By Andrew Hendricks
Final Fantasy VII, first released in 1997 for Playstation and PC, is roundly considered if not one of the best RPGs of the 90s, certainly the one with the highest nostalgia factor for millennials.
While many game journalists were pessimistic to the possibility of a Final Fantasy VII coming to any handheld or next generation console, it appears Square Enix was quietly working on it all along, porting the nostalgia-filled pinnacle of 90s RPG-gaming onto a next-generation physics engine.
Many thought that FFVII was a no-brainer for a remake, and many were puzzled it took this long. Although the game boasted a uniquely entertaining leveling system, a compelling storyline, and a had great world-building, even in 1997 fans joked of the blocky character designs (outside of combat and cutscenes) as well as the need for four discs to play this huge game. Only two years later, Final Fantasy VIII and Legend of the Dragoon would be released on the PSone as well, both making FFVII’s graphics appear comparatively ancient.
Square Enix drew the ire of fans and detractors alike when they revealed a snippet of FFVII rendered as a tech demo for the PS3. The tidbit was so tantalizing, the graphics so crisp, and the nostalgia-factor so high that no matter how Square Enix spun it, viewers couldn’t help but think it’s happening—it’s really happening! But it wasn’t. What was meant to be an artistic tech demo of the PS3’s graphics in 2005 ended up being a blunder resulting in nearly a decade of Square Enix having to constantly swat away rumors that a FFVII game was in the works any time soon. Its PC “re-release” on Steam, after Enix’s long-time refusal to cash-in on making the game easily downloadable again (what had been our only lingering hope that a remake was in the works), seemed to squelch the possibility that it was happening at all, let alone in the next year or two.
Then, continuing to confuse to fans, headlines began floating around that a Final Fantasy VII re-release was coming, but that it was barely a remake. PS4, iOS, requiring actual headlines such as “Final Fantasy VII Is Coming To PS4, But This Is Not A Remake” and derisive follow-ups pointing out that for some reason they improved the graphics ever-so-slightly, but didn’t remake the game: Final Fantasy VII PS4 Version Isn’t The HD Remake We Hoped For.
But have no fear, the real remake is coming, and full “it’s happening” status is certain. At E3 2015, Square Enix unveiled their remake, which sported a spectacular CG trailer and a cheering audience. And this trailer was finally not just a demo designed to make nerds cry — sporting Unreal Engine 4 instead of an in-house physics engine, Final Fantasy VII is going to be a unique type of revamped remake, and sported atop a tested and popular piece of software designed specifically for visually appealing games like Gears of War 4, Bioshock and Deus X.
“This is a bit of a surprise,” writes Venturebeat reporter Mike Minotti, “as Square Enix often uses in-house engines for Final Fantasy, its premier franchise. The Playstation 3’s Final Fantasy XIII used Crystal Tools and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV employs Luminous Studios.”
Minotti goes on to explain the obvious reason for this deviation from the norm: “In-house engines like Crystal Tools and Luminous Studios are often expensive and difficult to make, while using licensed ones like Unreal Engine 4 can free developers of much grunt work that comes along with a homemade system.”
Sporting actual voice attracting and “dramatic changes” to the battle system, Square Enix is hoping that they will be able to to re-capture gamers who may be burnt out having just played a version of the re-release so recently released. After all, just better graphics might not be enough to slog through the exact same random-encounters and boss battles. Who am I kidding, yes it would be. Developed by Epic Games, the Final Fantasy VII full remake’s release date is still “To Be Announced,” but here are some spectacular videos of the in-development footage Playstation has released to show us just how worthwhile the wait is going to be, and wait we probably must.
The game will be stylistically attempting to recreate the success of the CGI film sequel to Final Fantasy VII, Advent Children. Hoping to live up to these graphics as more than just a film’s graphics atop a nearly two-decades-old game, producer Yoshinori Kitasi warns fans that even with the Unreal Engine 4 usage, they will still be taking their time to make the HD remake a unique and satisfying game. Tamping down rumors of the game's release before October, 2016, Kitase was quoted by Siliconera magazine as saying “I believe that this year will still be a year of preparations for Final Fantasy VII Remake. I’d like to create a new kind of value for the hardware that is the PlayStation 4 for our next announcement.”
It’s happening. For real. Using Unreal Engine 4.