Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Let's Talk About Why FF7 Remake In Episode Form May (or May Not) Work

So! Gamers are going a little crazy over the Final Fantasy 7 Remake news that it will be released in multiple parts. According to SquareEnix, this is to help accommodate the scope of the game. Their argument is that the world is just too big to tell into one story, so they want to break it up into smaller parts that have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. All will form the journey of Cloud and his compatriots. In speaking with Famitsu, series producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Tetsuya Nomura gave a little bit of insight into this decision.

Their claim is that by breaking it up into "episodes" they won't have to sacrifice the story elements they want to introduce. They could take multiple games and spread it over several releases to tell the whole tale.

While it sounds fine in theory, I think it's safe to assume that a number of us are raising our eyebrows in concern. What was wrong with the first game? Why can't you retell the original story with a fresh look? And you can still add in all of the elements that you want. We're totally fine with longer stories! The PS4 and XBox One do not have that kind of limitation on space. Have you played Fallout 4 yet?

The reasoning regarding space and game play hours would make sense for a PS2 game. Blu-ray didn't exist and disc tech wasn't up to snuff. But they still made FF10 and FF12 work. FF12 in particular had an over-sized world to play in with environments that changed based on your decisions in the game, a day/night cycle, and game play that evolved as your character ranked up. They kept it onto one disc.

Blu-ray's offer up to 25 times more storage then a DVD, up to 50 gig's on a duel-layer. Sony released a 300 gig and a 1 terabyte Blu-ray this year.

SquareEnix. I don't know how massive you plan to make the FF7 remake, but those 1 TB discs do play in a PS4 and the 300 gig's work on the XBox One. You can fit the entire game onto one of those with plenty of room to spare. Hell you could fit FF7 on there, along with every Final Fantasy game, every Star Wars movie and the Clone Wars TV show, every Lord of the Rings movie, the director's cut, and still have room.

We'll continue to have this wonderful debate for years to come about why Square's decisions doesn't hold water. It sounds more like they are trying to bleed money from fans instead of providing a full release of the content (If you start adding up the episodes, even if there are only 3 at $29.99 a pop, that's more then a full-length game by itself).

But let's focus for a moment on why Square thinks this is a good approach to FF7, how it'll improve the franchise, and why it might interest fans. This is going beyond the "we'll make more money" concept.

A rep from SquareEnix explained to Polygon that this method of storytelling will allow for multiple points of view to be highlighted instead of it focusing on Cloud and his journey. The "beginning" sequence of Cloud accepting the job from Avalanche could play out through the mind of Barrett, and his character is the one you follow for the first part. The next episode could start after Cloud smashes through the old church, and picks up with Aeris/Aerith telling the story. Each episode could communicate a different perspective that it could alter how we initially viewed the world of FF7.

In it, SE can introduce new content and expand upon the story in unique ways. This allows them to provide gamers with full games with each episode. What that means, we're not sure yet. A full FF game would refer to a 50 hour product. Or it could be a full "Sony" game which means 10 hours (God of War I'm looking at you). Up to you on how you want to take it.

For the diehard FF7 fans, this would be an opportunity to really dive into the series and play in a new way. You can explore Midgar beyond the Avalanche and Shin-ra headquarters. Something that the development team really want to focus on. They want to bring Midgar to life in a way that you can experience all of it. That in itself would make for an interesting game.

And it would also expand the timeline of the game development. For years SE has been firm in saying the a remake would not happen unless they could be certain that they could build the game in a year or less - or if another game in the franchise exceeds the quality level in story and design they have set with FF7. A multi-episode means lots of years of development. Lots and lots of years. In turn, we'll get a greater product because they are spending that time crafting something that is polished.

Personally I don't agree with the plan. I think their reasoning for multiple episodes waylays the fact that today's technology is just THAT good. They could put all of the content into one game. The player can choose if they want to run through the myriad of side quests in Midgar or move on.

Again, Fallout 4 or Dragon Age: Inqusition. You want to talk about 100 hours of your life gone in an instant for a great game, there you go.

Their argument doesn't feel genuine. For a number of us, we want the original game but in a prettier format. We don't care about it being redesigned for a new generation in terms of story telling and game play. It's like the remakes for FF1-5: updates to the look and feel without changing what made those games so special in the first place.

SE is going to experience backlash for a while. If they expect to save face with their extensive line of fans, they need to be honest about their intent for the episodic system. The multiple points of view is not cutting it for me.

Random aside, is it me or does Midgar look like Los Angeles in Blade Runner? Maybe it's just me, but my inner film nerd keeps squeeing at the image. And yes, I too can be swayed by flashy graphics. Mostly I want that as a print so I can frame it and post it in my gaming lounge.

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