One Aussie Fan's Quest To Remake Final Fantasy VII... In 2D

Forget the HD remake: what Final Fantasy VII really needs is a 2D remake. Just ask Lucas Brown, an Australian web developer who is building his very own two-dimensional slice of Square's classic role-playing game, one sprite at a time.

Although he doesn't plan to re-create every scene in FFVII, Brown says he's remade the menu and battle systems in "excruciating detail", and he's hoping to have at least the first mission finished and playable in the near future.

Brown, 23, says he's been working on this project on and off since 2008. He's developing the "demake" in RPG Maker 2003, using a customised scripting language to painstakingly re-create every Final Fantasy VII mechanic, from enemy AI to limit breaks. (A website called qhimm helped him determine the fine details of most of these mechanics.)

"Over the years I've seen many people attempt a 2D remake of FFVII and fail, so I thought I'd try do it right," Brown told me in an email. "My core goal is to make the FFVII that would've existed if it was developed in 2D instead of 3D."

Brown has released a couple of videos to show off his progress. One video showcases combat:

(The music, by the way, is dumped straight from the PC version of Final Fantasy VII — "I'm probably the only person whose glad the PC version of FF7 used midis," Brown said.)

Another features a clip from FFVII's iconic opening scene:

Sadly, we might not see too much more than this — Brown says progress has slowed recently. "I now work full time and have a girlfriend I care about, so I'm very particular with what gets to occupy the remainder of my time," he said. "I want to start developing my own games that I have the rights/ability to release on Steam or Android/iOS, so my remake is on the back burner, although I do return for it from time to time when the motivation strikes. Its actually very likely when your article is released that I'd get the surge of enthusiasm I need to finish it off!"

To recreate each scene in RPG Maker, Brown says he draws each background by hand, one pixel at a time. Here, for example, is an in-progress outline of the inside of one Midgar reactor:

It's a time-consuming process, and as appealing as it may be to imagine playing all of Final Fantasy VII in glorious 2D, Brown admits he'll probably never remake the whole game.

"I'd say recreating the entire game was my dream more than my goal," he said. "The game has over 700 scenes, and the process for replicating each one takes me at least a week — you just need simple maths to work out how long it would take me, and this is ignoring the additional time needed for character and enemy sprites.

"I still want to finish the bombing mission to make a complete package of 'what it might've been like,' but my progress on this is glacial — the work left on this is Barret's battle animations, a few enemy sprites and about seven more scenes."

Brown says he's not too worried about Square Enix's lawyers coming after him, like they went after the fanmade Chrono Resurrection, a three-dimensional remake of Chrono Trigger that was shut down a few years ago.

"When you look at Square's actions they're pretty inconsistent," Brown said. "Most projects that infringe on Square's IP go completely unnoticed, and it's only a few high profile ones that get slapped down. I've just been trying not to post any definitive timeline as that seems to be what actually draws Square into action."

"My personal goals have already been satisfied," Brown said. "I gained experience designing/implementing complex game mechanics, and I answered my question of if you can really make a 2D game feel like its 3D counterpart (hint: it's yes!)."


Comments

    I just have one question...

    Why?

      The answer to that was in the interview I gave, but seems it didn't make it to the article:

      - Why spend time on something like this? What's your goal?

      I've been involved in the RPG Maker community for a long time. When someone discovers how easy it is to make snes-like games, the natural conclusion is to pay homage. Particularly we'd see a lot of attempts by newcomers to make Pokemon games, sequals/prequals/spinoffs to FF4-6, Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger, and 2D remakes of FF7. Ironically these are the hardest projects to do properly, and they're always started by the least experienced devs, so they fail often. When I first found RPG Maker I was part of the latter, and privately attempted a 2D FF7 using various scraped together assets from other games. It was awful, and felt nothing like the real FF7 so I stopped.

      When I started my degree I decided to experiment on a high level with the programming concepts I was learning in something I was familiar with; RPG Maker 2003. Over the years I've seen many people attempt a 2D remake of FF7 and fail, so I thought I'd try do it right.

      My core goal is to make the FF7 that would've existed if it was developed in 2D instead of 3D. We were so close to living in this reality, so I find it an intriguing idea that I'm almost writing this love letter of a game from an alternate dimension. To that end I'm really fortunate that FF7 was designed, albiet unintentionally, in such a way that it's very easy to relate back to 2D.

      FOR THE GLORY OF DIABOLOS, OF COURSE!

    This is my project, I can answer anymore questions if you guys have them. :)

      Having played with RPGMaker myself a bit, just wondering why you chose 2003 instead of XP or VX? Are there things you can do in 2003 that are easier or whatever? Or is it more just a familiarity thing, ie you started with 2003 so stuck with that one?
      Also are you able to do anything with summons ;)

      edit
      BTW if that cloud gif down the bottom of the article is your work, that looks awesome :D

      Last edited 26/07/13 11:00 am

        Good question! I looked at using XP/VX, but the thing I found is that its REALLY hard to make a game in XP/VX that doesn't look like all the other XP/VX games. I wanted more of a snes look, which is conventionally a lot easier in rm2k3. Scripting-wise, XP/VX is definitely the better platform for all the custom stuff I wanted to do, but I started the project in the first year of my software engineering degree, so I just went with what I knew and was familiar. Now I'm a much more experienced programmer though I'd definitely go with VX now, or build it from scratch in Unity or something.

        My battle system supports all the spells in the entire game, including summons. I won't be doing the animations for them though until I'd get up to that part of the game (Deathblow from the Chocobo Ranch, iirc), so they probably won't ever be ingame unless I decide to bring them forward, which admittedly I may do just to have one.

        The Cloud gif is mine - I don't know if you watched the battle video, but all his animations are there and by me. :D

          Cool, thanks for the info. No I didn't watch the animation as at work.
          I found the same with XP and VX actually, even with zounds of different sprites and backgrounds and effects, things still looked very same same, much like Suikoden 2 actually lol, though admittedly it's been a handful of years since I touched any RPGMaker stuff.
          I originally had an idea for a RPG type game with a sort of split/dual world, where the main character in one world was the main villain in the other, and vice versa, so you played through the same sort of areas, but as completely different characters. The other catch was your 2ndary character who I had as a monk type guy who was the only one aware of the split world and trying to fix it, so he was sort of the same guy in both and had knowledge of both and you used him to switch between both worlds.
          My other big idea for it was using something like moon phases to control the skills and resemblance of the third playable party member, who was to morph into 4 different forms depending on the moon, like a werewolf i guess, but with 4 different forms.
          But yeah, was too ambitious and I had to give up after a year or so of doing up character sprites and areas and quests and stuff, too much real life got in the way, as i had started mine during uni as well.
          Anyway great job on what you have done, and may it help lead you to success in your future.

          Last edited 26/07/13 2:04 pm

      Nice work so far. You mention that completing the game entirely is more a 'dream'. Do you see yourself having the resources and time to complete it at some stage? Or too ambitious for a single person?
      Super awesome! Keep doing this!

      Last edited 26/07/13 11:09 am

        I definitely think its too ambitious for one person, it would probably take decades at my pace! I've tried reaching out to get another artist or 2 onboard, but I have a hard time finding people who are both interested and talented.

        Thanks for the question!

      As someone who's devoted a considerable amount of time to the rpg maker community the past decade or so, especially RM2003, i'm very impressed with the amount of effort, production value and nice touches that you've put into this project.

      I'm glad that the community has creative, determined and inspired people such as yourself! I wish you the best with this, and your mobile projects in the future!

      Now for the question, do you need help? lol!

        Thanks for the support!

        The only thing I really need are artists :)

          just your luck! i happen to be a graphic artist. though it's been a while since i've done any pixel/bit art

    I forgot to mention to Jason that you can get a playable demo here:

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5226139/FF72DR_R1.zip

    What about the copyright side of things? How did you manage to get the rights to use their music? Likenesses of characters? dialog? and so on...

      it seems that this is only a recreational hobby, not for commercial use nor propagation as his original work.

      i guess you can compare it to people mixing other artists' songs, or posting up videos of covers on youtube.

    This would actually make me want to play FF7, Good luck man.

    @Lucas according to quimm your project is dead... seems like there hasn't been much work done in the last 2 years. I understand why girlfriends and full time jobs getting in the way and all. Rather than let the project die I hope you'll consider getting more people involved. Your project has the a lot of potential to let it all come to a halt. I understand that you're really only looking for artists right now but I hope that you'll consider getting more people than that. However I also understand the desire to keep creative control of a project so either way.

    If you looking for anymore programmers LMK I also am very familiar with the joy/pains of 8 bit art work as I used to play with RPG Maker 95 and 2k back in the day... it seems so long ago now... These days I am a Web Developer so I'm sure we'll have other things in common. Hit me up if your interested.

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