Final Fantasy VII Remake’s highs and lows are giving me a heart attack
For a generation of gamers, Final Fantasy VII was an introduction to Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs). The original PlayStation release spanned three compact discs and, barring a slightly awkward control scheme, it’s one of the most memorable games of all time.
When the PS3 was announced at E3 in 2005, many hearts skipped a beat when Square Enix unveiled a high definition version of Final Fantasy VII to show just how powerful PS3 hardware is.
But the elation was short-lived when Square Enix denied it would ever be released, saying it was merely a tech demo. Instead, we got Final Fantasy XIII and its convoluted sequels. The joy turned into salty tears that made me boil for an entire generation of consoles. Those were dark days.
Ten years after the Final Fantasy VII tech demo debacle, E3 2015 paved the way for the reveal of a true Final Fantasy VII remake, which made me cautiously optimistic. During PlayStation Experience 2014, Square Enix had already announced the re-release of the PC port based on the 1997 version of the game, so a remake seemed more likely now.
(Also see: PlayStation Experience: The return of the mid-range)
But sometimes it feels like game makers like to exude a sense of power and control over their fans, making their announcements and revealing a mix of extremes. If we were to plot the highs and lows of every Final Fantasy VII announcement since 2014, the graph would look like someone having a heart attack.
Perhaps that’s why, at PlayStation Experience 2015, we were treated to gameplay footage from the Final Fantasy VII Remake – footage that implied the game was further along in development than people imagined – we now had to win. It’s especially great considering that spin-off game Final Fantasy XIII Versus took so long to develop (10+ years) that Square just decided to call it a sequel instead, renaming it Final Fantasy XV.
But then, just a day later, news broke that the Final Fantasy VII Remake would be episodic. This led to almost obvious comments about Square Enix being greedy, as a multi-part release could possibly mean charging a lot more. To be sure, there have been heated arguments for and against, but delving beyond the easily outraged internet echo chamber leaves us with far more questions than answers.
(Also see: Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae Impressions: No Fun, No Fantasy)
Regardless of how its content is distributed, be it a single or episodic release, Final Fantasy VII is an RPG. It involves a sense of character progression. Traditionally, this meant that as you faced enemies, you gained experience and your characters became more powerful. How would that work in an episodic setting? Would the articles be postponed? What about two of the game’s biggest superbosses – Emerald and Ruby Weapon – that exist outside of its main plot but are crucial if you’re looking for epic loot?
Gaining experience, leveling up, and acquiring super-powered weapons and rare items is just as important to RPG fans as a great story and it seems there isn’t enough clarity on how it would work.
While the game’s development team made sure that its narrative didn’t exclude key moments, it also plans to delve into the backgrounds of some supporting characters. While it’s great that the lore is being preserved and expanded, it seems like the gameplay might take a step back in the process. We really don’t know how the core gameplay mechanics intrinsic to an RPG would work in an episodic setting.
What if someone starts the game from a second or third episode? Would it be blocked from progressing before playing previous entries or would a quick summary similar to Telltale’s games suffice? These are all essential details that the publisher has completely avoided talking about.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard more about the Final Fantasy VII Remake in March 2016, because that’s the month we’ll know, after almost a decade, the Final Fantasy XV release date. I expect to see it bundled with some sort of demo for the Final Fantasy VII Remake, much like Final Fantasy Type-0 shipped with a slice of Final Fantasy XV.
After all, there’s no fixed release date (keep in mind that in 2017 the original will be 20 years old) and the episodic stint makes up for a longer production schedule, which the team at development also admitted. Square Enix’s track record with Final Fantasy release dates isn’t the best, and an extended wait is expected. The least the company can do is talk about its plans for the beloved classic, because right now that’s just stressing people out.
All of this makes me happy that Hideo Kojima isn’t partnering with Square Enix for his new game. I don’t think I can wait forever for a game under the Kojima Productions label. My patience is consumed by a remake of the 1997 classic.
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