Culture Bytes: The Final Fantasy VII Remake (Part II: What We Know Now)

The remake of Final Fantasy VII, set to be released twenty years after the original, is one of the most hotly anticipated games of our generation. Since Alt:Mag's last article on the subject a lot of new information has surfaced. So, what do we know now?

Arguably the most significant update has been the video above. The visuals are stunning, as expected, but we've learned a lot more than that. Firstly, it's clear that Square Enix have stayed faithful to the original story, or at least its opening portion in Midgar. The characters are as they were, though Barret and Cloud's outfits have been significantly updated and now resemble more closely their clothes in more recent installments such as Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus. Thankfully, the music's the same too. One of my major concerns when Nobuo Uematsu announced he would not be part of the remake was that the music, a defining piece of any Final Fantasy game, would be changed; however, it appears that the score is the original, played by an orchestra as opposed to recorded as MIDI files. Watching the video and hearing the music creates a real emotional bond for me as a fan - my hopes confirmed and my fears dashed.

So, essentially it looks like an update - but what's new? The main change seems to be the combat system. Far from the turn-based battles of 1997, the remake looks to be a lot more integrated, as if meshing the styles of Persona, Dragon Age and Ni No Kuni. It would appear that Square Enix have avoided the trap of using the same combat system as Final Fantasy XIII - something that could have been a deal-breaker for many fans. The battle looks exciting and immersive, but with plenty of room for tactical thought. In short. it appears to be everything battle in a Final Fantasy game should be.

Another announcement has been that the new game will be episodic. This has been worrying a few people and, on the face of things, I suppose I can understand - nobody wants this just to be a cash-in. But episodic games have been a legitimate form of story-telling for the last few years, some companies, the likes of Tell Tale Games, have been very successful at making them with The Wolf Among Us winning Game of the Year. Even Square Enix have had episodic success with Life is Strange proving they know what they're doing with this method. This is clearly a feature that can be used for good (raising the tension between installments, for instance) and Final Fantasy VII has always been a game too big for one installment. The original game was across three discs and the other games considered the heyday of the franchise, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX) were both on multiple discs too. Comparatively, the more linear and less popular recent games are only on one disc. Of course, it could be argued that modern discs hold more data, although that doesn't stop the likes of Bio Ware  releasing downloadable content for large RPGs. Perhaps, to capture the epic worlds and plots of Final Fantasy multiple installments are necessary.

Where will these breaks be? We can't know for sure. An obvious way of splitting the story would be breaking where the discs ended originally, also creating a sense of nostalgia. But other plans certainly have their merits. Maybe Square Enix will tell us, maybe we'll have to wait for the release, but, whatever happens, whatever way it goes, what we've glimpsed so far, certainly to my mind, seems overwhelmingly positive.

The reunion is on its way.

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