So we are finally getting a Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Here’s the announcement trailer from E3 2015.
Yes, I got goose bumps and a shiver went up my spine when I watched this trailer. Why? Final Fantasy 7 is the best videogame ever, in my opinion.
That’s not going to stop some people from pissing in everyone’s Cheerios, SocJus style. YouTube comedian, of a sort, Peter Coffin, decided he had a problem with a nigh insignificant sequence in the tens of hours of gameplay offered in Final Fantasy 7.
The sequence is a date between Cloud and a member of the party discovered to this point at the Gold Saucer. For context, here’s a video of the sequence, so you can see it. Funny enough, I’m not going to pick the first hit of a YouTube search for "Final Fantasy 7 date," because it steals all my thunder.
So, the date sequence goes something like this. Throughout the early part of the adventure, Cloud has various dialogue sequences with members of the party. Depending on the dialogue options selected during the sequences, the game tracks a value. Whoever has the highest value at the initiation of the date sequence is shown on the date with Cloud.
We’ve known for a while, thanks to some of the OCD folk over at GameFAQs, three characters start with positive “Affection Points” and a fourth character starts with zero. That said, any of the characters that have Affection Points is eligible to go on the date with Cloud at the Gold Saucer.
Before I drop the punch line to the joke, I want to go back and explain why I called the sequence insignificant.
Insignificant is probably the wrong word, because the sequence could lead to a super emotional end of the first act for someone who’s never played FF7 before, depending on how the date itself plays out. For me, the date sequence was a nice bit of flavor in the overall story. Cloud and party go through hell to get to Gold Saucer. Bits of information on peoples’ backstories come to light, and the player comes to the realization that every member of the party, save one, is flawed in some way.
Even through all this, the party finds time to relax and have a human moment in the Gold Saucer. I like the sequence, especially when I do the dialogue “right” to go on the date with Tifa, who I find most attractive among prospective participants in the date sequence. Regardless, beyond adding a human element to characters the player is using to hack at, slash at, cast on, steal from, and summon at scores of enemies, the sequence doesn’t really do anything in terms of gameplay or mechanics, which is why I said nigh insignificant earlier.
Here’s the punch line to the joke of the date sequence. The characters with Affection Points at the start of the game are Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, and Barrett. Not only that, the player can go next level, and contrive events to spurn all the girls and go on the date with Barrett. Take a look.
Now, you’re probably coming to the same conclusions as I am watching this sequence in 2015, vice 1997. The sequence is not particularly well-written, even by 1997 standards. Barrett’s script is awful in this sequence, and while I couldn’t begin to write a proper script for the Barrett-Cloud sequence, I’m quite sure we all can do without the references to Barrett’s daughter Marlene totally—that bit is impossibly uncomfortable. I’d like to think it’s this sequence of writing Coffin is talking about, but based on his tweets, it is pretty clear he had no idea you can go on a date with a man of a different race than the main character. Personally, I think he’s announcing a quest to try to "improve history" like Ortolan Finistirre in 2005's Thank You For Smoking.
Okay, maybe not.
No, this is probably typical, asinine, SocJus fop. The protagonist is white; the love interests are “supposed” to be girls (even though that fact is flatly false); and the Don Corneo scene in the slums of Midgar is looked at as mocking transgendered people, a la the Fallout 4 trailer.
For the record, I’m all for updating the scripts for the various characters to appeal to modern sensibilities. The Barrett date sequence is colossally awkward and could do with an update written in English to ensure the intent of the sequence comes off as the writers intend, whether that intent is Band of Brothers style war buddies having a human moment, earnest feelings of love between two men who share a bond, or whatever.
The other thing that bothers me and I can’t get out of my mind is this overriding concern that whatever the writers do with the FF7 remake, it won’t be good enough for the “culture critics." For some, everything short of SEXUAL IDENTITY (!x27) thrown in the face of the player won’t be good enough. Being able to sit Cloud, Barrett, Sid and Vincent on the sidelines for large chunks of the game in favor of a party of Tifa, Yuffie, and one of Aeris, Red XIII, or Kait Sith won’t be good enough. The relationship between Cloud and Tifa won’t be looked at as one of childhood friends reuniting in adulthood, rather it will be looked at as bludgeoning people with heteronormativity in some nondescript way, and thus "problematic." I'm getting a bit of a knot in my stomach just thinking about the possibility; I hope I'm wrong.
I love Final Fantasy 7. If it were redone as is for the PS4, I would buy it and play the hell out of it. When I did contrive to date Barett, I would still feel uncomfortable by the script and wish it had been changed. However, I’m totally okay with script elements of the date sequence being changed. The Cid sequences in Rocket Town probably need looking at, too, and if we’re going to fix the characters’ scripts in one scenario, the writers might as well go in and fix the scripts in other areas within reason.
So, what say you, Raptors? FF7 remake as is, or with slightly rewritten scenes/dialogue?
UPDATE: It took less than 12 hours after writing for my prediction to come true. See the screenshots below. It's going to be a long, difficult slog to get a FF7 remake true to the original. That saddens me, in light of all the joy FF7 gave me the first time around.