With the second part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake project well on its way to release, we still have a lot of questions. There’s been plenty said on the game’s updated mechanics, new story beats, and what have you, but there’s always room for more on the developer’s side of things. What their personal stories can add to the alure that is this massive undertaking is just one example.
We recently had a chance to sit down with two of the lead developers behind Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, in hopes of getting some fresh perspectives, and their feelings on what crafting a remake for such an iconic game means, as well as how that factors into some of the more mechanical aspects of game design philosophy.
With Final Fantasy VII Rebirth being what it is, and because we don’t often see too many situations in which the creators of the original game are reimagining or reinterpreting it, there’s a certain level of curiosity directed at what sort of, if any, apprehensions to revisiting a piece of media that’s been so seminal in games and a highlight to careers. Is it thrilling? Is it frightening? Does it bring joy or fear?
The game is now out, and you can read our Final Fantasy VII Rebirth review too!
“First of all, when you consider the original content of Final Fantasy VII released in 1997, that was 27 years ago on PlayStation,” explained Producer Yoshinori Kitase. “Of course, this is a game where I am very much proud of the storyline and the game itself, and there has been major technological advances going from that era to the PlayStation 5, and so there’s been some distinct changes there.
“Those who have played the original game upon its release 27 years ago continue to be fans today. But also considering there’s a new audience of gamers today, we want to empower them to sort of play this game and feel that it’s relevant in the sense that they can support it for decades beyond. I believe it requires us to create the game again using today’s technology, and I believe that was imperative for this title and some things I am proud to have accomplished.”
While it has been 27 years since FFVII released, and because graphical presentation has increased significantly within that time, the advancements in technology lend not only to that but also the possibilities of depicting something that may have been cut down or impossible to in the original game.
“In terms of looking at the graphical presentation, of course with the original you know that was kind of a time where CG technology was just only beginning,” said Kitase. “And so when we look at the cutscenes and the battle scenes, the field scenes, etc, they were all created separately and there wasn’t really a sense of seamlessness throughout. Now with the PS5 and the hugely increased specs, the visual quality can be aligned throughout every scene in the game. This has allowed us to delve much deeper into the details and how we express them.
“Specifically with Rebirth, we’ve been able to reimagine things in a way where the character’s performances are very moving to elicit and emotional response, and it’s another part for the players to experience for themselves.”
These characters are of course important to the world of Final Fantasy VII, and in the original we saw not only the likes of Cloud but his companions such as Tifa, Aerith, and Barret. Though there were nine protagonists once you’d gathered everyone, they never appeared together all at once in a cutscene, but with Rebirth there’s an opportunity to not only include them, but to get characters like Yuffie and Vincent involved in those familiar themes.
“In the original FFVII, since Yuffie and Vincent were optional characters, there were various memorable scenes that they may not have been present for,” said Kitase. “However, in Rebirth, those formerly optional characters are now firmly embedded in the main story as well. We’re able to dive much deeper into their characters and background, and I believe this decision was made to appeal to players of today as well. The sort of decision to embed these characters more firmly into the main story and be able to learn about them in more detail for Rebirth was a decision we made early on.”
While cutscenes are important in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, gameplay is just as key. Blending them together – that is, shifting between battle and traditional cutscenes seamlessly, is something of a Final Fantasy staple now. So what is it that governs the rules to implement these scenes when it comes to interjecting them in combat?
“Generally, how this is done, the scenario will initially come in from [Scenario Writer Kazushige] Nojima-san, and from there I will take a look at it and look to see areas in which a cutscene will be best served from more of a gameplay perspective,” explained Director Naoki Hamaguchi.
“Or we look at a character dialogue and determine which areas in which this kind of scene would be appropriate. In that way, there is sometimes some discussion with Nojima-san as well, but overall while respecting his initial and original intents for the story, we stepped in more when we felt circumstances were affected from a playability perspective.”
Playability is also something to dial in on when looking at the Remake project as a whole. With Rebirth coming out as the second part of the trilogy, the team has to consider decisions that keep the characters fresh, but also familiar.
“When working on titles such as the Remake series, it’s challenging because when you go about doing almost a complete overhaul and balance from one title to another, while this may please players who may not have been satisfied with the battle system of the previous title, it may also negatively impact those who largely enjoyed it,” said Hamaguchi.
“Considering this, I feel it’s essential to keep the core elements of a battle system intact while implementing these new features to give this fresh feeling and continue to interest people in a way we have the highest chance of getting a positive response from the majority of fans. This is something I had discussed in-depth win the battle director [Teruki] Endo-san in the very beginning and how to approach the battle system for Rebirth. One way we added a new feature to further elevated it was the Synergy ability and command system.”
These new systems provide a good entry point for Rebirth, not only because they’re keeping battles fresh, but also because they’re expanding on the action combat we saw previously in Final Fantasy VII Remake. It’s been several years since the latter released, and with it, there was ample time to collect player feedback and make changes going into this second part of the trilogy.
“In regard to any changes that have been made for the battle system between Remake and Rebirth, we haven’t received any major negative user response,” explained Hamaguchi. “We felt that we didn’t want to largely change any of the core elements, but it was my belief that we needed to enact changes like in the way the battle controls may feel. So while you may have noticed that while playing the demo, there might be a difference in Cloud’s combo moves, or an increase in variation for Aerith’s attacks for Rebirth this time around.
“This is something we took care to do while keeping the core elements that were well-loved as is. There’s a sort of difference and variance in the expression and feel as you’re going about and that keeps it very interesting.”
With Final Fantasy VII Rebirth just a few weeks away now, there will certainly be plenty of content to keep those players interested indeed. As we saw in our own demo preview, the game is shaping up to be something spectacular, and we’re more than ready to experience Cloud’s story all over again on Feb. 29.
TechRaptor was invited to preview Final Fantasy VII Rebirth by the publisher.