When Final Fantasy 7 came out, some fans and even critics claimed it was an overrated Final Fantasy and an overrated game. Superlatives such as “the most overrated game of all time” became spoken and the game became historically and sociologically linked with this phrase. Whenever the half that disliked the game thought “overrated,” they used it as a synonym for Final Fantasy 7. I argue the same for Resident Evil 4. Both have had debatably bad impacts on their franchises, both have dumbed down the franchise, and both should be given the term “overrated.”
In the words of Mr. Plinkett of RedLetterMedia’s George Lucas reviews, “People don’t like things that are different.” Final Fantasy 7 put a sour feeling into the hearts of old school Final Fantasy fans. Where’s the fantasy in a futuristic setting? What about Spain is so interesting in Resident Evil 4? Babysitting? Not being scared? Yippee!
Even before the re-release of Final Fantasy I on the Game Boy Advance, Final Fantasy had become dumbed down, too accessible to the simplest of kids, too corporate, too appealing to those who enjoy pretty lights. Final Fantasy 7 and Resident Evil 4 have a difficulty that some may believe is too easy. Final Fantasy was built broken with Knight of the Round summons, unevenly leveled monsters, and too-simple pacing. Resident Evil was the same, with weapon upgrading and destroying the enemies with the SAME statistics, including hit points.
After a while in Disc Two or Three, one becomes weary of playing Final Fantasy 7 till fighting the WEAPONs, who become broken as well. The same “lack of difficulty” dilemma happens after Resident Evil 4’s first play through, when one over-upgrades ones weapons. Once you get past the learning curve of how to play the game and watch how people play it on Youtube, you grow tired of playing it. The game was neither fun nor enlightening, so what was the point?
While the game’s controls are an upgrade over the previous games in the franchise, Resident Evil’s “scary cam” narrative is gone, and instead we got the “shoot things” narrative. Resident Evil went from being an innovative franchise that directors fawned over to copying Counter-Strike. Penny Arcade’s Extra Credits, Destructoid’s Jim Sterling and I, New Gamer Nation’s Arthouse Converter, have argued the possibility that the horror action third-person shooter known as Resident Evil 4 murdered the horror genre. Some versions of Resident Evil 4 have a gun that auto kills every enemy on the screen! Why don’t we have Leon Kennedy stomp on ants while we’re playing this game? Just like the New Hollywood blockbuster rising over the auteur theory emphasized in the 1950s-70s, something was just wrong with this transition. The product went from a designer-controlled situation to a player-controlled situation – the game became fun to the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.
However, maybe it’s because those who are game-ists (people who do not like games that are different than others) don’t like Final Fantasy 7; FF7 could not be a Final Fantasy, because it was not fantasy. This is just how some don’t like Resident Evil 4: because it is not horror. I would still consider Final Fantasy 7 a 1997-8 Game of the Year candidate if not for Final Fantasy Tactics. Final Fantasy 7 had questions dealing with the limitations of man and humanity. Cloud (and possibly others of AVALANCHE) were suffering from an existential crisis. Famed internet game critic Stanburdman compared Final Fantasy to Blade Runner and one can definitely find that true, especially in the beginning city of Midgar.
I do not believe Resident Evil 4 had any of the interesting aspects that Final Fantasy 7 had. If you had no idea what Leon Kennedy looked and sounded like, he could just be anybody. So he knew Ada. So what? Unlike Final Fantasy 7, we do not see them in flashbacks and/or go on a date. Did their relationship become better or worse in this game? Ashley, despite being the President’s daughter, has no interesting attributes to her. No concern over her father’s legacy. No concern for wanting to become a normal child. Luis Sera is killed off before we can learn anything interesting about his motivation for obtaining research for the virus. Although both Final Fantasy 7 and Resident Evil 4 villains have chaotically evil God complexes, the RE4 villains have no discernible motivations. Why was there a merchant in the game? Why not just have a vending machine while we were at it?
This is like what RedLetterMedia’s Jay Bauman stated about Terminator 2 as a film compared to that of Lars Von Trier’s: both are good films, but different types of films. One has to ponder what would have happened if Square and Capcom had handled their brand management differently. What if there was a Final Fantasy Future spinoff like Final Fantasy Tactics and Mystic Quest? What about another demonic franchise for Capcom to make, like Dead Rising or other Shinji Mikami franchises? Resident Evil 4 was originally supposed to fight specters, after all. While I do not think it is one of the best video games of all time, I definitely had fun getting high scores on mercenaries and just playing around with the gameplay, like people did with the no materia walkthroughs for Final Fantasy 7.
What do you think is the Final Fantasy 7 of the Resident Evil franchise? Comment below or in the New Gamer Nation forums.