Friday, June 18, 2021

Final Fantasy 7 Remake's Profanity

When it comes to SquareEnix, there are 2 things that you’ve been able to rely upon for the last 2 decades.  First: if the game was developed by Square, then there will be no human being on the planet who will understand the causes for a product’s success or failure less than the people making every creative decision about its franchise.  Second: if Yoko Taro or Silicon Studios aren’t there to hold SquareEnix’s hand the whole way through, then the English version’s voice acting is going to be at least a couple steps behind the industry’s standard.  Now, admittedly, Final Fantasy 7’s remake seems to have bucked the first of those laws, being the first creation related to Final Fantasy 7 that Square has made since 1997 that is not stupid, pointless crap.  And I’ll have some more to say about that in depth, in future rants.  Today, however, we focus on the fact that the second maxim is still in effect.

FF7R’s voice acting is fine overall, in most cases; wouldn’t say many of its performances stand out at all, but they’re serviceable enough, which is frankly more than you can usually expect from SquareEnix.  I daresay that Aeris’s vocals are, in fact, even good!  And I don’t exactly know why they decided that Biggs was going to be Topper Harley, but as a lifelong Hot Shots! enthusiast, I can’t deny I love Biggs’s voice work.

But these people have got to learn how to cuss, ASAP.

Hearing someone in Final Fantasy 7 Remake curse is embarrassing.  It’s like each and every one of them sees this single word of profanity as their chance to show off what a big kid they are.  It’s like this is their first time with the word.  It’s like they thought they were reading lines for a children’s holiday special and they’re completely thrown off their game by the existence of profanity in the script and are suddenly trying really hard to turn it all around with this 1 word.

No, you know what it’s like?  It’s like a straightedge, shy, suburban middle school kid trying to seem cool and worldly in front of his peers by clumsily, obviously interjecting obscenities into his speech.  It is so awkward that you just desperately want to tell him, “Stop trying to curse; you are just so bad at it.”  I’ve been in that situation before,* and it is remarkably similar to the way that Cloud, Tifa, Barret, and Aeris swear in Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

And no, it’s not a big problem right now (although it’s also not totally innocuous, either; it’s just jarring enough to interrupt immersion a bit and it’s kind of a problem for Barret’s rough-and-tumble attitude).  But let’s not forget that 1 of the cast members of Final Fantasy 7 is Cid Highwind.  

Cid Fucking Highwind.

The deacon of dirty words.  The prophet of profanity.  The Christ of cussing!  He’s like what you’d get if you handed Quentin Tarentino a character’s script to edit and told him “it’s okay to stop holding back for the sake of pretending that you’re artistic.”  If you ran a censorship beep over Cid Highwind’s dialogue, it’d sound like R2-D2 singing scat.

If SquareEnix’s vocal coaches do not learn how the verbalizing of a 4-letter word works, just what is going to happen when the game gets to Rocket Town?  What happens when FF7 Remake’s inability to curse more believably than an Amish adolescent meets the pope of potty mouths?  This has the potential to reach dangerous levels of cringe.  This is a level of embarrassment from the audience that could threaten the world itself.  The act of hearing Cid Highwind’s lines run through the filter of FF7 Remake’s voice acting might very well be enough to collapse the average person into a cringing fetal position, evicting their souls from their earthly bodies in a desperate attempt not to have to process just how stiff and unnatural it sounds.

I beg of you, SquareEnix, for the sake of the lives of hundreds of thousands of players!  Find it within yourselves to relinquish your long-cherished standard of remaining 2 steps behind the rest of your industry in voice acting.  Learn how to say a goddamn swear word, before it’s too late.

* I’ll leave it to your imagination which side of that painfully clumsy middle school profanity interaction I was on.  But given that I’m some dork in his late 30s still obsessed with RPGs and writing rants on Blogger about them, unironically, you probably won’t have too much trouble guessing.


  1. Counterpoint to Biggs: do you have a reason not to have Biggs cosplaying Topper Harley and doing anime girl poses as he tells you about the high roller life that is working odd jobs? Didn't think so.

    My worry is Cid will have trouble standing out. He really may to go full Tarantino with a deranged rant about his gourmet tea to get the point across if they don't figure out a consistent tone. Honestly, how the characters say the words is a trivial concern when stood against the frequency and timing of the words, which is something a VA really can't do much to finesse. Almost any point I had issues with the voice acting, it was because the VAs were sabotaged by sloppy audio mixing in the last two chapters, or because the script demanded they speak strings of words that don't work out too well; the swears I recall being cringy are the ones that arguably couldn't be saved by any performance, simply because they were a poorly shaped block forced into a hole that didn't require them.

    I suppose it depends how much a distinction between VA performance and scripting exists in your usage of the term voice acting.

    IMO, less is more. Give everyone besides maybe Barret or Yuffie(if anyone has a cringe pass for swearing, it's Yuffie), so Cid can be the proper vibe check that he is.

  2. I recall Final Fantasy XII having good voice acting. That is perhaps the one time where Square nailed their dubbing. I was so pissed off that Square added Japanese dialogue to their FFXII remaster, since the game really doesn't need the option, whereas Square has remastered Final Fantasy X countless times, but they never add the Japanese dialogue to it, even though that game could really benefit from the option (I still haven't purchased an FFX remaster for this reason; I also refuse to buy it if the remaster has Final Fantasy X-2 attached to it like a cancerous growth).

    I haven't been convinced to play the FFVII Remake yet. I know about its ending, which seems beyond stupid to me, and I can't get over how much padding the game purportedly has. I don't see the point in playing the remake when I can easily finish the entire original game (which I love) in less time. I'm not pleased by the whole "we can't possibly remake the whole game as one game" nonsense, either, the same way I was angry at Peter Jackson for splitting the Hobbit into three movies (still haven't seen those). Right now, I'm waiting to learn more about the upcoming FFVII remakes, and what they do with Aeris will probably determine whether I play any of them; if Aeris lives, I'll likely avoid them all together. If she still dies, I may reconsider my stance.

    As for swearing in Square Enix games, you should check out the original Nier, if you haven't already. That said, I don't think that Yoko Taro has much to do with the English voice acting in his games or any part of the localization process. Maybe the dubbing simply turns out better in his games since his writing is better?

    1. I'm Captain Basch fon Ronsenburg of Dalmasca!
      I rest my case.

      I have mixed feelings about the remake, which I'll get into at some point in the future. I will say that I actually do think that there is a justifiable case to be made for splitting the game into parts, because there's a lot of content that the remake adds that actually IS very beneficial to the story and characters. Expanding the view we get of Sector 7 and its population, for example, and the new mission you go on with Jessie, Biggs, and Wedge, are valuable additions to the game. With that said, a lot of what's been added is also needless filler in the form of excessively long and boring dungeons - so I do think that there's enough worthwhile content added to justify splitting the game into parts, but I also think that those parts don't need to be anywhere NEAR as small as this first one has been. I think that if they'd paced themselves correctly with good new content while avoiding pointless filler, Part 1 should've been wrapping up with the arrival at Costa del Sol.

      Aeris's death, while iconic, isn't really all that substantial to Final Fantasy 7. I mean, it's not meaningless, or anything, but you wouldn't have to do much work to make the story function exactly as well had she not died - Cloud's got enough shit in his head going on that he doesn't need her to be a tipping point for his mental imbalance, and the pacing on Disc 2 created by not knowing that Aeris had summoned Holy and that Sephiroth was holding it back could be easily maintained by the party simply being too caught up in dealing with Disc 2's immediate problems to address the Holy situation, even with Aeris there to let them know about it. Aeris's death isn't like, I dunno, Elina's in Breath of Fire 4, or Anabelle's in Suikoden 2. While there's an emotional fallout from it, it's not inextricably linked to any other character's development and it's not a defining point of the game's cadence of mood. And while it's not unrelated to how the plot unfolds, it's also so lightly tied to it that its absence would rearrange minimal details only. Aeris can live, as far as I'm concerned.

      In fact, I think it might be worth re-examining whether she should, in fact, live. Because now that I've given a little thought to just how unnecessary it really is for her to get killed, I find myself wondering if the benefits of her continued interaction with the cast would have been a greater narrative benefit to FF7...

      I can't say this with any knowledge, but I feel like SquareEnix's input on Taro's work must be limited largely to signing checks and allocating resources. It's hard for me to really envision the company as a whole having much to do with something genuinely excellent like Nier: Automata, and what I've heard of the original Nier leads me to suspect the same for it.

    2. Vaan impersonating Basch is funny due to how stupid it is, in my view (and it's nowhere near as cringe-inducing as the average line spoken by Tidus or Yuna in Final Fantasy X), although I do see the scene as just further evidence that Vaan, specifically, sucks.

      I think you're too quick to dismiss the importance of Aeris's death. It is probably the most significant emotional moment in Final Fantasy VII, and having her live will both disrespect Hironobu Sakaguchi's original vision for FFVII (he used the meaningless of her death to work through his feelings of his father passing away) and be an act of cowardice on Square Enix's part. I think that players are supposed to imagine what could have been if Aeris had lived, as you do in your reply, and that's part of the melancholy of her loss (because it doesn't matter what you do, she can't come back), and there's a constant void in the character select screen where she should be, reminding players that she's gone. I'd argue that this emotional resonance that her loss carries should not be removed, in part because of what her subtraction adds to the game and because basically no RPG developer has had the courage to take playable characters away from the player in the 24 years since Final Fantasy VII.

      Additionally, while you mention how the plot would work fine with Aeris's death removed, I don't think that's the point, for one (the harsh point of her death is how meaningless it is), but I would argue that Sephiroth gains a lot from killing Aeris. Killing Aeris makes fighting Sephiroth very personal for both Cloud and gang and the player; defeating Sephiroth is as much about getting revenge for Aeris as it is for saving the planet, I'd say.

      To me, keeping Aeris alive would just confirm that Square Enix has no idea about why the original FFVII was successful and what the original game's core messages are. Saving her would definitely please the subset of fans who desperately tried rumored ways to revive Aeris, but I think that appeasing that side of the fanbase would be cowardly on Square Enix's part. So, yeah, that's why I don't want to buy the FFVII remakes if Aeris lives (besides, I'm sure it will be a lot cheaper to get the remakes once they're finished 15 years from now and released as a single collection).

    3. "and because basically no RPG developer has had the courage to take playable characters away from the player in the 24 years since Final Fantasy VII."

      That's, uh...that's not especially true.

      Anyway, fair enough, I guess. But I do want to point out that Cloud's hunt for Sephiroth was completely personal from the start, and if Aeris's death did make it more personal to Cloud, that would be a gross instance of incompetence on the writers' part, because Cloud is already seeking him in large part for revenge for the destruction of everyone Cloud knew and cared about (and the same is true of Tifa). As special as Aeris is to Cloud, the idea that his hatred-quest was incomplete without HER death in particular because someone he's known for a couple weeks has more emotional weight to him than his own mother did is..."idiotic" is about the politest way I can describe it. Aeris may be a sizable log that Sephiroth's tossing onto Cloud and Tifa's tragedy fire, but that fire was already plenty large and toasty enough for revenge smores without her. At most, Aeris's death is necessary to more personally tie Barret, Red XIII, Yuffie, Cid, and Cait Sith (Vincent's got his own personal stakes already) to the journey, but there's no noticeably greater commitment from any of them that it causes.

      Anyway, I'm not gonna schill for the FF7 Remake, even if I am still reeling from the shock at the fact that it was decently handled as a whole, so by all means, refrain from purchasing it if you disagree with it should Aeris live. Myself, as long as they handle her avoiding death reasonably well, it's not likely to bother me.