Looking at the 1997 final Fantasy 7 trailer that aired on TV, you know Square Enix has a lot to be proud of. With their rendered CGI trailer with explosions in a dystopian city, they have overtaken many in the market. What about the Final Fantasy 7 Remake today? Polygon spoke with the developers at Square Enix to find out how Final Fantasy 7 was made in 1997, and how it differs from making Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
“Final Fantasy 7 isn't impressive compared to today, but it was pretty awesome at the time,” says Harold Goldberg, founder of New York Video Game Critics Circle. Goldberg was one of the few journalists who saw the game during a press conference at Square's Hawaii office in 1996 while he was freelancing for Wired.
Looking at the original version of Final Fantasy 7 in 2020, many might wonder, "Is this the very iconic game that defined a generation?" Strange characters in the style of Mega Bloks, running through gray and dirty brown Midgar. Unlike Final Fantasy 6, which preceded it on the Super Nintendo with great sprite graphics and 2D rendering, or Final Fantasy 10, which came later on the more powerful PlayStation 2, FF7 was stuck in a gap where 3D graphics were innovative but imperfect. .
“The character models were exaggerated and unrealistic due to the limitations we had on the number of polygons and the number of skeletons we could put on a character's body,” says Yoshinori Kitase, original game director and producer of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. .
“I manually animated the character in the cinematic scenes I created. At that time, the character models in the game were pretty simple, so we even used the comic effect. ”
But despite this, FF7 left a mark with its mature history, lovable characters, challenging hero and catchy music.
“When the original 97th game came out, the Final Fantasy franchise was not as popular in the Western market as it is today. Therefore, we allowed such liberties, feeling that we had nothing to lose. ”
Rarely is a creative leader able to help create an original creation, as well as a remake two decades later. Back in the 90s, Kitase and his team may have gotten away with some of the liberties and tricks with the camera, but the level of immersion and quality expected today has completely changed the design concept.
Naoki Hamaguchi, Final Fantasy 7 Remake co-director adds:
“The size of the cut-scene department has grown significantly. The scenes in the original, which were nothing more than textual dialogue, were reimagined as full-length videos, with voiceovers, camera work and movement. In addition, since background elements are now rendered in 3D, players can now see everything in 360-degree views - we needed to design and implement environments with much finer detail. ”
For example, the team paid a lot of attention to boss battles. Hamaguchi assigned one chief designer to work on multiple bosses, allowing them to focus entirely on this part of the design. They required more resources and developers that were not available when the original game was made.
With Remake, the team created a new experience for players, stretching the first five hours of Final Fantasy 7 to 30 or more. Now, as players walk the world, NPCs share their thoughts and jokes, making the world feel alive.
“We believe Remake has evolved into a game that will surprise even people already familiar with the history of Final Fantasy 7. These discoveries include a great emotional connection between character and player. In the original, it was impossible to animate faces outside of the pre-rendered cutscenes, so the team decided to use the character icons in the corner to convey emotion, ”says Hamaguchi.
Ahead of the game's launch, some fans criticized Square Enix for not mentioning Final Fantasy 7 Remake as "Part 1" in their marketing, as it is a remake of a portion of Final Fantasy 7's story, not the entire game. Polygon asked Kitase and Hamaguchi why Square Enix chose not to name the game that way, and if the company thinks this is misleading. They also asked about Square Enix's strategy to release the first installment of a multi-game series at the end of the console generation. Alas, Square Enix declined to answer these questions.
The Final Fantasy series up until FF7 was always released on Nintendo consoles, but in the mid-90s, Square decided to side with Sony. Where Nintendo decided to use expensive memory-chip cartridges with the Nintendo 64, Sony went in the direction of disks. A PlayStation disc can hold 650MB of data, far surpassing 64MB cartridges. Even then, Final Fantasy 7 was so large that the game was sold on three discs.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is also huge by today's standards, using two Blu-ray discs of 50GB each.
“The Mako Reactor in the remake consists of nine million polygons. Considering the complexity of processing 20 years ago, the level we can reach today is tens or hundreds of times higher than then. ”
It's not just the visuals, story, and music that have seen a significant expansion; game mechanics have also been rethought. Final Fantasy 7 was a turn-based game in its original form, but the remake uses the more modern Active Time Battle (ATB) system. Instead of the enemy and the player taking turns attacking each other, as in a board game, in Remake, both sides attack each other in real time. But there is an element of strategy: the game significantly slows down the time to allow the player to choose more powerful attacks between sword strikes, almost like in a game of speed chess.
This mode annoyed some longtime fans who preferred the turn-based combat of the original game. To fix this, Square Enix added a "classic" mode, but that's not exactly what fans were hoping for. Classic Mode is a simple game mode in which all sword strikes are performed automatically in real time. As the ATB indicator fills up, the player can choose from the menu and use special attacks.
Video game remakes are a complex affair with rosy nostalgia. Developers are being pressured to appease fans of the original while keeping up with modern demands. A balance needs to be struck between the two, which can end up frustrating that they remember the wrong game. And just as fans complain about editing George Lucas' Star Wars films, there will also be protests against the decisions Square Enix made with Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Kitase, Hamaguchi and the rest of the team decided to follow a completely different path than in the original game. And unlike two decades ago, their plans are much easier to implement.
The Topic of Article: Then and Now: Making Final Fantasy 7 in 1997 vs Making a Final Fantasy 7 Remake.