It was the ultimate troll move when Square Enix took the stage at yesterday’s PlayStation Experience keynote. There Shinji Hashimoto was standing on the stage, basking in the anticipation from all the rumors that had been building throughout the week; rumors of Final Fantasy VII finally getting that desired remake fans have been so desperate for… and then it happened: the words Final Fantasy VII, in all of their regal glory, flashed on the screen, Meteor glistening behind its bold font. The crowd erupted into unbridled excitement, cheers and applause echoing off the walls, loud enough to shake the very foundation. Years and years, and years, and then some more years, of clamoring for Square Enix to finally give us an updated version of their almost two decade old JRPG masterpiece, and they were now about to deliver it. But then perhaps the most deflating news, ever in the history of gaming news, came: Final Fantasy VII would indeed be coming to PlayStation 4–in the form of a port. A port of the PC version. Yep. All that hype, up in smoke. In a matter of seconds. The audience, now slack jawed, dejected and disappointed beyond words. And that, my friends, is what we call a “dick move.”
So, yeah, the PC version of Final Fantasy VII is coming to PS4. This decision has divided gamers, and that division has been made very clear through social media over the last day or so. Some folks are just excited that the game is finally going to be made available on a modern console, and not just via some PlayStation Classics iteration. Others, on the other hand, are scratching their head simply asking, “What, why? WHY?” Honestly, we can understand both sides of the argument, though we’re not going to hedge on this one; this should not have happened.
It’s not that an enhanced port of Final Fantasy VII is unwanted, it’s just simply unneeded. We already have the game available to us; sure, it’s not the PC rendition, and sure, it doesn’t have Trophy support, but it gets the job done all the same. In fact, it’s not like the PC version and the original are all that different. But for a game that firmly cemented the company as a mainstream success and industry giant, we have expected more. Twenty years is a long time to wait for anything. Better still, a shedload of cool things have happened in the last two decades in gaming. Technology and how we experience the medium are chief among its accomplishments, and perhaps are the two most prominent ways the industry has changed since the mid- to late-90s. To introduce the game to a larger audience at this point, many of which have realistically only heard stories of the game and not actually played it, will finally get to check it out for themselves, in all of its awful, polygonal, extremely dated glory. What a way to make an impression.
Now, of course, Final Fantasy VII has stood the test of time; outside of its super dated visuals, the game’s storytelling conventions and unique characters are enough for it to still be immensely enjoyable to play through even in its PSX or PC incarnation. However, we can’t help but feel like Square Enix is leaving money on the table every year they don’t commit to a full-blow remake. Not to mention that releasing it to this new generation of gamers in its PC form may actually hurt its brand. It could very well turn folks off simply because of how antiquated it is from a presentation standpoint, which could leave newer gamers saying “this is what everyone raves about?” That could ultimately sully the title’s reputation and hurt its profitability going forward if Square Enix had future plans for the VII series (it’s basically one these days). Nevertheless, at this point, Final Fantasy VII is still majestic and surrounded by praise and hype. Not giving long time fans and newcomers a like a chance to play the game via modern technology is not only missing out on a huge payday, and threatening the brand’s long term sustainability, but it’s also a disservice to the fans who have supported the company since VII’s release, or before. There aren’t many games that have as rabid a fanbase as Final Fantasy; and VII seems to have the most intense fans of them all–should Square Enix come out over the weekend and stated that a full remake was in the works for the game, the Internet would have broke.
But this does not fall solely on the shoulders of Square Enix. While they certainly don’t need it, considering the PlayStation 4’s popularity and fantastic sales, Sony could have done more to make this happen. Imagine, right as the Xbox One seems to be gaining on the PlayStation 4 (thanks to Black Friday deals), Sony drops the bomb of a Final Fantasy VII remake exclusive. All of those folks still on the fence about which console to pick up this holiday season, and who love RPGs, would have known beyond a shadow of a doubt which to put their money on. Both Sony and Square Enix dropped the ball here.
But not only is it the idea of a straight PC port of VII that is less than impressive, it’s how the whole thing was delivered. Part of this is no doubt on us, the gamers. We built up this announcement all week (and realistically, for countless years); when we were certain that we would get it, Square threw us a curve ball. A curve ball we didn’t want. I give you an analogy: Watching the Stream Saturday felt like when you’re a kid and you get a huge present for your birthday (or Christmas, or whatever) and you finally tear into it, only to realize its size was not indicative of its luster–and instead of there being the world’s coolest toy inside, it’s actually a big plastic locker meant to look like that of one inside a professional athlete’s warm-up room. What a fucking letdown, right? (This actually happened to me when I was 11 years old, by the way.) It’s partially our fault for building it up to something it may not have been, but it’s also partially the other person’s fault for tempting you with the prospects of a really neat present they claim “is exactly what you want.” That’s what happened at PSX.
Do we need an enhanced port of Final Fantasy VII? No. Do we want it? Most probably don’t. But, if there’s one saving grace in all of this it’s that its sale could be used a measuring stick for the interest in the game. And if that ultimately translates to an actual remake, then maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems. Until that time, though, what we can take away from this weekend’s announcement is simple: Square Enix are a bunch of trolls. We say that tongue-in-cheek, and with complete sincerity at the same time.