With Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Square Enix drastically increased the emphasis on character development and storytelling, compared to the PlayStation original Final Fantasy 7, and Aspyr Media’s remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic could take lessons from this example. Both games were RPG classics from prior-gen consoles that have certainly begun to show their age, but the FF7 Remake did more than improve the graphics and presentation. By giving every cast member, including supporting characters, additional development, and telling new side stories in the setting of Midgar, FF7R allowed the storytelling and worldbuilding to exceed those found in the original. The KOTOR remake has an opportunity to do the same for one of the most beloved stories in one of modern fiction’s best-known settings, the universe of Star Wars.
One major improvement to the storytelling of FF7R, which KOTOR can benefit from, is adopting a more cinematic approach. FF7 made its debut on the original PlayStation, and KOTOR on the original Xbox and PC. Strides in technology since those eras have allowed games to match the cinematic standard of presentation, with large-scale environments adding to immersion, dynamic camera angles heightening the drama, and realistic characters enabling a deeper emotional connection.
Other classics like Final Fantasy 6 could benefit from a remake that leverages modern hardware’s potential, and so can KOTOR, if handled properly. Midgar went from a few small prerendered areas acting as a visual shorthand for a sprawling, cyberpunk megalopolis, to an appropriately massive representation of the city-state, in FF7R. KOTOR’s locations including starships like the Ender Spire, planets like Tarsis, and the Star Forge itself, are no longer limited to crude polygonal approximations, and can now replicate the visual fidelity of the films.
FF7R Developed Its Characters And Let The Story’s Stakes Feel Real
Added time for characterization and dialogue is another major lesson the KOTOR remake can take from FF7R. The original FF7 moved along at a brisk pace, with the entire Midgar chapter clocking it at about 8 hours of gameplay. In FF7R, the entire 30-hour game takes place in Midgar, but the length did not feel padded for most players. Though side quests introduced new factions like the Neighborhood Watch, who engage in monster patrols, and a few encounters with small-time gangsters that did not feel particularly epic, most of the added time came from developing the supporting cast and the antagonists beyond their depictions in the original game.
Avalanche members Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge received much more development in FF7 Remake compared to their original PlayStation counterparts, where they were seemingly present simply to fill out the ranks of the resistance group. Don Cornero was a comical throwaway encounter in the original FF7, but the remake provided more gravitas to the man’s despicable actions with the story of Leslie Kyle, an underling of Cornero’s who seeks vengeance for the loss of his fiancé, Merle, a victim of the Don’s depravity. The KOTOR remake can follow suit, with a tone closer to The Mandalorian or Rogue One, giving the victims of the criminal underworld and the Sith a presence in the story. If Aspyr is ambitious in its storytelling, it can provide deeper insights into party members like Mission and Zaalbar, as well as development for supporting characters with smaller roles, like Trask Ulgo.
There are a few ways in which the KOTOR remake will need to diverge from the approach of FF7R. Final Fantasy 7 was a classic JRPG, a different style from Western RPGs like KOTOR. Japanese RPGs tend to provide more linear stories that build up to epic, world-shaking stakes, whereas Western RPGs like the original KOTOR weigh more focus on player choice and exploration. Cloud is a very specifically defined character in FF7, with a complex backstory, aspirations, and insecurities that shape him as a person.
However, the protagonist of KOTOR is shaped by player choice to a larger degree. Though the hero of KOTOR has a set backstory, one involving hazy memories and dark twists, like Cloud’s, the player ultimately decided whether their lead pursued the path of the Light Side or the Dark Side. To balance player choice and character development, Aspyr can instead take notes from BioWare’s later science fiction epic Mass Effect, with its fully voiced Shepard character that portrays emotion and drama but allows for player choice to dictate their actions.
The KOTOR Remake Could Make A Classic Story Stronger Than Ever
Another major divergence between the remakes of FF7 and KOTOR is the nature of the story itself. FF7 Remake is not simply a retelling of the game, but a sort of sequel to the original where the story itself is remade in-fiction. The first chapter highlights the struggle between agents of fate, The Whispers, who try to ensure that FF7’s original events are replicated; and Cloud and his allies, as well as Sephiroth, taking action to break the chains of fate and define a new future for themselves, and their world.
This works very well for the Final Fantasy 7 franchise, as it gives players familiar characters and conflicts, but also new and exciting twists to look forward to. For KOTOR, and the Star Wars franchise, a narrative involving fate being re-written would likely be too far outside the norm for the setting. There is still room for Aspyr to make tweaks to the story to give players some surprises, but the focus should stay on improving and elaborating on the original story, rather than telling a new story altogether.
Much like Final Fantasy 7, the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic featured memorable characters and a storyline with unexpected twists that led to a memorable conclusion. Seeing those elements portrayed in a modernized format is a welcome prospect to many RPG fans. Fairly little information has been released, so fans can only speculate on how the story will be presented, but Aspyr has noted it is “rebuilding from the ground up,” with KOTOR Remake.
A visual upgrade is an obvious feature, but questions remain as to whether it will retain the pause-and-play gameplay using the third edition Dungeons & Dragons system-based version of the Star Wars tabletop RPG, or adopt action RPG mechanics, as Final Fantasy 7 Remake did. KOTOR had a strong story and a memorable cast in its original BioWare incarnation, and even if Aspyr only focused on visual upgrades, it would remain a solid RPG, for that reason. Many fans hope for more ambition, however, and that the Knights Of The Old Republic remake will improve on a classic story to make it better than ever.
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