There have been a choice group of quotes coming from Square Enix this week that have spurned much talk about Final Fantasy again. First is the statement CEO Yoichi Wada made to an investor asking about the possibility of a remake to the game that debuted Square to the world stage, Final Fantasy VII. “We’ll make a Final Fantasy VII remake once we’ve made a Final Fantasy game that exceeds the quality of FFVII,” reported AndriaSang. Fun quote.
Now, this follows up with Final Fantasy XIII director Motomu Toriyama discussing the trimming of internal development at Square Enix with Gamasutra. “We have a lot of great creators in Square Enix, but for larger-scale development we will be doing more distributed and outsourced development to reach our targets on time.”
Two quotes that discuss the future of where Square Enix’s mentality is in moving forward with the Final Fantasy franchise. This really got me thinking about whether Square Enix can even make a true remake to Final Fantasy VII.
Why would they even try? Interview after interview from top Square Enix decision makers have made it clear how cost prohibitive working on this project would be. It is. At least in what they are wanting Final Fantasy VII HD to be. What they want Final Fantasy VII to be is the exact same thing you want it to be. Something akin to the Final Fantasy VII Tech Demo they revealed many E3’s ago.
That’s what we’ve all come to expect Final Fantasy VII to look like these days. Once again, it’s probably not financially reasonable to expect a world as large as Final Fantasy VII’s to be rendered that way. That was really the point of the tech demo and every other game in the series that came after Final Fantasy VII. These are all set up as litmus tests to what the company can feasibly do with the game.
It’s not a simple game to create, Square Enix doesn’t have the assets or the will to risk said assets on this game when they can make smaller scale investments like Crisis Core. Which brings up that quote earlier from Mr. Wada. “We’ll make a Final Fantasy VII remake once we’ve made a Final Fantasy game that exceeds the quality of FFVII.”
Many people around the world are sitting around breaking that statement down. Yes, there have been better Final Fantasy games in terms of quality. That’s not the statement he is making. Wada wants a Final Fantasy that can sell like Final Fantasy VII. A new title that can sell mobile phone games, movies, drinks, and games on systems of all different kinds. Final Fantasy VII HD is going to cost this company some serious money, there has to be a revenue stream supporting it.
Cost cutting is a great way to do this by outsourcing and they are already doing this at Square Enix. That’s what Toriyama is trying to talk about. However, this doesn’t mean a game as big as Final Fantasy VII HD can go through this for a lot of issues. Most importantly is because the game will have to change dramatically in the remake and there is no way you can keep that a secret without internal development.
There are a lot of people that think the Tech Demo can be fully realized in the world of Final Fantasy VII. It can’t. The focus of Final Fantasy is on a balance of comedy and drama. Have you seen any real comedy from this franchise in Square Enix’s offshoots?
Reno and Rude were funny in Advent Children. That’s about it. The Last Order OVA packed in with it? Sad Cloud throughout. That’s a great way to present story and drama, but really, that’s not Final Fantasy VII.
I present you with this one idea to prove my concept. How do you render the Cloud from Advent Children or the technical demo in a dress and not make it really awkward? I think this is a legitimate discussion people seem to overlook.
How do we put high definition Cloud Strife in a dress, some makeup, a wig and lingerie so we can offer him up to Don Corneo?
This isn’t the only scene that won’t work. Most of the Gold Saucer is insane. The designs, the characters, amd the setting alone prove this. Cait Sith’s design is absolutely crazy to realize in full and have you even seen the shoes Vincent wears? They are all ludicrous. There is one famous scene however in the Gold Saucer that is a personal favorite of mine.
No it’s not the date scene on the train.
It’s the play. The absolutely ludicrous, random scene of your date and yourself dancing on stage with a king and a dragon. It’s silly and ridiculous, but it is complete fun.
This worked because the use of super deformed sprites was the norm of Final Fantasy VII. They used these deformed sprites because using fully realized models like they had in VIII was impractical for them financially at the time. When the drama ramped up or battle was needed, we saw glimpses of who these characters truly were supposed to be representing. What happened for the rest of the game could only be expressed through blocky pantomime. That’s really what Final Fantasy VII made work with it’s top down view and changes in character presentation. You can hide the more absurd scenes behind the player’s imagination.
A great directorial talent would have to be made to bring this out of the many different actors that live in the game world. There are hundreds of NPC’s and character reactions that would have to be realized out of what was mostly pantomime with the original game. Most of Shinra Company is defined by over dramatized character movements.
It is in the side quests that we get to see a lot of the humor and fun that made Final Fantasy VII a unique experience for the people that played it. I didn’t even get closure for Vincent my first playthrough. These quests brought color to the world in the macho bar, the craziness that happened in Yuffie’s home land and the fun that games like snowboarding brought. If you are expecting something more than HD sprites, you are asking for a lot.
This isn’t a post to say that a Final Fantasy VII remake can’t be done however. A good director, a talented crew and enough money to make it happen can always turn out something interesting. I just don’t see why anybody would want to fund this venture. An HD remaster really is the only plausible way to give the project any reasonable justice after the tech demo and all of the spinoffs.
Realistically, it has been 15 years since Final Fantasy VII came out. It is more reasonable to believe that people are more familiar with gloomy Cloud from Kingdom Hearts, Advent Children and Last Order than the one that came from the actual game. The Cloud Strife that threatened to do unspeakable damage to Don Corneo’s family jewels is really a memory of the past.
Meanwhile, there are those other games that could do for a fully realized remake. Final Fantasy VIII is still one of the highest regarded games in the series among fans, yet there has never been any mention of a remake. The game’s style and world all fit perfectly with it’s fully realized models and let’s be honest, the game needs someone to improve the latter parts of it.
Likewise, the same issue applies to Final Fantasy IX which started brilliantly and fizzled down towards the end. They were the first Final Fantasies that dropped the super deformed look and both contain some great stories to expand on.
Yet, they aren’t Final Fantasy VII.
Creating the Final Fantasy VII HD Project won’t be profitable for Square Enix. At least not in the way everybody wants it. There is a massive back catalog of games from Square and Enix that can be remade for a fraction of what it would cost the company to remodel Final Fantasy VII. I think we need to really start that discussion up instead of relying on nostalgia.
Or maybe even the genre has moved on. Tomb Raider seems to be their most interesting title coming down the pipeline. At least according to marketing. RPGs and games with limited appeal seem to be a thing for portables from the Japanese manufacturers with the console adoption rate and cheaper development cost allowing for a better return of profits. Is it even worth recreating a 15 year old RPG for an HD console now?
Square Enix doesn’t think so. Until gamers reward them with a game that leaves a legacy for them to exploit like Final Fantasy VII’s offered, why would they even risk it? Instead of standing before the CEO of Square Enix and asking him to remake FFVII, let’s see what they can do with X first. Let’s have them test the waters with a much easier experiment like VIII or IX. If they can make those a success, then we can look the heads of the companies in the face and say that we will make Final Fantasy VII HD worth the investment.