Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake[b] is an upcoming action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4. It is a remake of the 1997 PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII, following mercenary Cloud Strife as he and eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE battle against the corrupt Shinra megacorporation and the rogue former Shinra soldier Sephiroth. Gameplay is planned to combine real-time action similar to Dissidia Final Fantasy with other strategic elements.

The remake was announced following years of rumors and fan requests. Four key staff members returned to help with Remake: original character designer Tetsuya Nomura returned as both director and main character designer, original director Yoshinori Kitase acted as producer, Kazushige Nojima returned to write the script, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. Due to the scale of the project, the team decided to release Remake as multiple games so no original content would be cut. They also decided to add new content and adjust the original character designs to balance between realism and stylization.

Premise

Pre-release gameplay screenshot of Final Fantasy VII Remake shown at PlayStation Experience 2015

Final Fantasy VII Remake, which retells the story of the original game, follows Cloud Strife, a former Shinra soldier who joins the AVALANCHE eco-terrorist group as a mercenary to fight against the Shinra corporation, who have been draining the planet's life energy, only to become involved in something much bigger. Unlike ports of the original game released for computers and other high-definition platforms, the game is a full remake built from the ground-up, featuring full polygonal graphics as opposed to the pre-rendered environments of the original.[4][5]

Footage shown at PlayStation Experience 2015 demonstrated both exploration and battle mechanics, which both take place in real-time like Final Fantasy XV. Unlike the "Active Time Battle" system of the original, the remake appears to use a real-time battle system similar to the Kingdom Hearts series, which allows players to freely control Cloud or one of his allies as they use their respective weapons to attack enemies. Players will also be able to use magic and summons, and a Limit Break gauge allows characters to perform more powerful attacks once charged. Producer Yoshinori Kitase stated that while the game has more real-time elements, there would still be strategic elements, such as selecting weapons and magic for each character to wield.[4][5]

Production

History

Yoshinori Kitase, original director of Final Fantasy VII and producer of Remake, in 2009

Final Fantasy VII was developed by Square (later Square Enix) for the PlayStation home console.[6] Beginning its development in 1994 as a Nintendo project before transferring onto the PlayStation, its main staff included producer and series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, director and co-writer Yoshinori Kitase, artist Yusuke Naora, character designer Tetsuya Nomura, and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima.[7] Released in 1997, the game received both contemporary and lasting critical acclaim and established the Final Fantasy series as a major franchise.[6] VII was later expanded upon through the multimedia project Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, headed by Kitase and Nomura.[8]

Demands for and rumors of a remake grew in the wake of both a PlayStation 3 tech demo that was shown at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo, showcasing the opening of VII with the company's new Crystal Tools engine, and the game's impending tenth anniversary in 2007. On both occasions, it was stated by Square Enix staff that no remake was in development.[9][10][11] Despite continued speculation caused by staff messages within the Compilation titles, various reasons were given for why a remake was not being developed: these reasons included wanting a contemporary title to best the sales and popularity of VII; the wish to focus on new titles; the necessity of deleting parts of the original game to make the project manageable; the difficulty of developing on hardware such as the PlayStation 3; and the required development time being overly long.[12][13][14][15][16]

A remake was initially attempted in the early 2000s, when the company announced a remake for PlayStation 2 alongside Final Fantasy VIII and IX, but nothing further was heard of these projects.[17][18] The main reason attempts had failed was because remaking VII on current hardware would be a "massive" undertaking, and if kept within a single installment would require heavy cutting of content.[19] Another reason cited was that the staff were preoccupied with developing Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, and Remake would have been an equally large or larger project hard to undertake at the same time. Once the XIII series ended, the team were free to pursue other projects.[20]

The Remake project finally began when Final Fantasy producer Shinji Hashimoto broached the subject to Kitase, Nojima and Nomura. All three were reaching a stage of life that they defined as "that age": all felt that if they waited much longer, they might not be alive to or would be too old to develop a remake of VII, and passing the project on to a new generation did not feel right.[21][22][23] Another reason for developing the title was that Square Enix was creating a growing library of PlayStation 4 titles, and the team hoped to increase the console's popularity.[23] A notable absence from the originally announced team was Nobuo Uematsu, who composed the original music for VII.[24] Kitase later revealed that Uematsu was working on the game's music in an undisclosed role. It was the first time Uematsu and Kitase had worked together since the release of Final Fantasy X, and Kitase initially thought Uematsu would refuse as he had long since left Square Enix and found success as an independent composer.[25]

Development

The game reached the full development stage by late 2015.[26] Production of Final Fantasy VII Remake is being handled by Business Division 1, an internal production team at Square Enix.[1][27] While Nomura was involved with the project from the start, he only discovered he was the director after seeing himself credited in an internal company presentation video, as he had expected Kitase to fill the role. He revealed that Kitase himself thought Nomura expected to become director.[21] Nomura worked as director for both Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III.[28] Despite there already being a story in place, which greatly simplified production on some fronts, Nojima was brought back in to create new story material.[20][21] Another project leader was Naoki Hamaguchi, who had previously served as programmer for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and project lead for Mobius Final Fantasy.[1]

While the team had the option of simply creating a remastered version of VII with better graphics as many fans had requested, they noted that its graphics and many of its mechanics had become dated by modern standards. With this in mind, they decided to do a full remake, rebuilding the game systems to suit modern tastes and using current gaming technology to recreate the world of VII.[21][23] This decision triggered the creation of Remake's action-based battle system, in addition to the most representative modern title for the Final Fantasy series being the 2009 fighting game Dissidia Final Fantasy. With this in mind, the battle system will draw from that action-based style while not going over to an entirely action-based system.[20] The battle system is being handled by Nomura and Mitsunori Takahashi, the latter of whom had worked on both the Kingdom Hearts series and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy.[29] One of the game designers was Kyohei Suzuki, a veteran of the company's Business Division 4 who had previously worked as a planner for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Coded.[30] The team's aim was to retain all the original gameplay mechanics that were well liked by players.[29]

While developing the scenario, the team needed to work carefully so the game did not come over as too nostalgic. They also needed to take decisions about what could be carried over from the original and what needed adjustment due to changes in social norms since the original's release, in particular a scene where Cloud cross-dressed as a woman as part of an infiltration mission.[19][20][26] The team were also planning to include references to events detailed in the Compilation titles, though what form these references will take and their scope is still under consideration.[20] Nomura later clarified that, as of early 2017, Remake did not share a direct continuity with the Compilation.[31] The scenario for the first installment was completed in December 2015.[32] The game will be fully voiced, and the plan is for the voice actors from the CGI movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children to reprise their roles, although not all of them have been asked yet and characters who were limited to cameo appearances such as Red XIII may be recast.[26][32] The subtitle "Remake" was included to differentiate the game from its 1997 original. It was originally going to be story-related, but the team did not want to give the impression that it was a sequel or spin-off.[19] Rather than using the character models and graphical style of Advent Children, which by that point had been developed using ten-year-old technology, the team decided to create new designs and models for characters: Nomura wished to balance the realism of Advent Children with deformed stylization. Nomura is in charge of the revamped main character designs, while designer Roberto Ferrari is in charge of designs for secondary characters. Character modelling is being supervised by Visual Works, Square Enix's CGI development branch.[19][26]

Rather than developing their own engine, Square Enix licensed Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 to develop the game, with Square Enix and Epic Games Japan working together to optimize the engine for Remake. The team also received technical assistance from the developers of Kingdom Hearts III, as the latter game is being developed using the same engine.[2][32] The game's lighting is augmented with "Enlighten", a lighting engine licensed from software company Geomerics.[3] To help with the action gameplay and video quality, Square Enix originally partnered with video game developer CyberConnect2: while their expertise was appreciated, the two companies needed to keep in close contact due to very different development styles.[19] In 2017, the game's development focus shifted from being developed with external partners to being a primarily internal project.[1] One of the biggest changes was the fact that the game was planned as a multi-game release: according to Kitase, this was because trying to fit the game onto a single release would entail cutting large parts of the game, which went against the team's vision. By splitting the game into multiple parts, the team were able to give players access to areas in the game, such as within the city of Midgar, inaccessible in the original.[19] Each game is planned to be on a similar scale to Final Fantasy XIII.[20]

Pre-release

Rumors about Square Enix beginning development on a remake appeared in 2014, apparently coming from an industry insider source.[33] Remake was officially announced at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) during the PlayStation conference: the announcement received a standing ovation from the audience.[34][35] The announcement trailer was created by Visual Works.[21] Square Enix's stock prices rose in the wake of the announcement to their highest rating since November 2008, and the YouTube release of the reveal trailer garnered over 10 million views within the following two weeks.[36][37] It was next showcased at the 2015 PlayStation Experience, which showcased cutscenes and gameplay from the opening sequence of VII.[38]

During the Final Fantasy 30th anniversary opening ceremony event hosted by Square Enix in Tokyo on 31 January 2017—the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII—the game's first CGI key visual was unveiled, along with announcements for a collaboration event with Mobius Final Fantasy.[39] On 18 February, Nomura revealed and discussed two new screenshots of the game, showing off the game's updated HUD. While he wanted to show video footage, Square Enix denied his request.[40] Due to its lack of footage since 2015, switch to internal development and other projects Nomura was involved in, there were concerns about the status of the project. Speaking following E3 2018, Nomura stated that the game was in active development, with his full attention being shifted to it when Kingdom Hearts III was completed.[28][41] After years without substantial footage, a teaser trailer was shown during PlayStation's 2019 State of Play livestream. Kitase announced that the team had wanted to "try something new" on the State of Play broadcast by showing the trailer.[42]

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