Last Level Press

Why Final Fantasy VIII?

By: Olen Bjorgo

With the recent announcement that Final Fantasy VIII is getting a graphical update, and that Final Fantasy X is getting an HD release for the PS3 later this year, AND there’s not a single word about Final Fantasy VII getting an updated look, I felt like now would be a good time to give my thoughts on these matters both on the series itself and on graphical updates to older games overall.

I should first start out by saying that I didn’t play any of these games when they first came out, my favorite in the series is a tie between VI and IX, and that I’m not really all that excited about any of these games. ‘So why write?’ you may be asking yourself. Well, I’m mostly writing this because I’m partially concerned at the implications this has but also because I’m uncertain if these are things that are needed to be done.

Graphical updates are nothing new to the industry. Even as far back as the 16-bit era, there were rereleases of graphically outdated 8-bit games that were cleaned up and made brighter so that people could play older games on their new consoles. The best known example would be Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation of the first three Super Mario Bros. games from the Nintendo Entertainment System as well as “The Lost Levels”, which was the true sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. game rather than the game Americans received. To give something more recent, I was able to play the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II many years ago because I had the graphical remake of it on my Gameboy Advanced and the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV since it wasn’t be very feasible for me to invest money into buying old systems and finding those old games. In fact, III is only available legally through the DS since the original never came to North America while Final Fantasy I and II are typically bundled together these days since neither game is incredibly long. However, it should be made very clear that I think these types of updates and rereleases are not a bad thing and, more often than not, are the only ways I’ve been able to play those older games.

The problem is that these days it seems like the games are being remade strictly for a cash grab. I’m not naïve enough to say that the examples I gave weren’t in the same vein but there’s just a difference between releasing a game that was made back when I was three years old and used pixels as opposed to a game that, for all intents and purposes, still looks fine if only a little bit rough around the edges. One example is how my favorite Legend of Zelda game, The Wind Waker, is going to have an HD remake for the Wii U. While I found the idea appealing at first, I still think the original looks fine and believe that it’s only to get more people to buy a Wii U. The money used to update a game could be used to fund other projects, maybe even something better like to fund a new property. However, it’ll sell because that is how the market works… which makes me wonder why Final Fantasy VIII, of all games, is getting the makeover.

In my experience, I’ve known few people who claim that VIII is their favorite in the series, let alone in the three entries that were on the PlayStation. While Final Fantasy VII is an environmental message wrapped in magitech, and Final Fantasy IX is a love letter to the traditional roots of the series, VIII has always been this red-headed stepchild: it has a convoluted plot, nothing seems to make sense even within the context of the story, the main characters are boring, the only good characters are relegated to being within dream sequences, and the ending is a Mobius strip to top a paradox sundae and you’re stuck with chopsticks to eat the damn thing.

Well… okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but my point is, why this particular game? People (i.e. fans) have been clamoring for a Final Fantasy VII with updated graphics for almost a decade now and have bought numerous amounts of merchandise related to this single game in a decades old series. Regardless of personal opinions or favorites, there can be no doubt that VII is the most popular and well-known of the games in the series. As I stated, I love Final Fantasy IX (much to Mr. Black’s chagrin) and I think VII is over-rated, but I’m also more than willing to acknowledge the impact VII has made on the genre. You could make the argument that it’s for fans that haven’t played it, but it’s rather empty because if someone the same age as my 13 year old cousin hasn’t played VIII then they’re probably not going to do so now. And if you’re trying to target people who already played it, you’re going after a conceivably smaller audience since those who liked it will buy it but those who prefer VII probably won’t. But these views are based only on what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced, so the possibility that it’s much different in Japan could very well be the case.

Perhaps there are larger questions that need asking here: at what point does a game require a graphical update and a rerelease? Who or what decides what game gets the makeover? I know I wouldn’t mind seeing some older titles get a rerelease if only because they’re harder to find, or because their originals aren’t exactly cheap, or even because they never saw the light of day here in the US (I’m looking at you, Live A Live and Terranigma). At the same time, perhaps that’s why I’m here writing an article rather than conducting a focus group to gather market data on what games need to be remade.

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