Square Enix made the hopes and dreams of 90s gamers everywhere come true when they announced at E3 2015 that a remake of Final Fantasy VII was in the works.
But how much do we actually know about this long awaited and highly anticipated project?
What we do know is that Final Fantasy VII is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, and was one of the titles that defined not only the original PlayStation, but the nostalgic memories of so many 90s gamers.
It was the first entry in the series to launch in the European market and the first to use 3D visuals, featuring fully rendered characters on pre-rendered backgrounds.
The game was released on PlayStation back in 1997, at a time when the big grey giver of irreplaceable memories reigned supreme as the undisputed king of home consoles. It later came to PC and then to the PlayStation Network and by 2010 it had moved over 10 million copies, making it the bestselling instalment in the series.
A remake has been rumoured and teased throughout the last hardware generation, and now – 20 years since the original launched – it’s finally happening.
So without further ado, here is the lo-down on all of the details known so far.
Square Enix is ardent to point out that it is not just giving the original PlayStation version of Final Fantasy VII another coat of polish by simply improving the graphics and rereleasing it.
They have said that this is a fully-fledged remake in its own right and in high definition; built from the ground up to harness all of the technological advances that 20 years ago would have been considered witchcraft.
The game will be developed using the Unreal 4 Engine, which is the same engine powering titles like Gears of War 4, Fable Legends and Street Fighter 5.
A wave of remakes have been hitting the market in the past few years, such is the demand to combine the nostalgia of yesteryear with the technology of today and tomorrow.
Recently re-mastered games however, have not simply been exclusively to quench the collective thirst of 90s nostalgia – rather, we now live in a world where so many legendary releases, that still hold up today and are still considered elite games, can be given the justice they deserve with modern graphics systems. But to simply re-do the original game with updated graphics would not do justice to the potential for greatness, as game director Tetsuya Nomura attests:
“Even if we were only making the graphics prettier for a next-generation machine, I don’t think it would exceed the original version. If that were the case, the original international version will be available on PlayStation 4, so you could just play that and be done,” explained Nomura.
It’s true that some of the charm is lost when you remove the game from the world’s graphics that make it so personal, but there is so much to be gained. And in the case of Final Fantasy VII’s debut trailer, it seems to suggest that this is indeed the case.
The debut trailer also hints that the remake will be dark and gritty, but Nomura has insisted that the light-hearted edge of the original has not been offered up for sacrifice.
For instance, that scene where protagonist Cloud Strife crossdresses to save Tifa from Don Corneo’s mansion will be included in the new version.
If a straight-up port of the original Final Fantasy VII is what you’re clambering for, then fear not: the re-mastered version that hit PC in 2013 is out now on PS4.
Onto the game’s development: it seems as though the boys are back in town, as The original producer, director and scenario writer – Yoshinori Kitase, Nomura and Kazushige Nojima respectively – are spearheading the development team.
When queried by Digital Spy, Nomura said that a remake of Final Fantasy VII had been the topic of discussion internally at Square Enix for quite some time, and is now going ahead because all three members of the trio had room in their schedule to work on the project.
“The availability of these three key members finally aligned, and we were able to see a window in which we can start the production with these creators. It made it possible for us to move forward with the project,” he said at E3.
Nomura also said that the announcement was timed to raise the profile of Square Enix at a time when the studio was revealing a host of other new games.
He added: “In terms of why we made the announcement at this timing, it’s because there are more and more titles being announced out of Square Enix on the PlayStation 4 platform. We figured it would be a good boost to our portfolio as well, to encourage that Square Enix is bringing out more titles on the PlayStation 4.”
In terms of rumours regarding the manner in which the game is released, Square Enix have somewhat acknowledged that the game will be released episodically, although they chose not to use that phrase themselves. Instead, they elected to refer to it as a multi-part series.
According to a spokesperson for the company, “each entry will have its own story and feature the same amount of content as a full-sized game”.
Some of you might be wondering why they would bother releasing it in multiple parts? Well apparently, a straightforward remake simply wouldn’t have been possible, at least according to original Final Fantasy VII producer Yoshinori Kitase.
“If we took everything that’s in the original game and remade it at that quality, we couldn’t get it all on a single release,” he said.
Current director Tetsuya Nomura elaborated: “For instance, players will be able to explore many different areas of Midgar in this game that they couldn’t access in the original – if we’re remaking this world, we want to add in areas like this and depict them with real detail.
“Of course, there may be parts that are cut from the original for various reasons, but with all the new depiction that we’re adding to the game and the level of detail we’re incorporating, the overall amount of content is only going to increase.”
When it comes to remakes, one question put to developers from the fans stands above all others, and that question is simple: will it feel like the original? Will it be the same?
Well reportedly, the remake won’t be slavishly tied to the original game, and likewise it won’t be a simple like-for-like, frame-for-frame remake of the game in terms of the mechanics of the game-play. To be honest, considering 20 years have gone by, that’s a bit of a relief.
According to reports, the game will be more action-focused than its source material, focusing on real-time combat as well as a move away from the Action Time Battle setup just as Final Fantasy XV did.
In a recent interview, Tetsuya Nomura shared a few more details, such as the removal of random encounters from the game.
“In the story, in situations where you’re sneaking around, you won’t just be able to march down the middle of the path,” Nomura said.
“The original version had random encounters, and such parts were in the realm of imagination, but since this title is seamless and you see the path that you’re infiltrating, I decided it was necessary for the sake of realism.”
“That realism is also placing a greater importance on positioning and physical space. Some enemies will be inaccessible via melee, and cover can be used for protection.
“For example, when there’s an enemy in a position that can’t be reached by Cloud’s sword, it’s more effective to switch to Barret. It’s becoming strategic in that way, as well,” continued Nomura.”
It’s also been implied that stealth can be used to avoid fights altogether.
Although we’re yet to see what they look like, the combat menu features an option to summon, just like the original.
Can you imagine what the Knights of the Round summon will look like with the Unreal 4 Engine powering it? This is what we’ve been working for people! What a time to be alive!
And finally, onto the release date, the thing that everybody wants to know. Square Enix has confirmed that the remake of Final Fantasy VII will be released on the PlayStation 4 as a timed-exclusive, before heading onto other platforms.
By “other platforms”, they most likely mean Xbox One and PC, but nothing is set in stone at this point in time. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear at the moment whether to expect a 2017 or 2018 release. Before we can see more, Squre Enix wants time to “strengthen” the game’s systems before it shows off more.
But with the recent monumental success of remakes such as Resident Evil 1 – a remake which has now done the impossible and supplanted the original in terms of quality to many gamers – the possibilities, as well as the potential for this project, are looking very promising indeed.