A video game series doesn’t get to its fifteenth installment without a steady string of commercial and/or critical successes, and you’ll find plenty of both in publisher Square Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise. But even as many gamers are looking forward to the exploring, monster-fighting, and camping of Final Fantasy XV, it seems like just as many have been taking a bittersweet glance back at Final Fantasy VII and wistfully asking if Square Enix is ever going to update its aging masterpiece.
The answer is yes, Final Fantasy VII is getting a modern PlayStation 4 remake, and here’s the official video teaser that proves it.
It may be hard for younger gamers to believe, but when Final Fantasy VII was first released for the original PlayStation, its visuals were a huge selling point. Squat and fingerless, the polygonal character models nevertheless allowed for a range of manipulation unlike anything the franchise had been able to work with before, and in the hands of Square’s dedicated crew of creative visionaries, Final Fantasy VII was arguably packed with more high adventure and heartfelt emotion than any video game that came before it.
But coming early in the shift from bitmapped images to polygon models, Final Fantasy VII’s graphics haven’t aged as well as the more abstract pixel art of the series’ earlier installments. Its characters are crudely blocky by today’s standards, which has kept a new audience from trying the RPG classic and also made Final Fantasy VII veterans uneasy about revisiting Square’s biggest hit ever. So after years of multiple generations of gamers clamoring for it, Square Enix has finally announced a remake of Final Fantasy VII.
Announced as part of the current E3 festivities, the video above comes from the official PlayStation YouTube channel, meaning this is a legitimate announcement, and not one of the many fan-made CG animation projects that borrows the game’s cast and setting. Instead of a shot-for-shot remake of the iconic Final Fantasy VII opening animation, the preview instead gives us a series of brand-new views of Midgar, the central city where the first act of the game takes place.
Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy VII’s original producer (who also served as the guiding hand for the first 11 titles in the series), has since left Square Enix to form his own studio, and so does not appear to be involved in the remake. Yoshinori Kitase, director of the original Final Fantasy VII (as well as Final Fantasy VI), will instead be taking over as producer. Settling into the director’s chair will be Tetsuya Nomura, Final Fantasy’s primary character designer in the modern era and director of the Kingdom Hearts series. Kazushige Nojima, writer for the original Final Fantasy VII, returns in the same capacity for the new project.
▼ That sword looks familiar…
▼ And those flowers do too!
▼ The Mako reactor, meanwhile, appears more massive than ever.
Square Enix isn’t ready to lay out all of its cards just yet, though. The company is keeping the faces of the returning cast under wraps for now, although we do get to see how some of their instantly recognizable weaponry is going to look.
As if it wasn’t apparent in the earlier crowd scenes, the brief glimpse of protagonist Cloud is proof positive that the new game takes its visuals cues not from Nomura’s original hand-drawn designs, but from the hyper-detailed CG constructs of the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children computer animation feature.
▼ Our hero sports a less stylized hairstyle than he originally did, although maybe his spikes are just less pronounced because he ran out of hair gel.
But even if fans have been pleading for a remake for years, it’s still a bold, and even risky, move by Square Enix to redo Final Fantasy VII’s. The title owes at least a portion of its success to the fact that it was released just at the time when people around the world were waking up to the possibility that games could be more than throwaway entertainment, and that they could produce a powerful, lasting emotional response. It’s going to be extremely difficult for Square Enix to catch lightning in a bottle again and produce results anywhere near what Final Fantasy VII achieved its first time around, and as such the undertaking carries with it the chance of marring the legacy of what was, for its time, practically perfect.
It sounds like Square Enix itself is aware of this possibility, though, as the video’s voice-over says:
“The reunion at hand may bring joy. It may bring fear. But let us embrace whatever it brings.”
A release date has yet to be announced, and the video’s encouragement to “Play it first on PlayStation 4” alludes to at least a temporary exclusive status for Sony’s console.
Oh, and just to make sure people don’t confuse this with the previously announced PS4 rerelease of the original version of Final Fantasy VII, the video also contains this handy clarification.