The Potential Of: “Wacky & Whimsical” Vs. “Epic & Dark”

by May 14, 2018 0 comments


Parts of Final Fantasy VII’s story are tragic and serious, others are light-hearted and comedic, and oftentimes both of these intersect. This is where it’s easiest to lose its way, especially when it comes to the portrayal of things to do with Shinra itself. It can’t entirely do away with the ridicuous, but sometimes focusing too much on it can be an issue. This more than anything else is where we’re likely to feel anything being out of balance.


Character Vs. Caricature – Heidegger, Scarlet, & Palmer

These three are the holy trinity of the Shinra’s characters who can come off as complete caricatures if they’re not interpreted properly. Each of them embodies something despicable about the militaristic corporate monolith that is the Shinra Company, and each with their own obnoxious little laughs.

What’s important here is that while each of these characters can be utterly absurd pains in the ass, you don’t ever want to feel like they’re not genuinely terrible human beings, because deep down in their core, each and every one of them has a sort of toxic and selfish quality that needs to be seen as a serious threat. However, you have to be able to laugh at them as well on numerous occasions within their professional setting amongst their subordinates. In many ways the difficulties of portraying them are similar to the tonal difficulties of a character like General Hux in the new Star Wars trilogy – a difficult balance of comedic relief and rabid dog.

Let’s get off to a slightly lighter start. One of the most entertainingly satisfying ends to a boss fight in the original game is when you beat Palmer in Rocket Town. The rotund, lard-obsessed, obnoxious jerk has been shooting at you with a Mako gun until he decides to bail. He narrowly avoids getting Indiana Jones’d by the Tiny Bronco, and when he goes to make his escape from that near-death experience, turns to taunt you a second time, and then as he runs off – is hit by an incoming Shinra truck and sent flying.

That’s hilarious, because the tub of lard just got what he richly deserved after nearly meeting a properly gruesome demise. However, in a more realistic setting it’s very easy to potentially tip too far on the slap-stick side or the realism side of that incident that doesn’t do it justice. It needs to be funny and cathartic, but he also needs to be incapacitated without shattering his whole skeleton since he’s just a normal human.

When it comes to Scarlet, it’s impossible not to mention the infamous slap fight that she has with Tifa on top of the Sister Ray. The game has made it clear that while occasionally not treated seriously, Scarlet is a genuine danger to the party and others. This takes place after they try to literally execute AVALANCHE as scapegoats for the current issues they’re facing. Also, this is one of those moments that’s just begging to be a QTE lead into a cutscene in the Remake.

Tifa is an unquestionable badass, a highly trained hand-to-hand fighter, and could have taken the opportunity to have absolutely WRECKED Scarlet here. The game has to provide framing such that we don’t fault Tifa for not just Dolphin Kicking the awful bitch off the side of the cannon to her demise
, as well as not really using any of her significant combat prowess to give her a genuine beat-down. It has to be about bestowing embarrassment, but with genuine hatred in a way that feels honest, but also enjoyable. It also shouldn’t seem to at all be specifically just because it’s two women fighting. It should be clear that Tifa is showing Scarlet that she can best her with no effort.

When she teams up with the subordinate-beating military blowhard, Heidegger, the two of them both become even more over-the-top. Heidegger’s role over public safety should really be important to help give off the vibe of Midgar being a military-run police state that’s all controlled by a corporation. He’s the linchpin that really holds that together at the ground level. You get the two of them together, and it just amplifies their similar cackling, monomaniacal bullheadedness. This is culminated with the confrontation against their fantastically named, anti-Weapon construction: Proud Clod. This needs to exemplify how capable yet incompetent & ridiculous yet dangerous the two of them are, and why it’s important to balance both of their qualities to this ultimately disturbing finale.

This is another moment that also helps to reinforce the fact that these sorts of pieces of destructive technology need to feel vastly more collaterally dangerous than the party’s Summon spells. This mech is designed to kill the Weapons. These two are turning the full firepower of this enormous war machine against your small party within the densely populated mega city of Midgar. There needs to be no question that the act of using a Summon Spell to fight something on your return to Midgar is fundamentally different than what these two are doing. Once again the Final Fantasy VII art in Mobuis helps to illustrate how dangerous this thing is upon its immediate surroundings.

Now it’s time to cover their most important subordinates.


Caricature Vs. Character – The Turks

There’s a reason that The Turks are all dressed in suits that give off a yakuza-like vibe, have orders for specific types of dirty work, and have a fierce loyalty to their own – The Turks are essentially the officially sanctioned mafia of Shinra. One of the most difficult things to pin down is where the portrayal of them is going to land in their interpretation in the Remake. In the original game, they go from being despicable enemies who ensure that the Plate falls on the Slums, to occasional allies who have their own misgivings and ridiculous personal quirks. In the Compilation, they’ve been all over the map from pure comedic relief in Advent Children to the one source of hope and under-the-radar insubordination in Crisis Core. Not to mention, morally ambiguous characters tend towards showcasing why they’re likable when they’re extremely popular – like the Turks are.

Reno & Rude deal with the pitfalls of this dichotomous portrayal the most frequently, because while they’re fiercely loyal and ruthless, the banter between the two of them and who they are outside of their “work personas” are generally ridiculous. The issue is that this makes it seem like their stone cold killer sides are nothing but a front – but they’re absolutely not.

Just like Heidegger, Scarlet, & Palmer – an over-the-top personality doesn’t mean that it should completely eschew the VERY dangerous individual that they actually are, the exact same rule applies to all of the Turks. When it comes to them specifically, I really don’t think that there’s any better example than the classic scenes from Goodfellas for seeing where this sort of portrayal came from, because it also perfectly shows how you ought to feel about the Turks when you see them in casual settings like Wutai.

If the Remake can nail that depiction, it’ll have what it needs to make the Turks successful. It won’t relegate them to being comedic relief and it also won’t sugarcoat any of the absolutely disturbing work that they’re responsible for. Then, it all comes down to the final confrontation. Assuming that you’ve interacted with them in Wutai, the original game lets you completely define the ultimate scope of the relationship that you have with the Turks when you come back to Midgar. You have the option to fight them to the death, or you have the option to turn away from the conflict.

Earlier, we looked at giving player choice to determine the path that the story takes, but this is one of those moments that is exceptionally difficult in that regard. If the game wants to establish that the characters still exist in order to leverage them later one, then this is one of the conflicts that the game WILL choose to direct rather than present to the player for their decision. Personally, I think that not turning this into a “battle them for some unique items” or “do story stuff” binary player choice in the Remake is the right option – especially with Yuffie’s required presence making the Wutai section required, rather than an optional part of the story.

Having this scene presented with a modern interpretation of the dialogue and character interactions is better served to all players. It can hold the weight and gravitas that it needs to. It also lets the Remake take the opportunity to define the scope of the Turks’ portrayal in a way that’s conclusive, and gives them the right mix of serious and ridiculous without overstepping on either side. This also becomes especially important if Vincent is always a part of the team, because of the perspective that he provides as a former Turk himself. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Vincent.


Disturbing Science Vs. Movie Monsters – Vincent’s Limit Breaks

Now it’s time to tackle the balance of our former-Turk-gone-victim-of-Hojo’s-mad-science, Vincent Valentine. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Vincent’s original Limit Breaks:

The Human Behemoth, Electric Basketball Frankenstein, Jason Leatherface, & Literally Just Satan.

In the Remake, I’d be surprised if we actually have Vincent transform into a hockey-mask-wearing, head-continually-rotating, chainsaw-wielding, horror-movie-mashup in a ragged “Living Dead” shirt. The design of the Guard Hound that I covered in my previous article shows that they’re tending to look to the original game’s concept art for some of the Remake models, and not the heavy angular stylization that Dirge of Cerberus went for. However, that doesn’t give us any idea of exactly how goofy or serious they are planning to get with Vincent’s limits, but it does mean we’re unlikely to see it utilize Dirge of Cerberus’ heavily stylistic interpretation of either the Galian Beast or Chaos:

If I had to make a guess, I’d suspect that we’ll be starting off of the original concept, which we know about from the FFVII Ultimania Vol 2: “For his Limit Breaks, Vincent transforms into 4 different types of monsters he was implanted with elements of as Hojo’s experiment.” Given that Hojo & his numerous immoral, amoral mad science experiments on other humans are a central crux of the dark and serious side of the game, I wouldn’t expect them to be quite as goofy in the Remake as they were in the original. As such, I’d see the Remake taking the opportunity to showcase the transformations as being more physical and slightly less magical. On top of that, the experimentation and plot connected to Lucrecia Crescent also involve utilization of Vincent as one of his test subjects which has some deep emotional moments, so there should be a degree of sincerity in how the game treats the whole thing, since that is central to Vincent’s character and Hojo’s backstory feeling properly horrific, rather than just as a joke.

So, his transformations ought to match the dark and genuine tone of the horror that the game has presented with the rest of its dark science, because their origin is one that is properly serious. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t also be referential to the original horror roots as well. The first thing to address is his clothing. While Dirge of Cerberus decided to give Galian Beast a cloak kilt (which you’ll see in a moment). Aside from the fact that it looks really odd, and I don’t think that that’s at all necessary. Advent Children actually gave an easy out by turning Vincent’s tattered garb into something that was ghostly and ethereal. Using that would be visually interesting to make Vincent appear a bit more dark and haunting all the time as a result of his nature as an experiment, and it would also serve his limit breaks well, since they don’t need to worry about maintaining his clothing.

So long as his forms don’t have drastically different clothing (no hockey masks or basketball shoes), their look shouldn’t need to feel like Vincent also had to transform or magically manifest his clothing. Galian Beast can just look exactly like a humanoid Behemoth, and Chaos can return to looking like a literal demon, rather than a high-fashion vampire, but then again – those two forms are still the easiest to convert because they’re just plain monstrous. The only detail that might be worth visibly retaining on all his forms is the clawed metal gauntlet on his left hand, since that’s something recognizable and iconic to his character, and you could use that as a visual cue to show the element associated with his Limit Break.

Galian Beast could look like a full humanoid Behemoth, and show burning embers with its physical hits, and show crackles of flame up between the gauntlet. The Behemoth is iconically a Final Fantasy enemy such that it’s adaptations is almost unnecessary. Unlike the original or the Dirge of Cerberus version, Vincent could keep his black hair colour, but just being more of a mohawk-like mane, his skin dark blue, and the transformation complete. As his first Limit, it immediately stands out to the player in a way that’s understandable as an entry point into Hojo’s other forms of human experimentation that took place in Nibelheim. More of the standard Behemoth on the right, less of the DoC stylization on the left.

His second Limit, Death Gigas, is one where it’ll have to be subject to some more interpretation. Given that the inspiration is Frankenstein they’ll likely want to maintain that. Luckily Frankenstein’s monster has been depicted many different ways. What it may go for here is something that shows a heavy-built, muscled humanoid form, with Vincent’s slightly too-pale skin for most of it. On other sections of his body, we’d see stitched scars with sections of his flesh that have different hues from different creatures from Hojo’s elemental experimentation, that would normally be hidden by Vincent’s cloaked attire. Showers of sparks and arcs of electricity crackling across his gauntlet, and given that Jenova’s head apparatus seems to have been bolted into place and Vincent’s cloak always covers his body, you could have some bolts in place that they could arc off of as well, so long as it makes sense that they’re not easily visible in his other forms.

For Hellmasker, since the Leatherface & Jason Vorhees references both rely on physical props, it’s a bit more problematic. While Vincent’s own clothing isn’t an issue, manifesting a hockey mask & chainsaw out of nowhere as you become uncontrollably berserk is… a bit odd and doesn’t seem to mesh thematically. This elemental Limit Break is all about status effects, so it makes sense to draw on an inspiration that’s more connected to Final Fantasy VII’s own horror & master of status effects: the Summon, Hades. With the name “Hellmasker” having his face become gaunt and skeletal to resemble the ruler of Hell itself, who is also cloaked in tattered red rags seems absolutely perfect. Vincent’s hair is always long and visible in this form, and his hands and body could look tough and calcified, skin peeled back off of his lips into a hellish grin, as smoking green venom drips from his metal gauntlet. Once again Mobius’ artwork for Final Fantasy VII is an excellent inspiration:

That leads us all to Chaos. If they eschew the design from Dirge of Cerberus, like it seems as though they’re likely to do, there’s no reason not to go for a classic-looking demon, so that it could stick with the horror-inspiration that the original did. Swept back horns, long pointed ears, hoofed feet, and massive clawed wings. His gauntlet could be sinister and black, as his elemental attack is capable of inflicting Instant Death against enemies. Given that elemental affinity, and it bearing a similarity to Hellmasker’s status effects element, I have a feeling they may still stick with Dirge of Cerberus’ bit of lore with Chaos as, “the being who harvests all life on the Planet” theme to maintain the relationship between Omega and Chaos in the Remake. If anything, it seems like the Remake is an opportunity for a fresh, definitive version of much of what the Compilation explored.

If Vincent’s in-game limits are still placing him under AI control like the original game did to show that he’s more berserk in that state, it’d be interesting to have an “Episode Vincent” where you get to run through some of the material from Dirge of Cerberus and actually control the Chaos Limit Break to fight Omega Weapon, since it still has a really awesome design that’s been shown in Mobius. (Whether or not the Limit allows control or places him on AI is a discussion for next time).


Now for the final part, it’s time to tackle some of the things that populate the world and how their designs inform the setting of the world that they exist in, and why sometimes ridiculous is just fine.

Pages: 1 2 3

No comments yet

No comments yet

Be the one to start the conversation!