Chapter 7: The Writing and Direction
There is quite a bit of bad in this game: padding, lack of difficulty, graphical issues, poor direction. But nothing even compares to the absolute garbage fire that is the writing and game direction present in FF7R. The sudden and remarkable downward spiral that Tetsuya Nomura’s projects have taken as of late continues, and there is no one to blame for that beside Nomura himself.
His writing is convoluted for the sake of being convoluted, his combat systems have been outdated since after Kingdom Hearts 2, and his refusal to write any character that is not a straight white male as anything other then a dispensable accessory to the main character is a joke in the modern era.
Almost all of the female characters (the exceptions being Aerith’s mother who is barely seen, the teacher from sector 5 who is also a stripper/prostitute, and the Shinra executive who is on screen for probably around 45 seconds total) in the game who have dialogue are written to become romantically involved with Cloud in one way or another.
Tifa, who is this strong, independent, business owner who has extensive martial arts training clings to Cloud and cowers behind him at any sign of danger. After their first real day spent together since they were children, Tifa all but begs Cloud to take her on a date in the near future. Aerith, an extremely powerful mage who has been dealing with the monsters in sector 5 by herself as well as avoiding Shinra’s attempts to apprehend her for years suddenly needs Cloud to be her bodyguard. She is too scared and clumsy to make her way across the rooftop that supposedly she had traversed many times before, so she needs Cloud to lead the way and keep her safe.
The best female character in the game is unquestionably Jessie, who the player gets to spend only two and a half chapters with. She has an interesting backstory, even if it is learned through one of the game’s many exposition dumps, and her personality, despite also being built upon her need for romance with Cloud, is otherwise fun and is one of the many reasons that Chapter 4 is the best chapter of the game by miles. At a certain point in the game, I kept pushing myself forward, only so that I could hopefully spend more time with the one of the only characters I fell in love with (spoiler, you do not get to do that).
This is not to say that the men of the game are written any better.
Barret gets barely any time in the spotlight at all, instead being hidden back stage for most of the story. When he is on screen, his defining features are narrowed down to his being the leader of AVALANCHE and his being a dad, although by virtue of his barely being in the game, this second and far more interesting trait is use exclusively to move the plot and not to flesh out his character.
You might be reading that and say “well those are the side characters, certainly the main character will be more fleshed out, most Final Fantasy protagonist are.” You should be right, Tetsuya Nomura has obviously had a vision for Cloud and his personality for years, not agreeing with the direction the original title took him and wanting to change it completely. Every time Nomura got a chance to represent Cloud, whether it be in Advent Children or Kingdom Hearts, he made sure to ignore the original portrayal of Cloud, instead implementing his own vision for the character.
Of Cloud’s 20+ appearances in games, this is one of his weakest in terms of character.
Cloud is only motivated through this title by money, making that clear with almost every other line that he has. Other character: “Can you do *thing*” Cloud (Direct quote here): “That will cost you.” This exact exchange happens throughout the entire game probably close to 60 different times in the exact same way. When he is not motivated he is motivated by…. being places? Cloud’s character is so shallow and unmotivated, that I often found myself wondering why I was doing anything that I was doing.
Cloud’s backstory gets absolutely no exploration within this title either, with all the player knows about his past being that he was a SOLDIER, now he is not. Why did he leave SOLDIER? Why is he so driven by money and what does he plan on doing with that money? What EXACTLY was he and Tifa’s childhood relationship? The game never explores any of these questions and leaves Cloud, the main character, as the least developed and least interesting character in the game.
This characters would stick out even worse, if it were not for the poorly written and presented plot of FF7R (Some of the conversation surrounding the plot will be happening in the next chapter of this review, due to it containing spoilers).
Anyone who has played, or is actively playing, FF7R will notice that I left out some pretty significant scenes in the “Story” chapters of this review. Almost all of those scenes involve the presence of maybe the dumbest idea I have ever seen written into a video game: the Whispers.
The Whispers are described as being the universe’s way to effect the outcome of certain events and maintain the order of things. Many people have noted that the Whispers typically get involved in points where the plot of this game tends to differ significantly from the original title, but that seems to be more coincidental, since there are plenty of times where the games differ drastically and the events could (and do) significantly effect the outcome of the game and the Whispers do not get involved.
When the writers were too lazy to find a reason to get the characters to a certain point in the game, they would write in the Whispers to lead the plot the direction they wanted. You can not find a reason for AVALANCHE to need Cloud on the second bombing mission? Well you better have the whispers just appear and hurt Jessie and Wedge. Then make sure none of the characters say a single word about the swarm of flying ghost that just attacked them and their friends so that they do not realize just how stupid that idea was.
The only other thing the Whispers do besides act as the worst plot device in modern media is hang out around Aerith sometimes. Why? The game never explains why and then acts like it did, so I do not even think Nomura knows.
This may not have as bad (it still would have been terrible) if any of the villains were interesting and made the journey worth experiencing. President Shinra is boring, written to have only one emotion, grumpy, and not involved in most of the plot. Heidegger is a bit more interesting, but only because he has more then one emotion, but only one more. These characters being boring and uninvolved with the player besides making some snide remarks makes the journey to triumphing over them boring and pointless. (Yes, there is one more main villain we have not talked about, and he is discussed thoroughly in the next chapter of this review)
The most interesting villains are thrown to the side and treated like nothing more then glorified side characters. Reno and Rude are not only some of the best boss fights in the game, but also interesting characters with complex emotions and motives, and even if he is absent for most of the game, Tseng’s calm and emotional, yet stern and loyal leadership of the Turks does make an appearance. Roche has no effect on the game’s plot and is only present in Chapter 4, but his presence, personality, and boss battles are another huge contributing factor to why Chapter 4 was so memorable.
These characters probably benefit from being in the game as little as possible, since all of the characters who spend a quite a bit of time in the game have to endure the awful dialogue that was written for them.
Firstly, the use of place holders in the dialogue is inexcusable. Every other line in this game feels like it is “yeah” “okay” or the favorite of the writer’s room, “*scoff*” Cloud will scoff or say one of the filler lines in response to more then half of the lines said to him, even if a response is not warranted or required, making the conversations feel less organic. Sometimes, one character is allowed to say things for a while, and the need to split up what their saying to give the illusion of a conversation is a sign of an inexperienced script writer. Conversations being made into clunky and forced back-and-forths makes this script feel less like a triple-a work that multiple people spent a year working on, and more like a middle school theatre project.
Even when the dialogue is not being filled with place holders and throw-away lines, the dialogue breaks other basic rules of script writing. There is absolutely no instances of this game showing rather then telling, instead choosing to use dialogue to explain every little thing to the player. Rather then telling the player five times that this button will lower the water level, maybe let them hit the button and see that it lowers the water level. Rather then over explaining how a tournament works in the Wall Market Arena, maybe make a visual, or leave it alone because a tournament is extremely self-explanatory.
The script constantly insults the player’s intelligence and memory, often times pointing out and explaining obvious concepts and objects, while also making sure to remind the player about what just happened to them countless times. The player is never allowed to explore and learn about the world on their own, instead everything in the world is explained in exposition dumps by the players following behind them, making the world feel even more boring and further effecting the amount of time the player wants to spend in the world.
Overall, the poor writing throughout the game further highlights Tetsuya Nomura’s shortcomings as a director. It makes the experience of playing the game feel like a chore, and falls well short of it’s job of building the world and characters in a productive way that will keep players engaged for the sequels.