Maintain the heart
One of my greatest fears concerning the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, if it ever sees the light of day, is how carefree the developers feel about their ability to change the narrative at will. Sure, it is their tale to tell, technically. But, we are also the inheritors of that legend. A good story says something true about the human experience, despite its age. But, perhaps, games like FF7, which are so grand in scale, can still maintain their core even with some changes. That, of course, waits to be seen.
So, where is the heart of a game? Sometimes, it is in memorable scenes or game-changing moments: FF7’s Aerith being tragically killed by Sephiroth, discovering the Wallrider in Outlast, or turning on a circuit in Soma to open a door, causing a nearby robot with human consciousness to scream in agony. Sometimes it is in the smaller moments such as the chatter between Ellie and Joel as they wandered the lovely and melancholy landscapes in The Last of Us. Or, watching the final moments of the residents of a quaint, British town played out in beautiful displays of light in Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture.
In others, it is the characters themselves. RE2’s Leon Kennedy is one of my particular favorites. Mostly after his second appearance in RE4 where he arrived as a smartass, confident, zombie-killing machine who spat out cheesy one-liners as fast as his gun could take down a parasite-infected farmer. But, watching him as a rookie cop going through the worst first day at work one could imagine was so much fun. And terrifying. RE2 gave us over the top characters, an impressive amount of unlockables for the time, and an array of deformed baddies straight from a deranged scientist’s fever dreams.
Why remake anything at all?
I am fairly confident Capcom will do a fantastic job of remaking RE2. The remake of the original Resident Evil was excellent. It added to the story in a way that exemplified the evils of the Umbrella Corporation and gave us something else to have nightmares about. The fear factor grew, but the nostalgia stayed encased in a beautifully rendered mansion. Oh, and no longer controlling Jill Valentine as a tank felt freeing. So, maybe changing up FF7 won’t be so bad after all.
Capcom has shown they can follow the two simple rules above, and by doing so can reenvision an old story in a way that not only makes it accessible to a newer generation but gives veterans of the series a reason to return. That is what makes a good remake, and that is why it is worthwhile to retell an old story.
A good game remake keeps the heart, separates the wheat from the chaff, and thus carefully and methodically recreates a memory that might in some ways be better than what the game originally was. Great game remakes remind us why we loved the original in the first place.