Remake Cloud Buster Sword back

The Reason Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Multi-Part Announcement is Troubling

At E3 2015, Square Enix delighted much of gaming fandom with it’s long-overdue reveal that a remake of its beloved game (and arguably its magnum opus), Final Fantasy VII, was in development for the PlayStation 4. I remember the satisfaction and unbearable excitement I experienced at the (slightly cheesy) trailer panning shots of Midgar in glorious high-definition graphics.

I was even more excited last weekend when Square Enix, in atypical fashion, kept to their word to deliver more Final Fantasy VII news this month, this one in the form of a gameplay trailer using in-game graphics. And my god, does the game look wonderful. My jubilation was short-lived, however, with a follow-up announcement from Square Enix: Final Fantasy VII Remake will be a multi-part series.

One of the first things that crossed my mind was how protracted that likely means Final Fantasy VII Remake will be. My prediction years ago when Tetsuya Nomura—lead character designer of the original Final Fantasy VII and director of Remake, as well as Advent Children—stated that the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII would continue but they were taking a break from it was that they would return with a remake in 2017, in time for the twentieth anniversary of the original game’s release. When the gameplay trailer was revealed, complete with English voice-acting, I was assured that development had moved further along than people had anticipated. Given that Square Enix is outsourcing some of the development for more manpower, this isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Remake Cloud Shinra Soldiers

But now it makes sense. Square Enix may in fact make a 2017 deadline, but it will be of an incomplete game. And make no mistake about it: releasing Final Fantasy VII Remake in multiple installments will render each installment an incomplete game. I respect the development team’s choice to explore new ideas with the remake and to eschew simply repeating everything done in the original. After all, why make the same product twice the exact same way?

However, this is a blatant cash-grab, plain and simple. They have used clever rhetoric about the huge cost and the massive scope of the game that it couldn’t possibly be done in one installment. Can anyone else name another game with massive scope that was released in one installment? I can: the original Final Fantasy VII. Though it pales in comparison to the expansive worlds traversed in modern games, Final Fantasy VII was massive in 1997. The solution was not to split it into multiple installments, but to split it into multiple discs. This is a totally viable option for Final Fantasy VII Remake.

What scares me more than the fact that many fans are accepting these excuses to make more money off a brand Square Enix deems to be worth more than $60 a unit (they’re probably correct in that assumption) is how protracted projects have tended to wither at Square Enix. Look at Fabula Nova Crystallis. Though it was technically completed, Final Fantasy Versus XIII (now Final Fantasy XV) was intended to be a major title in Fabula Nova Crystallis. Instead, Nomura allowed development for the game to drag out for six years, when he was finally replaced and the game was put in the much more capable hands of Hajime Tabata, who rebranded the game and has development back on track.

Remake combat

Kingdom Hearts is another great example. Oh, and like Versus XIII and VII Remake, it’s also helmed by Nomura. Kingdom Hearts II released in mid-2006. It’s proper follow-up, Kingdom Hearts III, has been awaited by fans for almost a decade now, and we still have no confirmed release date. Clearly, there’s a problem at Square Enix, specifically when Tetsuya Nomura is involved, to drop the ball on long-term projects.

This is why the notion of a multi-part Final Fantasy VII Remake concerns me so much. I would gladly pay more than $60 for this game if it was done faithfully and the development team didn’t cut corners. I would even be comfortable (if not happy) about multiple installments if it were not for Square Enix’s and Nomura’s track records. I fully anticipate waiting three to four years between installments of Final Fantasy VII Remake, and would not at all be surprised if we’re into the next generation of consoles before the series concludes.

Given that Nomura is still directing Kingdom Hearts III also makes me question why Square Enix has entrusted him with Final Fantasy VII Remake. He proved with Versus XIII that he cannot juggle multiple big-time projects at once, and he has proven to fans that what they want from Square Enix is low on his priority list. Though gamer entitlement is a real and virulent thing, it seems silly to wait a decade for a sequel to a beloved franchise that has not concluded or for the release of a game that was heavily advertised when it was first announced before vanishing from the public eye for years.

I hope I am dead wrong and that the positive changes Square Enix has been making of late bleed over into Final Fantasy VII Remake. However, looking at the company’s recent history, especially when Nomura is put in the director’s chair, I am skeptical at best.