Final Fantasy VII Remake / Final Fantasy 7 Remake – Review on the game
Final Fantasy VII Remake is an action role-playing game developed and published by the Japanese company Square Enix for the PlayStation 4. This is the first part of a series of several releases, scheduled for March 3, 2020. The game is a remake of Final Fantasy VII (1997, PlayStation). The player controls the mercenary Cloud Stryfe, who, along with the ecoterrorist group AVALANCHE, fights against the corrupt megacorporation of Shinra and its legendary, criminal former soldier Sefirot. The game’s gameplay combines real-time action, similar to Dissidia Final Fantasy, with strategic elements.
The remake was announced after several years of rumors and fan requests. Key members of the staff returned to help with it: original character designer Tetsuya Nomura became both Director and chief character designer, original Director Yoshinori Kitase became producer, and Kazushige Nojima returned to write new material. Due to the scale of the project, the team decided to release the remake as a series of games, so the original content will not be cut. The team will also add new content and adjust the designs of the original characters to achieve a balance between realism and stylization.
Final Fantasy VII Remake retells the story of the original game, where cloud Strife, a former soldier of the Shinra Corporation, joins the ecoterrorist group AVALANCHE as a mercenary. He is going to fight Shinra, who is draining the planet’s vital energy, but the fight turns into something more. Unlike the ports of the original game, which were released on computers and other major platforms, this game is a complete remake made from scratch; it has completely polygonal graphics, and not pre-rendered environments, as in the original.
Battle mechanics and research take place in real time, as in Final Fantasy XV. The game includes a modified system of “Active time battle” (abbreviated as ATB) from the original, which is filled gradually, or can be filled faster during attacks. When the scale is full, the player can stop the action and use special abilities such as magic, items, and special moves. The player can also assign special abilities to hot buttons, which allows them to play in real time completely, without resorting to pauses. Each special ability uses a segment of the ATB scale. The player can also switch between group members at any time. Each member of the group has individual skills, such as cloud’s contact attacks and Barrett’s remote attacks. The player can use magic and summons, and the “Break limit” scale allows you to perform more powerful attacks. Producer Yoshinori Kitase stated that while the game has more real-time elements, there are also strategic elements like choosing weapons and magic for each character.
Final Fantasy VII was developed by Square (later to become Square Enix) for the PlayStation console. Starting development in 1994 as a Nintendo project before moving to the PlayStation, the team included series producer and Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Director and co-writer Yoshinori Kitase, artist Yasuke Naora, character designer Tetsui Nomura, and script writer Kazushige Nojima. Released in 1997, the game received an excellent reception, maintained its cult popularity for a long time, and contributed to the formation of Final Fantasy as a large franchise. The game was later expanded through the multimedia project Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, led by Kitase and Nomura.
Requests and rumors about a remake appeared after a technical demo for the PlayStation 3, which was shown at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo: the opening of Final Fantasy VII on the company’s new engine, Crystal Tools, and later at the close of the game’s 10th anniversary in 2007. In both cases, Square Enix reported that the remake is not in development. Despite the ongoing speculation caused by staff reports in “Compilation” games, there were various reasons for the lack of development of the remake: a desire to release a modern game to increase sales and popularity of the remake; a desire to focus on new games; the need to delete parts of the original game to make the project manageable. Complexity of development for PlayStation 3 hardware; excessive development time required.
The remake could initially be released in the early 2000s, when the company announced the development of a version for the PlayStation 2 along with Final Fantasy VIII and IX, but nothing further was heard about these projects. The main reason for the failure of attempts was that remake VII on the current hardware was a “heavy” commitment, and if the game was packaged in a single release, it would require significant content cuts. Another reason was that the team was busy developing Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, and the remake would have been no less of a major project. When series XIII was finished, the team was free to pursue other projects.
The Remake project finally started when Final Fantasy producer Shinji Hashimoto passed the theme to Kitase, Nojima, and Nomura. All three had reached a point in their lives where they thought that if they waited longer, they would be too old to develop a remake, and passing the project on to a new generation seemed like the wrong decision. Another reason for developing the game was that Square Enix was creating a growing library of PlayStation 4 games, and the team hoped to increase the popularity of consoles. Notable was the absence of the originally announced team of Nobuo Uematsu, who composed the original music for VII. Kitase later revealed that Uematsu was working on music for the game without disclosure. It was The first time that Uematsu and Kitase worked together on the release of Final Fantasy X, and Kitase initially thought that Uematsu would refuse, since He had long since left Square Enix and became successful as an independent composer.
The game reached the full development stage by the end of 2015. Production of Final Fantasy VII Remake was given to Business Division 1, Square Enix’s internal production team. Nomura was involved in the project from the beginning, but only found out that he was a Director from an internal presentation video of the company – he considered Kitase the Director. Nomura worked as a Director for Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III. Despite having a story that greatly simplified production in some areas, Nojima was brought back to create new story material. Another project leader was Naoki hamaguchi, who previously served as a programmer for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and project leader for Mobius Final Fantasy.
The team had the option to simply create a remastered version of VII with improved graphics, as requested by fans. But it was noticed that the graphics and many mechanics are too outdated by modern standards. With this in mind, it was decided to make a full remake, with the game systems being rebuilt to suit modern tastes, using modern technology to create a world. From here came the creation of an action-based combat system, in addition to the most representative modern game in the Final Fantasy series – the fighting game Dissidia Final Fantasy (2009). The combat system was influenced by the action-based style, but there was no transition to a system based solely on actions. Nomura and Mitsunori Takahashi were engaged in the combat system (the latter had experience working on the Kingdom Hearts series and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy). One of the game designers was Kehei Suzuki, who previously worked as a planner for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Coded. The team tried to keep all the original gameplay mechanics that players liked.
When developing the script, the team had to work carefully so that the game did not come out too nostalgic. She had to make decisions about transferring from the original, about what needed to be adjusted due to changes in social norms after the release of the original. The team planned to include references to events designated in the “Compilation”games. Nomura later clarified that, at the beginning of 2017, Remake had no direct connection to the”Compilation”. The script for the first part was completed in December 2015. The game was fully voiced by new English actors, which, according to Kitase, was part of the game’s rebirth as a remake.
The subtitle “Remake” was introduced to distinguish the game from the 1997 original. Initially, it was supposed to be related to the plot, but the team did not want to create the impression of a sequel or spin-off. Instead of using the character models and graphic style from Advent Children, developed using technologies from 10 years ago, the team decided to create new designs and models for the characters: Nomura wanted to balance the realism of Advent Children with a deformed stylization. Nomura was responsible for redesigning the main character, while designer Roberto Ferrari was responsible for the secondary character designs. The character modeling was overseen by Visual Works, the computer graphics development division of Square Enix.
Instead of creating its own engine, Square Enix licensed the Unreal Engine 4 engine from Epic Games.Square Enix and Epic Games Japan worked together to optimize the engine for Remake. The team received technical assistance from the developers of Kingdom Hearts III, as this game was made on the same engine. Lighting in the game was supplemented with the “Enlighten” light engine, licensed from the software company Geomerics. To improve the action-Packed gameplay and video quality, Square Enix contacted game developer CyberConnect2: the companies needed to maintain close contact due to very different development cycles. In 2017, the focus of development shifted from working with external partners to primarily internal development. One of the most notable changes was that the game was planned as several releases: according to Kitase, it was impossible to fit in one release without cutting out large chunks of content. By dividing the game into parts, the team was able to give the player more substantial access to territories, such as inside the city of Midgara, which was mostly inaccessible in the city. It was planned that each game would be comparable in scale to Final Fantasy XIII. The first part was dedicated to the city of Midgar, which has a special status in the Final Fantasy community.
Rumors about the beginning of development of the remake appeared in 2014, apparently from an internal source. The official announcement took place at E3 2015 at the PlayStation conference; the announcement was met with a standing ovation. Visual Works created a trailer with the announcement. After the announcement, Square Enix stock prices rose to the highest level since November 2008, and the release of the presentation trailer on YouTube collected more than 10 million views in just 2 weeks. The game was then shown at the 2015 PlayStation Experience, with cutscenes and gameplay from the introduction.
At the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy, held in Tokyo on January 31, 2017 (the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII), the first video with computer graphics was revealed. On February 18, Nomura presented and discussed 2 new screenshots, showed an updated HUD. He wanted to show the video, but Square Enix refused the request. Due to the small number of videos after 2015, switching to internal development, and Nomura’s participation in other projects, there were questions about the project’s status. Speaking at E3 2018, Nomura stated that the game is in active development, and his full attention will be given to the project after the completion of Kingdom Hearts III.
During PlayStation’s 2019 state of Play stream, a teaser trailer was shown. The date of the first release was announced next month in the second trailer, during an orchestral concert in Los Angeles dedicated to the music of Final Fantasy VII. At E3 2019, further details about the releases were revealed, including various Remake editions. Kitase made it clear that Square Enix is still figuring out the number of games in Remake.
At E3 2019, a gameplay demo was available with part of the introductory mission, fragments of research, the combat system, and the first boss fight. The demo version was received positively, praising the graphics, gameplay, and combat system. At E3 2019, the game won 3 awards at the Game Critics Awards: “Best on show”, “Best console game”, and “Best role-playing game”, as well as the most viewed game on the Unreal engine at E3 2019.