18 years ago, Squaresoft (now Square Enix) set out to create gaming history with the release of Final Fantasy VII. Originally released for the PlayStation almost two decades ago, the game has sold over 10.5 million copies worldwide since its release. With the help of a massive market push, the game was a massive success in both east and west, becoming critically acclaimed for its graphics, story and music. Final Fantasy VII has spawned several movies, a plethora of spinoff games, and most importantly, an undying fanbase that has been dreaming for a remake for years. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise has been struggling in recent years, but nonetheless, it has produced many releases that have made it into the hall of fame of gaming, with FF VII standing as a forefront example of the unforgettable experiences that the golden era of JRPGs offered.
I would argue that Final Fantasy VII is nothing less than an example of a pure cult game at its finest. Apart from being one of the most well-known and loved JRPGs, FF VII is a title that has shaped gaming as we know it. To that extent, it is a bit of a challenge to try to sum up what Final Fantasy VII was, has become over the years, and, more importantly in lieu of a certain announcement, what the future of Final Fantasy VII might hold. After endless remastered versions and ports to various systems over the years, with the last transition from PC to PS4 only announced at last year’s E3, Final Fantasy VII is finally getting the remake that so many have been waiting for.
Announced during Sony’s press conference, the remake was introduced via a trailer; a clever little creation playing on the fears and hopes of the fans in regards to a remake:
Wait, that playground slide looks awfully familiar? What is that we hear? Is there a bombing mission about to go down? Is this real? It is! The promise has indeed been made.
I may not have been one of the hopefuls myself, loving the game dearly for what it was and is, clunky graphics and questionable missions aside, but now that a remake is coming, I am more than ready to jump aboard the hype train with the rest of the fans.
So why is the remake happening now? It will come as no surprise that there is, of course, a huge financial aspect to the PS4-exclusive remake. In an interview with Engadget.com, Tetsuya Nomura, the director of the remake and character designer of the original Final Fantasy VII, worded it delicately; “we wanted to give gamers something that would make them happy — open them up, perhaps, to buying into the PS4.” Ever since its initial (and late) release, sales of the PlayStation 4 have been suffering in Japan, partly because of the unwavering popularity of handheld consoles, but also because of an overall decline in console sales in the country. Remaking Final Fantasy VII might be a way of trying to increase interest in the console amongst its Japanese audience. In addition, Vexoid’s very own Bernie Feng wrote on The Rise and Fall of Japanese Games some time ago, highlighting the decline of interest for Japanese titles in the west as seen in recent years. Bringing a giant such as Final Fantasy VII back to the table is probably an effort to save the genre and prove that Square Enix is still a force to be reckoned with.
Apart from the pretty much guaranteed financial gain, Nomura also mentioned in an interview with Eurogamer how timing was a factor and that as the original creators are getting older, “the thought occurred to us that we might have to pass this on to a younger generation, without the original developers taking part”. It appears the timing was finally right last year, as Nomura has finally managed to team up with several of the original creators, such as directors of the original release Yoshinori Kitase, who will be acting as producer for the remake, and Kazushige Nojima, who will yet again be involved with script/scenario. Reports are in that the game was already underway during last year’s E3, where a port for PS4 left many fans disappointed. The project was being kept a secret until its announcement last week, and even though Nomura and company did not give any substantial details away, it’s safe to say that we can expect more news to surface soon.
It’s too early to make any real predictions about the game, but it appears the style of the game will be reminiscent to that of the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie.
The team definitely has quite the task ahead of them, because as glorious as FF VII still is in the eyes of its fans, translating it into a modern game will certainly be problematic in many areas. It will be interesting to see how sequences such as Don Corneo’s mansion and the events at the boxing guild will be translated, especially so if the style of the game will be in line with the serious and realistic (well, sort of) art style of Advent Children. The trailer might have presented a somewhat gloomy and dark setting, but speaking to Engadget.com, Nomura reflected over the more humorous aspects of the game: “The comedy or the lighthearted parts– I like those. I don’t want to change it that much. But we can’t have these upgraded, beautiful 3D models of Cloud and Barrett, still lining up in a row, jumping forward to attack an enemy, then jumping back to wait for their next turn. That would be bizarre. Of course there will likely be changes there. But if we took away parts like the lighter moments of the game, then it would no longer be FFVII.” This bodes well as it is many of these light hearted elements that make the game so heartfelt, especially when juxtaposed to the sad fates of some of the characters. Spending these precious and carefree moments with them before things took a turn for the worse gave the grim events all the more of an impact. And rest assured, Nomura has also promised that we will indeed see Cloud in a dress in the remake.
The question is, will a modern day audience appreciate these kind of features? The original Final Fantasy VII might still hold up to those of us who grew up with it and have since cultivated a love for its many quirks, charming aspects and downright silly events. However, to a younger generation of gamers, many of the sequences of the original would surely feel outdated and could potentially be interpreted as offensive. I personally believe that while it is possible to translate the small but impactful quirks that made the original what it is, the producers might face a real struggle with the remake. As much as the comedic aspects of the original add to its charm, we are catering to a different type of society and gamer in 2016 (supposed release year). Hopefully the dark nature of the game will mesh seamlessly with its colourful subplots and settings, such as those taking place at The Golden Saucer. Hopefully the reported changes that will be made to the remake will manage to master and modernise the somewhat dated tones and themes found in the original. Despite this, now is not the time to be sceptical; the fact that we are finally getting a remake is indeed great news, and I personally can’t wait to get to dance with chocobos again.