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Remake Report | Issue 1

Ongoing news and "analysis" for Final Fantasy VII Remake.

There are those who said this day would never come (wait, that’s the wrong game), but Final Fantasy VII Remake is here and has been here for more than a month now. The future is here and now you have questions–well, this monthly Remake Report will do its best to answer any questions you may have about the project and its future–avoiding spoilers as much as possible.

Table of Contents

Who This is For, Disclaimers, Info, Fun!

You’re either in one of two camps–or, well, maybe three or four. You’ve either finished the damn thing–like, all of it–and are starving for information about PART TWO.

Or, maybe you’re holding out–waiting for the complete version with all parts (I did this for Mass Effect and can attest that there’s something to this approach–if, that is, you like having to be cautious around the internet to avoid spoilers while feeling left out of a giant party for, like, the next decade or something.)

Maybe you don’t have a PS4 or would rather prefer to play it on a different platform?

Maybe it’s in your backlog (why that would be the case if you actually own the god damn FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE is anyone’s guess) and you’re spending time Googling for information instead of playing this wonderful modern JRPG?

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for some answers, this is the place. Also, so that everyone can benefit, the Remake Report is SPOILER-FREE. Read on knowing that no serious story details about Remake or even the original Final Fantasy VII are here.

The Remake Report is meant to cover as much relevant news and speculation about the development and release schedule of this incredible project that has happened in the past month. Since there will be a ton of links here, I will also indicate whether or not a certain source has a spoiler to save you from following up on a source only to have a major story detail ruined. Keep an eye out for every link on this page.

Each question has a TL;DR–because internet–a more substantial, sourced (where possible) answer, and then some speculation where appropriate.

Let’s kick it off with the most obvious question:

When is Part Two Coming Out?

TL:DR: There is no clear answer. One possible “leak” suggests 2023 at the earliest; it’s probably best to assume a minimum of two or two-and-half years. At most–well, this is Square Enix, so at most: who the hell knows?? The developers have also expressed different perspectives on how the next part’s development process could turn out, which in turn would impact the amount of time the next part will take.

TL;DR of the TL;DR:

Answer/Speculation: There is no official statement on even a release window or timeline for the next part of Remake–Square Enix often keeps its cards close to its chest. Since the answer basically is: no one knows. I’m combining the answer and speculation into one here.

With that said, there are four pieces of information to keep in mind when it comes to guessing when Final Fantasy VII Remake Part Two will come out:

  1. According to the director of the project, Tetsuya Nomura, work on Part Two was already underway as early as November 2019;
  2. A possible “leak” indicates a release window of 2023;
  3. Official comments from Kitase and Nomura found in the Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania guide discuss different perspectives on the next installment;
  4. The time it took to complete the first game doesn’t reflect the realities of the process for Part Two.

Let’s break down each of these:

1. The November Blog Post

“We’ve already begun working on the next one as well”

Tetsuya Nomura on Part Two of Final Fantasy VII Remake in November 2019.

In a blog post on Square Enix’s own site, Tetsuya Nomura, the director and concept designer, stated that the team was already working on Part Two as early as the post’s publication, November 25th, 2019.

It’s not wildly unreasonable to assume that some limited progress for Part Two was already being made even before November 2019, with the reality, of course, that finishing Part One was the priority. In various interviews, press releases, and press conferences, members of the team behind Remake have referred to the entirety of recreating the original’s story and scope as a “project,” so they have likely worked on Part One with major elements of Part Two and beyond in mind.

While Part One of Remake is very much is a complete, self-contained experience, it is likely the case that a large number of assets that were made for Part One will return for Part Two. This could be everything from basic textures and models for environments, weapons, monsters, etc. to animations, menu systems, and possibly even audio and voice work. It would be ridiculous to think that everything will be built from scratch again for Part Two, even if it does end up being on a new engine, running on new hardware. Part Two undoubtedly has a lot of work to be done–but it’s certainly not starting with nothing.

Major aspects of the game such as the battle system, how materia is handled for the most part, the weapon upgrade system, etc. are also complete. While they’ll likely be tweaked or modified for Part Two, this represents a substantial amount of work that is already done and won’t need to be rehashed or started from scratch again.

Overall there’s a lot of pre-production work and decision making that went just into envisioning this world in a modern way that doesn’t need to be gone through again.

It’s also reasonable to assume that certain key decisions about Part Two and beyond were made during these early moments and that the process which helped guide Part One to completion will also deliver Part Two to its eventual release. Planning out a creative project is just as important and challenging as making the very elements of the project itself; a good process has the benefit of being virtually evergreen, carrying itself over to future endeavors–and in some cases can even be improved upon, allowing for faster and even better results in the future.

Part One most certainly laid down a good blueprint for Part Two–and the mostly positive reception of the game and the terrific sales only reinforce the fact that the team did something right here.

2. The “Leak”

This is a rumor from a since-deleted Reddit post (careful for spoilers here, this is Reddit, after all), so take it with a yuuuge grain of smelling salts. Final Fantasy VII Remake Part Two may have a release date, or at least a release window, of 2023 if this is to be believed. The reality, though, is that 2023 looks like a good year in general for Part Two, regardless of whether or not this is real. However, we’re in rumor territory for the moment, so mosey with caution.

Around late April someone on the internet posted the list above which, apparently, gives important details about the release windows of a variety of upcoming projects from Square Enix. Since there are a number of games on this list that have release dates just around the corner (next year for Nier, Babylon’s Fall, Tomb Raider, Project Traveler, and Outriders) we should know very soon if there was any merit to this list whatsoever. It is, after all from a random person on the internet, and we all know how reliable that can be…

What’s important to consider about this “leak,” however, is that it mentions the release targets for these games are running a bit behind schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is reasonable to assume in general, but still something to keep in mind should it help connect any other dots moving forward.

Regardless of the legitimacy of this “leak,” it’s more than likely that the pandemic is affecting the development of Part Two–and other games as well. Final Fantasy VII Remake is an enormous project that Square Enix is undoubtedly taking seriously; while there is a lot individually and collaboratively that can be done remotely, there’s undoubtedly significant progress for this game that can only be made by having multiple people in the same room at the same time. No one wants to “phone in” serious work for this project. For some insight into how the pandemic is impacting at least one studio, check out the recent piece in GamesRadar highlighting Remedy’s struggle, where just moving files and data used to take “minutes in the office [and now] take[s] hours, or even a day.”

One final piece of interesting information, though, about this “leak” is that it mentions Unreal Engine 5 before Unreal Engine 5 was officially announced.

Obviously, everyone and their alien test-subject mother could tell you that Unreal Engine 5 was going to be a reality eventually–but the timing is interesting. What’s also worth consideration is that it doesn’t mention any engine for Final Fantasy VII Remake; this may reflect a very real key element of Part Two’s development.

Since it is the case that work on Part Two has already been underway for a little while now, that work has likely been exclusively done in Unreal Engine 4, maybe with only some general inside-industry information about what to expect for the next version of the engine. The team may very well be weighing the pros and cons of shifting development over to Unreal Engine 5 for Part Two; this is 100% speculation based on an unverified rumor–keep that in mind.

For now, I’ll just speculate that the fact that this “leak” doesn’t list any engine for Part Two actually makes it feel a bit more credible. If we’re too assume that this is a hoax, then it exists as a hoax to get attention and cause a stir. Since it mentions Unreal Engine 5 for other games–and even Linux as a platform for another game–why would the alleged hoaxer not go for the gold and just say Part Two uses Unreal Engine 5 and might even be available on Linux? You’d at least get people talking and some blogs and sites writing about this information, assuming that attention and “making a splash” would be the point of making this up. Again, this is entirely speculation.

To me, omitting Unreal Engine 5, or any engine whatsoever, speaks more to a reflection of some possibly very real information that came out of Square Enix–or maybe the hoaxer wants me to think that…

Real or not, 2023 isn’t a terribly farfetched target for either Square Enix or some random person making shit up on the internet.

3. The Ultimania Guide

“If we divide the story into large chunks, then it will take a much longer time to develop. However, if we divide the story into smaller parts, then it might be possible to release them in a shorter amount of time.”

Tetsuya Nomura on future Remake installments, translated from the game’s Ultimania book. Translation from Aitaikimochi’s Translations (link contains some spoilers).

The Japanese-only Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania (these long names are going to get very tiring, very fast) contains some interesting information about the next part, as well as the project’s scope overall.

Going by Aitaikmochi’s translation (careful for spoilers on this link as it translates portions of the interview that discuss serious plot details) the team isn’t fully set on the exact number of parts, or possibly even what Part Two will include.

Stating that they are working on a “general idea” of how the story will play out, Nomura-san indicated that Part Two’s release date will be heavily influenced by how many parts the whole project ends up with; “large chunks”, Nomura-san says, “will take a much longer time to develop.” Conversely, he stated that: “if we divide the story into smaller parts, then it might be possible to release them in a shorter amount of time.”

Yoshinori Kitase, the project’s producer, added that if the team were “to maintain the same quality and volume as the first installment, then it is unrealistic” to expect Part Two in “just one year.” He added, that they “have [their] own internal schedule and plan, but for now [they’d] like to focus [their] information on the first game in the project.”

This portion of the interview concludes with Nomura-san joking that he’d like to get the next part out quickly, saying: “Personally, I would like to release them as soon as possible so we can take a breather. I’m sure the fans would also want the next installment to come quickly too (laughs).”

To speculate a bit more on the implication of this information, as well as what we know about the development of this game and other Square Enix games, I’d expect the team is probably aware of the growing fan paranoia of Part Two taking an extraordinarily long amount of time. Again, this is Square-freakin’-Enix we’re talking about here. The wait for Part One lasted a good five years, sometimes with nothing to go by but deafening silence.

There are certain reasons to explain Remake’s long wait which don’t necessarily apply to Part Two, however. Still, many recent Square Enix games have taken an unusually long time to surface; Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 are definitely in this camp, and the first part of Remake is right there with them.

Given the positive reception of the first game and the seriousness with which the team seems to be taking this project overall based on the Ultimania interview (as well as other interviews), I’d say that Kitase-san is right that it’s completely unrealistic to expect the next part in 2021. However, the team appears to be working hard to get the next part out in a faster-yet-realistic amount of time that won’t shortchange the game’s quality.

Based on this info, I’d speculate that 2022 would be the absolute soonest if literally everything goes perfectly; but, given the stresses of the global pandemic–stresses that may still take some time to recover from–and the scale of this project, late 2022 into 2023 would be more realistic; this is, of course, right about where that “leak” states the project is expected to release.

4. Early Development Challenges

2015 was the year we got our first look at gameplay for Remake, but the cake was sort of a lie. As it turned out, Square Enix wasn’t the only developer behind the project in its early days. Here is where CyberConnect2 enters the stage, known for first getting into the world of Final Fantasy VII with the Android/iOS title Final Fantasy VII G-Bike.

The story is difficult to fully piece together, however. Whether CyberConnect2 was supposed just kick start the project by developing key assets and other groundwork, or if they were to see the project to competition isn’t immediately clear. There’s some information out there to indicate that Square Enix abandoned all work CyberConnect2’s work, though personnel from the studio expressed enthusiasm for the final product. It’s all confusing, but it’s clear that there were some early shenanigans that prevented this chocobo from getting out of the stable.

Regardless of what happened behind the scenes, development was moved internally as of, at least, 2017, according to reporting from Kotaku.

When reflecting on the five-year wait for Remake, it’s important to keep this in mind. Whatever happened during the early years of making this game will not be slowing progress down for Part Two.


Will Part Two be on PS4?

TL;DR: A big fat maybe. The first was promised for the PS4 “First” and some info from Square Enix indicates that they want to continue supporting both generations for the near future as much as they can.

Answer: There’s no clear answer for this one as there’s really no concrete information about what platforms Part Two will end up on. As HITC reported back in April (careful for spoilers on this page), Square Enix for the time being to make [their] new titles available for both current and next-generation consoles” and that it’s going to take a little while until they “release titles exclusively for the next-generation consoles.”

Speculation: This information could just as easily imply either outcomes: either Part Two releases during a time where Square Enix wants to continue supporting the PS4, or, it takes longer than they’d like to continue dealing with last gen’s platforms.

Whether Part Two is one of those titles “farther down the road” that Square Enix is referring to isn’t that clear. What is clear, however, is that support for consoles doesn’t typically die after the release of a new one. The PlayStation 3 continued to receive new games as late as 2018, five years after the release of the PlayStation 4.

The problem, of course, will be whether or not the PS4 can run whatever’s on the horizon for Part Two. Part One has already faced some criticism, or at least some concern, for its weaker texture appearance and loading, so the developers may want to take advantage of the hardware to mitigate this problem; that doesn’t necessarily imply that the PS4 wouldn’t receive a visually downgraded version–similar, perhaps, to something like the PS3’s version of Watch_Dogs and other cross-gen titles.


What Will Part Two be Called?

Yeah…Square Enix has been known for long, ridiculous names.

TL;DR: No substantial information here, aside from something Nomura-san indicated about the nature of the name Remake.

Answer: Square Enix, as of May 2020, has not at all revealed what Part Two will be called, and for all we know it might be called Final Fantasy VII Remake: Part Two: On Our Way: Sephiroth’s Gonna Get It. Or Final Fantasy VII Remake 2: Gold Saucer Drift. Nomura-San has said, however, that the title “Remake” does have two meanings. One is obvious, the other, well that requires some speculation about some serious plot details, which I will avoid here.

“I decided to clearly express to those with doubt that this is a complete remake of the original with the title “Remake” […] In regards to the other meaning to the word “Remake,” well, I can’t answer that right now. Ask me again in a couple of years (laughs).”

Tetsuya Nomura on the meaning behind the title Remake, from Aitaikimochi’s Translations (link contains spoilers).

Speculation: In the Ultimania (link contains discussion of the ending; watch for spoilers.) guide, Nomura-San reveals that he wanted to use the word “Remake” for the sake of avoiding ambiguity–that this is, in fact, a full “remake” of the original game. At the same time, however, there’s something else going on. To discuss that in any real detail requires getting into Remake’s plot, as well as the original game–so let’s table that for now.

I think it’s safe to say, however, that the next game may very well contain the word “Remake” in some fashion given its apparent narrative importance.


Will Player Progress from Part One Carry Over to Part Two?

TL;DR: Unknown. As there’s no real answer, this is complete speculation.

Speculation: When it was announced that Remake would be split up into episodes, perhaps one of the more common concerns was how progress would carry over to future games–after all, this is one giant story that originally was told in a rather seamless fashion.

Games like Knights of the Old Republic 2, Mass Effect 2 and The Witcher 3 have offered clever means of carrying narrative progress over without reading old save files, so there’s a good blueprint for that; but, when it comes to carrying over stats and inventory, things are a little bit murky.

Technically the solution would be simple: an update, or hidden feature, of Final Fantasy VII Remake could upload all your progress from Part One and be read by Part Two; done and done. The problem, of course, is that Part One of Remake sees the characters achieve some seriously high stats.

The level cap is 50, but players can get to a full 9999 HP by the end of their second or third playthrough. They can max out materia to its highest abilities and will end up with some pretty powerful summons. That said, there are certain magic spells and summons from the original that do not appear in this installment.

Ultimately, it’s anyone’s guess as to how or even if progress will carry over. I’m personally of the opinion that progress may “reset,” but instead of there being a level cap of 50, perhaps it will go up to 60 or 65 for the next part. Had the characters hit an HP ceiling of the low thousands, I could see how they’d carry progress over more easily. Regardless, Part Two will also be made with the understanding that some people may never play Part One, so it will have to be playable from the beginning on its own. I’d still imagine that Part Two would offer something for those who’ve played the first one–maybe some special equipment or materia at the start by reading a save file. This is all a giant guess, though.

I’m sure a hard reset will seem weird for all of twenty minutes before it doesn’t really matter anymore and we’re just sucked back into this world.

In terms of what happens to all your items and materia? Well, as the guys in this video speculate, a certain character with sticky fingers may show up for it to narratively make sense (spoilers in this video, OBVIOUSLY.)


Will Final Fantasy VII Remake Part Two be Open World?

TL;DR: There’s no clear answer, but Final Fantasy VII is a planetary-sized story, so the spirit of an entire planet will have to play a role somehow. The developers are currently considering how the original’s world map could be represented in Remake.

Answer: There isn’t a firm answer yet! The developers have been very tight-lipped about specific details surrounding Part Two, and virtually silent on what its structure will be like. They have, however, discussed some of the world map from the original in interviews from the Ultimania guide.

Translated by Audrey/Aitaikimochi (careful for spoilers here).

Speculation: Without spoiling any serious plot details, the original Final Fantasy VII opens up quite a bit at the point in the story where Part One of Remake ends. It matches a format that many Final Fantasy games before and after it did: that of offering a world map for the player to explore. This tradition started to really die once Final Fantasy X hit the scene.

On one hand, it would be an incredible throwback to offer a world map–a feature missing for most recent Final Fantasy titles–in the sequel. The reality, though, is that even in the original game, Final Fantasy VII is hardly an “open world” game in the way we typically think of the word/genre. The player can visit towns and locations as they wish, and there are some secrets to explore, but the story is still pretty linear. It’s a far cry from…well…Far Cry?

Whether Part Two has an open world or just features more open explorable “zones” perhaps similar to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (or what’s in Remake in general) will really depend on how much of the story is in Part Two and what story beats it covers. The original Final Fantasy VII takes place across multiple continents on an entire planet. We’ve seen some large maps in recent years, but something on the scale of a planet is typically reserved for more experimental titles like No Man’s Sky.

Considering large maps like those found in, say, Just Cause 3 or Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I think it’s reasonable to have a map that feels sufficiently large…on a planetary scale though? That’s doubtful.

So much of Final Fantasy VII’s plot, however, hinges on the spirit of nature, the scale of a planet–both in literal and metaphorical terms–so I would expect, even if it isn’t open world, for players to be given a sense of an entire planet in some fashion. Material from the Ultimania seems to support the idea that the developers are considering this.


When is the PC/Xbox Version of Final Fantasy VII Remake Coming Out?

TL;DR: All signs point to some time in early/mid 2021.

Answer: Square Enix’s promise for the Final Fantasy VII Remake was that it would be playable “first” on PS4. Third-party exclusives are rare these days, so it is undoubtedly coming to Xbox and PC at some point.

It was widely known early on that this exclusive period was timed and, as PC Gamer reports, this seems like it will run out on April of 2021.


Will Part Two Use Unreal Engine 5?

TL;DR: Very possible, if not likely, considering recent development decisions from Square Enix–and a certain “leak.”

Answer: There is no definitive answer (spoilers on this page) about whether or not the second part of the Final Fantasy VII Remake project will use Unreal Engine 5. It will most certainly use at least Unreal Engine 4.25+. Curiously, the alleged Reddit “leak” doesn’t list an engine for Remake’s sequel, yet it does list Unreal Engine 5 for a new Final Fantasy project and, god help us all, a new Kingdom Hearts. All of that said, Epic is planning Unreal Engine 5 to be “forward compatible” (it’s really in their financial interest to do so), so assuming the process is rather straightforward, Remake Part Two will likely be running on the latest engine from Epic.

Speculation: Before I get into my super-uninformed speculation about engines and game development, I have to call out X-SOLDIER’s incredible analysis on Final Fantasy VII Remake, which specifically dives into engine-specific information. There’s some incredible insight here, with some really fascinating speculation about the development of Remake and the future of the project. Since this analysis covers later areas of the game, there are some potential story spoilers here. Check it out at Lifestream.net (spoilers on this site.)

Final Fantasy VII Remake turned a few heads when it was announced that it would be using Unreal Engine. Until then (or, really, until Kingdom Hearts 3, which also used Epic’s engine) Square Enix was known for relying on its own tools, Luminous Studio, and often made somewhat of a show about it.

Final Fantasy XV used Luminous but given Kingdom Hearts 3, Dragon Quest IX, and Remake’s shift to Unreal, the future of Luminous is rather uncertain. Perhaps Square abandoned it due to a more streamlined and industry-standard engine? Performance in Remake on a base PS4 compared to performance in XV on the same machine does seem to suggest there might be some very good reasons for Square Enix to move to a different set of tools.

The benefit of using Unreal, of course, is that a lot of industry talent is more than comfortable with using it–so that makes finding people to work on the game even easier, and it allows for the project to meet what are, essentially, industry-standard approaches to game design. Would you rather use a proprietary, in-house engine that requires your staff to keep running, relevant, and accessible or an easy-to-use, industry-standard set of tools known for achieving solid parity across platforms? The conclusion is pretty simple, I think.

As you may have already seen recently, Epic Games revealed Unreal Engine 5, showing off some incredible technology that’s going to, at best, allow even more incredible detail in games, though it could very well bring about some more annoying trends as well. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the first game that came to mind for me was the next part in Remake.

Since the next part is likely to involve more outdoor, naturey areas–the kind that match some of what we see in that Unreal demo, I can only imagine how, with some stylized art direction, the next part is going to just sing with visual beauty if it runs on this engine. It also may provide a much-needed solution–especially in combination with more powerful hardware–to some of Remake’s more unfortunate issues with texture detail and loading.


Bonus Stuff!

This issue’s bonus stuff is a bunch of awesome interviews and a couple of cool videos with some of the English voice cast. Some interviews contain spoilers, so be careful!

Interviews:

And lastly, Steve Burton passes the torch on to Cody Christian after many years of taking on the English voice role of Cloud Strife:


Check back in next month for Issue 2 of the Remake Report!

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