This debate has been sung by spoony bards plenty of times before but now it is time to dust off our Phoenix Downs and cast them once again at our hopes for a Final Fantasy 7 remake. Why? The landscape for Square-Enix has changed very drastically recently. What was once a financially lucrative landscape that raked in the gil as effectively as the Gold Saucer now looks to be a meteored apart cosmo canyon. Squeenix might just finally have to cash in that Golden Chocobo shaped meal ticket.
Now under new management, it can be safely assumed that the door is open for new business strategies and a review of the company’s brands. Hopefully this invites a chance to try approaches not previously considered rather than continuing down a path that lead to such losses.
In 2001, Final Fantasy series creator and key talent, Hironobu Sakaguchi departed the company in a similar manner to Wada after the ambitious Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie tanked spectacularly. The project took four years and after failing to make back the film’s 137 million dollar production costs the company were reportedly left with a loss in excess of 52 million dollars. The figures are widely disputed but whatever the true cost of the failing, the film production arm Square Pictures was swiftly dissolved and Sakaguchi exited.
However, this was the mind that created Final Fantasy and made Final Fantasy 7, Squeenix’s much loved masterpiece and the key talent at the helm of the series. Since then that magic has not really been recaptured at S-E and Sakaguchi went on to create the under appreciated Lost Odyssey and the amazing The Last Story elsewhere under the mantle of Mistwalker. The critically well received games are arguably better Final Fantasy games than Square can presently produce. If S-E cannot have the talent that built up the brand again then they could be forgiven by fans for using the perfect time to recreate his best work. Much needed money in the bank for the water treading house of moogles.
Let’s get to the hard truths, hardcore fan or not after a string of inconsistent offerings, the Final Fantasy brand is visibly flagging. The current health of the brand is the result of a string of questionable entries (Dirge of Cerberus, FF 13, FF 13-2 and All The Bravest standing out from the pack), false starts (FF 14 and Final Fantasy 13 Versus) and resorting to iOS to put out past glories and cash grabbing spin-offs. There is not much in the way to block a FF7 remake shaped return to form. Final Fantasy already has a remake machine putting out newer versions of I,II, III, IV as well as belated episodic sequels to IV in recent years. Soon X and X-2 will have HD ports appear on the Vita and most significantly – Final Fantasy 7 has seen an updated PC port. It does beg the question, why not just do it properly this time on next gen with 7?
Currently the JRPG genre is enjoying a healthy resurgence without Final Fantasy. Despite Japanese designers like Hideo Kojima and Keiji Inafune damning the quality of Japanese releases in recent years, uniquely Japanese RPGs like Persona 4 Golden, Xenoblade Chronicles, Fire Emblem: Awakening and Ni No Kuni have become critically acclaimed international hits within the genre. Final Fantasy 13 and 13-2 have not enjoyed the same esteem due to their widely mixed critical receptions.
But it is not only other RPGs that pose a threat, Final Fantasy as a brand is being progressively overshadowed within the Square-Enix label itself by more westernised properties. Sleeping Dogs, Hitman and Tomb Raider have taken a greater focus (even with Hitman Absolution’s clashing reviews) fair and square(-Enix). Also, Tomb Raider was a reboot that has topped gaming charts, this formula would be an easy fit for a FF7 remake, the recipe is there.
PS4 is coming, and thats another excuse to get this going. Many still remember that Final Fantsay 7 PS3 tech demo and how a hi-definition Midgar could look and feel. Now the next level is here. If Agni’s Philosophy is anything to go by the FF7 remake will be done a significant visual justice. When Heavy Rain creator David Cage spoke at the PS4 announcement he emphasized the range of emotional and expressive detail the PS4’s 8-core CPU can achieve. Square have the impressive Luminous engine at their disposal, why not use it to create a deeper visual experience for one of the most beloved games of all time?
Final Fantasy 7 is still an important game. It still gets talked about widely today, despite being released 16 years ago. The characters and themes in 7 are enduring and their fantasy world has given them a style that is detached from real world fashions, trends and attitudes. Bluntly put, the fantasy genre does not age as badly as other genres. A remake would not need to be extensively re-imagined, it would simply require a next gen face lift. Youngsters not even born when the game first released still see these designs and worlds and want to experience everything from playing it to cosplaying themselves in it. Crisis Core has already shown us how a straight up 7 remake could work. Obviously, it is up to Square-Enix to make the call.
There are so many gamers that want to see this happen but logistically this often is not enough. However, there are so many pieces in place for this to happen now, planets have aligned like Sephiroth’s Supa Nova summon. Square-Enix is under new management, needs a safe and lucrative hit, needs to reignite the Final Fantasy brand and has a new console generation and in-house engine to faithfully evolve arguably the most revered fantasy game of all time. Once development of a S-E core Final Fantasy game becomes set in motion it is likely to span 4 years or so. With that in mind, those hoping for a re-make may hope that Square-Enix makes use of this rare window of opportunity before it closes.