Japanese RPG fans are really passionate about the whole issue of whether or not Final Fantasy VII should be remade. In fact, not long after McKinley posted his passionate opinion on the matter, I got two separate pitches from freelancers wanting to write a rebuttal. But as McKinley is my peer here at GamePro, maybe it's best that I respond myself. I don't have any illusions that this piece will put the issue to bed for good, but I can at least explain why I think remaking Final Fantasy VII would be a bad idea.
So once upon a time, I considered Final Fantasy VII the best game ever made. That was when I was 17; still in high school and completely overawed by the astounding depth of anime and Japanese RPGs. A decade later, I still have a healthy amount of respect for Final Fantasy VII's impact on the genre, but it's far from my favorite game in the series. And frankly, while I respect McKinley's feeling that it ought to be remade, I'd really prefer to see it left alone.
Part of it has to do with the fact that Final Fantasy VII was very much a game of its time. If you're not old enough to remember what gaming was like back in 1997 (hey, there could be 13 year olds reading this), let me give you a little perspective. This was an era when CD was the hot new medium, and CG cutscenes were considered a huge bullet point. Final Fantasy VII's elaborate summon sequences and cutscenes meant that it was a perfect fit for that era; people were buying it practically on the strength of those cutscenes alone. The actual gameplay, while adequate, was secondary to those considerations.
But it's 2011 now, and we've long since become jaded by CG cutscenes. You remember how much of a drag those cutscenes were in Final Fantasy XIII? I don't expect that the cutscene quality would be significantly improved for Final Fantasy VII; if anything, as Square Enix's crown jewel, an HD remake would be even more self-indulgent.
Really, there's absolutely no way that a remake could ever measure up to the expectations heaped upon it. The Materia System , for example, has never been what I would call "exceptional." While some of the combinations could be pretty interesting, it was problematic in the way that it made the characters practically interchangeable. Even the aforementioned Final Fantasy XIII?--often derided for its inadequate progression--at least features a unique set of characters from which to build a party.
Iconic as Final Fantasy VII is--the world, the characters, the music--it's also been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the nostalgic feelings my generation has had for the "Golden Era of Japanese RPGs." Personally, I liken it to the three years or so I spent living in Japan. That was probably the best three years of my life, and I always relish the opportunity to go back for a visit.
But barring some extraordinary opportunity, there's no way that I could move back to Japan and return to that life. Much as I cherish my memories of Japan, it wouldn't be long before I was reminded of what it's like to live in Japan's rigid social structure, struggling with bureaucracy, cut off from friends and family here in the States--you know, all the stuff that I've conveniently forgotten.
By the same token, having fond memories for Final Fantasy VII is fine, but I think a full-on remake would be a step back. Better instead to look ahead and leave behind the random battles, the simplistic customization and our own bygone obsession with CG cutscenes. Better to find new memories and new stories, and try new things (hey, Valkyria Chronicles is pretty sweet). In fact, I would actually prefer that Square Enix spend all the money and effort that would be used to rehash Final Fantasy VII on making Final Fantasy XV something truly special. Or making something new entirely.
Personally, I'd like to hang onto my fond memories of when I thought Final Fantasy VII was the best game ever, rather than be reminded of its inadequacies via an ill-advised remake. Time to move on.