It's been a strange week for the Final Fantasy VII remake, a prospect that once seemed like a nostalgic 20-something's wet dream but is now, after a whirlwind few months, unexpectedly real. In June, when Square announced the remake with a CGI trailer, it seemed impossibly far away. Then, after a surprise appearance at PlayStation Experience last weekend -- complete with a look at actual gameplay! -- the FFVII remake suddenly became palpable. It looked like they'd actually made progress. For the first time, we wondered: Could this game really be coming out before 2020?
Just a day later, another twist emerged, as Square Enix announced Sunday night in a press release that the Final Fantasy VII remake would not be a single game but instead would be an episodic series. In a series of piecemeal interviews and blog posts over the following days, Square clarified that each game in this series would be a "full-sized game" -- which presumably means they will each be $80 -- and that, combined, they will tell an expanded version of Final Fantasy VII's original story.
Yesterday on the Square Enix blog, producer Yoshinori Kitase went a bit more in-depth:
One thing that we wanted to be clear about during this weekend to accompany the new trailer was the scale of this project. We wanted to tell you this now and not in the future so that you'd share our vision for what we want to deliver. The biggest reason why we haven't done a remake until now is because it's a massive undertaking to reconstruct FINAL FANTASY VII from the ground up with the current technology. Producing a proper HD remake of FINAL FANTASY VII that maintains the same feeling of density of the original would result in a volume of content that couldn't possibly fit into one instalment.
We've seen everyone's comments and reactions to the news that FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE will be a multi-part series and many have speculated correctly as to the reason why we have made this decision. If we were to try to fit everything from the original into one remake instalment, we would have to cut various parts and create a condensed version of FINAL FANTASY VII. We knew none of you would have wanted that.
It's tempting to freak out about this news -- "OMG I can't believe they're gonna rip my favourite Final Fantasy into multiple parts it's gonna be RUINED" -- but I'm here to preach some caution. No matter how they approach this series, one thing's become clear: This is going to feel like a brand new game. That's a good thing. Nobody needs a 1:1 HD replica of the original Final Fantasy VII. The old one holds up just fine -- especially with cheat codes.
So let's be open to a little experimentation, shall we? Real-time combat? Sure! Multiple episodes that play around with new forms of gameplay? Why not! Expanding the story to offer more explanation for, say, Jenova's backstory, or Hojo's motivations? Do it!
It's very possible, given Square Enix's recent history, that they will find some way to screw up the Final Fantasy VII remake, stripping out the humour and turning the RPG classic into an over-priced, thin series of episodes with streamlined levels and no world map. I sure hope that doesn't happen. But even if it does, I'd rather see them experimenting with new forms than trying to directly recreate the same game they released 20 years ago. After all, you can always go back and play that one.