Final Fantasy VII Remake
|Final Fantasy VII Remake|
North American cover art, featuring the game's protagonist, Cloud Strife
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
|Release||3 March 2020|
Final Fantasy VII Remake[b] is an upcoming action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4. It is the first part of a series of multiple releases and is scheduled for 3 March 2020. The game is a remake of the 1997 PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII, following mercenary Cloud Strife as he, and eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE, battle against the corrupt Shinra megacorporation and the rogue, legendary former Shinra soldier, Sephiroth. The gameplay is planned to combine real-time action similar to Dissidia Final Fantasy with other strategic elements.
The remake was announced following years of rumors and fan requests. Key staff members returned to help with Remake: original character designer Tetsuya Nomura returned as both director and main character designer, original director Yoshinori Kitase acted as producer, and Kazushige Nojima returned to write new material. Due to the scale of the project, the team decided to release Remake as a series of games, so that no original content would be cut. They also decided to add new content and adjust the original character designs to balance between realism and stylization.
Final Fantasy VII Remake retells the story of the original game, which follows Cloud Strife, a former Shinra soldier who joins the AVALANCHE eco-terrorist group as a mercenary to fight against the Shinra corporation, who have been draining the planet's life energy, only to become involved in something much bigger. Unlike ports of the original game released for computers and other high-definition platforms, the game is a full remake built from the ground-up, featuring full polygonal graphics as opposed to the pre-rendered environments of the original.
Exploration and battle mechanics both take place in real-time like Final Fantasy XV. The game features an altered "Active Time Battle" (ATB) system from the original, which gradually fills up slowly, or can fill faster with attacks. Once it is filled, the player can halt the action and use special abilities such as magic, items, and special moves. The player can also assign these special abilities to shortcut buttons, allowing them to play entirely in real-time without pausing. Each special ability uses up a segment of the ATB bar. The player can also switch between party members at any time. Each party member has their own individual skills, such as Cloud's close-quarters melee attacks and Barret's long-range distance attacks. Players will also be able to use magic and summons, and a Limit Break gauge allows characters to perform more powerful attacks once charged. Producer Yoshinori Kitase stated that while the game has more real-time elements, there would still be strategic elements, such as selecting weapons and magic for each character to wield.
Final Fantasy VII was developed by Square (later Square Enix) for the PlayStation home console. Beginning its development in 1994 as a Nintendo project before transferring onto the PlayStation, its main staff included producer and series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, director and co-writer Yoshinori Kitase, artist Yusuke Naora, character designer Tetsuya Nomura, and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima. Released in 1997, the game received both contemporary and lasting critical acclaim and established the Final Fantasy series as a major franchise. VII was later expanded upon through the multimedia project Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, headed by Kitase and Nomura.
Demands for and rumors of a remake grew in the wake of both a PlayStation 3 tech demo that was shown at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo, showcasing the opening of VII with the company's new Crystal Tools engine and the game's impending tenth anniversary in 2007. On both occasions, it was stated by Square Enix staff that no remake was in development. Despite continued speculation caused by staff messages within the Compilation titles, various reasons were given for why a remake was not being developed: these reasons included wanting a contemporary title to best the sales and popularity of VII; the wish to focus on new titles; the necessity of deleting parts of the original game to make the project manageable; the difficulty of developing on hardware such as the PlayStation 3; and the required development time being overly long.
A remake was initially attempted in the early 2000s when the company announced a remake for PlayStation 2 alongside Final Fantasy VIII and IX, but nothing further was heard of these projects. The main reason attempts had failed because remaking VII on then-current hardware would be a "massive" undertaking, and if kept within a single installment, would require heavy cutting of content. Another reason cited was that the staff were preoccupied with developing Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, and Remake would have been an equally large or larger project hard to undertake at the same time. Once the XIII series ended, the team was free to pursue other projects.
The Remake project finally began when Final Fantasy producer Shinji Hashimoto broached the subject to Kitase, Nojima, and Nomura. All three were reaching a stage of life that they defined as "that age": all felt that if they waited much longer, they might not be alive to or would be too old to develop a remake of VII, and passing the project on to a new generation did not feel right. Another reason for developing the title was that Square Enix was creating a growing library of PlayStation 4 titles, and the team hoped to increase the console's popularity. A notable absence from the initially announced team was Nobuo Uematsu, who composed the original music for VII. Kitase later revealed that Uematsu was working on the game's music in an undisclosed role. It was the first time Uematsu and Kitase had worked together since the release of Final Fantasy X, and Kitase initially thought Uematsu would refuse as he had long since left Square Enix and found success as an independent composer.
The game reached the full development stage by late 2015. Production of Final Fantasy VII Remake is being handled by Business Division 1, an internal production team at Square Enix. While Nomura was involved with the project from the start, he only discovered he was the director after seeing himself credited in an internal company presentation video, as he had expected Kitase to fill the role. He revealed that Kitase himself thought Nomura expected to become director. Nomura worked as director for both Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III. Despite there already being a story in place, which greatly simplified production on some fronts, Nojima was brought back in to create new story material. Another project leader was Naoki Hamaguchi, who had previously served as a programmer for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and project lead for Mobius Final Fantasy.
While the team had the option of merely creating a remastered version of VII with better graphics as many fans had requested, they noted that its graphics and many of its mechanics had become dated by modern standards. With this in mind, they decided to do a full remake, rebuilding the game systems to suit contemporary tastes and using current gaming technology to recreate the world of VII. This decision triggered the creation of Remake's action-based battle system, in addition to the most representative modern title for the Final Fantasy series being the 2009 fighting game Dissidia Final Fantasy. With this in mind, the battle system will draw from that action-based style while not going over to an entirely action-based system. Nomura and Mitsunori Takahashi are handling the battle system, the latter of whom had worked on both the Kingdom Hearts series and Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. One of the game designers was Kyohei Suzuki, a veteran of the company's Business Division 4 who had previously worked as a planner for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Coded. The team aimed to retain all the original gameplay mechanics that were well-liked by players.
While developing the scenario, the team needed to work carefully, so the game did not come over as too nostalgic. They also needed to make decisions about what could be carried over from the original and what needed adjustment due to changes in social norms since the original's release. The team was also planning to include references to events detailed in the Compilation titles, though what form these references will take and their scope is still under consideration. Nomura later clarified that, as of early 2017, Remake did not share a direct continuity with the Compilation. The scenario for the first installment was completed in December 2015. The game will be fully voiced, with the plan being for the voice actors from the CGI movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children to reprise their roles. Ultimately, the English characters were recast for Remake. According to Kitase, choosing a new generation of voices for the characters was part of the game's rebirth as Remake.
The subtitle "Remake" was included to differentiate the game from its 1997 original. It was initially going to be story-related, but the team did not want to give the impression that it was a sequel or spin-off. Rather than using the character models and graphical style of Advent Children, which by that point had been developed using ten-year-old technology, the team decided to create new designs and models for characters: Nomura wished to balance the realism of Advent Children with deformed stylization. Nomura is in charge of the revamped main character designs, while designer Roberto Ferrari is in charge of designs for secondary characters. Character modeling is being supervised by Visual Works, Square Enix's CGI development branch.
Rather than developing their own engine, Square Enix licensed Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 to develop the game, with Square Enix and Epic Games Japan working together to optimize the engine for Remake. The team also received technical assistance from the developers of Kingdom Hearts III, as the latter game was developed using the same engine. The game's lighting is augmented with "Enlighten," a lighting engine licensed from software company Geomerics. To help with the action gameplay and video quality, Square Enix originally partnered with video game developer CyberConnect2: while their expertise was appreciated, the two companies needed to keep in close contact due to very different development styles. In 2017, the game's development focus shifted from being developed with external partners to being a primarily internal project. One of the most significant changes was the fact that the game was planned as a multi-game release: according to Kitase, this was because trying to fit the game onto a single release would entail cutting large parts of the game, which went against the team's vision. By splitting the game into multiple parts, the team can give players more substantial access to areas in the game, such as within the city of Midgar, which was mostly inaccessible in the original. Each game is planned to be on a similar scale to Final Fantasy XIII. The first installment focused on the city of Midgar due to its iconic status among the Final Fantasy community.
Rumors about Square Enix beginning development on a remake appeared in 2014, apparently coming from an industry insider source. Remake was officially announced at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) during the PlayStation conference: the announcement received a standing ovation from the audience. Visual Works created the announcement trailer. Square Enix's stock prices rose in the wake of the announcement to their highest rating since November 2008, and the YouTube release of the reveal trailer garnered over 10 million views within the following two weeks. It was next showcased at the 2015 PlayStation Experience, which showcased cutscenes and gameplay from the opening sequence of VII.
During the Final Fantasy 30th anniversary opening ceremony event hosted by Square Enix in Tokyo on 31 January, 2017—the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII—the game's first CGI key visual was unveiled, along with announcements for a collaboration event with Mobius Final Fantasy. On 18 February, Nomura revealed and discussed two new screenshots of the game, showing off the game's updated HUD. While he wanted to show video footage, Square Enix denied his request. Due to its lack of footage since 2015, switch to internal development, and other projects Nomura was involved in, there were concerns about the status of the project. Speaking following E3 2018, Nomura stated that the game was in active development, with his full attention being shifted to it when Kingdom Hearts III was completed.
After years without substantial footage, a teaser trailer was shown during PlayStation's 2019 State of Play live stream. Kitase announced that the team had wanted to "try something new" on the State of Play broadcast by showing the trailer. A release date for the game's first release was revealed the following month in a second teaser trailer during an orchestral concert dedicated to the music of Final Fantasy VII in Los Angeles. Further details about release plans were announced at the company's E3 2019 press conference, including different editions of Remake. Kitase later clarified at the event that Square Enix had yet to determine the number of games in the Remake series, adding that they were in the process of planning out the second installment.
A gameplay demo was playable at E3 2019, demonstrating parts of the opening mission, including some of the exploration, combat system, and first boss battle. The playable demo has received a positive reception in early previews, with praise towards the graphics, gameplay and combat system. At E3 2019, it won three awards at the Game Critics Awards for Best of Show, Best Console Game, and Best Role-Playing Game, as well as the best looking Unreal engine game at E3 2019. Extended footage of the demo, as well as an additional trailer, was featured at the 2019 Tokyo Game Show.
In December 2019, it was confirmed that the game would be a timed Playstation 4 exclusive until 2021.
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