Earlier this summer, Square-Enix achieved something that it hadn’t managed to in a long time, galvanize the public.
The reveal of a brief trailer, one showing very realistic depictions of Barrett and Cloud walking through a crowd in Midgar, drew gasps and cheers from the audience–and innumerable praises from the blogosphere. The trailer was a fantasy (no pun intended) realized: Final Fantasy VII would be remade for the 21st century.
Here is what we know so far about the Final Fantasy VII remake:
- Tetsuya Nomura, Yoshinori Kitase, and Kazushige Nojima will reprise their roles as the creative team.
- There will be unspecified changes to the plot and combat.
- The look of the game will be modeled after Advent Children.
- The remake will debut on the Sony PlayStation 4.
- Estimated release date is the fourth quarter of 2016.
There has been a lot of technical progress since Final Fantasy VII appeared seventeen years ago. The PlayStation 1 utilized a 34 MHz CPU and fielded a max 640×480 resolution, both commendable specs for the time. Also commendable was the CD-ROM format, which typically stored up to 650 MB of data (A Nintendo 64 cartridge, by comparison, could barely harness a tenth of that number).
The PlayStation 4, however, features a 1.6 GHz CPU, fields a resolution up to 4096×2160 pixels, and runs on 25 GB BD-R discs. Those few numbers show how exponentially more powerful video game hardware has become. Those numbers also hint that the richness of what can be achieved.
Not everything has progressed for the better. When FFVII appeared, the JRPG was still something of a novelty, one that appealed to a small and devoted segment of gamers. Since then, the JRPG has become both abundant in the West and, sadly, less excitable. Each new entry of Dragon Quest, Star Ocean, or Valkyria Chronicles seldom generates more than a murmur from Western gamers; new entries of Final Fantasy, especially after three chapters for the polarizing XIII, can provoke much worse reactions.
Meanwhile, the convergence of the dedicated game console and the PC has resulted in the explosive popularity of the Western RPG. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and The Witcher have become the golden standards for the genre, with their real-time combat and forked narratives. The gamer of the 2010s is more jaded and cynical than his 1990s forebear. For better or worse, the JRPG bears the brunt of that cynicism. Maybe it’s the all-too-familiar story tropes, maybe the cheesy and predictable romances, maybe it’s the androgynous male protagonists, or maybe it’s the bizarre hairstyles and costumes…whatever it is, today’s Western gamer seems to revile the JRPG as if it were a bad stereotype.
While a remake has been long desired, that remodeled Final Fantasy VII will have to compete in a very different gaming landscape than the original did so, so long ago. Then again, the odyssey that made up FFVII is still held in high esteem. For many, it was a rich introduction to the RPG genre, one of unprecedented scale and imagination. It was so much more realistic than its pixelated, 16-bit precursors, yet it was cartoonish enough to get by with its odd character gestures and blocky designs.
One has to wonder if FFVII will come forward as a startling reboot akin to Resident Evil, or a devastating letdown like George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels. We’ll find out next year.