The latest details on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake have me thinking this isn’t quite the much-needed Phoenix Down for the franchise fans were hoping for
Few announcements during this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California held quite as much weight as Square Enix’s major reveal during the Sony PlayStation conference. After nearly a decade of teasing fans with glossy, high-definition demo reels of a reinvigorated Final Fantasy VII reboot, the publisher finally confirmed what fans had all but given hope on hearing; Final Fantasy VII‘s remake was really going to happen, and it would be releasing on Sony’s PlayStation 4. Accompanied by a stunning announcement trailer which rendered the game’s spiky-haired protagonist, Cloud Strife, along with the dark industrial metropolis of Midgar in breathtakingly detailed splendor, the footage was enough to make longtime fans of Squaresoft’s iconic 32-bit role playing game weep with joy.
Since being unveiled last May, Square Enix has been largely tight-lipped about what has come to be known as “Final Fantasy VII Remake”. However, in the past few days since Sony’s PlayStation Experience Event in San Francisco, California, a new gameplay trailer and details on the title have emerged that have me a bit worried about the fate of this highly anticipated reboot. While it’d certainly be naive to think that Square Enix would simply port the nearly 20-year-old adventure onto current generation hardware without making some real changes to the original formula, the steps it seems the studio is taking to bring the game to the modern age threaten to turn this “Knights of the Round” caliber rebirth of the PlayStation classic into a disappointment of Dirge of Cerberus proportions.
The real bomb in Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s Mako Reactor comes in the form of a much more action-oriented combat system showcased in the latest footage of the game. Square Enix’s Tetsuya Nomura explained early on that the reboot would be seeing some retooling to fit with the current gaming landscape, but the look of this decidedly much more kinetic combat system looks to uproot any sense of familiarity with the game’s iconic boss scenarios. Much of the thrill of Final Fantasy VII‘s masterful turn-based combat system came from the way the Active Time Battle, Limit Break and Materia systems melded together to create a cerebral yet uniquely free-flowing sense of party customization and combat, and the shift to semi-real time, mobile combat could very well devolve the game’s epic battles into something more akin to what we’ve seen from Square Enix’s more action-oriented forays into the Final Fantasy series, and that’s disappointing. I’d love to be proven wrong, but with the specter of Lightning Returns still looming over over the franchise, I’m not quite convinced fans will be getting quite what they wanted from Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s combat system when the game is finally released, presumably sometime in the next year.
While the Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s radically different approach to how battles unfold will certainly change the feel of the game, the recent revelation from Square Enix that the game will release in episodic form is what has me the most concerned that the Final Fantasy Remake is, contrary to its title, far less a remake than a highly-cinematic celebration of the Final Fantasy VII’s most standout moments. Considering the original release’s 60+ hour story, I can’t imagine for one minute that Square would intend to release six, 10-hour long episodes over the span of a year. What seems much more likely is a collection of half a dozen, highly-condensed scenarios that breeze through the story’s most important events. Having said that, the episodic format also calls into serious doubt as to whether or not the game will feature an overworld map, as many of the locations we’ll see showcased in the game would likely be confined to future chapters, making free travel of the world via the Highwind airship seem highly unlikely.
This is all speculation, of course, but I feel these are very real concerns given what we know about the remake so far. One thing is for sure; few games have the immense following that Final Fantasy VII has amassed since its 1997 debut. With numerous spinoff titles (of wildly varying quality), digital re-releases and a CG movie under its belt, Square’s 32-bit epic is largely credited for bringing JRPGs into the spotlight in the west. That said, all eyes are on Square Enix as they attempt to resurrect Cloud Strife’s mammoth adventure to the modern era in a form both longtime fans and newcomers can appreciate. As of right now, I’m not fully convinced the studio will pull it off, but I’m certainly pulling for them.
So, our dear readers, what’s your take on what we’ve seen of Final Fantasy VII Remake so far? Are you happy with the approach that Square-Enix seems to be taking with the title? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below to let us know what you think.