Final Fantasy VII Remake and The Plague of Nostalgia Porn

This here post was written by the awesome Tom Woods, who you can find drawing awesome things over on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TomWoodsArt, or making excellent videos as part of Hearts Bros here: https://www.youtube.com/c/heartsbros


For the longest time, I fought against my love of Final Fantasy VII. It was, as far as I recall, my very first RPG. Along with that, my very first J-RPG. I fought against the hordes of fanboys and girls, pretending it was not as great as everyone made out to be. I clung to the idea that Final Fantasy VI was the superior one, despite never finishing it, and it having a cast of characters that was slightly too large to care for all of them. I was a shameful video game hipster.

The recent showcase of the Final Fantasy VII: Remake trailer shown at the Playstation Experience (PSX) shattered that illusion. I welled up seeing the characters that took my RPG virginity (picture that and try not to get grossed out. I’ll wait right here for the retching to stop), the swelling of the “Bombing Mission” track by composer Nobuo Uematsu accompanied by the visuals just sent me over the edge.

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I actually like Barrett’s new design. Shades are a bit weird at night time though.

In truth, I had been lying to myself all these years. I love Final Fantasy VII. The relief tipped me over the edge, like coming out of a closet with a poster of Sephiroth blu-tak’d to the inside of the door. Bashful, scratching the back of my head, cheeks flushed red in embarrassment.

Once again I succumbed to the nostalgia inflicted on my generation. A way to numb the pain of crushed dreams, ideas of working hard and being so determined you could be anything you wanted to be, if you just put in the effort and grind. You know the voice, the one buried in the back of your mind between the sounds of 56k Dial-Up Tones, the Power Rangers theme song, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles soundbites and the crushing, gnawing screech that an economic collapse has shafted your wide-eyed generation out of the gravy train, affordable housing and gainful employment.

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Early concept for the city of Midgar

Nostalgia. Nostalgia is plaguing our entire culture. Indulging in too much nostalgia is a by-product of our declining Western civilization. It’s looking back at better times. Before terrorism, before the never-ending war in the middle east, before social media and the leering heavy breathing of tech start-ups spunking investors money everywhere and not make any returns because you can’t make money out of social media, before tedious corporate PR machines, before endless aggressive bickering about absolute trivial shite everywhere you turn on the internet.

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Same.

 

I’m just like you, I indulge far too much in the comfort blankets of my youth. Just look at my twitter feed for proof. I hide away from a lot of the pain and suffering of the world in pretty pictures, in well written words, video games, animation and endless blogs or YouTube about whatever niche interest takes my fancy for the day.

Perhaps that’s not too bad when you consider the plot of Final Fantasy VII is more poignant now than it was in the 90’s. The eco-warrior troop AVALANCHE, fighting to stop the planet’s lifeblood being sucked dry against a massive careless conglomerate that values money over the livelihood of people. Oh and there’s Sephiroth and clones and the dangers of science and all that.

This was and still is a very different vibe for a videogame. I don’t think any other game has tapped into corporatocracy, eco warriors, conspiratorial ideas of false-flag attacks (The destruction of Sector 7 Slums by Shin-Ra), New Age spirituality, Ancient Atlantean-style Aliens, and the whole concept of failure when pursuing a dream and just not being good enough, which in turn leads to the long road to acceptance of just who and what you really are.

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Some very early and some final concepts by Nomura and his crew. That Goblin design sticks with me to this day.

The art style was a  fusion of cyberpunk and dieselpunk that were both popular genres of fiction in the 1990’s. Grimy, dirty future-tech focused on industry and function rather than sleek graphic design and making everything easy to use.

This was a time before Tetsuya Nomura decided to add a lot of belts and zippers to every character he designed (side-note: I actually like Nomura’s art style in general. He’s very influenced by haute couture and Streetwear. I always feel he would have been heralded as a great fashion designer if he’d ever decided to go that way). When he still kept a lot of his manga style in his artwork.

 

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Vice President Rufus & The Turks. Rufus’ design is still amazing. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it in some lookbook.

I think it’s taken until my late 20’s to really understand the themes of this game, as when I was a kid, I just breathed in the world. Focused on the big bad guy, laughed at the ham-fisted translations (‘This guy are sick’), not really getting why I enjoyed it, but just knowing there was some pulling power there that kept me coming back.

So forgive me for succumbing to the plague of nostalgia. I’m going to play the Remake. I don’t care if it’s turn-based or action focused, or episodic. Thankfully I’m grateful a whole new generation of people are going to get to experience that world again, THAT death, the joy of breeding chocobos, having Cid in your party (please don’t give him a vape instead of cigarettes), the frustration at trying to get Omnislash or Knights of The Round materia. I want people who couldn’t get into the J-RPG genre because of turn-based fighting, random battles and unnecessary grinding to finally understand why a whole generation of their mates welled up with pure emotion when you say the name “Final Fantasy”. For that, indulging in a bit of nostalgia is a good price to pay while Rome burns.

 

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