The Playstation Experience conference last week unveiled a whole bunch of new looks at upcoming games and technology, though the latter is hard to show and really needs to be experienced to sell it. Possibly the biggest reveal of the show though was seeing the new Final Fantasy VII Remake in action, including cutscene graphics, voice acting and some combat gameplay.
Certainly looks like a remake, given the original was on the original Playstation and wouldn’t know texture detail if it bonked it on the head with a surfboard-sized sword. OK, that was mean, I’m sorry PS1.
So the remake is leaning towards a more real time combat system, semi-reminiscent of developer Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts series. This news has been met with a surprising amount of enthusiasm, given the internet’s track record with negative responses to change.
The choice to add real time combat in the FFVII remaster is a good call. Why slap a new coat of paint on a game that has dated mechanics.
— First Mate Dookie (@VikingGinger) December 6, 2015
Making FFVII exactly the same with the combat would’ve the most boring move ever. It would just be a graphical update. Which is a waste. — DevilHunterJames (@DevHunterJames) December 5, 2015
There are those who are disappointed, as classic turn-based JRPG style games are few and far between these days and reliving those times was what they were hoping for. But speaking as someone who never really got into Final Fantasy due to not gelling with the combat mechanics, I’m rather interested in this new direction. So good job internet, we’re being open minded and having a discussion on this. But then Square Enix issued a press release that made mention to the Final Fantasy VII Remake being a “multi-part series” rather than a single title, which news outlets took to mean the game will be episodic rather than a single release. The response has been less enthusiastic:
The FInal Fantasy VII remake being episodic is like someone baking a gorgeous decadent cake for you and then whispering, “I farted on it.” — SungWon Cho (ProZD) (@prozdkp) December 7, 2015
FFVII Remake will be The Hobbit of video games pic.twitter.com/MPnspSS9YV
— Brian (@Protodude) December 7, 2015
Real time combat & episodic releases… RIP Final Fantasy VII remake.
— Leo Stevenson (@Leo__stevenson) December 7, 2015
In related news, Square announces today that the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be “complete garbage”. — Jack Shirai (@Roshirai) December 7, 2015
Episodic games are very interesting beasts. They need to be decent or at least satisfying chunks of playtime and released in a timely manner for them to work, otherwise players feel either cheated or just plain frustrated. Games such as the works of Telltale and Life Is Strange have been pretty much nailing the concept in recent years, but what they have in common is they are linear-ish narratives, with little room for any kind of wider exploration, character progression (from a statistical standpoint) or really a difficulty level. They’re an experience rather than a challenge.
On the other hand, an RPG is very much a challenge, involving levelling, character customisation and occasionally voluntarily grinding through waves of regular enemies just to overcome that next boss. From my admittedly limited experience with the series, as well as testimony from those with more, the Final Fantasy series often involves exploring an open world space, where random enemy encounters help facilitate the grinding for XP process. Is that something that would translate well into an episodic game? One would assume that player’s character progression would carry over from episode to episode, but does that mean while one player can complete a chapter and wait, another could spend countless hours during the interim building an unstoppable warrior and venture into the next part incredibly over-powered?
But would that even be a problem, since that is something a player could do in the original game when it was one continuous story? Perhaps with some kind of enemy-to-player-level scaling system could balance things out, but then that would negate the need to grind entirely. So I’m with the internet on this one: an episodic RPG doesn’t sound like it can work.
But of course, this is all speculation that the game will even be episodic because the language of the press release, and from Square Enix themselves, may imply a different scenario. Soon after this news hit the internet Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura, the game’s producer and director, have spoken about how the plan all along was for the remake to be a multiple release title due to the scope of the project.
“It’s going to be multi-part because when we considered fully remaking Final Fantasy 7 in PS4 quality, and as we look over much of it, we estimated the volume to be beyond what could be fit in one entry,” Nomura said. Square Enix also confirmed to outlet Polygon that “each entry [to Final Fantasy VII Remake] will have its own unique story. As a gaming experience, each entry will have the volume of content equal to a full-sized game.”
Perhaps Square Enix are taking the Starcraft 2 approach here: splitting the one story into a trilogy of large releases, each one from a different character’s perspective, rather than one gigantic game? The comment of each entry having “its own unique story” would suggest as much, and that would resolve the progression issue spoken about earlier.
Only time will tell, but regardless the Final Fantasy VII Remake is shaping up to be an interesting title. Personally I feel remakes should be different from the original; they should tell the same story but in a different way, keep the original’s triumphs and improve on its failings. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Then again, I’m not a hardcore Final Fantasy VII fan, and if a remake of Metal Gear Solid were to happen and the series of events within the game changed I’d be pretty mad. But the original will always be there, so we can take comfort in that and hold out hope that maybe this new version will dazzle us in a different way.