Final Fantasy VII Remake has been a huge success selling more than 3.5 million copies in 3 days after the game was released. It went on to set a new franchise sales record and is one of the top-selling games of 2020. This was after the game was delayed and the launch was affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In a new interview with The Guardian, Producer Yoshinori Kitase and Co-Director Naoki Hamaguchi talked about the changes that were made for the Remake and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the game’s release and how it is affecting development on the next chapters of the Final Fantasy VII story.
One of the biggest changes for the game was the expansion of Midgar, the setting for Final Fantasy VII. In the original, Midgar was a short part of the experience but in Remake, Midgar plays a bigger role in fleshing out the world and characters. “…I went back to the original game and played it again, and the sections of Midgar were far shorter than I remembered from memory,” Kitase said. “I did feel that the Shinra company executives and the Turks who will appear again in later parts of the story needed to be portrayed in greater detail, the same way as the three members of Avalanche. Our vision was to dive deeper into the world and its characters than ever before.” To do this, the developers built upon the structure of the city, showing how the residents live. With the modern technology and capability of the PlayStation 4, “The sense of immense weight and oppression that you get when looking up from the slums really allows you to experience the feeling that the slum-dwellers get from living there first-hand.”
Co-Director Naoki Hamaguchi discussed how the mini-games pay homage to the original but some were cut. Hamaguchi said “Final Fantasy VII Remake contains many mini-games that pay homage to the original, and there was one that I really wanted to include, but ultimately I was not able to do so.” There was a basketball mini-game in the Gold Saucer that the developers wanted to include in the Remake. There is a basketball hoop that’s located at the park near Jessie’s family home. The mini-game would’ve been playable but Hamaguchi said “we felt that the noise of rebounding basketballs really did not work with the atmosphere at that point in the story, when the team were moving covertly in the dead of night, so we removed it. We still wanted to leave a little homage in there though, so we left an abandoned basketball.”
Hamaguchi also talked about remaking the game’s iconic cutscenes and what makes them different than the original. “There were various hardware limitations on the original Final Fantasy VII, meaning that the way the characters expressed themselves had to be stylized and overexaggerated in order to communicate their emotions. With the remake there is naturally a voice-over for the dialogue, and we are able to portray characters’ emotions in a more realistic manner, allowing us to communicate without resorting to dialogue.”
The problem that the development team had was how they would convey the characters’ emotional states during gameplay. One example they bring up is the aftermath of the Mako Reactor 1 getting blown up. It was important that all of the characters convey the internal struggle that they were having as a result of their actions, so the NPC dialogue was used to create the right atmosphere for what would happen later in the story.
Talking about changing the story of Final Fantasy VII for Remake, one of the major changes was how Sephiroth’s role changed. “In the original game, Sephiroth did not make an appearance in the section of the story told here, but we changed it to have him appear from the start, in order to position him playing an important role over the whole of the Remake project,” Kitase said. “Sephiroth plays a major part in the ongoing story of the next game, so I am unable to reveal any more information about him here.” Speaking on if future installments will go away from the original Final Fantasy VII story, Kitase said “we wanted the fans to keep the discussion going on social media and keep their excitement high as we head towards the next game.”
Game development has been impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic as many companies have shifted to working from home. Producer Yoshinori Kitase talked about how the pandemic is affecting the development of the next chapters in Final Fantasy VII Remake: “At this current time, the team are still making the next game via remote working. Our performance will temporarily drop below 100% efficiency because of this, but I do not think there should be a big impact in the long term. I sincerely hope that Final Fantasy VII Remake can provide those who are forced to endure the stress of living under lockdown a moment of relief and enjoyment in these trying times.”