adored), and it’s safe to say that even without the “full” game being released yet, the hype is officially back. Yet I’m not writing about how this FF7 Remake fever will enter even a greater pandemic state, but would this redefine how remakes and remasters are being handled or have developers exhausted this gimmick?
The Rerelease Playbook
Square Enix is no stranger to remastering everything and anything given the chance. Final Fantasy VII isn’t the first one to be re-released to death. There was time between 2006-2011 where there have been too many Final Fantasy IV remakes, remasters, sequels, and spin-offs that I’ve asked: are we done rehashing this game already? Granted, the DS release of Final Fantasy IV was a welcome edition of 3D rendering that there was hope of seeing Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI done the same way but fell short and we got a mobile remaster of Final Fantasy VI with too smooth sprites.
It’s also been part of Atlus’ playbook to regularly repackage Persona almost immediately after the original launch. Persona 3 did it with FES, Persona 4 with Golden, and now Persona 5 with Royal. Hell, even Catherine got Full Body after a while. A DLC would’ve worked just as well but it was a complete re-release of the game with brand new content. I shouldn’t criticize too much as I’ve purchased a second hand PS Vita to experience Persona 4 Golden for myself. While I dug the Japanese Language dub in that package and the addition of the Marie side story, it felt like a quick cash grab to delay my longing for a Persona 5, which would not come out for another three years.
Recently, I’ve seen the progression on how the Yakuza series was able to renew its interest with the series with a series of remakes and remasters. My entry into the series was back on PS3 with Yakuza 3. I could not get into the story as they picked up straight after Yakuza 1 and 2, which I completely missed. I did enjoy the minigames though and I’ve seemed to have gotten lost sandboxing with them until I lost all interest with the main story. PS Plus gave Yakuza Kiwami for free November 2018 and from there led me to a path of binging every title that was available. Yakuza Zero came next, which had the same gameplay and interface as Yakuza Kiwami. Yakuza 2 Kiwami and Yakuza 6: Song of Life came next, which both games are similar in gameplay and interface as they were released around the same time. When Yakuza Remastered came out, I jumped on that to complete the rest of the series, but at that point, I felt that I’ve lost interest as the remakes spoiled me with better controls and UI. It almost ages the remasters, which besides getting a graphics overhaul, still play like the older games.
All The Nostalgia, even The Bad Controls
I’ve been forgiving of the old school Resident Evil interface, maybe because I’ve skipped the PS2 to PS3 generation of the games having played only 1 to 3, Code Veronica and then skipping to straight to Resident Evil 7. When the remake of Resident Evil was given for free on PS Plus, I was excited to return to the game that started it all. Yet having been exposed to more intuitive and better designed action games (ironically spawned by Resident Evil 4) over the last ten years since I’ve played the original Resident Evil, the game felt dated. The controls, even more so.
The same could be said with Kingdom Hearts because I felt I got a good deal with acquiring the All-In-One Kingdom Hearts package during Sony’s Spring Sale. As I’m looking for a new game to play during this quarantine period, it’s a great opportunity to finally finish the earlier entries in the series. Sad to say, I tapped out after the Tarzan stage. I cannot get back to my Gummi ship and I’m forced to go through the annoying controls that have been fixed from Kingdom Hearts 2 onward. Plus Donald and Goofy keep using up my potions even when I specified “emergencies only” on the tactics menu. I realized the auto-battles have improved since 2002 and they have been intuitive as of late, Final Fantasy XV and Dragon Quest XI being an example.
The nostalgia is perfect, but it also reminded me of the trauma of rage quitting Kingdom Hearts after the fight with Oogie Boogie because of the bad camera movement making me nauseous the whole time. And it seems that none of my friends remember this detail, because Kingdom Hearts inspire such beautiful memories playing it back in the day. All I remembered was throwing my controller.
Yet When Done Right…
Bringing it back to Final Fantasy VII Remake, the biggest thing that made this one amazing was finally getting the game that I wanted when the first Final Fantasy VII came out. It was the game I imagined playing when I was looking at the amazing art in game magazines.
When I played through Final Fantasy VII, the start of my enjoyment of the game happened when I first reached overworld and out of Midgar. Midgar was a completely linear slog and it felt that I was forced into a story I still haven’t acclimated with from the get go. In FF7 Remake, straight out of the first Mako Reactor, just being exposed to Sector 8’s chaos and atmosphere, I felt like a 16 year old again. Dazzled by the chaos of the moment. I would walk to a corner and find scared children confused by the bedlam. Displaced residents and workers decry your terrorist act, it made me feel like a moment out of an emergency and being kicked out of the MRT, but in game form.
The distressing music placed me in the moment, in which the original game gives you a couple of frames and then being chased by Shinra guards to escape on the train. FF7 Remake extends that sequence, chasing you a good long while throughout Sector 8 that it feels like I was headed to a really long side quest (as I was too enamored by the world, I forgot to follow the main mission waypoint) then challenged by the chapter boss, all those moments solidify the title for me.
Resident Evil 2 was also a great moment when the remake hit home. I waited until the game went for dirt cheap before picking it up as I felt that I’d exhausted Resident Evil 2 when it first came out back in 1998. Equipped with a new interface and better mechanics, it was the old Resident Evil 2 as I remembered it, Raccoon Police Station and even the implausible romance between Leon and Ada, but it did away with the unforgiving controls but kept the feel of the original game. It was money well spent and brought back some good times, minus the punishing old school mechanics.
If you ask me if I’m going to play Final Fantasy VII or Resident Evil 2 in the original forms again, I would say no. I’ve tried playing Final Fantasy VII on different times with their remastered version, first on PS3 and then on the Switch, but I somehow can’t get past Midgar. The momentum of the game doesn’t pick up until after and after the remake, I would rather play through the remake as I would take the revisionist history because everything about the remade Midgar is magical and beautiful.
Are we headed for remake fatigue? Just like any gaming trends and gimmick, there is a breaking point. Remakes and remasters have always been there, but I feel that companies should approach it right. We will probably get more direct remasters of Final Fantasy titles and full priced rereleases from Atlus milking their Persona franchises down to the last drop. The only difference is, they mostly get it right.
Xenoblade Chronicles and Trials of Mana had come out just recently and they seem to have been really good outings. For the most part, I would love a Bravely Default remaster for the Switch as a selfish request, as I’ve completely missed out on the 3DS release.
Just as any consumer product goes, most customers would pay for something that’s done right. If game devs continue to make lazy re-releases, consumers would most likely vote with their feet and stop buying them. Nostalgia will only go so far, but even the most gullible fan knows the foul smell of cash grabbing.