On the Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Addendum)…

(Disclosure: I have not personally played this title ((yet?)).  But I have watched it played by several others who had advance copies, so I am comfortable enough commenting on the narrative.

And while I by nature try to avoid massive spoilers, there’s going to be no avoiding some mild ones, due to their importance to the story as a whole, and the critique that follows.  So, as always, proceed only if you’re willing to accept that choice.)

So, as we begin to dive in, what’s important to acknowledge is that regardless of medium, 1:1 faithful adaptations are rare, nor did Square Enix at any point pretend this was going to be either.

That said, if you are going to significantly alter a classic story (and no matter what some fans might tell themselves, Tetsuya Nomura and his team have already significantly altered it, and even threw down the gauntlet in game that they intend to significantly alter it further), you better know what you’re doing and why.  Because if you don’t stick the landing, you’re going to have a swarm of outraged former fans that are ready to burn down your studio.

And I wish I could say that was hyperbole.

The “why” in this case isn’t hard to suss out, because Nomura isn’t half as clever as he thinks he is.  The wraiths of fate are representative of old fans, who demand the story proceed in very specific ways, and get increasingly aggressive as the remake pushes forward; whereas Nomura sees himself as a visionary trying to get said fans to accept that things can (and should) change.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with “meta” story-telling and high concept narratives winding through an otherwise played-straight story.  Hell, my most notable series is built on the characters are self-aware MMO characters that don’t realize they’re part of a game, and I’m pretty proud of that work.  I think I did pretty damn well with it.

There’s also no inherent sin in challenging the audience, even doing so directly.  Let’s be honest, the overwhelming majority of fans… aren’t very good at storytelling or even comprehending a story.  Any given fanbase will often have mutually exclusive desires and be very unwelcoming of change, even if its needed.

But if you’re going to take on your fans, and have them appreciate you for it at the end… it takes some very clever storytelling and a very deft mind for getting to the heart of what the narrative is supposed to be about and convincing them that you can give them a satisfactory experience.

A remake of Final Fantasy 7 could have been a lay-up; fairly easy money for Square-Enix.  Nomura and his team are going for the 360-tomahawk dunk.  If they pull it off, the fans will be out of their seats in awe.  If they don’t, it’s gonna be on blooper reels and mocked for the rest of their lives.

Good luck, guys.  You’re gonna need it.

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