Nine Things You Should Know About The Next Final Fantasy VII Spinoff

Nine Things You Should Know About The Next Final Fantasy VII Spinoff

In June, Square Enix quietly announced a new mobile game called Final Fantasy VII G-Bike, based on the mini-game from their iconic RPG. The general reaction was a resounding "uh, what?" But the trailer was cool, as is the concept, though we haven't heard much more about what we'll get to do in G-Bike, or how it will be different from the 17-year-old mini-game that shares its name.

At E3 in Los Angeles last month, I sat down with G-Bike producer Ichiro Hazama — who also produced the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games — to chat about what the next Final Fantasy VII spinoff will be like.

Hazama, who spoke through a translator, had some interesting things to say about G-Bike. And since I finally had time to transcribe our interview while on a flight last weekend, I thought I'd share some interesting excerpts from our chat (edited for brevity and clarity):

This is more than just a port.

Hazama: It isn't like a straight resurrection of that actual mini-game. It would be very difficult to have that as an independent game on a mobile platform. But it does have the roots in the G-Bike. We took that as a launch pad, and it expands on that.

Expect equipment, monsters, and even materia.

Hazama: I'm sure you're familiar, but the original version of the G-Bike mini-game was, you're running on the highway in Midgar, and you're protecting allies while defeating your enemies in the way to get to the goal. And the thrill of the chase in that mini-game is something that we definitely wanted to keep. But everything else, including the graphics, has all been revamped for this game.

As mentioned earlier, this is not just a mini-game: it's going to be a solid game on its own. So we're still in the middle of kind of ironing out the details, but for example, we're thinking about including elements based off FFVII, like monsters that would appear in different areas and materia to bolster your weapons. We're also considering different types of weapons that the character can equip, as well as the different types of bikes that he can ride. So there are various new elements that have been added to expand on the original mini-game.

Don't expect FF: All The Bravest-style microtransactions.

Schreier: So correct me if I'm wrong: it's a free-to-play game, right? And there will be paid microtransactions? The question of in-app purchases has been a little bit controversial, at least here in the US: the question of how much is too much, what's the right amount that should be offered... How are you handling that?

Hazama: In terms of setting IAP, nothing has been set in stone yet. But I can say, I don't want to make it a game that you have to pay to play. Of course, with mobile games, so many casual players are installing it, downloading the app. And this is a free-to-play game so even more people would be interested in taking and trying it out.

So my concept is that it has to be fun for those who play it for free. And it shouldn't be something that you have to charge every step of the way. We'll need to observe how the game cycle works, and how people are downloading it — if certain items should be popular — and determine based on what people's habits are after they have already started playing the game.

So at this point I'm afraid we're not able to tell you how we're going to approach it. But please be assured that it's not gonna be like "oh, you bought an IAP and five minutes later you have to replenish again." We are not gonna make it like that.

Making a spinoff to one of the most popular games in history ain't that easy.

Schreier: Final Fantasy VII obviously is a beloved world. Tons of people are very devoted, very obsessed with that world. I'm wondering: is there any pressure making a game with the name FFVII on it? That seems like a tough task.

Hazama: Very much so. (laughter)

Just the fact that with Theatrhythm, having to handle a Final Fantasy-related title is already a very big undertaking. Even with Theatrhythm, I was treading very lightly, being very careful about trying to please and satisfy fans. But this is FFVII — such an iconic title. And of course I'm sitting here talking calmly, very casually. But when people are not watching, I'm cowering, and crying in fear. (laughter)

I believe that there's a certain special quality in people who handle a Final Fantasy title, whether it be talent, or personality, or charisma. We have [Final Fantasy producers] Kitase-san and Nomura-san, and I believe they do have a special something that qualifies them to work on a Final Fantasy title. If I'm asked what my special quality would be, it's that scaredness to handle a Final Fantasy title. (laughter)

But it's a good kind of nervousness and anxiousness, because you're handling it with great care. So that's something that's very important to have if you're handling a Final Fantasy title.

They chose the bike mini-game because it's iconic... and because it looks cool.

Schreier: FFVII has a lot of different mini-games; there's a lot of stuff in the Golden Saucer and elsewhere — why did you decide on the bike as the one to enhance and turn into this mobile title?

Hazama: So in terms of why we chose the G-Bike segment, there's two major points to this. The first one is, when I was talking with the development partner, CyberConnect2, because this is gonna be the first game that's based off on an element from FFVII, we didn't want it to be just something out of the Gold Saucer amusement area. We wanted it to have elements that left a very strong impression from the main part of the game as well.

And then the second part is I'm sure you're familiar with FFVII: Advent Children. Nomura and Natsue-san from VisualWorks worked on this intense bike action scene. Because I was also involved in the production of that movie, I saw the scene. It was very cool, and radical, so I wanted to incorporate those elements, not just in the original mini-game but have it expand on the G-Bike game utilising that coolness of the visuals from Advent Children.

They discussed a game based on Triple Triad, but...

Schreier: Would you ever consider making a mobile game based on another Final Fantasy mini-game? Ever considered making something based on Triple Triad from FFVIII?

Hazama: I think it's a wonderful idea, and there may have been talks about it within the development team. Is it in production? I'm afraid not. But of course we have to consider — it's a mini-game but if we were to take it to a mobile platform, it has to stand on its own as an independent game. And if we were to build an independent game — a game that can stand on its own — we have to start from scratch, from the assets to the game mechanics, to trying to get it onto that platform

In terms of the game mechanics, it's very high-polished and might be able to stand on its own, but it would take a lot of time and consideration and work to build it, because we'd have to start from scratch.

Don't expect much of a story in G-Bike.

Hazama: To be completely honest with you, we don't have real plans to incorporate a full-on story. It kind of relates to what I was saying earlier — it's a big undertaking to handle something that relates to FFVII, and so hypothetically if we were to consider including a story element, it would have to be very strong, and like a very robust and meaty story, with voiceovers and cut-scenes. And our focus would be taken away to develop a story element of it.

So with this game, when I talked to the development partner CyberConnect2, first and foremost my request was: "we want to have the thrill of the chase." The chase has to be a lot of fun. So if we were to make that second request: "oh it also has to include a story and it has to be related to FFVII," CyberConnect2 would probably come back and say "which do you want to focus on?" So our goal this time is to focus on the enjoyment of the chase and the thrill of the chase.

You play as Cloud. Only Cloud.

Schreier: Does the game feature characters from FFVII? Do you play as characters from FFVII?

Hazama: If this were a game that had a storyline, then it may have featured different characters, but because we're focusing on the thrill of the chase, you'll be playing as Cloud and that's our primary main character.

Can't hurt to try it, right?

Hazama: Because I'm a producer, it's natural to say oh this is a fun game. But that being said, I won't bring a product out to market if I'm not confident in the product and believe that it is a fun game. So with, for example, G-Bike, it's on a mobile platform, it's free to play, it's really easy to get started on. So I urge everybody to please give it at least one try. And of course there's no worries if you find it boring or don't like it, but I urge everybody to try the game at least once.


Comments

    Just give us a Triple Triad game already, damn it

      Try the Android Triple Triad 2 Beta, it's pretty great and has had cards created from FF7, FF9, FF10 and Dissidia but it does have a few bugs here and there.

        omg thank you! Time to play triple triad!

    Sounds like it might be a bit of fun, doesn't sound incredibly deep however. Do bike run, upgrade weapon and/or bike, do bike run against slightly harder opponents, repeat.
    I wonder if it will have 'boss battles' per se.

    .. although I still cannot fathom that with their reported financial troubles of late, why Squenix haven't gotten around to releasing a high def remake of FF7 for current hardware. Oh well, will keep waiting, and re-playing the old FF's on PC emulators...

      Ultimately sounds similar to many mobile games already in the wild. Obviously, this has FFVII tied to it which makes it infinitely better :P

        Hmmm I can certainly seem part of the micro's being things like 'Unlock Barrett as playable character for $4.99!'
        Oh well, as long as you can have a good time with the free version, not much to complain about I guess.

        I wonder if it will have any sort of summons's for when you are getting overwhelmed (like the 'destroy all enemy' bombs from the old overhead plane shooters, 1942 for example)

        Last edited 24/07/14 10:48 am

      Probably because of said financial difficulties :P SE has investors it needs to convince that what they are doing is the best financial decision for the company, and more often than not those investors know next to nothing about video games. So they would have to tell a bunch of stuffy old suits they are pouring millions of their dollars into a full blown remake of a game that already exists because "nostalgia".

      Unfortunately this is a big problem in the industry and with gamers getting what they want, the creatives and the people who know what gamers want aren't the ones who get to say what gets made. It's the greedy guys with all the money who dictate that, and as I said above they don't really understand what gamers want.

        Yep that's pretty good description I think. It's all the rage to have mobile games at the moment clearly, I think a lot of accountants wake up with a woody after dreaming about the term 'cheap to make and microtransactions!'

          Yeah, I like to think of the above as your good old Macca's Cheeseburger.
          FFVII is like a full seven course (it was 7 cd's originally? My memory is shot on that one) gastronomic delight.

            Imma guess it's around Lunchtime for you mate? ;)
            Good analogy but, definitely more of a FF snack (kupo!) than a full on FF sumptuous banquet/

            FF7 was only 3 cd's originally, but even that at the time was massive, considering most games were only a single CD back then. I would guess however that all those cut scenes may have taken up 1.5 of the 3 CD's. FF8 I think was 4 CD's, and FFIX was 3.

            Last edited 24/07/14 11:27 am

        I dunno. Sales figures for the FFVII and FFVIII PC Steam releases appear to be pretty solid. It's not like Mega Man Legends where it's more of a cult following. The fact they still return to FFVII and enjoy success as a result is more than enough to convince someone who doesn't know thing one about gaming that a FFVII remake would bring in major money. They've also done well with their other remakes and right now HD remakes are pretty big money.

        Personally I think people who actually do know the industry see it as potentially devaluing the FFVII brand. FFVII brings in a lot of easy money through nostalgia a remake couldn't possibly live up to, so maybe they just don't want to rock that boat.
        I mean I can't believe they're oblivious to the demand, they've done plenty of remakes in the past and they're clearly aware of how much money it could make, so what else could it be? It's either that, some sort of internal politics we're unaware of or artistic integrity.

        Last edited 24/07/14 3:56 pm

          HD remasters are a lot different and a lot cheaper than a complete remake, which is what you're talking about with ffvii, whole different kettle of fish.

          Also it doesn't matter if it lives up to the original or not, that never stopped CoD from trawling the bottom of the barrel.

            CoD also ran the brand name into the ground costing them ridiculous amounts of money in the long term.

            I'm not saying I agree with it just that there's got to be more too it. HD remaster or remake, they know it's money in the bank. Engine-wise a total rebuild isn't going to be that much different to a HD remake. There are a few things like the cycle sequence but aside from that FFVII is a pretty simple game. HD versions of everything would have to be made from scratch with similar methods to just making proper versions of the environments. It's a bigger project but it's not outrageous.

            I mean I could explain why a FFVII remake is a good idea to a monkey using a single chart without using anything I know as a fan/gamer. It's not rocket science. Beloved game from childhood/teenage years that's left a lasting impression that lands it in most top 10 games ever made lists even decades later + new coat of paint = lots and lots of bananas. They can't do a single interview without the topic of a remake coming up so they must know the demand is there. Even the idea that they're saving it as a last resort can't be right.

            Perhaps they view it as a step backwards for modern Final Fantasy which has struggled to get away from the simplistic turn based grind heavy gameplay of the PlayStation years. Maybe they think it'll be too much competition for their own games. I don't know, but it's reached the point where there has to be something deeper going on.
            It's like when they wouldn't release the original cuts of Star Wars on DVD. It's gone beyond the point where you can argue they don't understand what a good idea it is, so they must have some other motivator. The reasons for making a FFVII remake are so overwhelming and win-win that I can't believe anybody, gamer or not, is sitting there saying 'hmm, but will it make money?' (especially given how they milk the FFVII brand).

              Well a Remastered version and a remake isn't just a engine change, Remastered versions exist because the assets can be reused, the high res textures exist etc. A remake like ffvii is recreating every asset from scratch because it's all low resolution and SE have already said much of the fmv stuff is unusable or lost.

              The argument that they can just throw it together is bunk. It would be a major and costly undertaking, not just a quick cash grab. Saying that it easy money because you think it is isn't going to convince any investor.

      Because Square has no idea why FF7 was good.

        There is more than a grain of truth in this simple statement, methinks

          They managed to get Zack right in Crisis Core, but SE seems to think FF7 is full of anime tropes despite the original game being its own thing.

        Bingo :) nailed it.

      Basically their logic is that if they went and did a HD remake of FF7 that would be admitting that they have given up trying to top it and.

        While that may be partially true, I don't think it explains why they went and remastered FFX and X-2. Surely that reason would have to hold true for that case as well.
        Personally I wouldn't see it as any different to all the other recentish remasters, like Ico / Shadow of the Colossus for example, personally I see it more as just making a great game that little bit better by updating the graphics, adding voice overs and maybe a new cutscene or two. I wouldn't see it as giving up anything myself. They have also in the past re-released I think Final Fantasy III for the Playstation I think it was.
        In some ways, I feel like going back and working on that one for example might prompt them to rethink some of their less than stellar recent titles (FF13 for example) and maybe get a bit more back to their roots so to speak, though of course FF7 is not exactly their roots, but it was definitely one of their high points from the past.

        Sales figures I can find for the FFX-X2 remaster seems to be that around a million copies were sold world wide, I guess if I am Squenix I would look at that and think to myself, well if X and X-2 can do those numbers, then a VII remaster should do 3 million or more and just make it.

        Last edited 24/07/14 7:05 pm

          Well FF7 is already available on the PSN and Steam, they are already making money from it and all of the examples you listed were PS2 to PS3. The logic between the two is not the same as it takes less work to take a PS2 game and make it HD than it would to take a PS1 game and make it to the same standard.

          But this is all besides the point as the conversation was a remake, not a HD port.

    I think you should have at least tried to covey in your article title that this isn't a real FF7 spinoff, just the crappy mobile port of the totally forgettable motorbike minigame.

      I wouldn't say it's forgettable, but the novelty did wear off.

    Don't they realise that if they just said, "Oh, by the way, we are making a FF7 Remake", people would burn cities to the ground in pure excitement and not knowing how to give them their money fast enough.

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