Sunday, December 6, 2015

Since Everyone Is Now Flipping Out About The (Possibly) Episodic Final Fantasy VII Remake Announcement, Let's Have A Talk...

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Okay, okay. I get it. This could be brutal, but can everyone PLEASE calm down for five minutes first? Just hear me out, okay? That's all I ask. Then you can resume to flailing your pitchforks in the air.

So before we get started, let me begin with my personal experience of this game and what it means to me. While Super Mario RPG was technically the first JRPG I ever played, Final Fantasy VII was what actually opened my world to the concept, and for it's time it was pretty good looking (when referring to the battle screens and FMV cutscenes at least!). I didn't own a PS1 when the title first came out, so I ended up renting the console from a local video store, as well as the game, in order to play it. Yes, you read that right. I didn't even have a memory card to play it with, so those were some pretty dark times. Even then, I knew I was going to consider this game a masterpiece, and I still regard it very highly, even today. It's still got some of my favorite soundtrack music in video game history, and I'll be damned if I wasn't completely drawn in to the game's plot up until the end. I spent countless hours leveling up my characters, doing all the sidequests, taking on Ruby and Diamond Weapon, and even working to get that bloody Gold Chocobo. I'm not even sure if I can look back and say the latter was worth it, but I did it all regardless. This was my favorite game at the time (though that honor now goes to Xenogears) and I never wanted it to end. With all of this said, I am certainly hyped for the remake. While not necessarily the popular opinion, I am glad Square is changing up the gameplay, and not simply giving us the exact same game with a fresh coat of paint. The arguments not to do this are understandable, but I just don't see it being a good business decision to not change anything around.

But it's how far the changes are willing to go that is now in question, courtesy of a new press release. The press release is as follows:

"LOS ANGELES (Dec. 6, 2015) - During this past weekend’s
PlayStation Experience in San Francisco, SQUARE ENIX® debuted a
new trailer for FINAL FANTASY® VII REMAKE, the full remake of the
award-winning role-playing game, FINAL FANTASY VII. The new
trailer features the first CG scenes as well as gameplay footage.
FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE will be told across a multi-part series,
with each entry providing its own unique experience."

Naturally, that last sentence raised more than a few eyebrows. "Multi-part series?" What could this mean? The obvious reaction is to say the game will be released in episodic segments, forcing gamers to purchase each separate episode in order to get the complete experience, or wait for the inevitable compilation disc(s) once it's all been completed. The first thing that came to my mind (besides the inevitable "F@%k my life"), was that it was curious how we were able to get such stunning gameplay in such a short amount of time, and this would certainly explain it now. The next thought was that Square Enix is likely doing this in order to get the title out sooner to the people who are foaming at the mouth for it, which isn't so surprising. But things get a bit tricky from this point on.

If the game is placed into an episodic series, how many episodes will there be? How long will they each be? What will they cost? What kind of features will the title even have? A million other questions come to mind too, though these are some of the biggest at this moment in time. While it's easy to start flipping out now, I refuse to do so this early on. I cursed the idea of an episodic series for one of my favorite classic games, but the more I began to think about it, the more sense it made. On top of getting these episodes out in a more timely fashion, this will enable the developers time to work on future installments and listen to feedback as the series is released overtime. One of the biggest complaints about multiple "AAA" franchises as of late (especially Battlefield 4, for example), was the rushed release schedules and deadlines not being met. As a result, many games have been released nearly broken, with developers having to scramble and release patches to fix things up after the fact. For people who have been paying $59.99 per new title, this has been a serious blow, and forced many to reconsider their purchasing habits until reviews come out with more information.

One of the biggest reasons I eventually figured Square Enix would consider an episodic release, is to simply keep interest in the brand alive. It's no secret that outside of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3, Square Enix does not actually have many big titles planned in the near future, and expanding the release schedule of this game over a period of months/years is a perfect way to keep people interested (if only for a certain amount of time at least). Some may see this as a cheap move, but honestly, it makes sense, and from a business standpoint, I can't even say I blame them.

Another question lingering from the announcement has been whether the "unique experience" part is referring to the story sections themselves, or actual changes in the gameplay. I personally don't think it's the latter, but I wouldn't completely dismiss the possibility at the same time. Since the style of the game's travel and combat have been pretty much the same throughout, it's not completely far-fetched to think Square may be trying to find ways to make the game seem less repetitive to those who don't want to grind for hours like they did the first time through. Again, it's too soon to comment about this however, as it's a very vague statement and could really mean just about anything at this point.

One more point I'm going to address (as I'm seeing a surprising amount of comments in relation to this) is people complaining about how the game may not be released on one disc now. "I know it was on 3 discs in the past, but this is 2015 now! We have the technology!" they've all said with such confidence. I don't think the people making statements like these actually understand the scope of the game that's about to be released here. Yes, the original game re-released on PC/PS3/PS4/PSP/Vita has all managed to fit on one major file, but is everyone completely forgetting about the work going into the new title!? The file size of this game is going to be absolutely ridiculous, when all is said and done! When Metal Gear Solid 4 was released, Hideo Kojima purposely used the entire 50 GB of space on the dual-layered Blu Ray disc. That game was not nearly as long to play as Final Fantasy VII, whether going for 100% completion or not. Well imagine a title with just as much work going into the look and feel of everything, but with at least three times the length. That's going to be the Final Fantasy VII remake in the nutshell here. Claiming the game should be on one disc because "we have the technology" is completely ignoring the fact that developers use a drastically larger amount of space when making textures and polygons now. It's simply putting the whole thing in perspective.

So to sum everything up:

We are freaking out about this way too soon!
We don't know enough to make an rash decisions yet.
More time can actually be a good thing in the grand scheme for both developers and gamers who want the content as soon as possible with less flaws.
The space issue is almost a non-arguement, since developers will always use more space to make the better game as it is available to them.

Until we actually know more about the release (price point per episode, length of time per episode, features per episode, etc.), there is really not much more to say at this point and I encourage everyone to calm down in the meantime. We've waited so long for a remake of this game, that it's gotten us all a little antsy (and that's MORE than understandable), but if we hold out a little longer and wait for the rest of the news to come, I'm sure we can all make some rational decisions together going forward.

Hope to talk with you all about this again soon!


  1. Episodic content could be as simple as Disc 1, Disc 2, and Disc 3. Or it could be broken down more. Hell, Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core could both be episodes! It might not be the worst decision ever, and like you stated, IT'S TOO EARLY TO FREAK OUT!

    1. That would be a neat idea, but I think they're already beyond over their heads with what they're trying to do as it is. But as you and I have both said now. Time will tell. In the meantime, we can relax and all grab a coffee or something. :P